|VOL. XXII.||JANUARY 1, 1901.||No. 1.|
|Views from the Watch Tower||3|
|Salutations, Greetings and Good Wishes||3|
|The Spiritual Health of the Lord's Flock||6|
|Pressing Toward the Mark||6|
|What is the Great Mark of Character Set Before Us by Our Lord?||8|
|Christ the Magnet – "I will Draw All Men"||11|
|"The Hour is Come"||11|
|The Prince of this World||13|
|"What Think Ye of Christ?"||14|
|Items: Home Embellishments, etc||2|
"I will stand upon my watch, and set my foot upon the Tower, and will watch to see what He shall say unto me, and what answer I shall make to them that oppose me." Hab. 2:1
Upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity: the sea and the waves (the restless, discontented) roaring: men's hearts failing them for fear and for looking forward to the things coming upon the earth (society): for the powers of the heavens (ecclestiasticism) shall be shaken. . . .When ye see these things come to pass, then know that the Kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Look up, lift up your heads, rejoice, for your redemption draweth nigh. – Luke 21:25-28, 32.
It stands free from all parties, sects and creeds of men, while it seeks more and more to bring its every utterance into fullest subjection to the will of God in Christ, as expressed in the Holy Scriptures. It is thus free to declare boldly whatsoever the Lord hath spoken; – according to the divine wisdom granted unto us, to understand. Its attitude is not dogmatical, but confident; for we know whereof we affirm, treading with implicit faith upon the sure promises of God. It is held as a trust, to be used only in his service; hence our decisions relative to what may and what may not appear in its columns must be according to our judgment of his good pleasure, the teaching of his Word, for the upbuilding of his people in grace and knowledge. And we not only invite but urge our readers to prove all its utterances by the infallible Word to which reference is constantly made, to facilitate such testing.
Those of the interested who, by reason of old age, or other infirmity or adversity, are unable to pay for the TOWER will be supplied FREE, if they send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper. We are not only willing, but anxious, that all such be on our list continually.
It rejoices us greatly to hear from so many of you. We received 1856 letters and cards during the last week of 1900. Please accept WATCH TOWER articles as our replies. We send postal card or letter receipts for all Money Orders, etc., received: so if you do not receive such acknowledgement within two weeks apply for a duplicate Money Order and repeat letter-order. [R2747 : page 2]
The mention, in our Nov. 15 issue, of the motto and text cards for home decoration brought us a flood of orders, for which we were only partially prepared. More mottoes are on their way to us from London, and all orders will be filled as quickly as possible. We are glad to think that these good words, meeting the eyes of your families will continually exercise a silent yet potent influence for good. page 2
These patent binders permit the insertion of each copy of the WATCH TOWER as received. Each binder holds two years' issues. Very durable and cheap – 40 cents including postage: British money 1s. 8d. Binders, etc., for Great Britain, can be had through our London branch. [R2750 : page 2]
We want all interested in "present truth" on our lists, that thus they may share with us the spiritual food now being dispensed by our present Lord. We do not urge you to renew, tho we will be glad to have you continue with us: all we feel it proper to do is to make our terms so reasonable as to leave no valid excuse for any to go without this spiritual food if he has an appetite for it. If you cannot conveniently send the cash you may have it on credit, and should you never be able to pay you can have the debt canceled upon request.
AS THOSE living at the close of the first century, on January 1, 101, looked back upon a full hundred years called the first century, and looked forward to a full hundred years called the second century, into which they had just entered, and which would continue until Dec. 31, A.D. 200, so we, on Jan. 1, 1901, look back upon nineteen completed centuries, and look forward into the twentieth, upon which we have just entered.
Few, if any, who read these words ever saw a new century born, and it occurs to us that as the Lord's people, daily and weekly and yearly, turn over new leaves of experience and repeatedly start afresh in their endeavors to copy the great character-pattern set before us by our heavenly Father in Jesus, so, too, we may specially profit by the thought that a new century has dawned, to encourage ourselves in fresh resolves to be and to do more than ever as would be pleasing and acceptable in the sight of our Lord. What more appropriate sentiments could we have than these! How could we hope better to please him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, him who has lifted our feet out of the horrible pit and the miry clay, and set them upon the rock Christ Jesus, and established our goings, and shown unto us the path of life, and made us full of joy with the light of his countenance! The Lord's own expression on the subject is, "If ye love me keep my commandments;" and the Apostle, in the same strain, assures us that we are acceptable children of God if we do those things which please him, and do not find them grievous – if we do them gladly and of a willing heart – rejoicing both to know and to do the good pleasure of our God.
We salute with Christian love and recognition all who trust in the precious blood of Jesus, justified by faith in his blood, and reckoned as members of the household of faith the world over – known to us and unknown to us. And even beyond these, we salute with loving sympathy those who yet in darkness are feeling after God, if haply they might find him (Acts 17:27) – who are seeking peace and righteousness, the ways of the Lord. Our best wish for these is that they may find the Lord, and obtain through his grace the peace of God which passeth all understanding, to rule in their hearts and to shed abroad in them the light of the knowledge of his goodness as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord. – 1 Cor. 4:4.
But specially we salute and greet the brethren in Christ, members of the Royal Priesthood, heirs of God, joint-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord prospectively; – all those who, having believed in the Redeemer to the remission of their sins and their justification before God, have taken the next step of presenting their bodies living sacrifices, holy, acceptable to God, and their reasonable service. We know and are in communication with a goodly number of these dear "brethren" (Heb. 2:11); yet we doubt not there are many others to whom we are as yet strangers; whom not having known we nevertheless love, knowing well that all who have this spirit of the Head of the Church must be indeed members of his Body, and therefore fellow-members with ourselves. We wish all such great blessing during the year beginning, and as it is now the harvest-time, in which the great Chief Reaper is gathering together into one barn of safety all the true wheat – as it is now the time when the messengers are gathering together the elect from the four quarters of the heavens (the nominal church) it is our hope that many of these dear brethren may be gathered during this year. – Matt. 24:31; 13:30.
Not gathered into another denomination, with [R2751 : page 4] merely a change of name or change of creed or change of form of worship, but gathered to Christ, into oneness with him, in fellowship of spirit through the knowledge of his Word. And we are to expect this gathering to progress more and more, because two influences are at work, both calculated to effect the separation of these brethren from Babylon. (1) The increasing deflection of the nominal church people from the true standard of religion which God has provided, the Bible, into various subversive unbeliefs; viz., into Higher Criticism infidelity, Evolution infidelity, Christian Science infidelity, etc., etc. The further and the more rapidly these leave the Word of God, the greater will be the influence upon the Israelites indeed, who are in heart-union with the Lord, and full of faith in his Word; for they will perceive more and more clearly what they have endeavored heretofore to ignore; viz., that we are in the great day of trial of which the Apostle wrote: "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." – 1 Cor. 3:13.
We are in this day of trial, have been in it for over twenty years, and each day brings us nearer to the culmination of testing, and tends to separate more and more widely between those who are really God's people begotten of the holy spirit, and those who are merely nominally and outwardly his, naming the name of Christ, and drawing nigh with their lips, but in heart are out of sympathy with him and his Word of righteousness.
(2) As this true class is being thus forced out of sympathy with Babylon and the masses of all denominations, they are hungering and thirsting after righteousness – desiring the spiritual food, which the Lord has been meantime preparing for them, and which now, by his grace, is indeed "meat in due season" to all who belong to the true household of faith. Such, having been considerably weaned from the spirit of Babylon, will frequently be found in just that attitude of heart and mind in which the truth will appeal to them quickly and thoroughly, and sometimes accomplish as much in one year as was accomplished with others at an earlier period in several years of study and development.
