The National Labor Tribune, February 18, 1906


Allegheny, Pa., Feb. 12 Pastor Russell addressed a large gathering at 3 p.m. Sunday in Carnegie Hall from the text, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord." Isa. 1:18

The discourse follows: On last Sunday the Word of the Lord assured us that the fear of many toward him was taught by the precepts of men and not founded upon His Word. In our text of today he invites us to reason with him. How strange it is that so many people possessed of good reasoning faculties neglect their use in matters pertaining to their highest interests their religious interests. They will reason on politics, finances, etc., but not on the special matter which the Lord particularly invited us to reason upon and respecting which he has laid down for us a sound basis, in the revelations of his Word.

The cause of this unreason is not far to seek. It lies in the fact that for centuries religious teachers have given the inference, if they have not positively so stated, that to reason upon any religious topic is to doubt the interpretations put upon it by the teachers of the "dark ages," and that to doubt is to be damned. Some have gone to the length of forbidding the use of the Word of God by the common people. Others, while granting their right of access to it, have endeavored to hinder investigation to compel their adherents to swallow unchewed the declarations of the creeds to which their parents had subscribed. A gentleman, a Presbyterian, related to me not a great while ago how his minister has used this very simile. My friend had remarked that he found it very difficult to indorse some of the teachings of the Westminster Confession of Faith. His pastor replied: "Ah, that is not the way: when you take the Confession of Faith you must do so in the same manner that you take a Brandreth pill you must swallow it whole; if you stop to chew it you can not swallow it."

This must be the general principle upon which all Christian teachers are proceeding – let us keep the people from thinking, from reasoning. Two ministers of these parts, conversing about the influence of my presentations of the Bible teachings, the following dialogue ensued.

(1) "Many of my people are reading, and some of them considerably learned on this subject."

(2) "My advice is that you tell them to stop thinking and go to work."

Ah, how evident it is that the creeds of the "dark ages will not stand investigation. If God's consecrated people would but hear his voice in our text, and begin to use their reason in the study of his Word, rejecting the fallacies of the "dark ages," how soon a blessing of enlightenment would come to them. Shepherds, false to their commission from the Great Shepherd, are more anxious to keep their sheep within sectarian pens than to lead them to the green pastures and still waters provided for their spiritual nourishment.

There is a reasoning based upon human ignorance miscalled knowledge, or science, which ignores the divine Word, and with which none of the Lord's true followers can have sympathy. But, alas, this seems to be the only kind of reasoning ever presented from the majority of pulpits reasoning along the line of "higher criticism" and evolution theories, denying the inspiration of the divine Word, and setting up the teachings of Darwin, Huxley and Ingersoll as instead of the inspired message of God through Jesus, the apostles, and prophets. Let us who are faithful to the Word say with one of old, "My soul, come not thou into their counsels." Gen. 49:6


Let us with full loyalty to the Word reason together with each other and with the Lord respecting one of the Master's parables, which seems to be the great Gibraltar of those who hold that the doctrine of eternal torment is a Bible teaching the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus. While we might be afraid to trust our reason away from the Word of God we need not be afraid of error so long as we are loyal to that Word and endeavor to exercise sanctified common sense, we need have no fear of results.

Some, however, approach the Word of God with such a conviction of his merciless character, that as soon as they begin to find a reasonable interpretation they begin to fear that they must be in error. How absurd such a position! Ought we not to expect that the God whose very name is Love, who tells us that our fears toward him are taught by the precepts of men, would have so reasonable, so just, so loving a plan for his creatures, that the investigation of it would rejoice our hearts and draw out our confidence more and more toward him whom we are told to love with all our hearts, minds, beings and strength.


Some insist that the account given of the Rich Man and Lazarus is not a parable – that it is a statement of an actual occurrence. Let us investigate the matter – "Come, let us reason together, saith the Lord." [Isa. 1:18]

If it is a narrative, a statement of actual facts, then every feature must accord with this view. If it is a parable, then every feature is parabolic. [NS304] It can not be a narrative of facts, for the following reasons:

(1) The RICH MAN is not said to have been wicked – merely rich, well clothed, well fed. LAZARUS is not said to have been good, holy, saintly – merely sick and poor and hungry. If taken as a statement of literal facts this would involve an absurdity, and imply that all the well fed and well clothed were enroute for a future time of trouble; while all the poor and sick, contrariwise, would be en-route for future bliss, both irrespective of character. Such conclusions are not in harmony with reason, and must be rejected.

Furthermore, if it be a fact that the poor man went to Abraham's bosom literally, we may be sure that Abraham's arms were filled long ago, and that there would be little hope for even one more in his bosom. From this standpoint we would be obliged to suppose that all mankind, crowded out of Abraham's bosom, would be deprived of any opportunity for eternal bliss, however merited by their poverty and sickness in the present life. "Come, let us reason together," would introduce us to many other difficulties which would effectually preclude our acceptance of this as a narrative fact, and compel us to accept it as a parabolic statement.


A parable is a word-picture in which nothing means exactly what the statement says. For instance, in one of his parables our Lord spoke of wheat and tares but did not mean wheat and tares. He explains that the wheat meant children of the Kingdom, and that tares meant children of the wicked one. In another parable he uses sheep and goats as illustrations, without meaning sheep and goats. So in this parable the Rich Man does not mean rich men, but something else. The Poor Man does not mean poor man, but something else. The sores and dogs also have other meanings than appear on the surface. Some of our Lord's parables he interpreted, and some he left as problems for us to work out under guidance of the holy Spirit. These in the Scriptures are called "his dark sayings," as it is written, "he shall open his mouth in parables and dark sayings." [Matt. 13:35]

The question is, Have we a sufficiency of light from the general teachings of the Lord's Word and the facts of history which will enable us to understand this dark saying? Have we the guidance of the holy Spirit that we may interpret this parable? "Come, let us reason together!"


