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In our last issue we announced that the Lord's Memorial Supper, commemorative of his death, will be celebrated on its anniversary this year, as usual, by the Church at Allegheny, in Bible House chapel, Arch street, on Thursday evening, March 30th, at 7:30 P.M. To this all who believe in the merit of our Lord's sacrifice for our sins, finished, once for all, at Calvary, and who are consecrated to the Lord in thought, word and deed, will be made cordially welcome.
Our application to the Railroads for excursion rates has from year to year past met with increasing objections and limitations which become burdensome. This year we are asked to pay the expenses of a railroad agent – eleven dollars for the first day and six dollars each for succeeding days, to see to the numbers in attendance, and to endorse all the returning, reduced-rate tickets. And then, if the proper certificates number less than one hundred, no reduction of rates would be allowed. The attendance from abroad is usually more than this, but many purchase other tickets than those specified – mileage, etc.
Concluding that excursion rates from all parts to Chicago will be very cheap during the Summer (especially in August and September), and that a larger number would be served by having a general meeting there and then, than here, this year, we accordingly wrote the Railroad people declining their restricted offer of excursion rates to Allegheny this Spring.
We trust that our decision will commend itself to all of our readers. Arrangements for the Chicago Convention will be effected for some date probably not far from September 1st, and will be such as will enable attendants to spend a few days in Bible Study, with profitable intermissions in which to learn some valuable lessons, by noting some of the wonderful inventions of this wonderful era which the Lord speaks of as "the day of his preparation" – preparing for the blessing of the world under the Millennial reign of righteousness and love. [R1498 : page 34]
One or two Sisters who have children dependent upon them for support write that they could probably provide better for them if they were in the Colporteur work than they can now do – besides having the privilege of using their time and strength in the blessed service of carrying spiritual food to the Lord's starving people.
The question therefore arises: Are there others of the consecrated so situated that they cannot engage in the more public work, but who could have a share in it by caring for such children? The mothers in question could not afford to pay large sums for boarding, etc., but could pay something.
If it occurs to any of the mothers "of this way" that they would like to offer such a home, let such, before offering, consider carefully whether the conditions of her home are suitable; whether the influence of other members of the family would be favorable; whether she would care not only for the physical but also for the moral health of those entrusted. Then let any who believe that they see their way clear to thus offer their services correspond with us.
|VOL. XIV.||FEBRUARY 1 & 15, 1893. – DOUBLE NUMBER.||NOS. 3 & 4.|
THE AWFUL THEORY OF MEN. – ITS INCONSISTENCIES. – ITS BANEFUL RESULTS. – THE TRUE SCRIPTURE TEACHING.
Some will say, "I don't care to think about the awful place, for I don't expect to go there – I have no interest in it." Yet, if the "orthodox" view of it be true, that all except the saints of God go there, – that hell is the penalty for Adam's sin, that all of Adam's posterity are under that penalty except those few faithful believers in Christ who escape it, – then it follows that you, and I, and all, ought to be deeply interested in finding out all we can about that which is represented as the surest and most awful and most general calamity to which our poor race is exposed. If you and I do expect to escape, we should be anxious on behalf of the others; for in proportion to the world's population even in this enlightened day, the faithful believers in Christ are but as one out of a thousand. Nor will it do to excuse one's self with the idea that "My friends and relations will all escape." You know that many, yea, most of your friends and relatives are not faithful believers; and, as you look back over the pages of history, it is not a great way back that you find that your great-great, grandparents were heathen idolaters who knew not of the Redeemer, and hence could not have been justified by faith in him. Besides, are not all mankind our relatives? and are not all brethren? – children of one common father, Adam?
Subjects like slavery, intemperance, pestilence or epidemics, affecting only a part of the human family, we see hundreds, yes, thousands, of men and women spending time and talent and money in examining, and in arranging for the relief and safety of their fellows. Yet there is no comparison between human slavery, etc., and everlasting torture in misery and anguish, which human tongue, we are told, cannot describe. The most terrible human sufferings of the present, which soon end life and thus bring relief, are really pleasurable moments in comparison to what we are told of hell, which, besides, will never end while the years of eternity roll.
Oh, yes, there are thousands of clergymen who are supposed to have studied all about this awful subject, who weekly meet with about two millions of the fourteen hundred millions of the earth's present population, to consider this very subject which they claim is all-important. They meet in comfortable and elegant buildings, expensively attired, and are entertained by music and oratory; and if the subject they claim as the all-important cause of their assembling is mentioned at all, it is to assure the hearts of those present that they have nothing to fear; for though God will deal most [R1498 : page 36] awfully with others, he will deal kindly with them, and instead of delighting to torture them to all eternity, God will be glad to have such genteel people as attend their entertaining church services and participate in the usual suppers, fairs, etc., to adorn heaven. Why will God thus favor them? Not because of good works, they admit; nor because of great faith, we would claim, for they know little of God or his Word, and hence cannot believe much or firmly. Their hopes must therefore be built mainly upon their morality, because they are civilized, and specially because they have joined an earthly church and assented to a creed which they do not know, nor understand, nor believe – in a word because they are thus deceiving themselves and others with a form of godliness without the real power thereof. Do these people really believe
Of all the people in the world to-day who profess to believe this awful doctrine of eternal torment, the "Salvation Army" alone acts reasonably and consistently. And their wildest freaks and fancies are tame compared with what might be expected if they were fully convinced of the truth of the doctrine. The men and women who have ever fully believed the doctrine are undoubtedly those hundreds who have gone insane from sympathy with their fellows: the effort to save others from everlasting torture unbalanced their reason. 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 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."
They could not complacently sit there and think of those hurrying every moment into that awful state described by the good, well-meaning, but terribly deluded man, Isaac Watts (whose own heart was infinitely warmer and larger than that he ascribed to the great Jehovah), when he wrote that sweet (?) hymn, which, thank God, sensible people have ceased to love, and almost ceased to sing: –
"Tempests of angry fire shall roll
To blast the rebel worm,
And beat upon the naked soul
In one eternal storm."
Surely men and women believing thus would rush frantically to the heathen and to all unbelievers everywhere, would describe hell, and make people join their churches or set them crazy with fear, or both. Mothers, fathers and children have become insane from anguish, when their loved ones have been caught in a burning building, though they knew that their pain would endure but a few minutes; yet they pretend to believe that God is less loving than they, 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 gulf and see and hear the agonies of the multitudes (some of whom they now love and weep over), and will be so changed (become so like their present idea of God), so hardened against all 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 looking and acting men and women, who love their fellows, establish hospitals, orphanages, asylums, and societies for the prevention of cruelty to even the brute creation, are so unbalanced mentally that they can believe and subscribe to such a doctrine, and yet be so indifferent about investigating the subject of "everlasting torture."
Only one exception can we think of – those who hold the ultra-Calvinistic doctrine; who believe that God has decreed it thus, that [R1498 : page 37] 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 that 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 God and such a plan. They who hold this view of their own unconditional and unalterable election could surely afford to be honest, since they think that they could not be rejected. Why should not these, instead of singing the praises of such a plan and keeping quiet, hide their faces in shame for their God, express their true heart-sympathy for the people, and, instead of singing, weep and lament. It would be far more creditable to their faith and their hearts; – would it not?