For these reasons we are expecting great things in the way of progress of the truth in the near future. We believe it the duty, as well as the pleasure, of all who have been enlightened of God through the harvest message, to spread the good tidings abroad, – to hand out to famishing brethren the meat in due season which has so strengthened our own hearts. And this seems to be more and more the spirit of the Lord's brethren, as they receive of the Lord's grace and truth and become more and more copies of God's dear Son, and have more and more of his spirit of willingness to serve the brethren, and, as the Apostle suggests, are willing to lay down their lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16) – not literally, but day by day and opportunity by opportunity – willing to sacrifice the comforts and advantages which, to the natural man, go to make up the sum of earthly life and happiness. They take pleasure in renouncing earthly privileges and luxuries, and even some of life's comforts, that they may spend the more of their substance and be the more [R2752 : page 4] spent themselves in doing good unto all men, especially to the household of faith, and especially in the higher spiritual good things which they have the inestimable privilege of dispensing as servants of our present Lord. – Matt. 24:45.
And since this commendable spirit seems to be growing amongst the dear friends of the truth, everywhere, we may reasonably expect that the coming year will be one of still greater activities and still greater successes in the dispensing of the truth and the bringing of brethren out of darkness into the marvelous light, now shining for all who are the Lord's people. Just how this will be accomplished we do not yet see clearly; but we are encouraged by fresh proposals for the Colporteur work and an increasing interest in the Volunteer work both at home and abroad. If all of the deeply interested will join us in praying the Lord of the harvest to send forth more laborers into the harvest work, we may expect, as one result, that all who thus pray will themselves be granted fresh and larger opportunities for service.
As we consider it not to be the Lord's will that we should beg for money, but merely that we should use as wisely as possible whatever he shall supply, so we feel that it would not be the Lord's will that we should press or urge upon any the matter of service to his cause. We merely call attention to the opportunities for service and the privileges connected with these, and to the advantages and blessings which accrue to those who embrace them. We can, however, speak confidently of a fact that experience has demonstrated, and to which many of our readers could testify; viz., that the Lord specially blesses those who, having received the light of truth, do not put it under a bushel, but let it shine, fearlessly and wisely, to all the household of faith. Many letters indicate that great blessing was received and spiritual progress made during the past year; and these came chiefly from those who have engaged in the Volunteer work – preaching the present truth Sunday after Sunday, to those professing to be children of God, by distributing to them literature as they returned home from their churches. So great has been the blessing upon [R2752 : page 5] many of these Volunteers that they have written to us urging that some kind of literature may be prepared so that they may engage in similar service during the year 1901. One dear sister, who was at first deterred by criticism (from one who should have helped instead of hindered her), declares that nothing she ever did in the Lord's service was so heavy a "cross" at first; but that having taken it up as a service to the Lord and his "brethren" she had received from it more blessing than from any other service ever performed. She and associates have thoroughly distributed the "Volunteer" TOWER to the Protestant church attendants of their city and even surrounding towns, and like true soldiers of the cross are waiting and calling for more of the love-and-truth ammunition which, under God's blessing, routing the powers of darkness, from some hearts at least, will deliver "brethren" and bring them into the clear sunlight of grace and truth.
In compliance with these requests and suggestions, and with the belief that this is one of the best ways of reaching the professed "household of faith" with the meat in due season, we are preparing for another campaign in this holy war against the enslaving errors which hold so many of our dear brethren captive, – human traditions which both dishonor God and stultify those who in any degree give them allegiance.
We are not seeking to have any engage in this work who do not love the truth, and desire at heart to serve it; for we believe that such service would not be very acceptable to our Lord, the Chief Reaper. But we do seek to encourage all those who have a heart's desire to serve our King, and who know of no better way of engaging in his service, and who have thus far been deterred, and have missed the blessing which goes with it, through fear of man, which bringeth a snare – through shame for the cross and the true Gospel, which are not popular now. We want to assure such that this will be a part of their "overcoming" which will probably help them more than anything else they have ever done to become strong in the Lord and in the power of his might as overcomers of their own weaknesses. It will assist them in making their calling and their election sure, by assisting them in the development of the character of overcomers, to whom the Lord has promised the crown of glory and the heavenly blessings. – Rev. 2:26-29.
All who volunteer in this service during the coming year will be supplied with a booklet, entitled, "Food for Thinking Christians; Our Lord's Return, etc.," a neat, attractive little pamphlet, which, we trust, will feed many hungry brethren and sisters in Babylon, and thus give them strength to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. But whether we shall find many hungry ones, and learn of their refreshment with the truth or not, we are sure that those who dispense this food will have the Master's blessing, and that they themselves will become strong by the exercise of their wills, and the bringing of their bodies into subjection in service and sacrifice to the Lord and his cause. And loving you all, and realizing that such a service will be the greatest blessing to you all, we are desirous for this reason alone that so many as wish this service may have the opportunity, and may be encouraged to engage in it; but we are confident that good will be accomplished also for some yet bound in Babylon; – that God will use this means for calling them out. – Rev. 18:4.
We are not urging this as instead of other means of work, as for instance, the Colporteur work, and the endeavor to interest friends through special tracts suited to their conditions, etc., etc. What we are suggesting is in addition to the other things. It is a method of preaching the Gospel – the true Gospel, of which no reasonable person need be ashamed. It appeals to all who know of no other way of preaching more likely to be effective in finding and assisting the brethren. While, therefore, we pray the Lord of the harvest for laborers in the vineyard in the Colporteur branch of the service, still, we remember that not all of the Royal Priesthood are so circumstanced in life as to be able to offer their sacrifices in this form. We thank the Lord, therefore, for the opportunity for their engagement in this preaching of the true Gospel through the printed page to church people; and we rejoice especially that in this service almost all of the Royal Priesthood can find opportunities for self-sacrifice, following closely in the footsteps of Jesus, and rejoicing proportionately as they follow; and proportionately growing stronger in the Lord and in the power of his might, and being made "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light."
Samples of the new literature mentioned will be sent to each one on our lists, as No. 52 of the OLD THEOLOGY series. We trust it will please you both in contents and in appearance; and we believe that it will be attractive to others who may through its perusal be led to "choose the better part," and to be taught of God, and refreshed in heart by the glorious things he is now dispensing to his faithful. We offer the suggestion therefore, that in every little group of the Lord's people meeting for the study of his Word, this Volunteer service be taken up and discussed; and that those who have not yet entered the work shall seek to do so (that they may have a part of the blessing), "while it is called day, for the night cometh wherein no man can work." Appoint one of your number as the captain, and let him bring to his assistance as many lieutenants [R2752 : page 6] as he may please to counsel and assist in the division of the work, the appointment of distributors, etc., that the work may be done systematically and thoroughly.
Those who are without companionship and assistance in this work may engage in it, and we will be pleased to hear from them also; but let each little circle, so far as possible, act in harmony in the matter, not all attempting to be directors, but each willing to submit to the will of the majority and to act through whomsoever the majority may appoint the captain of the group. The responsibility falling upon one will be much more likely to be well discharged than if divided amongst many. Those who engaged in the work last year and the year before no doubt have memoranda which will be valuable to them in judging of the quantities of pamphlets needful for this work the coming year. We will be pleased to supply printed blanks useful in the guiding of the various distributors to the places of service to which their captains may appoint them week after week. We are pleased to hear from these captains at the close of each campaign, respecting the number of churches served, the average attendance, etc., and especially respecting any evidences of blessing, either amongst the distributors or on the part of those who receive the literature.