Nothing can be accepted as a proper interpretation of this parable that does not go into and explain harmoniously all the various features of the statement. On the other hand any interpretation which will reasonably, consistently harmonize every statement should be accepted as the proper interpretation, on the principle that the key which fits a lock and opens the door must be the proper key. We propose to use the proper key and unlock this parable in its every detail, and it is our opinion that no different key, either literal or symbolic, can be produced by anybody that will interpret this parable in a reasonable manner to an intelligent mind.


The Rich Man of the parable represented the Jewish nation in our Lord's time. His clothing of purple and fine linen represented the honors and blessings and privileges accorded to that people over every other nation. The fine linen represented the typical justification granted them as a people under the Mosaic covenant, through the typical sacrifices for sins, which typified or foreshadowed the better sacrifices of Christ during the antitypical day of atonement.

The purple raiment represented royalty not only was purple the royal color in our Lord's day, but we still speak of royal purple. The Jewish nation had the purple in the sense that to it belonged the honor of being the typical Kingdom of God, and the promises respecting the future dominion of God as the Kingdom of God. The abundance of food upon the Rich Man's table represented the abundance of divine promises and blessings and instructions given to the Jewish nation. It was this table of divine favors that the Apostle referred to saying, "What advantage hath the Jew? Much every way, chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God." (Rom. 3:1-2)

This was the table respecting which the prophet and the apostle spake saying of Israel "Let their table become a trap and a snare unto them." (Rom. 11:9)

In other words, the very bounties and blessings of God's revelations or oracles tended to make them not humble, but proud, and ultimately assisted in their stumbling and their rejection of the Savior.


"The scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses' seat" as the religious leaders and representatives in Israel. They specially represented the Rich Man. They would not so much as eat with publicans and sinners. They ranked these as on a par with the Gentiles, whom they classed as dogs. Those who accepted our Lord's teachings were of this lowly class. Matthew, one of his disciples, was a publican, others were common fishermen; none of them were recognized by the religious aristocracy of the times. They were looked down upon, declared not to be heirs with the holy Pharisees and learned [NS305] Scribes and Doctors of the Law. The latter even determined that Jesus himself was not only a friend of publicans and sinners but an injurious person, who must not be allowed to live. From their standpoint the Lord and his followers were all outside the gates, excluded from the special privileges and blessings of God. They were the Lazarus class. This Lazarus class included also those Gentiles of humble heart who accepted Jesus. As an illustration of how these fed on the crumbs which fell from the Rich Man's table let us remember our Lord's words to the Svrophenician woman, a Gentile who came to him en treating for the healing of her daughter.

Our Lord, to illustrate the relative position of the Jews and Gentiles from God's standpoint, said unto her, "It is not meet (not proper) to take the children's bread and give it to the dogs" – which means, It would not be proper for me to devote my time and energies to the blessing of yourself and daughter, who are Gentiles, because the Jewish nation is by covenant with God in the favored place, so that to them belong first of all any special blessings and favors that God has to give. You Gentiles, called "dogs," are not to expect to get the favors I was sent to give to Israel."

We remember his words to the disciples also, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, for I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." [Matt. 10:5, 6]

The message and blessings and opportunities could not go to the Gentiles until first they had been offered to the Rich Man and had been rejected. But mark that as Lazarus got some of the "crumbs," according to the parable, so did the Syrophenician woman. She exclaimed, "Yea, Lord, I know that we Gentiles are outside of the special divine favor which has been accorded to the Jew, and that it would not be reasonable for me to ask that the bread should be taken from the children to be given to us dogs; but, Lord, do not even dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from the master's table? and may I not therefore claim this crumb of favor and healing for my daughter?" Jesus answered and said unto her, "O woman, great is thy faith" [Matt. 15:27, 28] – and he gave her the crumb of faith from the children's table – from the Rich Man's table.


Did the Jewish nation continue thus in the favor of God, clothed with typical justification and royalty? Or, on the other hand, did that nation die to those special blessings and mercies of God which they previously, for over sixteen centuries, so richly enjoyed? Ask the Jew himself. He will not deny that shortly after the time that Jesus wept over Jerusalem and said "Your house is left unto you desolate," their nation did die. Not only have they since been without prophet and priest and vision but they have been without national life. As a nation they have been buried. As a nation they are dead, and, like all in Hades, unconscious – as a nation. National sufferings they have none, because national existence they have none.

Yet they are still a people, though dissolved in death as a nation. As a people they have been in torments through the past eighteen centuries ever since the destruction of their city and polity, A. D. 69. At that time, as the Apostle foretold, "wrath is come upon this people to the uttermost. (1 Thess. 2:16)

Oh, we are glad for the poor Jew that, after getting that wrath to the uttermost, there remains no further wrath for them beyond the tomb. They have had a sad enough experience as a people for the past eighteen centuries, in fulfilment of their prayer, "His blood be upon us and upon our children." [Matt. 27:25]

Thank God there is no prospect of a future torment for them. On the contrary, the Word of God contains various promises which assure us that the Jewish people will ultimately be delivered. Their sins, even to the crucifying of the Prince of Life, will be forgiven them, as the Scriptures declare "I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." [Zech. 12:10]

As the Apostle declares, "they shall obtain mercy through your (the Church's) mercy," "for the gifts and calling of God are not to be repented of." (Rom. 11:28-32)

They are still beloved for the fathers' sakes, and will be the first of mankind to be reconciled to God and to receive his blessings and favors in the Millennial age. After the perfection of the Church of this gospel age, and her glorification with her Lord, forgiveness and favor will come to Israel and to all the families of the earth.