Why not rather begin to doubt this "doctrine of devils," this blasphemy against the great God, hatched in the "dark ages," when a crafty priesthood thought it right to do evil, that good might result. The doctrine of eternal torment was introduced by Papacy to compel pagans to join her system and support her priesthood. It flourished at the same time that "bull fighting" 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 slaughtered for thinking or speaking contrary to the teachings of 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 half so terrible, cruel, fiendish and 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, to whom God has committed the only oracle – his Word. Oh! the shame and confusion of face that will cover many even good men (who verily thought that they did God service while propagating this misrepresentation of the devil), when they awake in the resurrection, to learn of the love and justice of God, and when they come to know that the Bible, for which some of them would lay down their lives, does not teach this God-dishonoring, love-extinguishing, truth-beclouding, saint-hindering, sinner-hardening, damnable heresy.
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 godlikeness of mind, which hinders such belief, is in most cases a step away from God's Word, which they falsely accuse of this teaching. Hence this second crop of evil fruit, which the devil's engraftment of this error is producing. The intelligent, honest thinkers are thus driven from the Bible into vain philosophies and sciences, falsely so-called, and into skepticism. Nor do the "worldly" really believe this doctrine. It does not restrain from crime: theft, murder, suicide, immorality and drunkenness are more common by far in the countries where this doctrine is taught, than in other lands. Mohammedan and Buddhist countries are much more moral than those misnamed "Christendom." True, some instances are known where murderers nearing death's door, under pressure of fear or sickness, confess a faith under the teaching that to doubt it is to make sure the penalty. But their lives of disregard, as well as their profanity, show that if this doctrine ever restrained men, it does not now.
No error, we answer, 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 [R1498 : page 38] what little truth was held before, and mingled it with their unholy and ignorant sentiments, so that, to meet the changed condition of things, the "clergy" found it needful to add error to error, and to resort 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.
The heathen were not benefited, for they were still heathen in God's sight, deluded into aping what they did not understand or do from the heart. They were tares to choke the wheat, without being profited thereby themselves.
The same is true of those who assume the name "Christian" to-day, 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 they 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 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, but in every way harm. Let us now inquire: –
Seeing, then, the unreasonableness of man's view, let us leave human creeds and dogmas and come to the oracle of God, that we may hear his own Word on this subject, fully convinced that
"Blind prejudice is sure to err,
And scan his Word in vain.
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain."
In the first place, let none forget that the English translation of the Bible was not inspired, but that the inspired Scriptures, which "holy men of old wrote as they were moved by the holy Spirit," were written, the Old Testament in the Hebrew and the New Testament in the Greek language. We know, further, that the translators were not inspired of God so as to prevent mistakes creeping in; for all scholars recognize some mistakes in the English translations.
Admitting that the translators were honest men who reverently desired to serve God and the Church by giving English readers a faithful translation from the original, all who have a knowledge of more than one language, and who have ever tried translating from one to another, well know they had a difficult task, the range of both languages making it often possible to translate a word by any one of several words, all having slightly different shades of meaning; besides which the idiomatic differences, the peculiarities in the construction of sentences in both languages, must be taken into account. This makes it necessary for a translator frequently to use his judgment both in deciding which of several words he would best use, and also as to their arrangement to reproduce faithfully the original thought. And, if the translators have certain false ideas fixed in their minds, they are almost sure at times to color their renderings, without wrong intention.
Now, no matter how little hell is talked or thought or sung about to-day, there is no other point of doctrine more firmly held by Christian people, who feel sure that to deny hell would be to deny the Bible, and yet who know little of what the Bible says about hell. So, in coming to the English Bible to examine the subject, do not forget to exercise charity toward the translators when we show that their translation has helped forward the wrong ideas generally held. You will be far more justifiable in feeling unthankful toward the "pastors" and "shepherds," whom you have for years helped to support and educate. But remember that not all ministers know of the errors of the translators. Not all deliberately cover and hide those errors from the people who are paying them for the information. Many, the great majority, indeed, do not know, having merely swallowed 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. Firstly, there is [R1498 : page 39] a sort of understanding or etiquette among them, as among physicians, that if they wish to maintain their standing in the "profession" they "must not tell tales out of school" – must not divulge professional secrets to the "common people," especially to the "laity." Secondly, they all fear that to let it be known that they have been teaching an unscriptural doctrine for years would bring disgrace and disreverence upon them, their denominations and their 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. Thirdly, 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 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 be terrible in the extreme.
Nevertheless, it has for some years been seen that knowledge is increasing among the people (Dan. 12:4), and the "Revised English Version" of the Bible was gotten out – in great part to patch up this hell doctrine. But the revisers had not the courage to come out and give a correct translation: that, as we have shown, would be too serious a matter to be thought of; so they merely refused to translate the word at all, and put the Hebrew word sheol and the Greek word hades into the English text. They well knew that the English reader would know little difference between "hell" and sheol or hades, and would soon come to use them synonymously. And this is the case. The learned professors and pastors consider, therefore, that they are justified by the course of the revisers, though they never explain the meaning of the Greek word hades; but by their use of the word, without saying so directly, they give their confiding flocks to understand that it means a place of torture, a lake of fire. But what will be the judgment of the Great Jehovah, whose character and plan are traduced by the blasphemous doctrine which this mistranslated word helps to support? Will he commend them? Will he justify their course? Will the Chief Shepherd call these his beloved "friends?" Will he make known unto 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," "meat in due season" to the household of faith, by the hand of these unfaithful servants? Nay, such shall not continue to be his mouth-pieces: he will spew them out of his mouth. (Rev. 3:16.) He will choose instead, as at the first advent, from among the laity – "the common people" – mouth-pieces, 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.
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;" instead of being a place where shrieks and groans are heard, it is described in the context as a place of "silence;" instead of representing in any sense pain and suffering, or remorse, the context describes it as one of forgetfulness. "There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, in the grave [sheol] whither thou goest." – Eccles. 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 the grave – the tomb, the hidden place, or place beyond which only those who have the enlightened eye of the understanding can see resurrection, restitution of being. And be it particularly noted that this very same word sheol is translated "pit" and "grave" thirty-four times in our common version by the same [R1498 : page 40] translators* – more times than it is translated "hell;" and twice, where it is translated "hell," it seemed so absurd, according to the present accepted meaning of the English word "hell," that, in the margin of modern Bibles, the publishers explain that it means grave. (See 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.
(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 can dig into.]
(4) Psa. 55:15. – "Let them go down quick into hell" – margin, "the grave."
(5) Psa. 9:17. – "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." [This text should read, "The wicked shall be re-turned into hell" – into the state of death – the "second death." See explanation of this passage farther on in this issue.]
(6) Psa. 86:13. – "Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell" – margin, "grave."
(7) Psa. 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.]
(8) Psa. 139:8. – "If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there." [God's power is unlimited: even those in the tomb he can and will control and bring forth.]
(9) Deut. 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 translates the word sheol here.]
(10) 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?"
(11) Job 26:6. – "Hell [the tomb] is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering."
(12) Prov. 5:5. – "Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell" [i.e., lead to the grave].
(13) Prov. 7:27. – "Her house is the way to hell [the grave], going down to the chambers of death."
(14) Prov. 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, [R1498 : page 41] and many of the victims of sensuality in premature graves from diseases which hurry off their posterity also to the tomb.]
(15) Prov. 15:11. – "Hell and destruction are before the Lord." [Here the grave is associated with destruction and not with a life of torment.]
(16) Prov. 15:24. – "The path of life (leadeth) upward for the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath." [The hope of resurrection from the tomb.]
(17) Prov. 23:14. – "Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell" [i.e., wise corrections will save a child from vicious ways which lead to premature death, and may possibly prepare him to escape the "second death" also].