Through our correspondence with the dear friends of the cause throughout the world we, so to speak, have our finger upon their spiritual pulse, and we are glad to inform you all that the indications are that the spiritual condition is good – better than ever before. During the past few years we were impressed with the thought that some of the dear readers of this journal had received more knowledge than they were making use of in their daily lives – that some of them were more interested in the letter of the truth, in the knowledge of God's plan, than in conforming their lives to the spirit of the Truth. In harmony with this conviction we have sought, during the last three years especially, to draw attention to the necessity for receiving not the grace of God in vain, but on the contrary permitting the truth which we so dearly love to work in our hearts both to will right and, so far as possible, to do right – God's good pleasure respecting us. – Phil. 2:13.
Apparently the Lord has blessed these efforts, as no doubt he guided and led toward them. To him we gladly render the praise for the evidences we see through your correspondence that you are appreciating more and more not only the heavenly prize, but also the trials and difficulties which, under divine providence, are intended to develop our characters, and make us copies of our Lord, and thus to prepare us for the Kingdom and for the great privileges and work of blessing others through it. It is our desire, and we believe yours also, to still progress in this "narrow way" of self-sacrifice; to still recognize the Lord's hand in all of life's affairs toward "the called ones according to his purpose;" and the advantage of every trial and discipline rightly received; and to still be helpful to all who are in the way, assisting them to put on the armor of God, and to be clothed with all the graces of the spirit, and to be shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, that they may tread faithfully this royal way opened up by our Redeemer, walking in his footsteps, until the heavenly Kingdom has been attained.
We do not mean to say that there are no drawbacks, no difficulties, no discouragements, in any part of the field. Quite to the contrary, there are many such; but these also, interpreted in the light of the divine Word, are encouragements to us, since we know that they are needful. We realize that the Lord himself is pruning his "Vine," taking away the branches that will not bear fruit, and that unto perfection, fully ripe. When we say, therefore, that the outlook is encouraging, we mean the broad view of the harvest-field, rather than every little microscopic view of a particular point in it.
We have learned, too, that sometimes matters which seem to be dark clouds and troubles amongst the brethren are really, under divine providence, messengers of blessing, which, rightly received, do good in showing the brethren their own weaknesses and imperfections, and in leading them to seek more and more of the grace of God to overcome these, that they may be filled with all the fulness of God. It is along this line, then, that we congratulate you and bid you be of good courage and continue to press along the line toward the "mark" of perfect character – perfection in love: assured that if faithful we shall ultimately obtain blessings far beyond our present conceptions.
Full of enthusiasm and appreciation of divine love, these have entirely lost the fear of eternal torment, and have learned that this doctrine is of Satan, and not of God; from man, and not of the holy spirit; from the dark ages, and not the teachings of the inspired words of Scripture. They have learned, too, that what scriptures seem to give any color of sanction to this blasphemy against God's character and plan are certain parables, symbols and dark sayings which misinterpretations have more or less glossed and colored in the common translations of the Scriptures.
It is quite common for this latter class to think and to speak of "running for the prize," and to measurably lose sight of the fact that it is not the prize that we run toward, but the mark: that the prize is entirely beyond our grasp; – as the Apostle expresses it above, "I press toward the mark." Whoever reaches the mark of character which God has established for the elect will receive the prize; and whoever fails to reach that mark of character will fail to get the prize. It is therefore a very serious error to run for the prize and forget or ignore or disregard the "mark," which must first be attained.
The thought that a certain standard or mark of character is necessary to all who will pass divine approval as "overcomers," and hear the Lord's "Well done!" is an astounding one to many. Many have thought of the Christian race as merely an avoidance of open sin; others have included an avoidance of secret faults; others have gone still further, and have included a general disposition to sacrifice many interests of the present life; others have gone still further, and have understood the test of discipleship to be full self-surrender to the Lord, a full sacrifice of earthly life and all of its interests to the will of our Head, the Lord; – but almost none have the thought that all our sacrificings and experiences and self-denials must lead up toward and eventually bring us to the "mark" of character which God has set for the "elect;" – else they will not get the prize of joint-heirship with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom. Nothing, probably, has contributed so much to this oversight of a "mark" or fixed standard of character than the false interpretation given to our Lord's conversation with the dying thief on Calvary.*
It is indisputably reasonable, that God has some standard or test by which he will determine who are worthy to receive the great blessings and honors offered to the elect – who are worthy to be members of the body of Christ and to share his Millennial Kingdom – what shall constitute faithfulness in those who "seek for glory, honor and immortality," and who are "the called and chosen and faithful." The Apostle, in our text, unquestionably declares that there is such a mark, and that all who are running with any hope of attaining the desired prize must be running toward that mark, and must attain it or lose the prize. And we see, too, that the Apostle judges himself according to this standard, and declares that at the time he wrote he had not yet reached this mark or standard of character-development. Such reflections cannot but awaken in the hearts of all who are in this race earnest desires to see distinctly the mark toward which we must run: and it should stimulate each and all of us to run the more patiently and the more perseveringly, and to watch day by day the measure of our progress toward the grand mark which the Lord our God has set before us.
We notice that the Apostle has in mind foot-races, and we see the forcefulness of the illustration: (1) As the racers must enter the race-course in a legitimate manner, so must we get on our race-course in a legitimate manner, through the only door – faith in the precious blood which redeemed us and justified us before God. (2) Those who enter the course must be regularly recorded or registered as runners; they must positively declare their intention, else they will not be in the race. So with us: having been "justified by faith," and having been informed of our privileges in connection with this race, and the attainment of its prize, it was incumbent upon us to declare our intention – to make a covenant with the Lord, and to thus be regularly entered – our names being written, not upon earthly church rolls, but in the Lamb's book of life – "written in heaven." – Heb. 12:23.
With foot-racers there is a prize offered also, but it is not the prize that is hung out to their view while on the race-course; it is not the prize toward which they run, but the mark. There is the quarter-mile mark, the half-mile mark, the three-quarter-mile mark, and the mile mark at the close of the race; and each racer watches for and encourages himself as he passes one or another of these marks by the way, until finally he reaches the last one, the mark for the prize. And this watching of the marks by the way, and reckoning up to the standard, is a great incentive to him – an encouragement as he speeds along, a reminder if he is going slackly. So, too, it is with the Christian runner in the narrow way toward the mark of the great prize which God has promised – joint-heirship with his Son, the Lord of glory. It will encourage us to note the marks on our way, and to perceive our progress – if we are coming nearer and nearer and nearer to "the mark for the prize" – the mark which wins the prize. And if any be careless, indifferent, slack, in his running, nothing could be a [R2754 : page 8] greater stimulus to him than the knowledge that only his own carelessness or slackness can lose him the prize.
We answer, it is stated under various names; as for instance, our Lord Jesus mentioned it when he said, "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matt. 5:48.) The same mark is mentioned by the Apostle when he says that God predestinated that all who will be of the elect must be "conformed to the image of his Son." (Rom. 8:29.) These two statements differ in form, but are the same in substance. The same mark is mentioned again by the Apostle when he says, "The righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit." And again he tells us that "Love is the fulfilling of the Law." (Rom. 8:4; 13:10.) Here, then, we have an aggregated definition of what constitutes the "mark" of Christian character, in the elect: it is godlikeness, Christ-likeness, Love. The requirement, therefore, would seem to be that the Lord's people, holy and elect, must attain to the same character or disposition of love that God possesses and that was manifested also by our Lord Jesus.
But some one will say, How can we, "who by nature are children of wrath, even as others," ever hope to attain to so high a standard or mark of character as this, that we should love as God loves, as Christ loves? We answer, that we need never hope to attain to this high standard as respects the flesh, for so long as we are in these mortal bodies, and obliged to use their brains, we will necessarily be more or less opposed by the selfishness which through the fall has come to have such complete possession of our race through the mental, moral and physical derangements incidental to six thousand years of depravity.