Let us look now to Lazarus let us note the class of publicans and sinners disesteemed by the proud pharisaical class, and who smote upon their bosoms saying, "God be merciful, we are sinners." [Luke 18:13]

What were the experiences of these while the Rich Man was dying? We answer, that when the Rich Man was rejected from further divine favor and was dying, the angels, the messengers of God, the apostles, under the blessing and guidance of the holy Spirit, began to call all of the Lazarus class to the place of favor to Abraham's bosom. "Father Abraham," was the style, the title, by which the Jews looked fondly back to the patriarch as the father of the faithful; but when they [NS306] ceased to be faithful to God they ceased to have a right to consider themselves children of Abraham. On the contrary, the publicans and sinners, the common people who heard the Lord gladly, were ready for the message which the apostles carried to them at and after Pentecost. Five thousand were converted in one day, and others were gathered. Whither? To Abraham's bosom – they became the "children of Abraham through faith," through Christ, through the adoption of the holy Spirit. (Gal. 3:7, 29)

All through this Gospel age the Lord, through the ministries of his truth, has been calling this class to Abraham's bosom. It is of this class that the Apostle declares, "ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ." (Eph. 2:12,13)

Again he declares, "Now we brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise." (Gal. 4:28)

Isaac was Abraham's special son of promise, received instead of Ishmael, who represented Israel according to the flesh – the Rich Man who died to heirship in the spiritual part of the Abrahamic promise, when fleshly Israel was rejected as a nation because of their national rejection of the true head of the body. "We brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise," "if we be Christ's then are we Abraham's seed," or children, and this is what the parable represents. Abraham of the type, God in the antitype, has accepted us in Christ as his children, and if children then heirs, heirs of God, joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, our Lord and head.


Come back now to the Rich Man and glance at the sorrowful experiences that have come to the Jewish people in the centuries behind us. They have been persecuted by nearly every nation under heaven, and notwithstanding the civilized day in which we live they are subjects of persecution still, in harmony with the picture of this parable. Yea, at various times they have applied to God for relief and have applied to Christendom also, but without avail. Only recently the President of this United States was invoked by the Hebrew people to intercede for their relief in Russia, yet still the persecution continues, they get no "drop of water," – no relief.

And from our understanding of the scriptural predictions of the future they will have still more persecution and perhaps still greater moments before their deliverance – "it is the time of Jacob's trouble." Jer. 30:7

By way of showing that the experiences outlined would apply not merely to the Jews of Palestine but to the Jews throughout the world, a feature is introduced into the parable by which the Rich Man is represented as asking special favors upon his five brethren: but the request being refused, implies that no extra favors would be granted the Jews outside of Palestine, that all Jews would be treated alike. They only had Moses and the prophets, and if they would not hearken to these they must have the same experiences as the Jews of Palestine. The proportions of the number five when applied to the Jews of scattered tribes is manifest. The nation of Israel dwelling in Palestine specially represented two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, and in the same proportion the ten tribes scattered amongst all nations would be represented by five brethren.


What shall we say to these things? Here we have before our minds an interpretation of one of the Lord's parables that is fully in accord with all the facts and fully in accord with the delineations of the parable. Shall we accept this reasonable solution of it or shall we unreasonably interpret it to match with the heathenish ideas of the dark ages, confusing our own minds, dishonoring our God and destroying our faith in him and in his Word? Let us resolve that for our part we will begin to use reason in religious matters, in seeking to understand the divine Word in harmony with the only character of Justice and Love and Wisdom and Power which we could reasonably attribute to our Creator. So doing we will find ourselves advancing in grace as well as in knowledge, for it is an indisputable fact that we are all more or less copying in life our ideals our God. Those who copy a bad God, who have a low idea of God, are proportionately low, groveling, spiteful, themselves. Those whose eyes of understanding are opened to see the ideal God of the Bible develop most rapidly in his characteristics. "Be like unto your father which is in heaven," be ye copies of God's dear son. [Matt. 5:48]

CHRISTIAN, seek not yet repose, Hear thy gracious Savior say, "Thou art in the midst of foes: Watch and pray."


The National Labor Tribune, February 25, 1906


Canton, Ohio, February 25, Pastor C. T. Russell of Allegheny, Pa., preached twice here today. The afternoon topic was his discourse, A sure cure for infidelity, entitled "To Hell and Back."

We report his evening discourse from the text, "Cast into hell fire, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched." Mark 9:47, 48

The declaration that our Lord opened his mouth in parables and dark sayings is well illustrated in our text: the more so if we include the context, in which our Lord recommended that it would be better for a man to lop off his hand or pluck out his eye and enter into eternal life maimed than to preserve these and go into hell fire – Gehenna. The people of our Lord's time were used to figures of speech. They frequently were perplexed by those which our Lord used, as, for instance, when he declared that he was the bread that came down from heaven and unless a man eat his flesh and drink his blood he could have no life in him. (John 6:41, 53)

No wonder the poor hearers exclaimed, "This is a hard saying:who can hear it?" Our Lord spake in this dark manner, he tells us, with the very intention that the majority might not understand – that "hearing they might hear and not understand." [Mark 4:12]

But he likewise explained to his disciples, saying, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven; but to those who are without (outsiders) these things are spoken in parables and dark sayings." Luke 8:10

The true followers of Jesus, "taught of God," have learned the meaning of these dark sayings, yet the masses of Christendom comprehend them not. Nor can we hope to make these plain to the masses, for whom they were not intended. They should, however, be easily comprehended by the Lord's consecrated people, and even the world may be taught what they do not mean. Our hope this evening in discussing the obscure statements of this text lies along these lines. We hope that some of the Lord's truly consecrated will fully grasp the meaning of the text, and we hope to have others see, at least, that the language does not imply the perpetuation of sinners in torment to all eternity.