(18) Prov. 27:20. – "Hell [the grave] and destruction are never full: so the eyes of man are never satisfied."
(19) Isa. 5:14. – "Therefore hell hath enlarged herself and opened her mouth without measure." [Here a symbol of destruction.]
(21) Isa. 57:9. – "And didst debase thyself even unto hell." [Here figurative of deep degradation.]
(22) Ezek. 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.]
(23) Ezek. 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.]
(24) Ezek. 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.]
(25) Hab. 2:5. – "Who enlargeth his desire as hell [the grave] and as death, and cannot be satisfied."
(26) 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.]
(27) Isa. 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, saith the Lord,...Your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell [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 now is in Satan's power (Rom. 6:23; Heb. 2:14), and not an angel sent by God.]
Gen. 37:35. – "I will go down into the grave unto my son."
1 Sam. 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 down to the grave with blood."
Job 7:9. – "He that goeth down to the grave." [R1498 : page 42]
Job 14:13. – "Oh, that thou wouldst hide me in the grave, that thou wouldst keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldst 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 morning."]
Job 21:13. – "They spend their days in mirth, 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 has passed upon all," 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."]
Psa. 6:5. – "In death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?"
Psa. 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" [ – recovery from danger of death].
Psa. 31:17. – "Let the wicked be ashamed; let them be silent in the grave."
Psa. 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 the grave."
Psa. 88:3. – "My life draweth nigh unto the grave."
Psa. 89:48. – "Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?"
Psa. 141:7. – "Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth."
Prov. 30:15,16. – "Four things say not, It is enough: the grave," etc.
Eccl. 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."
Job 17:16. – "They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust."
Song of Solomon 8:6. – "Jealousy is cruel as the grave."
Isa. 14:11. – "Thy pomp is brought down to the grave."
Isa. 38:10. – "I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years."
Isa. 38:18. – "The grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth."
Num. 16:31-33. – "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 congregation."
Ezek. 31:15. – "In the day when he went down to the grave."
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. And shortly now, we trust, he will destroy death and the grave, and every vestige of Adam's penalty, as is also declared in this verse. This sheol, hell or grave shall be destroyed, that all may come to a full knowledge of the truth, and if they then will (by obedience), they may live forever.]
The above list includes every instance of the use of the English word "hell" and the Hebrew word sheol. From the examination it must be evident to all readers that the Old Testament, covering God's revelation for four thousand years, contains not a single hint of "hell," as the word is now understood. [R1498 : page 43]
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 Psa. 16:10, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in sheol." And 1 Cor. 15:54,55, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O hades [grave], where is thy victory?" is an allusion to Isa. 25:8, "He will swallow up death in victory," and to Hos. 13:14, "O death, I will be thy plagues: O sheol, I will be thy destruction."
Matt. 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, etc., the city was highly favored, or, figuratively, exalted to 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 lifted up his eyes, being in torments." [A parabolic figure. See article, "The Rich Man and Lazarus."]
Rev. 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.]
Matt. 16:18. – "Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." [Here the tomb is represented as a great prison with strong doors. The Lord's assurance is that though his Church may seem to be forever locked up in the tomb, yet its strong gates will not hold her when the due time comes and her Lord breaks the bars and by his resurrection power sets at liberty the captives, the result of the ransom which he gave once for all. Compare Luke 4:18; Isa. 61:1.]
"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 offences"], 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] neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou [Jehovah] hast made known to me [Christ] the ways of life'" [thy plan]. 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 sepulcher is with us unto this day [so that this prophecy could not have referred to himself personally; for his soul was left in "hell" [hades], 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 – to which he must go for our offences], 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 firstly, that Christ, who [R1498 : page 44] was delivered by God for our offences, went to "hell," the grave, the condition of death, destruction (Psa. 16:10); and secondly, 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 the Father's person. (Heb. 1:3.) And now "this same Jesus" (Acts 2:36), in his subsequent revelation to the Church, declares –
Rev. 1:18. – "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." 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 hell and of death, and in due time will release all the prisoners – who are therefore called the "prisoners of hope." – Zech. 9:12. 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 it – which is not the case, as these scriptures affirm. But death was our penalty, and "he died for our sins," and "also for the sins of the whole world." – 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 John 2:2.
Rev. 20:13,14. – "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged, every man, according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire: this is the second death." [The lake of fire is the symbol of final and everlasting destruction.]
Having examined the word sheol, the original and only word in the Old Testament for "hell," and the word hades, most frequently rendered "hell" in the New Testament, we now notice every remaining instance in Scripture where the English word "hell" occurs. In the New Testament there are but two other words than hades rendered "hell," namely, gehenna and tartaroo, which we will consider in the order named.
This word occurs twelve times. It is the Grecian mode of spelling the Hebrew words which are translated "the 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 a living thing was never cast into gehenna. The Jews were not permitted 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 city was a figure of the New Jerusalem, the seat of kingdom power and centre of authority – the city (government) of the Great King, Immanuel. We remember, too, that Christ's government is represented in the book of Revelation (Rev. 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 lies; but only such as the Lamb shall write as worthy of life. This city, representing the redeemed world in the end of the Millennium, was typified or represented in the earthly city, Jerusalem; and the defiling, the abominable, etc., the class unworthy of life, who do not enter in, were represented by the refuse and the filthy, lifeless carcasses cast into gehenna outside the city, for utter destruction. Accordingly, we find it stated that those not found [R1498 : page 45] worthy of life are to be cast into the fire (Rev. 20:15) – fire here, as everywhere, being used as a symbol of destruction.
Thus we see that while gehenna served a useful purpose to the city of Jerusalem as a place for garbage burning, it, like the city, illustrated the future dealing of God, when the refuse and impure elements will be forever destroyed and prevented from contaminating the holy and pure, after that age of judgment, or trial, has proved all – which are sheep and which are goats.
Gehenna, then, was a type or illustration of the second death – final and complete destruction. Strictly speaking, none could be in any danger of the second death while as yet under the first or Adamic death, and while as yet no ransom from it had been given. Consequently no one could have been liable to the second death before the coming of our Lord, who brought to light the plan of God (to be accomplished through Christ) for the resurrection of all from the first death, and a second trial of all men individually for the eternal continuance of that life, by obedience to the law of Christ. The penalty of failure to comply with those just and righteous conditions is to be the second death – condemnation a second time to death, for failure the second time, and this time individually. Nor is the world in general now liable to this penalty: none but consecrated believers could possibly incur it yet; because no others have escaped (even reckonedly) the condemnation that is on the world – the first death, for Adam's sin. The consecrated have escaped it reckonedly, the sin of Adam being no longer imputed to them. – Rom. 8:1; 4:6-8.
But remember that Israel, though they were not, and could not be, actually ahead of other men in this matter, were, for the purpose of being used as types of God's future dealing with the race, 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 next age. Their priests represented the glorified Royal Priesthood, and their Law and its demands of perfect obedience represented the Law and conditions 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 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 the latest deductions of scientists are that burning brimstone is the most deadly agent known. How reasonable, too, to expect that Israel would have courts and judges resembling or prefiguring such courts and judges in the next age; and that the sentence of those (figurative) courts of that (figurative) people under those (figurative) laws, to that (figurative) abyss, outside that (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 second death.
"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 [R1498 : page 46] 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), and 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 offences. The most serious punishment 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, to be there 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 the fulness of God's power, they 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 implied to them the loss of hope of future life by a resurrection. Thus it 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.