The attainment of this mark of perfect love is to be an attainment of the heart, of the will – the new will, "begotten, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," through the holy spirit. Nor do we find, nor should we expect that the new mind would come up to this standard at the beginning of our Christian experience. The new mind, altho inspired of God through the exceeding great and precious promises of his Word, is nevertheless our own will, and more or less circumscribed by its channel and instrument, the human brain. Hence the Apostle informs us that the new mind must constantly fight a battle against the flesh, and that its victory means the death of the flesh – that it cannot be actually perfect until the "change" shall come, by which this newly begotten will shall receive its spiritual body in the first resurrection. But since the receiving of a spiritual body in the first resurrection will be the receiving of the prize, we see that the race toward the mark and the attainment of that mark must be made by the new mind while it is still in this mortal body or "earthen vessel." – 2 Cor. 5:2-4.
In a word, the new mind must grow, must develop. As the Apostle exhorts, we, as new creatures, must grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of God – the growth here corresponding to the running in the figure under consideration. We must run or press nearer and nearer to the mark day by day, week by week, year by year, until it shall be attained, – if we would gain the prize. Nor is it merely a question of time, for we all know some who have been a long time in the race and have made comparatively little progress in the cultivation of the gifts of the spirit, the sum of which is comprehended in the one word, perfect love – the mark.
And we probably all know some others who have been a comparatively short time in the narrow way who have made great progress, – going from grace to grace, from knowledge to knowledge, from glory to glory – rapidly nearing the mark. And we know some who, so far as human judgment can discern, have reached the mark; but of these more anon.
That we may clearly comprehend this subject, let us notice how small were the beginnings of this grace of love in our hearts; and let us hope that many, as they trace the matter here, and compare it with their own experiences, will be able to find large developments in their own characters – that they have passed one after another of the quarter-mile marks in the way, and that they are rapidly nearing, if they have not already reached, "the mark of the prize."
(1) The beginning of our experience as Christians the Apostle expresses, saying, it was not that we first loved God, but that "he first loved us" – that attracted us to him. (1 John 4:19.) A sense of justice told us that since God had so loved us as to redeem us at so great a cost, and to provide for us so great salvation, it would be as little as we could do – it would be our duty to love and serve him in return. This beginning of love we will designate as duty-love. It lacked in many respects qualities which now permeate our love for God, which is of a higher, a more advanced character, because we have grown in grace, and in knowledge, and in love. The Apostle seems to speak again of this same duty-love, when he says, "The love of Christ constraineth us [draws out our love in return]; for we thus judge that if one died for all, then were all dead [under divine sentence, the curse]; and that we who live [who have been justified to life through faith in Jesus' redemption] should [R2754 : page 9] henceforth live not unto ourselves but unto him who died for us." (2 Cor. 5:14,15.) Here again it is the "should"-love or duty-love, – the first, the crudest, the simplest development of our love toward God, our starting-point in the race toward perfect love.
(2) After we had exercised the duty-love and sought to obey God, not only in the avoidance of sin, but also in sacrificing our earthly interests and rights for his sake and the truth's sake, in obedience to his will – in obedience to duty-love – we began to find in our hearts an appreciation of the principles of righteousness; we began to love righteousness – justice, mercy, love: not at first with a fervency of love, but rather with respect for the glorious qualities of the divine character, plan and law. This was our first quarter-mile mark, so to speak – love of principles of righteousness.
(3) The more we learned to love these elements of divine character, the principles of righteousness which find their perfect representation in the divine being, and through which the divine being is revealed to the eyes of our understanding – in that proportion the true love to God (based upon principles rather than upon duty), comes into our hearts. So to speak, here in the race-course we had gained the second quarter-mile mark – love of God's character; even tho we had not yet discerned the length and breadth and heights and depths of that character, we had begun to love the Lord in the true way – from appreciation not only of what he had done for us, but also and specially for what he is; – from appreciation of his character.
(4) Love of God from this latter standpoint as the representative of every grace and every virtue, as the representative of righteousness, and the opponent of every injustice and inequity, led us to seek and to follow out these principles amongst our fellow-men, as well as in our own characters. As we began to love truth, purity, nobility of character, wherever it could be found, we found some of it in a mottled and streaked condition even in the world of mankind: we found that the original law of God, written in the heart of father Adam, altho largely erased and obliterated from the hearts and consciences of his children, is not wholly gone; – that to some extent, especially under the influence of Christianity in the past eighteen centuries, some features of this perfect law may be dimly discerned amongst men.
But our scrutiny, backed by our increasing love of these principles of righteousness, found nothing satisfactory amongst natural men – nor even amongst those professing godliness – professing to be followers in the footsteps of Jesus. We found these all, like ourselves, far short of perfection, far short of the glory of God. But as the true love, of right principles, burned in our hearts more and more fervently, we learned to sympathize with the entire "groaning creation," and to "love the brethren;" for in the latter we perceived a class inspired by the same spirit by which we ourselves had been begotten of God, the spirit of the truth; we saw some of them struggling as we had struggled, with appreciation only of the duty-love; we saw others who had gained a higher conception than this, who had learned to appreciate the principles of righteousness and to love them, and to hate iniquity, and further, to love the God who is the embodiment of these. And the realization that these "brethren," like ourselves, were gradually approximating the divine standard – "pressing toward the mark" – filled us with interest in them and in their battle against sin and its weaknesses, and against the Adversary and his beguilements. We became more and more interested in their welfare and overcoming in proportion as we were striving and making progress in the same "narrow way." This love of the brethren we did not have at the beginning; it marks a distinct progress in our race toward the "mark;" we might term it the third quarter-mile mark. But altho a grand attainment was achieved when this love of the brethren reached the point of [R2755 : page 9] willingness to "lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16), yet it was not the full attainment of the "mark" for which we are running.
(5) The "mark of the prize" is a still higher attainment in love; – the one which we understand the Scriptures to point out as the very highest attainment is that of loving our enemies – not merely tolerating them, abstaining from injuring them, etc., while thinking evil of them; but far beyond this, it signifies the full purging out of all anger, malice, hatred, envy, strife, not only from our actions but also from our words, and even from our thoughts, our sentiments. It means such a complete triumph of love in our hearts as not only loves God supremely and delights to sacrifice in his service from love of the principles represented in his character, and love for the brethren, which makes us careful of their feelings and interests, and ready to lay down our lives on their behalf, to deliver them from evil, or to avoid putting a stumbling block in their way, but it means additionally that the love of God has been so thoroughly shed abroad in our hearts that we can love and do love every intelligent creature, and delight to do good unto all men, and to serve all men as we have opportunity, especially the household of faith. – Gal. 6:10.
This does not mean that the love which we have for the world must be of the same kind that we have for the Lord, who is the personification of righteousness, and for the "brethren," who are striving to have [R2755 : page 10] Love, the righteousness of the Law, fulfilled in them through Christ. It means rather a sympathetic love; a benevolence such as God himself exercised toward the whole world of mankind. It does not mean that we are to love the world in the sense condemned by the Apostle when he said, "Love not the world, neither the things of the world." (1 John 2:15.) It does mean the attainment of the condition indicated in the expression, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe on him might not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16.) It is a love for the world, which will not only be glad to see them lifted up out of degradation and sin to holiness and purity and righteousness, but which will be glad to cooperate to these ends as opportunities may offer – not, however, anticipating God's love and the development of his plan of the ages; but co-working with God in that great plan which he has promised shall eventually bring, during the Millennial age, blessing to every creature through the elect class now running in this race for attainment of the "mark," to win the great prize of joint-heirship with his Son. This perfect love, which, including the other developments, extends even to enemies and those who injure us and speak evil of us falsely for Christ's and righteousness' sake, is the fourth mark in the race – "the mark for the prize."