On other occasions we have considered the scriptural teaching respecting the sheol of the Old Testament and the hades of the New Testament, and found these words to refer to the death state, the tomb condition, in which the dead know not anything, but from which all have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, and from which all mankind are to be delivered by an awakening in the resurrection morning by him who declares, "All that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man and shall come forth." John 5:28, 29)

But the word hell in our text is an incorrect translation of a different Greek word, namely, Gehenna. Let us inquire the meaning of the Greek word Gehenna, and then proceed to an application of the words in our text. Gehenna in the Greek language is a translation of the words, "valley of Hinnom" in the Hebrew language. This valley lies outside of Jerusalem, and at one time it was a deep, narrow gorge, but during the centuries it has gradually filled up, until now it bears no resemblance to its former appearance, but although a valley it is now a fertile field. We read of this valley as a prominent landmark away back at the time when the children of Israel first entered Canaan – it is so mentioned in the book of Joshua. (18:16)

It is referred to repeatedly in the Old Testament by three different names:

(1) The valley of Hinnom;

(2) The valley of Slaughter;

(3) Tophet.

It was in this valley that the wicked king Ahaz established Baal worship and set up an image to Moloch. The image was hollow and constituted a furnace in which fuel was burned until the image was fiery hot. Through the prophet Jeremiah the Lord twice reproved the Israelites for this savagery, in one of these places describing the valley and giving it three different names. See Jer. 19:2, 6. When the good king Josiah instituted reforms in Israel and abolished idolatry, he put a ban or curse upon this valley (2 Kings 23:10), so that it might never again be used for any kind of worship, good or bad. Thenceforth the valley became a synonym for all that was vile. In it was cast the rubbish and offal of the city of Jerusalem; in its depths were kept burning fires fed with brimstone, for the double purpose of destroying the combustible elements and also of preserving the health of the city, because the fumes of brimstone were then and are still recognized as a superior disinfectant, purifying the atmosphere by killing the germs of disease and decay. Later on, as a special terror to evil doers, the carcasses of the vilest criminals were thrown into this valley, treated with every disrespect as merest offal, with a view to deterring crime.

Naturally some of the offal cast into this valley did not reach the bottom of it, but, caught upon the ledges, [NS308] or otherwise not reaching the bottom, was not so closely in contact with the fire as to be consumed. Indeed the fires, as already explained, were not so much to consume the carcasses as to purify the air, destroying the injurious qualities of gases arising from the decomposition.

Hence the worms, maggots, generated upon these carcasses, utterly consuming them. The expression, "Where their worm dieth not," should not be understood as describing worms possessing immortality, but merely as intimating that if conditions were favorable there would be nothing to destroy the worms and hinder them from accomplishing the work of complete destruction.

Likewise the fire which "is not quenched" does not mean that the fire could not have been quenched but that there was no desire to quench it, no right or permission to quench it – it continued to burn, was intended to burn, was serving a good purpose in burning. The people of our Lord's day were well acquainted with the facts. It is the people of today who, after fifteen centuries of delusion on the subject of eternal torment, are most seriously handicapped by their lack of knowledge of what the Lord really said and the proper application of the words.


Let us now apply our Lord's words. What did he mean by saying that it would be better to cut off a right hand or blot out an eye than to be cast into Gehenna? We answer that his words have a two-fold application:

(1) There would be a certain lesson which all Israelites could take from them;

(2) There was another lesson which only the comparatively few of his hearers could appreciate. All understood that the Lord did not mean a literal cutting off of the hand or blotting out of an eye: all understood that he meant that sins should be lopped off and discarded even though precious as an eye or a hand – even though considered amongst the most important features of life, the greatest pleasures.

To the masses this would mean that they should avoid criminal conduct which might, if persisted in, lead from bad to worse, until they might be considered so vile as to be cast after death into this Valley of Hinnom, Gehenna, Tophet, that their bodies might thus be consumed and by implication that they should be considered unworthy of any future life: for to the Jews burial implied the hope of a resurrection, but the utter destruction of Gehenna implied hopelessness as respects a future life.

To those to whom it was given to understand the mystery of the Kingdom, the Lord's words had a still higher signification, and meant that they, having become his disciples, having made a consecration to be his followers, had staked their all upon the results. If faithful in the narrow way even unto death they would be granted eternal life and that on the highest possible plane, the "divine nature," by a share in the glorious change of the first resurrection.

But these thus on trial for glory, honor and immortality must beware, because they have undertaken a serious matter, and to even look back longingly at the things of the present time, to even in their hearts rue the sacrifice they had made, would mean that they would be unworthy of a place in the Kingdom. Luke 9:62 These specially consecrated followers should recognize that they not only agreed to abandon sin to the extent of their ability, but had agreed also to walk in the narrow way of sacrifice – yielding up their rights and privileges as respects the present time that they might gain the higher glories and blessings of the spiritual nature.

These were to consider that however delightsome, however enjoyable might be their earthly pleasures and comforts, these if they stood in the way of their sacrifice, if they offended (that is stumbled) them in the race for the great prize set before them so that they would ultimately fail of gaining eternal life, would result in their going into the Second Death – utter destruction. This Second Death they would understand to be the antithesis, the opposite, of the Second Life, just as literal Gehenna was the extreme antithesis of the earthly life. In no sense of the word could any of our Lord's hearers get the impression that Gehenna fire represented torture, for no torture was ever permitted; it was only after the animal or criminal was dead that the carcass was thrown into this valley. The divine law strictly forbade the Jew from torturing any creature or taking pleasure therein in any measure.

It was the heathen teaching of the roasting of children in this very valley that our Lord condemned, and it is the same heathen teaching that has come down through the ages and permeated Christian thought, greatly to the disadvantage of all who to any extent entertain it, greatly to the dishonor also of our heavenly Father, whose arrangements are all both just and loving and opposed to cruelty. The understanding of all of our Lord's hearers respecting Gehenna must have been that his figurative references to it were along the lines of total destruction – a hopeless destruction – ignominious destruction from which there could be no recovery. How well, then, the valley of Hinnom, Gehenna, represents the Second Death.