Now 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 would be counted worthy of that which the gehenna near them typified – the second death. However, the force and severity of that Law will be enforced only in proportion as the discipline, advantages and assistance of that age shall enable each to comply with it, and yet be disregarded.
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 were dear to us as a right eye, and as convenient and almost 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 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 [R1498 : page 47] we can obey the perfect Law of God from our hearts. Then they would have found all their needs in Christ.
But this lesson they did not learn, for the ears of their understanding were "dull of hearing;" 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," 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" – that 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 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 under the merit of our Redeemer, while none can be of that "body," covered by the robe of his righteousness, except the consecrated who endeavor to do only those things well pleasing to God, which includes the avoiding 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 conform to it. So, then, to us also the Lord's words have a lesson of value.
The point, however, to be noticed clearly is the mistake commonly made, of supposing the gehenna which the Jews knew, and of which our Lord spoke to them, to be 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," or who "look upon a woman to lust." Nay, 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 be cast into gehenna." It is better that you should deny yourself sinful gratifications than that you should completely lose all future life, and perish in the second death.
"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" [gehenna]. [See also another account of the same discourse by Luke – 12:4,5.]
Here our Lord pointed out to his followers the great cause they had for bravery and courage 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 the sake of the "good tidings" 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. Their consolation or reward for this was to come, not in the present life, but in a life to come. They were assured, and they believed, that he had come to give his life a ransom for many, and that all in their graves must in consequence, in due time, hear the Deliverer's voice and come forth, either to reward (if their trial was passed in this life successfully), or to trial, as it must be to the great majority who had not, in the present life, come to the necessary knowledge and opportunity constituting the new trial.
Our Lord here speaks of the present life and the life to come (which he was about to secure for all by the ransom-sacrifice he was giving). He calls that future condition the real "soul" or being ("soul" signifies being), while the present life (which is really a dying rather than a living state) he designates or indicates by the word "body." His bidding then is, Fear not [R1498 : page 48] them which can terminate the present (dying) life in these poor dying bodies, which, full of frailties and weaknesses and aches, you received from dying Adam. 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 being, 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 both the present dying existence and the future existence, in gehenna – the second death.
Here it is conclusively shown that gehenna, as a figure, represented 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 God's just requirements. For it does not say that God will preserve soul or body in gehenna, but that he can and will destroy both in it. Thus we are taught that any who are condemned to the second death are hopelessly and forever blotted out of existence.
[Since these two 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 only what is in the ancient 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 dies not and the fire is not quenched."
After reading the above, all must agree with the prophet that our Lord opened his mouth in figures and obscure sayings. (Psa. 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 he addressed must have understood him better than many do to-day; because at that time the Jews had no conception of a place of everlasting torment, and 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; so that when they saw the Lord's expression regarding limbs and eyes to be figurative, they knew that the gehenna mentioned was not the valley of destruction, but a destruction which it prefigured or illustrated.
The Lord meant simply this: The future life, which God has provided for sin-cursed, defiled and condemned man, is of inestimable value. 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 great 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 and pleasures and tastes, dear 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.
We answer, 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 [R1498 : page 49] destroyed, 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 immortal 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 also: if not quenched, it burned on until all was consumed, just as we might say, if a house were on fire and it could not be controlled or quenched, but burned until the building was destroyed – it would be an "unquenchable fire."
Our Lord wished to impress the thought of the completeness and finality of the second death. 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); and there will be no occasion, for none worthy of life will be cast therein – but only those who love unrighteousness after coming to the knowledge of the truth.
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 the 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 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 verses preceding show the time, and it is in perfect harmony with the symbols of Revelation: it is in the new dispensation or the Millennium, in the "new heavens and new earth" condition of things. Then all the righteous will see the justice as well as the wisdom of the utter destruction of the incorrigible, wilful enemies of right – as it is written: "They shall be an abhorring unto all flesh."
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 (figurative). For a tongue to be set on fire of gehenna signifies that a tongue may be set going in evil by a perverse disposition, self-willed, selfish, hateful, malicious, the sort of dispositions 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.
The Greek word tartaroo occurs but once in the New Testament, and is translated hell. It is found in 2 Pet. 2:4, which reads thus: –
Having examined all other words in the Bible rendered "hell," and all the texts in which they occur, we conclude the subject with this, which is the only instance in which the word tartaroo occurs in the Scriptures. In the above text, all the words shown in Italic type are translated from the one Greek word tartaroo. Evidently the translators were at a loss how to translate the word, but concluded they knew all about where the evil angels must be, according to "orthodoxy," and so they made bold to put them into hell, though it took six words to twist the idea into the shape they had predetermined 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. [R1498 : page 50] But the word 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 condemnation and dishonor. Hence we prefer to translate the sentence thus: "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 the 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 dead human beings whom they simulate, 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, etc., 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.
Thus we close our investigation of the Bible's 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 were condemned through 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.
The great difficulty with many is that though they call this 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. (Matt. 13.) These same classes were represented by different symbols in different parables. Thus the "wheat" of one parable are the "faithful servants" and the "wise virgins" of others. 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 [R1498 : page 51] with God's Word and plan. To our understanding the "rich man" represented the Jewish nation. At the time of the utterance of the parable, and for a long time previous, they had "fared sumptuously every day" – being the especial recipients of God's favors. As Paul says: "What advantage then hath the Jew? Much every way: chiefly, because to them were committed the oracles of God" [Law and Prophecy]. The promises to Abraham and David invested the 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. 19:8.
Lazarus represented the outcasts from divine favor under the Law, who, though sin-sick, hungered and thirsted after righteousness. Although these included "publicans and sinners" of Israel, in the main they were Gentiles – all nations of the world aside from the Israelites. 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 cleaned; 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 them, nor have any other 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-Phoenician woman give us a key. He said to this Gentile woman – "It is not meet [proper] to take the children's [Israelites] bread and give it to the dogs" [Gentiles]; and she answered, "Truth, Lord, but the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their master's table." (Matt. 15:26,27.) Jesus healed her daughter, thus giving the desired crumb of favor. But there came a time when the typical righteousness ceased – when the promise of royalty ceased to be theirs, and the kingdom was taken from them to be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. – Matt. 21:43. The "rich man" died to all these special advantages, and soon he (the Jewish nation) found himself in a cast-off condition, – in trouble, 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 "outcasts" of Israel underwent a change, and from them many were 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" (children of Abraham); "which seed is Christ;" – and "if ye be Christ's, then are ye [believers] Abraham's seed [children] and heirs according to the [Abrahamic] promise." – Gal. 3:29. Yes, the condition of things then existing terminated by death – the dissolution for the time of the favors which Israel had long enjoyed. There the Jew was cast off and has since been shown "no favor," and the poor Gentiles, who before had been "aliens from the commonwealth [the promises] of Israel and without God and having no hope in the world," were then "made nigh by the blood of Christ" and "reconciled to God." – Eph. 2:13. While the people of Judea at the time of our Lord's utterance of this parable are repeatedly called "Israel," "the lost sheep of the house of Israel," "cities of Israel," etc., because all of the tribes were represented there, yet actually the majority of the people were of the two tribes – Judah and Benjamin – while the masses of the ten tribes did not return from Babylon under Cyrus' general permission. And 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 scattered abroad. The request relative to them was doubtless introduced to show that all special favor of God ceased to 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 [R1498 : page 52] nation than Israel had "Moses and the prophets" as instructors.