While it is well for us to notice these various steps in the progress of our race toward the "mark," we are to remember that the illustration does not fit perfectly, but that rather while there is this order of progression it is less distinctly marked in our experiences, in which duty-love but gradually leads into the higher forms, remaining, but subordinately, to the end. It is a part of the blessed arrangement of God that those who are running in this race are not reckoned with according to the flesh, but as "new creatures," according to the spirit, the mind, the will, the intention. We may never hope to attain to this grand "mark" of perfect Love in our flesh, so that every act and every word would give full proof of the real spirit of love which fills our hearts. Some may have greater weaknesses and defects in the flesh than others, and hence may be less able than others to uniformly and thoroughly show the real sentiments of their hearts. But God looketh at the heart; it is the heart that he sees running in this race; it is the heart which is to attain to this "mark" set before us in the Gospel – this mark of perfect love, which includes even our enemies. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
If now we see clearly that perfect love is "the mark of the prize," we see something to strive for in our daily lives; a condition which we can by God's grace attain, and which must be obtained if we would be counted worthy a place in the Kingdom. The Lord is not selecting the members of the Bride of Christ by an arbitrary election; neither is he selecting them on the lines of a mere sentimentality; he is selecting them on the lines of character, heart-development; and those who attain this likeness to his Son, this "mark" of the prize, this standard of what is pleasing and acceptable to the Father – these, and these alone, may have confident hope of joint-heirship with our Lord. How important, then, that each runner in this race follow closely the Apostle's injunction to lay aside every weight and hindrance, and to run with patience the race set before us in the Gospel – "looking unto Jesus," the author of our faith, until he shall have become the finisher of it (Heb. 12:1) – giving us grace to conquer, and keeping us through his Word and through his providence unto the end of the race.
Each one on this race-course should examine himself, rather than examine others, in respect to progress in this narrow way; for each knows his own heart condition and the weaknesses of his own flesh better than any other knows these, the Lord alone excepted. Let us each note just where he is in the race-course, rejoicing that he is in the race at all; considering it a great privilege to be thus called and privileged to enter in this race. If we find that we have passed the first quarter-mark, let us rejoice and press on. If we find that we have passed the second also, let us rejoice so much the more, but not slack our running. If we find that we have passed the third quarter we may properly rejoice so much the more, and press with vigor on; and if we have attained to the fourth mark, of perfect love, which includes even enemies, we have indeed cause for great rejoicing. The prize is ours, if we but remain faithful. But, as the Apostle says, "Having done all, stand" – with all the armor on; stand in various testings which will then, as much as ever along the race-course, be brought to bear against us to divert us away from the mark, before the great Inspector and giver of rewards shall say, "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joys of thy Lord." – Eph. 6:13-17.
It is indispensable to those who have reached the mark of perfect love that they shall keep actively engaged in the service of the Lord, laying down their lives for the brethren; because he who loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, what assurance hath he that he really loves God, whom he hath not seen? (1 John 4:20.) Such must stand, not only as representatives of God and of the principles of righteousness, but as representatives of those strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, and in the faith of his Word, – ready and willing and efficient in the encouragement of other runners in the race-course, that they likewise may attain to the "mark." As the Apostle says: "As many, therefore, as are perfect, should be of this mind; and if in anything you think differently, God will reveal this to you; but to what we have attained, let us walk by the same line. Brethren, become joint-imitators of me, and watch those who are thus walking, as you have us for a pattern." – Phil. 3:15-17, Diaglott.
What may have been the object of their visit we are not told; nor do we presume that our Lord's words recorded in the succeeding verses of our lesson were addressed to the Greeks, but rather that a break in the narrative occurs. Our Lord doubtless responded to their request for an interview, but the substance of their converse has not been considered necessary for the Church, and hence has not been recorded. It may not be amiss, however, to mention that Eusebius, a church historian of early days, relates that an embassy was sent to Jesus by the king of Edessa, Syria, inviting him to take up his abode with him, and promising him a royal welcome. It would not be surprising if there were truth in this statement, but we know well that our Lord would refuse any such overtures, for he himself had plainly declared to the disciples when he sent them forth, "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
God had blessings in store for all the families of the earth; but not yet, and not in this way. All things must be done in a divine order and according to the divine plan, which provided for the selection of the [R2758 : page 11] Seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16,29) before the general blessings could come upon the world; and the offer of membership in this Seed of Abraham must, according to divine arrangement, be to the Jew first.
It was probably after the interview with the Greeks had ended, and while the hearts of the apostles were beating fast with anticipation that finally the world was waking up to recognize their Master in his true light, and would shortly exalt him to the high position foretold for the Messiah, and while their hopes on their own behalf were also running high that they should be joint-heirs with him in the Kingdom, that Jesus uttered the words constituting the remainder of the lesson. It was a good opportunity for him to show them how his sufferings of the immediate future were the foundation upon which all the future glory must rest. He well knew what bitter disappointments and heart-aches would come to his faithful few when they would realize the literalness of what he had already told them respecting his death. He would give them some suggestions which would be helpful to them subsequently, and enable them to look through the sufferings to the glories in reservation, unseeable except with the eye of faith.
It was, we believe, with this thought in mind that our Lord declared, "The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified." The disciples at first would take this as intimating his earthly exaltation; but he speedily drew their attention to the fact that while the beginning of his glorification was near, it must be preceded by the suffering of death. His glorification began in his resurrection from the dead, when he was raised in incorruption, in power, a glorious spiritual body – "a quickening spirit," as the Apostle explains. (1 Cor. 15:42-45.) This glorification was enhanced when he was received up into glory in the Father's presence, there to appear on our behalf, and at the right hand of divine power to wait for the appointed time when he should take unto himself his great power and reign as King over all the earth, which he had redeemed with his own precious blood.
The expression, "The hour is come," is not necessarily to be understood as signifying sixty minutes; just as the word "day" does not always signify twenty-four hours, but a comparatively short period or epoch, as, for instance, "Noah's day," "Moses' day," "Jesus' day," etc. As compared with "Jesus' day" the experiences referred to were properly enough said to be occurring in that "hour," or short time.
Having thus assured them that the beginning of his glorification was not far distant, our Lord makes very impressive the necessity of his death, by saying, "Verily, verily," – that is, Truly, truly, most positively, emphatically, I give you the illustration that my glorification, according to the divine arrangement, must come through my death, even as a grain of wheat would remain but one grain unless it were planted, and through the dying of one grain life and being were given to a number. Had our Lord chosen to do so, he at one time had the privilege of remaining alone, – of not dying on our behalf. Had he followed this course we would still have been unredeemed and he could have brought forth [R2758 : page 12] no fruitage. But he had consecrated his life; he had voluntarily engaged to sacrifice himself on behalf of Adam and his race, in compliance with the Father's will, and hence he declares that if now he would love his life he would lose it; that on the contrary, instead of seeking to save himself he must indeed hate or despise the present life in comparison with the future and eternal one which the Father had promised him as a reward for obedience unto death.
It will be noticed that in this understanding of it, this 25th verse is applicable to our Lord alone, and not to his followers, for they had no life to lose; they and the whole world were dead, under condemnation of death, because of father Adam's transgression. Our Lord alone had life, which he had a right to lay down or exchange in order to keep it unto eternal life. Such privileges could not come to his followers until first Jesus had given his life "a ransom for all." Then as soon as the ransom was given and had been accepted of the Father, the redeemed ones (believers justified by their faith) could be reckoned as having life-rights which they would be privileged to consecrate upon the Lord's altar, and to exchange for the heavenly life, following in the footsteps of Jesus.