In the symbolical book of Revelation our Lord presents to us a picture of the New Jerusalem – the glorified Kingdom – and outside of it he pictures Gehenna, "the lake of fire and brimstone," more properly the [NS309] "abyss of fire and brimstone."

Let us get the picture before our minds, remembering that this symbolical book is written in picture language, in symbols. As the New Jerusalem symbolically represents the glorified Church, whose twelve foundation stones bear the names of the twelve apostles, so the valley outside that city is equally symbolical. In the city, we are told, the glory, honor and dignity of all nations may ultimately come, through obedience to the laws of the Millennial Kingdom; but those who work iniquity and violence shall not be permitted to enter the city and the eternal life and harmony with God which it represents, but these on the contrary, in the picture, are represented as being cast into the abyss of fire and brimstone, and the explanation is given in so many words, "which is the second death." Rev. 20:14

And what could more particularly represent the second death than this very picture? Gehenna fire itself is a symbol of destruction, never a figure of preservation. Burning brimstone is another figure of destruction – everything that has life is subject to the power of burning brimstone. It means sure death to life of every form. Even today, if we were making symbols, we could think of nothing that would more thoroughly, more completely represent utter destruction of life and being than the figure which the Lord has here used, "The lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death."


In the Old Testament this Gehenna thought – this thought of the second death and utter destruction, from which no recovery would be possible, from which there would be no resurrection – is distinctly pictured in Isaiah's prophecy (66:24), describing the future conditions when the Gospel Church completed will have passed into glory beyond the veil on the Spirit plane, describing the blessed conditions of mankind under the Millennial Kingdom, when the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth, and none shall need to say to his neighbor, Know thou the Lord. (Isa. 11:9; Jer. 31:34)

The prophecy goes on to describe the rebellious and to show their utter destruction. It assures us that the willing and obedient who will then worship the Lord "in the beauty of holiness" shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of men who have transgressed against him: "for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." [Isa. 66:24]

It will be noticed that this description corresponds exactly with the New Testament delineations of the second death, the Gehenna destruction. There is no intimation whatever of the torture of these transgressors against the Lord. Men may take pleasure in the torture of their victims and their enemies, but the true God never – Molech might require sacrifices of burning, but Jehovah never. The picture speaks of seeing the carcasses of those who transgressed, not of seeing the transgressors alive, in flames, shrieking in torture and pain, pitched about on pitchforks by gleeful, fire-proof devils. How reasonable, how sensible is the Scriptural teaching on this subject, as on every subject.

All of our confusion and trouble has come from neglect of the Word of God and adherence to the traditions of men, who, however well intentioned, were grossly blinded by the "god of this world" with the same sophistries and fallacies with which he has blinded and enslaved the entire world in superstition. 2 Cor. 4:4


The very term second death implies a first death. This first death entered the world through father Adam and his disobedience, and has been in force swallowing up the human family for the past six thousand years. All mankind are under this original death sentence, as the Apostle declares – By one man's disobedience sin entered the world and death as the result of sin, and thus death passed upon all men because all are sinners. Rom. 5:12

None can come under the sentence of the second death pictured by Gehenna until he has first gotten out from under the sentence of the first death, Adamic death. Adamic death would have been eternal in its results had it not been for the divine mercy which provided a ransom for it. By that ransom our Lord Jesus secured the right to release Adam and all his posterity from the Adamic death, the first death; hence it will not be an eternal death against any man. But the release from it comes only to those who have a knowledge of Jesus and who by faith accept him as their Savior.

Upon all others condemnation remains. Hence the majority of the world to-day are still under Adamic condemnation of death: only the Church – who have heard of God's provision for our recovery, and who have accepted his terms, and have laid hold upon the Life-Giver – these alone are reckoned as having passed from Adamic death unto life, and these alone, therefore, are liable to the Second Death. Mark how the Apostle lays emphasis upon this point. Describing the Church, the household of faith, believers, partakers of the holy Spirit, etc., he declares, "If we sin wilfully after that we have received a knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries." (Heb. 10:26, 27)

This fiery indignation which would devour us as adversaries of God if we turn from the way of holiness, like to a sow to wallowing again in the mire, is another way of describing the second death, the abyss of [NS310] fire and brimstone – which is the second death. No wonder the Apostle says to the Church – not to the world – "Let us fear lest a promise having been left us of entering into his rest any of us should seem to come short of it" – for our God is not a literal fire, but in the same figurative sense he has provided an abyss of fire and brimstone for all who wilfully, intelligently repudiate his government. In this sense and to this class he is a consuming fire. (Heb. 4:1; 12:29)

His love and mercy having done everything reasonable and proper on their behalf, nothing will turn aside from such wilful evil doers the just, righteous destruction which the Lord has declared against this class. "The wages of sin is death," is a brief statement of the divine law.


Although the world in general is still under the Adamic penalty of death, so that merely consecrated believers are subject to the second death now, nevertheless the Lord's Word distinctly points out that every member of Adam's race redeemed by the precious blood of Christ will ultimately have a full opportunity of gaining eternal life under the blessed ministries of Christ and the Church during the Millennial reign. When in "God's due time" the masses of mankind will be released from the condemnation of Adamic death and brought to an accurate knowledge of the truth they will be on trial for everlasting life or everlasting death – the second death – utter destruction. (1 Tim. 2:4-6)

It is not for us to determine whether the numbers of those who will ultimately be saved shall preponderate over that of the lost in the second death, but it is for us to rejoice that as "the dead know not anything" in the first death, so similarly in the second death they will now nothing, experience no suffering, no pain.