In explanation of the statements, "In hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments," and "There is a great gulf fixed:" The "gulf" is 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 him. Prejudice, pride and error, from the Jewish side, form the bulwarks of this gulf which hinders 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 into bondage with the Jew – under 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 will 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 8:39; Rom. 4:16; Gal. 3:29.
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 Dives represented the orthodox Jews and not the "outcasts of Israel" at the first, 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 the New Covenant.
With the end of the Gospel age comes the end of this parable. It is now ending, and soon, therefore, the Jew will get out of the torment in which he has been for eighteen hundred years. The torment has not only been as above described – the torment of a Law which none of them ever did or ever could keep perfectly (except the one perfect man – Christ), but also a torment of another kind, viz., persecution. The Jew has for centuries been bitterly persecuted by Pagans, Mohammedans and professed Christians, but is now gradually rising to political freedom and influence; and as a people they will be very prominent among the nations in the beginning of the Millennium. The vail of prejudice still exists, but 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 are thus leaving their hadean state (national death) and torment and coming, the first of the nations, to be blessed by the true seed of Abraham, which is Christ. Their bulwark of race-prejudice and pride is falling in some places, and the humble, the poor in spirit, are beginning already to look unto him whom they 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 Rom. 11:19-31. Because of unbelief the natural branches were broken off, and the wild branches grafted into the Abrahamic promises. 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 Bride – be come in, "they [the Israelites] shall obtain mercy through your [the Church's] mercy." 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 [R1498 : page 53] of earth, etc. 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 depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" – Rom. 11:26-33.
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.
As we have seen, 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 was a finishing up of that 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 first dispensation (from creation to the flood), which, as we have seen, was placed under the control of the angels, there was a finishing work – an exhortation through Noah to forsake sin and turn to righteousness, and a warning of certain retribution. And when the full end of the time allotted for that dispensation had come, there was a selection and saving of all that was worth saving, and a clean sweeping destruction of all the refuse; and with that which remained a new dispensation began.
In the end of the Jewish dispensation the same order is observed – a harvesting and complete separation of the wheat class from the chaff, 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, i.e., the Gospel dispensation, began; and now we find ourselves amidst the closing scenes (the harvest) of this dispensation. The wheat and the tares which have grown together during this age are being separated. And with the former class, of which our Lord Jesus is the Head, a new dispensation is about to be inaugurated, and these are to reign as kings and priests in that new dispensation, while the tare element is judged as utterly unworthy of that favor.
As a skilled mechanic or artisan puts on the finishing touches and brushes away the refuse materials from one part of his work preparatory to the beginning of another part, so God has made a full end of each dispensation, preserving the finished work and casting off the refuse.
While observing this order with reference to the dispensations past 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 dispensation to follow this.
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 goats.
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 both ages there is a harvest or general separation time in the end of the age.
In the dawn of the Millennial age, after the "time of trouble," 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 trial, 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, then, is laid after the time of trouble and after the exaltation of the "little flock" to the throne, when the nations have been subdued, Satan bound (Rev. 20:2) and the authority of Christ's kingdom established. Ere this, the Bride of Christ will have been seated with him in his throne, and [R1498 : page 54] will have taken part in executing the judgments of the great day of wrath. Now the Son of Man appears (is made manifest) to the world "in his glory," and together Jesus and his Bride "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." – Matt. 13:43.
Here is the New Jerusalem as John saw it (Rev. 21), "that holy city [symbol of government] ...coming down from God out of heaven." During all the time of trouble it was coming down, and now it has touched the earth. This is the stone cut out without hands (but by the power of God), and now it has become a great mountain (kingdom), and has filled the whole earth (Dan. 2:35), its coming having broken to pieces (Dan. 2:34,35) the evil kingdoms of the Prince of darkness.
Here is that glorious city (government), prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2), and the nations are beginning 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 released from the grasp of death, and when the knowledge of the Lord fills the earth, two classes will be developed, which our Lord, in this parable, 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 age, be gathered at the Judge's right hand – symbol of his approval; 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 rich pastures of the truth furnished by the Good Shepherd, these are gathered to the Judge's left hand opposite the position of favor – as subjects of his disfavor and condemnation.
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." What kingdom? Was not the kingdom under the whole heavens given to the saints? – Dan. 7:22.
Yes: as we have heretofore seen, a "little flock," "the saints," the overcoming "sheep" of the Gospel age, having followed the Lamb (Jesus) whithersoever he went, through evil and through good report, even to the sacrificing of the human life, with him have been exalted to the divine nature, and to the throne of the spiritual, unseen kingdom, and "He [the Christ, Head and body] must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet." (1 Cor. 15:25.) The saints shall reign with Christ a thousand years. – Rev. 20:6.
Jesus calls believers of the Gospel age, who know and obey his voice, his sheep. But he says, "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold [referring to those who should become his followers in the Millennial age]: Them also I must lead [into truth and righteousness during that age];...and there shall be one fold and one shepherd." (John 10:16.) The Lord Jesus and the "little flock," the Bride, united as one, will be the Good Shepherd, who will lead mankind into the one fold of safety – harmony with God.
This gradual 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, by conforming or not conforming thereto, 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 (not the present Church) will have arranged themselves, as shown in the parable, into two classes. As in nature sheep are far more numerous than goats, so we doubt not that with the perfect knowledge then possessed, the sheep company will far outnumber the goats.
The end of that age is the end of the world's trial or judgment, and final disposition is made of the two classes. The goats, who have not developed the element of love – the law of God's being and kingdom – are counted not worthy of life, and must be destroyed; while the sheep, who will have developed God-likeness (love), and exhibited it in their characters, are to be installed as the joint-rulers of earth for future ages.
The work of restitution will not be quite complete until the great mass of mankind, having been restored to the perfect condition, is re-invested with the dominion of earth as possessed by Adam before sin entered, as God had said – "After our likeness let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth,...and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" – a ruler over earth, like as God is ruler over all things. And the Psalmist expresses the same idea, saying, "Thou [R1498 : page 55] hast made man a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor; thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands." (Psa. 8:5-8.) The dominion is not to be over one another, for when the law of love controls human hearts, there will be no necessity for dominion over one another, though by mutual consent, prompted by love, regulations may be made among themselves for the common good and blessing of all.
This, then, 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, misery and death, and in order by contrast to prove the justice, wisdom and goodness of God's law – love. Then it requires the seventh thousand years 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 world.
That kingdom in which all will be kings will really be a 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. The kingdom of the saints 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.
But the righteous inquire why they are crowned with such glory, honor and dominion. And the Lord replies: I was hungry, and you fed me; thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; in prison, and you came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Let us notice who these are that the Lord calls his brethren, and in what sense the evils here named may be true of them. We observe, first, that he is addressing all the sheep or the righteous class in the end of the Millennial age. Then all of that class will have had opportunity to minister to the necessities of the Lord's brethren. He calls the Church of the Gospel age his brethren (Matt. 12:49,50); but all of the sheep class then addressed will not have had opportunity to minister to these brethren. Millions of the sheep class will be of those who lived before the Gospel Church had an existence; others of them will have come to maturity during the Millennial age, after the Gospel Church has been exalted and no longer needs their ministry.
The brethren of the Gospel Church, then, 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 brethren, is here expressed. As the world will now have 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 brethren.
The dead nations when again brought into existence will need food and 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 maturer years, the millionaire and the pauper, the learned and the unlearned, the cultured and the ignorant and degraded; and 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 permitted the rejoicing friends to loose him from his grave clothes and to clothe and feed him.