And in full accord with this interpretation is the next verse, which distinctly speaks of Jesus' followers, saying that all who desire to serve him, and to be with him, must follow him – follow him in this experience, which he, as the Forerunner in this way, was already passing through; viz., the consecration and then the despising of his earthly existence, as compared with the spirit life and heavenly glory promised.
It is to their great disadvantage that Christian people so generally fail to discern that there are to be several different classes of saved ones – the overcomers, the great company and the restitution class. The benevolently disposed of those seeking to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, in earthly self-denials and sacrifices, and in despising the present life in comparison with the future one promised, are robbed of much of their joy and peace and consolation by the thought that only such footstep-followers can ever be with the Lord and honored by the Father; for they realize that such servants constitute a "little flock" indeed. The effect of their ignorance of the divine plan is, with many, a hardening of heart in an attempt to be more like what they understand God to be, as expressed in what they believe to be his plan of eternal torment for all except the little flock. Others, on the other hand, cultivating their benevolence, refuse to believe that the way to this association with Jesus and the divine glorification is so narrow – they widen it more and more to take in their friends, their families, their neighbors, and as many as possible of the heathen; and thus, unconsciously perhaps, gradually but surely they lower the standard of true discipleship, not only for others but also for themselves: they become more and more satisfied with outward forms and ceremonies and platitudes and moralities, and come more and more to consider that their former views were incorrect – when they supposed, in harmony with our Lord's words, that all who would be with him and be honored of the Father, must take up his cross and follow in his footsteps.
The light of this harvest-time now shining upon the divine Word and plan makes clear to us, not only the height of the calling of the "elect" Church to joint-heirship with her Lord in his glory, but also the reality of the fact that all who would share that glory in the future, must suffer with him in the present life – must be crucified to sin and to self and to the world; must rise to newness of life in Christ Jesus reckonedly now, actually, if faithful, in the first resurrection. But this harvest light makes clear to us also that the class now called, now intended of the Father to be joint-sacrificers with his son and joint-heirs with him of his glory, is altogether but a small fraction of the human family, and that the others who receive not this high calling are to be otherwise blessed in due time under the Millennial Kingdom, by the glorified Jesus and his glorified Church and Bride.
Those who have this light and appreciate it are saved from the discouragements common to others. They can see the reasonableness of making the way to so high a station as that to which they are called a very narrow one, which will admit at its opening only those who are justified through faith in Christ and who are desirous of pleasing and serving God, and which, at its furthest end, will admit to glory only those who have passed faithfully through the experiences of this time, and are found in heart and character copies of God's dear Son. – Rom. 8:29.
"Now is my soul troubled" – my feelings are turbulent; I am in a commotion. Shall I pray, Father deliver me from this hour? Shall I not, on the contrary, remember that for this very cause I am come to this hour, that I might endure, and that willingly, rather than ask to be delivered? I might ask the Father for a certain kind of deliverance which would not invalidate the engagement which I made, that I would give my life in obedience to his will. I might ask him to permit some calamity to befall me which would result in my death and thus save me from the peculiarly trying and ignominious conditions incident to my apprehension and execution as a criminal – as the worst kind of a criminal, a blasphemer against my Heavenly Father. Such a deviation would seem to me not an unreasonable concession for one who has shown his faithfulness to the Father's will in all things. And yet [R2758 : page 13] I will not ask even this concession. Rather, I will submit my will to the Father's will most absolutely, and carry out to the very jot and tittle the spirit as well as the letter of my covenant. Let the Father's will be done in every particular; it must be the wisest and best, else it would not be his plan. It is for this very purpose that I came to this hour, that I might manifest, demonstrate, to the Father my devotion, my most implicit obedience to his will. Proceed, Father! Glorify thine own name and in thine own way, at whatever the cost to me!
Then a voice was heard, a voice which some understood and which others misunderstood, as is always the case with the voice of God. The world heareth no message; believers hear the message partially; but the begotten sons, in perfect accord with the Father, hear and understand fully. No doubt our Lord received a [R2759 : page 13] blessing through this message from the Father, and yet he assures us that it was not specially sent for him, but rather as a demonstration for the benefit of the disciples – that they might note that God attested his teachings. God does not today speak to his people by such an audible voice; but he speaks none the less forcibly to us – through his Word and through his providences. Yet now, as then, some hear and appreciate more than others. Some, who have the word of God in their hands appreciate it only as another book, and likewise discern not God's providences in the affairs of his people. Others see in the Lord's Word a message, a good message, and reverence the book and see in his providences something of the divine care and provision in connection with the body of Christ. But only the spirit-begotten sons, the members of the body of Christ, today, like the Head eighteen hundred years ago, hear the Father's Word, with distinctness and clearness and understanding. These also note divine providences, and are enabled to rejoice in them, and to realize that all things are working together for good to them because they love God, and have been called according to his purpose, and are in the way of responding to that call, seeking to make their calling and their election sure.
When our Lord said, "Now is the judgment of this world, – now shall the prince of this world be cast out," he evidently meant by now the same as in his previous expression, "The hour is come." But a little space of time now intervened until this would be accomplished. The judgment of this world, so to speak, was in the balance and would speedily be decided. The first trial took place in Eden, father Adam being the one who was on trial, and the world of mankind, still in his loins, was in a certain sense on trial, in the balance, with him. That trial, as we know, resulted in disaster to Adam and all his posterity. "By one man's disobedience sin entered into the world, and death as a result of sin, and so death passed upon all men for all [through inherited weaknesses] are sinners." (Rom. 5:12.) That judgment (trial and sentence) of the world was unto death; and Adamic death had reigned up to the time that our Lord spoke, for 4161 years. But now under divine providence, under the grace of God, a substitute or ransom had been found, acceptable to God, and willing to give his life a ransom for Adam and his race. This one was now on trial, and the fate of the whole world was in the balance and depended upon his victory. Hence, as our Lord expressed it, now the world's krisis, or trial, was at its climax, and his decision to be faithful to the Father's will, and to despise the present life in obedience to that will, determined that trial favorably to the world; for the Apostle declares that as the world's condemnation was unto death through Adam, so the world's justification is unto life through Christ – that so far as the divine law was concerned Jesus paid the full penalty for the whole world, and hence will have both the right and the opportunity, not only to rescue mankind from the tomb by an awakening, but also to rescue fully and completely so many as will accept the favor, by raising them up fully out of sin and death to perfection and harmony with God during and at the close of the Millennial age. – Rom. 5:18,19.
Our Lord's other statement is quite in accord with this: "Now shall the prince of this world be cast out." That is to say, the trial now in progress in my own person will result not only in a reversal and cancellation of the divine sentence of mankind unto death, but it will also result in the overthrow of the present rule of evil in the hands of Satan, the prince of this world. He shall be cast out; he shall be chained for the period of my Millennial reign, and shall subsequently be destroyed. Since the whole matter of the world's judgment and the removal of its present captor through sin was dependent upon our Lord's victory, it was quite proper that he should date all those results from that "hour," notwithstanding the fact that it would be centuries before these things would be accomplished; – the binding of Satan, the release of mankind from the Adamic sentence through the instrumentalities of the Millennial Kingdom (Christ and the glorified Church), into the glorious liberty (from these things) which belongs to all sons of God, – whatever their plane of being. Not that we are to suppose that all men will avail themselves of these heavenly mercies and privileges, but that all are to have a full opportunity to do so; so that whosoever will die the Second Death will die for his own sins and not through inherited imperfections – not because the fathers ate the sour grape of sin. – Jer. 31:29,30; 1 John 5:16.