Their loss will consist in their deprivation of the eternal life and the joys and blessings which will come to those who by obedience to the divine requirements will return from sin and death conditions by restitution processes up to all that glorious perfection of mind and body lost by Adam – including the glories and dignities and privileges which were his. Let us more and more rejoice in the God of our salvation – the God of justice, wisdom, love and power fully coordinated, who is working out things according to the counsel of his own will, and who ultimately will fulfill his oath-bound covenant to bless all the families of the earth with a knowledge of himself and with an opportunity for eternal life through the antitypical seed of Abraham, Christ and his elect Bride. Gal. 3:16,29

The National Labor Tribune, March 4, 1906


Pastor C. T. Russell addressed a large audience at Bible House Chapel, Allegheny, at 3 p. m. Sunday from the text, "Set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Jude 7)

The speaker said: The general ignorance and the misunderstanding of the people respecting the divine character and plan which during the "dark ages" spread over so-called Christendom have given to the words of our text a lurid horror which has tended to intensify and burn into their hearts and minds the atrocious doctrines of devils, pitchforks and eternal torment which has so dishonored God's name and so perplexed and troubled his faithful people for centuries.

This misapprehension of the Scriptures, still prevailing under the increasing light of this twentieth century is leading thousands of people away from the Word of God into infidelity. They say to themselves, "We can not believe such doctrines; and if the Bible is the foundation for these horrible nightmares of the past, we can no longer tolerate it except as a relic of superstition. But, dear friends, the more we get to understand the real teachings of the Bible and to appreciate the real character of God the more we will love and honor both, and, correspondingly, the more we will detest the nightmares and superstitions of that dark period in which our deluded ancestors attempted to confirm their misconceptions of God by burning one another at the stake for differences of opinion.

Let us hold fast to the precious Word, not superstitiously, as loving and kissing the covers of the book, but with true, intelligent reverence, as appreciating its message of wisdom, justice, love and power from our heavenly Father to us his children, who hunger and thirst after righteousness, after truth, after knowledge, of his character and plan.


When we shall have analyzed this text it will, we believe, forever have lost its luridness, its terrors, and henceforth in all of our minds will be a reasonable, just statement of the doings of our reasonable, just, loving God. We notice the connection: Jude is discussing evil doers, especially those who, having been favored of the Lord with a knowledge of his grace and truth, have turned therefrom wilfully, intentionally, into the ways of sin. The Apostle is calling to our minds the fact that such a course is sure to have a punishment, and cites [NS311] illustrations from the past to show the general trend of divine government. He instances the deliverance of the people of Israel from Egyptian bondage, yet that this favor of the Lord did not excuse them from punishment and destruction when subsequently they were rebellious. Another illustration is that of the angels, who were at first in divine favor, but who by disobedience were sentenced to chains of darkness until the great day of judgment. As a third illustration of the principle that God punishes evil doers, the Apostle refers to the Sodomites, who, because they gave themselves over to fornication, etc., are set forth for an example – "suffering the vengeance (punishment) of eternal fire."


Let us not too hastily read into this passage what it does not contain: It does not say that the Sodomites suffered the vengeance of eternal torment as the majority seem to understand it. It is speaking of the city of Sodom, the city of Gomorrha, and the other cities about them, and their inhabitants – that they suffered punishment for their wrong course. The fire by which they were punished is described in Gen. 19:24, 25, just Lot and his family alone being spared – delivered from that fire and its destructive work.

The fire which burned those cities and destroyed those people is in our English translation called "eternal fire," but it would be a mistake to suppose that this means a fire that would last to all eternity. The fire is not burning now. It burned until it had utterly destroyed those people and their cities, and the Greek word here rendered eternal has this signification: it is aionian fire, or literally a fire that burned to a completion of its work of destruction. There is not a suggestion about its being a fire that will burn in the future, but, to the contrary, it effected its work, and our Lord testifies saying, "It rained down fire from heaven and destroyed them all." Luke 17:29

Let us give our Lord's words their proper weight: he says the people of Sodom and Gomorrah and surroundings were destroyed, not preserved by that fire. He does not intimate that they are in the fire now, but quite to the contrary. When discussing those people he intimates quite distinctly that they know nothing at the present time, but that in the coming forth of the resurrection time they will have a judgment or trial for eternal life. More than this, comparing them with some who heard his preaching in Capernaum and surrounding cities, he declares, "Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for you." Matt. 10:15 "More tolerable!"

The intimation is that in the great day of judgment, the Millennial age, when the world in general shall be on trial for life everlasting or the second death, the people of Capernaum who heard the Lord will be on trial with others. But inasmuch as they had had superior advantages to others, and had neglected those advantages, they would be correspondingly less benefited by the blessings and mercies of God which, during the Millennial reign of Christ, will extend to every member of Adam's race.

And this we understand to be a general principle of divine dealings: where much of light and knowledge and opportunity and privilege are granted, much will be required; where sin abounds in opposition to the light of truth there is correspondingly large responsibility, and the stripes or punishment will be proportionate. But there is no suggestion in any part of the narrative either that the people of Capernaum or the people of Sodom and Gomorrah went to their rewards good or bad at death, nor that in the awakening of the resurrection time they would suffer eternal torture. Our Lord proceeds to explain that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah had less advantage than the people of Capernaum and Palestine, and he declares that if they had heard his preaching and seen his miracles "they would have repented long ago in sack-cloth and ashes." (Matt. 11:21)

Is there, then, injustice with God that the people of Capernaum should have so many privileges and mercies more than the people of Sodom, and yet that the latter should be sent to eternal torment? Who would so claim in view of our Lord's statement that if they had enjoyed the same amount of favor they would have repented with deep contrition in sackcloth and ashes?