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. They are not dead, neither are they yet perfect; and any condition between those two is properly called 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.
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 [R1498 : page 56] 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 have simply come into harmony with God's law – 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.
To the sheep it is said, "Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." But though God gave it 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 except 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 thenceforth 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." (Psa. 16:11.) Oh! who would not say, "Haste thee along, ages of glory," and give glory and honor to him whose loving plans are blossoming into such fulness of blessing.
Then follows 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 moulding and shaping influence of divine love. When these my 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 case enter into it anything that defileth." The decision and sentence regarding this class is – "Depart from me into everlasting fire [symbol of destruction] prepared for the devil and his angels." Elsewhere (Heb. 2:14) we read in plain language that Christ "will destroy ...him that had the power of death, that is, the devil."
"And these [the goats] shall go away into everlasting [Greek, aionios – lasting] punishment, but the righteous into life eternal" [Greek, aionios – lasting.] The punishment is as lasting as the reward. Both are everlasting.
The everlastingness of the punishment being thus established, only one point is left open for discussion, namely, of what sort or kind will the punishment be? Take your Concordance and search out what saith the great Judge regarding the punishment of wilful 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? We do not find a single text where life in any condition is promised to that class.
But while we do not find one verse of the Bible to say that this class can have life, in torment or in any other condition, we do find hosts of 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.) "All the wicked will God destroy." (Psa. 145:20.) The wicked shall "perish." (Psa. 37:20.) Thus God has told us plainly of what sort the everlasting punishment of the wicked shall be – that it will be death, destruction.
The false ideas of God's plan of dealing with the incorrigible, taught us from our cradles ever since the great "falling away" which culminated in Papacy, are alone responsible for the view generally held (that the punishment provided for wilful sinners is a life of torture) in the face of the many clear statements of God's Word that their punishment is to be death. Hear Paul state 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 fulness of knowledge then, will not come into harmony with Christ, and hence will "know not God," 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 from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power." – 2 Thes. 1:9.
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 the "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 [R1498 : page 57] be destruction; but we would direct attention to one other point which clinches the truth upon this subject. We refer to the Greek word kolasin, translated "punishment" in verse 46. Its signification is to cut off, or prune, or lop off, as in the pruning of trees; and a secondary meaning is to restrain. Illustrations of the use of kolasin can easily be had from Greek classical writings. The Greek word for "torment" is basinos, a word totally unrelated to the word kolasin.
Kolasin, the word used in Matt. 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 that he (a ripe scholar and a Presbyterian) gives as the definition of the word kolasis (page 995) "pruning, restraining, restraint." And the author of the Emphatic Diaglott, that valuable translation of the New Testament, after translating kolasin in Matt. 25:46 by the words "cutting off," says in a foot note:
"The common version and many modern ones render kolasin aionion 'everlasting punishment,' conveying the idea, as generally interpreted, of basinos, torment. Kolasin in its various forms occurs in only three other places in the New Testament: – Acts 4:21; 2 Pet. 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 [kalazei] his fiery steeds.' 3. To chastise, to punish. To cut off an individual from life, or from society, or even to restrain, is esteemed as a punishment; hence has arisen this third or 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, death. – 2 Thes. 1:9."
Now consider carefully the text, and note the antithesis or contrast shown between the reward of the sheep and that 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 wilful 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 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 none will then be servants of Satan ignorantly or unwillingly, as so many now are; for the great Deliverer, Christ, grants a Jubilee, and sets all free from the weaknesses and besetments within and without, which now prevail as a result of Adam's fall – from which he has redeemed all by his own precious blood. 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 the everlasting destruction – the second death. 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.
Several prophetic pen pictures of the Millennial age and its work, in chapters 20 and 21 of Revelation, clearly show the object and result of that age of trial, in harmony with the remainder of the Scriptures as noted in the preceding articles.
Chapter 20, verses 2,4,11, with verses 1,2,10,11 of chapter 21, show the beginning of the age of judgment, and the restraining of blinding errors and misleading systems. The beast and the false prophet are the chief symbols, and represent organizations or systems of error which we will not here pause to explain. (The Lord willing, we will do so in some future volume of MILLENNIAL DAWN.) This judgment against the "thrones" of the present time, and against "the beast and the false prophet" systems, follows speedily upon the introduction of this Millennial judgment reign. The thrones of present dominion of earth will be "cast down," and the dominion transferred to the great Prophet and Judge, "whose right it is." (Compare Dan. 7:9,14,22; Ezek. 21:27.) And 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 – with the [R1498 : page 58] systems of error. But it does not reach men 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 honor and glory and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever." 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 that when, in the close of the Millennial age, God will again for a "little season" 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 consequences of each, and have had his justice fully demonstrated to them), that those who finally prefer and choose evil will 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 choose evil and disobedience, with past experience before them, and unhampered by present weaknesses and blinding influences, we do not suppose. However, when God does not tell us either the number or the proportion of those found worthy of life, and those 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; and no one will be destroyed in that "lake of fire and brimstone" (figurative of utter destruction, as gehenna) who is worthy of life, whose living longer would be a blessing to himself or to others in harmony with righteousness.
That utter and hopeless destruction is intended only for wilful 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 these to an abhorrence of sin, will lead them 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, and to use it as a license for wilful sin. But they shall go no further, for their folly shall be manifest. Their utter destruction will prove to the righteous the harmony and perfect balance of Justice, Wisdom, Love and Power in the Divine Ruler. Such are called the angels (messengers, followers, servants) of Satan. And for such, as well as for Satan, the utter destruction (the second death) is prepared by the wise, loving and just Creator. And so, in the parable of the sheep and the goats, the latter are called messengers or servants of Satan.
The true character of the goat class is portrayed in Rev. 21:8. "The fearful and unbelieving [who will not trust God], the abominable, murderers [brother haters], whoremongers, 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 second 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 in harmony with the King of Glory. And we shall rejoice when, the trial being ended, the gift of life, of which these shall have proved themselves unworthy, shall be taken from them, and the corrupters of the earth, and all their work and influence, shall be destroyed.
Rev. 20:9 tells of the destruction of those 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 [R1498 : page 59] are devoured or consumed in fire. This being the case, verse 10 cannot refer to these human beings. 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?
We answer in God's own words, "All the wicked will he destroy." Concerning Satan, the arch enemy of God and men, God expressly advises us that he will be destroyed, and not preserved in any sense or condition. See 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 at the end of the Millennial age the system of error which will then manifest and lead to destruction the "goats" will also be consumed. 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, in the end of the Gospel age.
Rev. 19:3, speaking of one of these systems, says, "Her smoke rose up forever and ever." That is to say, the remembrance 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 a testimony that the fire has done its work.
Of Rev. 14:9-11 we remark, incidentally, that all will at once concede that if a literal worshiping of a beast and his 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.
Rev. 20:14 says: "And death and hell [hades – the tomb] were cast into the lake of fire [destruction]. This is the second death, the lake of fire." – Sinaitic MS.