The statement of the next verse is in absolute accord with this: "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto [toward] me." While, as the narrator records, these words signified by what manner of death Jesus should die – lifted up on the cross – nevertheless, they meant more than this. They meant, also, If I shall faithfully give my life according to my covenant, and shall receive of the Heavenly Father the high exaltation or lifting up which he has promised, that exaltation will bring with it the power to bless all the families of the earth; first, according to the Father's will and prearrangement, [R2759 : page 14] he himself will draw unto me a Church or Bride; I will not draw these, but the Father: "No man can come unto me [in the present time, in the narrow way] except the Father which sent me draw him, and I will raise him up [exalt him] at the last day" – the Millennial day, "early in the morning" of that day. – John 6:44; Psa. 46:5.
And when these shall have been thus exalted as members of my body, raised up as sharers with me in the first resurrection, then I will begin my drawing work, which will not be confined to a special class, a Royal Priesthood, like the Father's drawing. Mine will be a general drawing: I will draw all men; it will be a universal opportunity to come unto me and receive from me, as the Father's representative, full remission of sins that are past, and such instructions in righteousness, such chastisements, such experiences, such judgments, as will tend to lift them up, up, up, to the glorious condition of human perfection from which all fell through Adam's transgression, and the right to restore to which I gained for them by not counting my earthly life precious unto me, but instead by despising it, that I might redeem men and gain this high heavenly condition in which, according to the divine arrangement, I and my servants who will be with me, and whom the Father will honor also, and whom I will call my Bride and brethren, and joint-heirs, shall bless all the families of the earth. – Rev. 22:17; Rom. 8:17; Gal. 3:16,29.
One of these parables represented God as a father, and two classes in Israel as sons: the one avowing his obedience to the Father's will, nevertheless was disobedient, and represented the Scribes and Pharisees; the other son, who, refusing to do the Father's will, but subsequently obeying it, got the Father's blessing and approval, represented the class of publicans and sinners who were now flocking to Jesus and becoming interested and seeking to do the divine will, and who were accepted of the Father, notwithstanding that previously they had shirked and even publicly denied their allegiance. [R2756 : page 14]
The second parable represented Israel as the Lord's vineyard, and the Pharisees and doctors of the Law as the husbandmen, whose duty it was to care for the vineyard, that it should bring forth much fruit to the owner; but who appropriated the fruits to themselves – seeking honor one of another and not God's glory. The result the parable showed to be the complete overthrow of those husbandmen, and the giving of the vineyard into the care of others – the overthrow of the Jewish system or polity, and the establishment of a new order of things through other servants – our Lord Jesus and his apostles, who did not seek honors to themselves, but sought the glory of God and the welfare of his vineyard.
The third parable, the marriage of the king's son, pressed home the truth still more strongly, indicating that Christ was the King's Son, and that the heavenly Father had sent forth the invitation to the wedding-feast first to the officials of the Jews, as the representatives of that people, the Doctors of the Law, the Pharisees, etc., and upon their refusal he found others to take their place at the feast, which was not at all interrupted.
A consultation of the leading Jews showed that they were in accord in thinking that this Teacher must be interrupted in some manner; otherwise his influence would be too great; but the question was, who could meet him in argument? Who would confute and refute his propositions, and thus break his influence with the people? The counsellors were of different factions, quite opposed to each other, but they were drawn together by mutual interest in their opposition to Jesus. And thus it ever is with error; the most contrary theorists are ready to cooperate with each other in opposition to the truth. Nevertheless, truth is mighty and shall ultimately prevail against all its opponents; not always so quickly, however, as in the case before us, when the Truth himself, with superhuman wisdom, confounded and overthrew the machinations of error.
Apparently the religious leaders, after conferring, decided that they would attempt to confuse the Lord and confound his teachings, and thus make a division amongst the people, getting some of them against him. First came the Herodians, who were not Jews at all, but, like Herod, Ishmaelites – sons of Abraham, through Hagar, as the Jews were his sons through Sarah. The Herodians, we may presume, were not very religious, but in considerable measure politicians; nevertheless, the desire to break the influence of Jesus was sufficient to unite with these Ishmaelites the Pharisees, who claimed to be the most strict and holy of the Jews. They had thought of a method of entrapping the Lord, which they felt sure would be a success. It was a simple method: they would ask him a question respecting taxation in which all the people were interested, high and low, rich and poor, publicans and Pharisees. They felt sure that in answering this question he would either lay himself open to the charge of teaching sedition, and therefore himself liable to arrest as an opponent of Herod and of Caesar, or by approving the taxes they esteemed that he would alienate from himself many of the Jews who were now regarding him favorably. Hence their question: "Is it lawful to pay tribute [taxes] to Caesar or not?"
It would scarcely be right to say that our Lord [R2756 : page 15] avoided their question. Rather, we would say that he gave it a much broader and more comprehensive answer than they or anyone else would have supposed possible. He said, in the hearing of the people, "Why tempt ye me?" thus in a word showing that he perceived the real animus of the question, that it was an endeavor on their part to entangle him. Then he asked for a coin of the kind generally used for taxes, and having their assent to the authority which issued it, he said, "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and to God the things which are God's." What a lesson in these words! How clearly they indicate that God's people are to be subject to the powers that be, and to wait for God's Kingdom, rather than to attempt opposition, insurrection, conflict with the laws of earthly authorities!
In this respect our Lord's words are a lesson to his people today, to the effect that they should keep their religious affairs, which are of God and toward God, separate and distinct from worldly politics, which are of the Gentiles, during this period of the "Times of the Gentiles." "Ye are not of this world, even as I am not of this world." On the other hand, the Lord's people are to remember that, as originally created, man bore God's image stamped upon his very nature; and the persons addressed should have remembered also that God's superscription was upon them, that he had accepted them as his people, – Israel. The thought is that the heart, the life, the affections, belong to God, and should be rendered to him, and this being done the rendering of a little tribute-money to some earthly prince would be of comparative insignificance, and the will of God recognized in the heart would cause all things to work together for their good.
The questioners found themselves answered in a manner they had never dreamed of; they were put to silence; they could take no exceptions to such an answer. It had lifted their quibble to a plane of thought which they must confess was far higher than had ever entered into their minds, and had settled it effectually.
Next came the Sadducees, no doubt boastfully saying, We alone are competent to deal with this man, and to show up his faults, tho at the same time we will be showing up the errors and faults of you Pharisees respecting a future life through a resurrection. The Sadducees were what we might term the Agnostics or Rationalists of that time. They denied that there were any spirit beings, and denied a future life for mankind, claiming that there would be no resurrection of the dead, – that faith in a resurrection was not warranted by any satisfactory Scriptures, and that reason also repudiated the thought.
By their question they would endeavor to show that Jesus' teachings as a whole were built upon a false foundation; – that the present life is everything, instead of nothing, and to be sacrificed to attain a future life by a better resurrection, as Jesus taught. They put what they supposed would be an unanswerable question respecting the condition of things in the resurrection age. Our Lord's reply was that the difficulty was with them, and not with the divine plan; that they had failed to understand the Scriptures, and did not properly understand the power of God, who is abundantly able to arrange for all the exigencies which will arise in the perfecting of his own gracious plans and promises. Then, going beyond this answer to their question, our Lord demonstrated to them that the resurrection is taught in the Old Testament Scriptures – not in so many words, but indirectly – that God's language with reference to the patriarchs implies that they are not annihilated, – implies that they are to be resurrected, to live again, because God would not use such language as he did use respecting beings who had passed totally out of existence, and were never to be in existence again. The answer was a complete one, as the first verse of our lesson shows.