Dear friends, we have already shown that the eternal fire upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah was a literal fire, and has no relationship to any future torment of any kind: now let us see what the Scriptures do say respecting the future of the Sodomites. Those of you not familiar with your Bibles, and whose minds have long been clouded with misconceptions, will no doubt be astounded by the evidences which we will produce from the Scriptures showing that the Sodomites are to come back from the destruction which came upon them through the aionian fire which destroyed their cities as well as their lives. Nevertheless, all of you who have good hearts and reasonable minds will rejoice to find that the heavenly Father has made provision through the death of his Son for all the world of mankind, even including the wicked Sodomites. We are offering no suggestion that God will save them in their sins, but on the contrary that he will save them from their sins. Our Lord's words assure us that the Sodomites were at heart and in his sight not worse than the people of Capernaum, who had greater light and therefore greater responsibility. Doubtless the [NS312] Lord would say the same of our city or of any other civilized city today that the Sodomites were no worse at heart, that their outer wickedness and licentiousness was largely the result of their ignorance. Surely all who have the love of God in their hearts and who intelligently pray, "Thy will be done," will be glad to know that the divine will is to bring a blessing to the people of Sodom. Now let us examine the proofs.

First, we have our Lord's statement, already referred to, assuring us that in the day of judgment (the Millennial day of a thousand years, in which the world will be judged or tried for everlasting life or the Second Death) the condition of the Sodomites will be more favorable than that of some others who thought themselves very religious. Secondly, we have the Lord's statement that the fire which rained from heaven destroyed them all, and this precludes any suggestion that a part of them might have remained alive and that the Lord might have had reference to the remnant not destroyed and their posterity. Unquestionably he referred to the ones who were destroyed, as the language clearly states.


The Apostle Peter tells us of the "times of restitution" which will begin at the second coming of our Lord: he calls the same the "times of refreshing." (Acts 3:21)

He tells us that this coming refreshing or restitution was spoken of by the Lord through the mouth of all the holy prophets of the past. Let us look at one of these prophecies of the coming restitution which specifically mentions the Israelites, God's favored people; the Samaritans, their neighbors in Palestine: and the Sodomites, who once occupied a portion of Palestine.

Turn with me to the prophecy of Ezekiel, chapter 16. Read throughout the entire chapter a serious arraignment of the people of Israel and their failure to be loyal to the Lord, to whom they had been betrothed by the Mosaic Covenant.

From the forty-eighth verse to the end of the chapter we have the Lord's prophecy respecting the future of Israel, Samaria, and Sodom, and the restitution blessings that are to come to all three at or about the same time. As our Lord guarded against any misunderstanding as to which Sodomites were meant by saying that he referred to those upon whom God rained down fire and consumed them, so in speaking through his mouthpiece, the prophet Ezekiel, he identifies the Sodomites whom he intends to restore in due time, saying, "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom: pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters; nor did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good." Vs. 49, 50

In verses 51, 52, the Lord points out Samaria's unrighteousness, but declares that Israel's course under her special favors and privileges and advantages in every way was more abominable in his sight than that of either of the others, and that they were both in comparison justified rather than condemned by the course of Israel. Then, pointing down to the future, in harmony with the declaration of the Scriptures everywhere that the Lord after punishing Israel will bring them back from their captivity and bless them under the spiritual seed of Abraham, the account in vs. 53-56 specifically tells us about this returning from captivity, the captivity of death into which the Israelites by the million have gone as well as the Samaritans and Sodomites – "When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them."

What is the object of thus stating the matter of the conjoined awakening of these three peoples? The answer is, "That thou mayest bear thine own shame, and mayest be ashamed because of all that thou hast done in that thou art a comfort unto them."

In other words, when the great Millennial day of judgment and trial shall have been fully opened, and its blessings shall be poured out upon the world, God will use Israel in her shame and exposure in the light of that day to comfort the Sodomites and Samaritans in their degree of shame and exposure in that day.


Through the Prophet Daniel the Lord speaks of these returning from the captivity of death, and tells first of the faithful of the Church, who will come forth from the tomb to shine as the stars forever and ever; and then he refers to the others, such as the Sodomites and Samaritans and Israelites, who shall come forth to shame and lasting contempt." (Dan. 12:2)

It will be in this shame and contempt condition that Israel will be a comfort to her sister nations. But it is not God's design that the shame and contempt should work an eternal blight to those poor creatures or to others, but that it should be associated with the period of reformation – that being ashamed of their past course of sin and degradation they might turn from the things of sin and shame and be transformed under the influence of the Kingdom of God's dear Son, which, as the Sun of righteousness, shall fill the whole earth with the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, putting to shame, to flight, the works of darkness and sin. It will indeed be a comfort to the Sodomites, when they realize their own degradation, to see that some others who had enjoyed so many more favors than they were equally put to [NS313] shame. The shame will be more tolerable for Sodomites and Gomorrah than for the people of Capernaum. But there will be no need of their remaining in this contemptible condition and under shame. All the influences of the Kingdom will be favorable to their rising out of sin and death conditions and coming up, up, up on the highway of holiness, which will then, we are assured by the Prophet, be established, that all who love righteousness and desire harmony with God amongst the world of mankind will go up thereon without ostentation and with every needed assistance so that by the end of the Millennial age they will have reached the end of that grand highway of holiness and perfection, everlasting life.

Only the wilful and disobedient, and those who love sin and hate righteousness, will be excluded from this highway and its termination in perfection, and they, we are assured, will not be eternally tormented, but "punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power. 2 Thess. 1:9


No one can doubt that the period referred to by our Lord as the day of judgment, in which it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for Capernaum, meant the period of time following his second advent and the establishment of his Kingdom.

No one can doubt either that the time mentioned by the prophet Ezekiel is the very same – when the captivity of the Sodomites and Israelites shall be at an end – when all the captives shall be released from the prison-house of death. No one can question either that the Apostle Peter, in speaking of the times of restitution, had reference to this same period following the Lord's second advent. Now, then, connect these three together and notice what the prophet declares respecting the liberation of these captives and to what purpose they are liberated from the prison-house of death. I quote: "When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate."

The prophet is here undoubtedly referring to the "times of restitution" mentioned by the Apostle Peter. He says, "return to your former estate."