"Death and hell" [hades] is used several times in this book as expressive of the first death. Hades is the state or condition of death, and is sometimes translated the grave. It is called a great prison house, because those who enter it, though actually extinct, are reckoned as not extinct, but merely confined for a time, and to be brought forth to life, liberty and a new trial by him who ransomed them from the penalty of the first trial. It is in view of God's purpose and promise of a restitution of all, and a second trial, that the tomb is spoken of as a great "prison house," in which the captives of death (the Adamic or first death) await deliverance. Though dissolved in death, the identity of each being is preserved in the mind and power of God, and will be reproduced in due time by resurrection power. Hades, the prison, the tomb, is referred to by the prophets, the Master himself, and the apostles. (Hos. 13:14; Isa. 61:1; Luke 4:18; John 5:28; 1 Cor. 15:55.) The grave is really a memorial of hope; for we would not speak of it as a prison house were it not for our hopes of resurrection. If we believed that death ended existence forever, all hope of the release of the dead would vanish, and we would not think of them as in prison, nor indicate our hope by a mound.
Apply this thought to the verse under consideration, and it implies this: – The first death and the hopes of resurrection, which, by God's favor, were attached to it, will pass away or be utterly destroyed in the second death. From that time forth there will be no such thing as death under the first sentence, because of Adam's sin, and a hope of resurrection from it. That will all have been accomplished: every prisoner will have been set free from all the guilt, condemnation and penalty of the first trial; and the sentence of the second trial, whether to second life or second death, will have fully swallowed up and destroyed the penalty of the first sentence, as well as the hopes which attached to it. Hades is never associated with the second death, because those who go into the second death are in no sense "prisoners of hope;" they are utterly destroyed, extinct, without hope of any deliverance by resurrection. Hence the propriety of hades being destroyed.
The destruction of the first death and hades commences with the beginning of the Millennial reign and continues to its close. It is a gradual process of casting into destruction. This is in harmony with Paul's explanation (1 Cor. 15:54,55) of Isaiah's prophecy, "Then [when the little flock, "we," have been changed to the full divine nature and likeness and begun to reign and bless the world – then] shall be brought to pass the saying that is written [Isa. 25:6-8], 'He will destroy [cast into destruction, or in symbol "the lake of fire"] in this mountain [symbol of the "Kingdom of God" or the "New Jerusalem"] the face of the covering cast over all people [death] and the vail [ignorance] that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up [the first] death victoriously.'"
So, then, the casting of death and the grave into destruction during the Millennial age is a part of the second destruction which will include [R1498 : page 60] every improper, injurious and useless thing. – Isa. 11:9; Psa. 101:5-8. But the second death, the sentence of that second 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 the second trial, would be to let loose again all the evil systems and Satan, and all who love and practice wrong and deception, and dishonor the Lord, 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.
"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." – Psa. 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" were true this would be indeed a fearful thought.
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, wilfully persist in sin and refuse the remedy.
As yet few – only consecrated believers – have come to a 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 by sight. When he who has ransomed man from the power of the grave (Hos. 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 tale, that "Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man."
We have also seen that the gradual ascent of the King's Highway of Holiness in that age will be easy and possible to all, because all the stones – stumbling-blocks, 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 a one again into sheol – the condition of death. Such a 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 first or Adamic death (sheol) by the sacrifice of Christ, if they die again on account of their own sin, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin." (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 final end of existence to all those deemed unworthy of life. But in it there can be no suffering. Like the first death, it is the extinction of life.
It is because mankind had, through sin, become subject to death (sheol, hades) that Christ Jesus came to deliver us and save us from death. For this purpose Christ was manifested, that he might destroy death. (1 John 3:8; Heb. 2:14.) Death is a cessation of existence, the absence of LIFE. There is no difference between the condition in the first 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 wilful, 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, and this scripture indicates that, in the time when it applies, only the wicked shall go there. And the nations that forget 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 until the coming time, when the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth, and none shall [R1498 : page 61] 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.) 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 have been either in sheol or 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 to sheol.
"I have set before thee this day life and good, 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.
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 weaknesses 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 great second 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 great second trial and its issues of life and death – second (or restored) life and 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, and a choice must be made; and 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 draws our attention to the world's second 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 first condemnation. It shows, too, the conditions of the second trial to be righteous obedience, and that with the close of that trial some will be adjudged worthy of the second or restored life, and some worthy of destruction – 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 his body, the little flock, 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 Lord briefly presents the same matter in Matt. 25:31-46. There he shows the trial of the world (not the Church, which as members of his body are with him in glory during that Millennial reign – judging, ruling and blessing the world), and, concluding the illustration of the second trial, he also shows the same two classes noted above, and their opposite rewards – the one class, who obey and come into harmony with his arrangement, enter fully into the blessing of the second life, and are therefore called "blessed." The other class, who with every opportunity obey not, experience the second condemnation of death, the "second death," and are thus "cursed" or condemned again.
The first trial was 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 will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing."
The "Judgment to come" will include the judgment to condemnation of all false systems [R1498 : page 62] – civil, social and religious. These will be judged, condemned and banished early in that Millennial day, the light of truth causing them to come into disrepute and finally to flee away. This judgment comes first in order, that the trial of man may proceed unhindered by error, prejudice, etc. It will include also the trial of "the angels which sinned" – those angels "which kept not their first estate" 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 the saints shall judge angels?" – 1 Cor. 6:3.
This being the case, the condemnation of the second trial (destruction, second death) will cover a wider range of offenders than the penalty or curse for failure under the first trial. In a word, the second destruction at the close of the second trial is an utter destruction of every being and every thing which will not glorify God and be of use and blessing to his general creation. Thus the second death will be to the perfect future age what gehenna, the Valley of Hinnom, was to the typical city and kingdom of Israel. It will destroy and consume totally whatever is cast into it.
Thus seen, the second death does not mean simply to die or be destroyed a second time; for some things will be destroyed in the "second death" which were never before destroyed; for instance, Satan never yet died, so it could not mean death a second time to him. So, too, some of the systems of error which will be destroyed in that gehenna, which is the second death, were never before destroyed. Hence this second death in which they will be destroyed cannot be considered as their destruction a second time. The second death, or destruction, is the name of the destruction which will come upon every evil thing as the result or verdict of the second judgment, the "judgment to come."
I. QUAR., LESSON VIII., FEB. 19th, NEH. 4:9-23.
In our last lesson we saw the earnestness of Nehemiah, and noted his appeal to the right quarter for guidance and help. His appeal to Artaxerxes was blessed of the Lord – his prayer was answered. He was granted permission to go to Jerusalem, and become its Governor, with authority to act in the name of the Persian monarch. Upon his arrival at Jerusalem his first work was to reconnoiter the walls of the city and lay out a plan for rebuilding them. He had awakened the zeal of all the people, and the work of rebuilding the wall was well advanced at the point where this lesson begins. The jealousy of the neighboring rulers was awakened by this activity, and they had come against Jerusalem to attack it and spoil and stop the work of repairs, fearing that, after all, it might succeed. This compelled Nehemiah and those who co-operated with him to divide their attention between building and defending. Their opponents were strengthened by "false brethren," Jews from the surrounding country whose interest and sympathies were with these other peoples, who sought all they could to discourage the workers and to stop the work. But watching and praying and working they succeeded.
This lesson seems to enforce and exemplify the Apostle's description of a true Christian course – "Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." It would be valuable to many of God's people to-day, if it led them to resolve that they, like Nehemiah, would henceforth do with their might what their hands find to do.
The building of the wall, the opposition of enemies and relatives and so-called friends, and the necessity for fighting as well as building, furnish a good illustration of the experience of all who turn from sin to righteousness. They find the gates and fortresses of their nature weak and broken down. And the moment they start to repair and build up good character they find enemies within and without to hinder. Persecution and ridicule will first be used (as in the above case) and if these fail to overthrow the good resolutions force will be employed. There is no way of avoiding a battle if you would proceed with your character-building. Each must at least do as did this band – i.e., put on the armor and watch and pray and build. [R1498 : page 63]
I. QUAR., LESSON IX., FEB. 26th, NEH. 8:1-12.
By the Law here mentioned, the writings of Moses are meant. The Law Covenant was made with Israelites at Sinai, and the basis of it was in the Ten Commandments engraved upon the two tables of stone, which were handed down to them. As heretofore shown, that was not the fullest possible statement of the divine will, but a provisional arrangement, adapted as much as possible to Israel's degraded condition. It was a statement to the house of servants in terms which they could best appreciate. But when the time came to express the divine law to the house of sons, "his own house," our Lord expressed the matter not only more concisely but more exactly, in the perfect law of love.
As the Israelites returned from Babylon were blessed by the reading and understanding of "Moses' Law," much more those who are now returning to the Lord, out of bondage to "Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots" (Rev. 17:1-6), are being greatly blessed by a fuller appreciation of the divine law, Love, granted to the house of sons. They are learning that God's Law is of the essence of his own nature, and that his dealings with his creatures are on the lines of that law; for God is love, and love worketh no ill to his neighbor. And, searching the entire Word of God, which in a larger sense is God's Law, his faithful followers learn that God's plans as therein stated are all plans of love and justice – love to those who love righteousness, and a just recompense of everlasting destruction in the second death for all others, – and a full provision for all to come to this second trial for life, through Christ, our Lord, who redeemed all from the condemnation of Adam, the result of the first trial. – 1 Cor. 15:21,22. [R1498 : page 63]
I. QUAR., LESSON X., MAR. 5th, NEH. 13:15-22.
While from this scrap of history we learn of the worthy zeal of Nehemiah for the observance of the Sabbath day by Israel, in accordance with the law of Moses – the provisional statement of the law of God – it is necessary to remember that we are living in a different dispensation. The Jewish or Law Covenant having passed away (Col. 2:14), we are now living under the provisions of the "New Covenant" – a covenant of life, not through the keeping of the Mosaic law, but through faith in Christ, whose righteousness is imputed to us by faith. – Rom. 3:20-26.
This "New Covenant," unlike the Law Covenant, does not stipulate that in order to prove ourselves worthy of everlasting life we shall not kill, nor steal, nor bear false witness, nor that we must keep the seventh day as a Sabbath or day of rest from labor, etc., etc. But it does stipulate that, while we humbly trust in the provisions of the New Covenant for our justification through the precious blood of Christ, we must follow after "the law of the spirit of life" – the law of Love – supreme love to God, and love to the neighbor as to self. (John 15:12-14; 1 John 3:23,24; Rom. 8:2; Jas. 2:8; Gal. 6:2; 5:14; Heb. 8:10; 10:16; Jas. 1:25.) According to this New Covenant, all who, accepting of the redemption provided through Christ, have a disposition or spirit in harmony with God's perfect law of love are reckoned of God to be worthy of life, regardless of the inability of their fallen, imperfect human nature to fully express that spirit or disposition. This New Covenant, with these gracious and merciful provisions for the weaknesses of our flesh, and this benevolent discernment of the willingness of our spirits to conform fully to the perfect will or law of God, is secured and made possible by the fact that Christ died for us, to liberate us from the curse of the law, Jews being set free from the condemnation resulting from failure to obey the law given by Moses, others being released by the same sacrifice from the condemnation inherited through Adam, the penalty of the original sin against God's law or command in Eden. And our Lord's resurrection became our assurance of the acceptableness of his sacrifice, and that in due time he will be the Deliverer of all that obey him, from the bondage of sin as well as from death, its penalty.
The law of love is not given to all the world now, but merely to those who enter [R1499 : page 63] the bonds and cover of the New Covenant: just as the Mosaic Law Covenant was not upon all the world, but merely upon those who came under that Covenant – Israel after the flesh. Strictly speaking, the world is under no law except that of their own consciences – even though the light of conscience be greater in some and less in others. Since [R1499 : page 64] the world failed (representatively – in Adam's failure to obey the supreme law of Love to God, which implied obedience) it has been "without God and without hope" (Eph. 2:12), and without any law except what remained of the originally perfect law of nature, – conscience.
While the New Covenant, which went into force after being sealed with the precious blood of Christ, was declared to be for ALL, it really applies only to those who have come under it, by knowledge of, faith in, and obedience to it and its Mediator, – Christ Jesus, our Lord. Such alone are under the Law of the New Covenant – Love. And to all such it is as useless to impose the Sabbath of the Law of Moses as to warn them not to blaspheme God's name, nor to worship other gods, nor to kill, steal, bear false-witness, etc. If they are under the New Covenant nothing so gross will apply to them: the only law which will reach their case will be the finer requirements of the Law of Love; and no Sabbath of mere cessation from labor will be real rest to them, but rather the rest of faith in Christ's finished work of redemption and coming work of rescue. Such, under the terms of the New Covenant, may do any work of service for God or men on any day of the week; and such would be prohibited from any violation of its law of Love on any day. The only laws governing those under the New Covenant, on the question of abstinence from good works on any day, would be the civil laws of the world. And these laws are peculiarly favorable to any good works of necessity or mercy or worship. In any case we are to "be subject to the powers that be" in all matters which do not conflict with the law of the New Covenant – Love.
The Law of Love is the real law of God. (Rom. 13:10.) It was this law or principle that was originally written in the perfect nature of the first perfect man, when he was created in God's likeness and image. The Mosaic Law Covenant, with all its forms and ceremonies – its typical sacrifices, its feasts and its new moons and sabbath days – has passed away: no one is longer under its dominion. Therefore, says the Apostle Paul, "Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come." – Col. 2:16,17.
Thus we are taught to consider the Jewish Sabbath as typical of some higher blessing, realized during the Gospel dispensation; and the next question is, What did it foreshadow? The term "Sabbath" signifies rest, and the fourth commandment in the Law given by Moses was that this day of rest shall be kept holy unto the Lord. And as such it beautifully prefigured the worshipful rest of faith, and freedom from the bondage of Satan and sin, into which all believers come, on entering the New Covenant.
This antitype is not a rest of one day out of seven, but a continual rest, to be enjoyed every day; and the fact of the observance of this rest among the Jews on the seventh day, after the six days of labor, is further typical of the fact that the fulness of the antitype will not be realized until the six thousand-year-days of evil and toil under the curse of sin are ended and the seventh or Millennial day has begun.
When the early Church began to realize its freedom from the Law Covenant, gradually the seventh-day Sabbath ceased to be observed, and the first day of the week began to be observed; not as a Sabbath or special rest day, but as a day of worship and praise, commemorative of our Lord's resurrection and of the new and blessed hopes inspired by it. It was not regarded by them as taking the place of the Jewish Sabbath, and was never observed with that scrupulous exactness which was required for the Seventh day under the Jewish dispensation.
The restoration of the proper observance of the Jewish Sabbath and the various other reforms instituted by Nehemiah and Ezra indicated a commendable zeal for that Law Covenant then in force which the Lord surely appreciated. And while it is not our part to similarly seek to bind the obligations and penalties of the Jewish law upon those whom God hath made free from the law, we may have a similar zeal for God in those things which he does require of us now, under the New Covenant. With a similar zeal we should seek to cultivate and manifest in ourselves and others that which our Lord defined as the spirit of the divine law – Love. This law of love is of universal and eternal application, and its blessed outcome of harmony, peace, happiness and joy will fully repay the protracted effort of obedience.