What is here meant? We answer that man's original estate, according to the Bible record, was the image and likeness of God. It was from this glorious estate that Adam fell – and all of us as his race, his children, in his loins, fell from the same into a condition of sin, degradation and death. So then, when we read that the prison-doors shall be opened, and that the captives shall be set free from the prison-house of death and from the bondage of corruption, and then read that they shall return to their former estate, it means restitution back, back, back to the original likeness of God lost through sin.


And this is exactly what is implied respecting the Lord's sacrificial death, when we are told that "he gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1 Tim. 2:6)

He ransomed father Adam, the original sinner, and incidentally ransomed also every member of his race, as well as all of his possessions, titles, privileges and rights as the original King of earth. The very object of this purchase was the restitution of man and his estate to their primeval dignity, honor and glory. And this is the promise of the Bible – times of restitution – and Paradise restored, which in the future will not merely be a garden in Eden but the entire earth. Why should we be astonished to find that God is carrying out a great and glorious plan which his Word everywhere outlines?

The fact that it has been delayed is explained by the other fact that the Lord desired to give our whole world a lesson on the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and desired at the same time to take out of the world a "little flock" of peculiar faith and love and zeal, to be associated with his Son in the great work of blessing the world with restitution. Come back now to Ezekiel's statement of the matter. I want you to notice carefully the Lord's statement in the context, for you will be told by ministers that they know better – that they know the Lord has no such good and generous heart and plan – that they know that this statement must be "ironical."

Alas! poor depraved humanity finds it difficult to believe in the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the love of God, which passeth all understanding! But, regardless of what any one may say, you and I want the Word of the Lord on this subject, and on every subject: "Let God be true though it make every man a liar." (Rom. 3:4)

Now read the remainder of the chapter from verse 56 to the end, and note that the Lord is speaking very sympathetically and comfortingly. He does indeed reprove Israel, especially for having broken his Covenant and despised the oath which sealed it, but he tells them that he proposes to keep his Oath-Bound Covenant, anyway. That Covenant declares: "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." [Gen. 12:3]

The Apostle tells us that Israel failed to obtain the chief blessing under this Covenant which it had hoped for – it failed to become the spiritual seed. He tells us that Christ and the Church, his body, his members, attained to this favored position, and that through Christ and the Church therefore, as the antitypical seed of Abraham, all the families of the earth are to be blessed. He tells us [NS314] that Israel will be among the first to be blessed. At your convenience please read carefully the Apostle's exact words on this subject as recorded in Rom. 11:25-32 Now come back and read again the Lord's statement in Eze. 16:60, 63.

"Nevertheless (notwithstanding your evil course and your unworthiness) I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting Covenant. Then thou shalt remember thy ways and be ashamed (when the whole world is ashamed under the light of the Millennial Sun of Righteousness), when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger. And I will give them unto thee for daughters but not by thy Covenant (not under the New Covenant then to be established in the earth); and I will establish my covenant with thee, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord, that thou mayest remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God.


Coming back now to our text we find that we have a new light upon it, and we can see in what sense of the word it was set forth as an example – not of future torment, but in respect to divine indignation against sin in general. God declares that he is thoroughly opposed to sin in its every form, that it shall ultimately be destroyed utterly, and that all that will not come into harmony with the great Prophet, Priest and King, Jesus, the Head of the Church, and the Church, his body members, shall be ultimately destroyed from amongst the people as were the Sodomites – with a complete, everlasting destruction.

True, our Lord's dealings in the past and in the present are specially with his consecrated people – Israel after the flesh and Israel after the Spirit. Nevertheless, this does not imply that the Lord has not an overruling hand in all the affairs of the world. While permitting sin to reasonably take its course and to bring its own lessons and experiences to the world of mankind, that all may learn something of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, nevertheless the Lord clearly intimates that in any place where sin shall have run its course and be standing in the way of the divine purposes, it will be headed off.

So it was with the Sodomites. Pride and prosperous ease had led them to despise the poor and needy, had made them haughty, and favored amongst them licentiousness. The Lord blotted them out with the fire from heaven, as he saw good. For them to have remained would have been to permit a plague spot in the very land in which he intended later on to plant his typical people, Israel after the flesh. The example furnished us in this incident illustrates, not eternal torment, but the "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power" which will surely be visited ultimately upon all evil doers. We are thankful, however, for the blessed assurance that before either the Sodomites or any of the world who have been redeemed by the precious blood could be condemned to that Second Death they must all be brought to an accurate knowledge of the truth.

This is the divine declaration, "God our Savior, who would have all men to be saved and to come to an accurate knowledge of the truth. Because there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." 1 Tim. 2:3-5

This view of our Heavenly Father's character, as indicated and exemplified in his dealings with our race in the past, and in the declarations of his Word in respect to his future dealings, is cheering and encouraging and helpful to all those who are truly the sons of God, begotten of his Spirit. The Sodomites did indeed suffer loss in that they were cut off from life a little sooner than they would otherwise have been. They have been redeemed by the one sacrifice for all; but when granted their opportunity in due time, in the "times of restitution," if then they be negligent and will not hearken to the voice of the great King of glory, they will suffer the vengeance of cutting off again, and that without remedy, for from the Second Death there is no redemption, no recovery. "Let us fear lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest (into life eternal on the highest plane, the 'divine nature') any of us should seem to come short of it." (Heb. 4:1)

The principle that now operates in the judgment of the Church in this age is the same that will operate by and by in conjunction with the whole world – except that our trial is by faith in advance of actual knowledge and demonstration, and the life proffered to us is that on the spiritual, heavenly plane instead of the earthly restitution, which will be proffered to the world. Pastor Russell's "Studies in the Scriptures" are published and sold at absolute cost by the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY, Bible House, Allegheny, Pa. These are frequently called "Bible Keys," so wonderfully do the Scriptures open before the reader. Nearly 2,000,000 copies are now in circulation.

I yield my sinful heart to Thee, And in Thy love Thou fillest me.

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