But our Lord's opponents still hoped that they might find some one capable of vanquishing in argument him who "spake as never man spake." And so we read that when the Pharisees heard that he had "muzzled the Sadducees" they were gathered together. Their disappointment at not seeing Jesus confounded by the Sadducees was off-set by their pleasure in having their Sadducee opponents thus effectually silenced. Then one of the Pharisees, who was a Doctor of the Law, a scribe, bethought him that he would test our Lord with a theological question much discussed amongst the Jewish rabbis; a question upon which they were very generally divided. He would at least get this great Teacher confused and show the people that, while the Scribes had such contentions amongst themselves respecting the Law, this Teacher also, when treating theological subjects, would be confused. Altho it is said that he propounded the question temptingly, this does not necessarily mean that this scribe was dishonest or in affiliation with others of the rulers who were conspiring merely to entrap Jesus; for our Lord himself testifies of him that he was "not far from the Kingdom of God." – Mark 12:34.
His question was, Which one of the Ten Commandments is the most important, the greatest? Our Lord's answer was most direct. He divided the Law into two parts, as on the two tables of stone; the one part relating to God and man's obligations to his Creator; and the second part relating to man's responsibilities toward his fellow-men. Man's duty to God our Lord placed as supreme, yet the other as linked with it and necessary to perfect harmony with God. The force of our Lord's words is found in the fact that they are mainly a quotation from the Jewish Law. – Deut. 6:4,5.
Matthew's account does not include all the words which our Lord spoke, as recorded by Mark, beginning, "Hear, O Israel! The Lord [Jehovah] our God is one Lord [Jehovah]." This declaration the Jews were in the habit of calling, "The Shama," because the first word in the sentence in Hebrew is Shama, translated in English, "Hear." This Shama declaration was considered a sacred one amongst the Jews and was enclosed in their phylacteries, repeated in their prayers, etc. The Scribe, therefore, could have not the slightest objection to our Lord's answer: it was conclusive, and, as recorded by Mark, he acknowledged the truth saying, "Well, Master, thou hast said the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the soul [being] and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." – Mark 12:32-34. See MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. V., Chap. 2. [R2757 : page 16]
No wonder, then, the inspired Apostle declares that "Love is the fulfilling of the Law!" We can readily see that only in proportion as love is in the heart can the divine law be fulfilled by any. This does not interfere with the Scriptural declaration that "the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit." The reason why the Jews could not keep the Law was that they did not have perfect love in their hearts, and the same difficulty would stand in the way of us who are of the New Covenant, were it not that our Covenant makes for us the favorable arrangement through the precious blood of Christ, that our intentions as new creatures are accepted of God as instead of our natural hearts. Those who have entered into covenant relationship with God through Christ, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, are walking "after the spirit," following after love, even tho they be not able to walk up to the spirit – up to the full standard of love in every thought and word. Their efforts in this direction are accepted as tho they were perfect, and day by day, week by week, and year by year, under the Lord's instruction and leading by his Word, and providence, they are making progress in this good way – learning more and more what love is, as they see it exhibited in the Lord's Word and plan and character, and seeking and attaining more and more to the likeness of God's dear Son, whose perfect love was a copy of the Father's.
As shown elsewhere, it is this "mark" of perfect Love, which must be attained in the heart, so that our wills will be fully in accord with it (however imperfect our expression of those wills in words and deeds, by reason of imperfections of the flesh). And to grow in this grace of love to God necessarily implies a growth also in love toward mankind; and especially toward those who are in sympathy and harmony with righteousness. (1 John 4:8,20,21; 5:1). Truly the divine Law is grandly beautiful to those who see it; and none can see it fully except as he has gradually come to appreciate its lengths and breadths and heights and depths. And each additional step of knowledge and appreciation must be accompanied by efforts toward obedience in the practice of love toward God and fellow-men, otherwise progress is impossible. Our Lord's declaration is that all of the teachings of the Law, as well as all the teachings of the prophets, are in harmony with, and made dependent upon this Law; – that God's promises are not intended for any others than those who are in heart-accord with his Law, and if in heart-accord they will desire and endeavor to be good and do good in every sense of the word, as far and as rapidly as possible.
Seeing the number of Pharisees in his audience, gathered by the question before mentioned, our Lord considered this a favorable opportunity to turn the tables, and to ask them a question – not that he was endeavoring to trap them as they had been endeavoring to do with him; but because there is no better method of presenting a truth strikingly to the attention of a person than through a wisely directed question. He saw that the difficulty of the Pharisees in respect to himself was, (1) that as a man he did not have the outward evidences of ability to establish himself as the King of Israel, the Messiah – he lacked wealth and soldiers and influence; and he lacked also that fierceness of disposition and haughty domineering manner recognized as the usual accompaniments of successful generals. (2) Their chief objection to him was, as they would put it, that he was bolstering up the weaknesses of his earthly conditions by claiming that he himself was of a heavenly origin, and that somehow or other the establishment of his Kingdom would be by spirit-power.
When our Lord asked the question, "What think ye of Messiah? Of what family should he be expected?" he well knew what the answer would be; – that they would acknowledge that they were expecting Messiah to be of the tribe and family of David: and no doubt the Pharisees, while answering this question, expected that the next question would be, Do you not acknowledge that I am of the tribe and family of David, etc.? But our Lord desired to bring out another point. His earthly genealogy they knew, or could easily prove: he wished to show that the Scriptures taught that Messiah must be something more than the son of David, that he must be both the Son of David and Lord of David. Hence, when they answered that Messiah would be the Son of David, he enquired, What then is David's meaning when he makes use of the expression, "The Lord [Jehovah] said unto my Lord [adon, master], Sit thou at my right hand [associated with me in the Kingdom, highest in my favor]"? (Psa. 110:1.) The Pharisees had not studied the Scriptures sufficiently, else they would have seen this feature before, that Messiah was to be not only the son, or offspring of David, but also greater than David, the Root of David. No wonder they were unable to answer; there was nothing for them to say; the matter thoroughly upheld our Lord's claim that Messiah must have a divine origin, divine authority, and be backed by divine power in whatever he would do.
It should be noticed in this connection that both this quotation from the Psalms and the previous quotation from Deuteronomy by our Lord, are against the Trinitarian view of several persons in divine power, "equal in power and glory." They are in full accord, however, with the Scriptural teachings of a heart-oneness between the Father and the Son, and the high origin as well as the high exaltation of the Son, – "that all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father;" yet nevertheless keep the two distinctly separate, as our Lord did in his teachings. See "The At-one-ment Between God and Man," Chaps. 2 and 6.
"From that time forth no man durst ask him any question." They were afraid to question him further in the sense of endeavoring to entrap him, having learned that he always got the advantage; the answers only resulted in greater honor to Jesus and the confusion of those who sought to entrap him. And so it is sometimes with the Lord's people today when armed with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; it is so sharp that their adversaries stand in fear of it. And yet this sword should be always used as our Master used it, not in bitterness nor in wrath, nor with sarcasm; but in meekness in gentleness and patience and love, "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil." – 2 Tim. 2:25.
|VOL. XXII.||JANUARY 15, 1901.||No. 2.|
|Which Is the True Gospel?||19|
|Various Theories Found Wanting||20|
|But One Stands the Tests of Scripture and Reason||22|
|What Say the Scriptures About Hell?||25|
|Erroneous Theories Exposed||26|
|Hell in English, Hebrew and Greek||26|
|The Rich Man and Lazarus||35|
|The Sheep and the Goats||37|
|The Lake of Fire and Brimstone||40|
|Parabolic and Symbolic Figures||42|
|Forgivable and Unpardonable Sins||46|
|Let Honesty and Truth Prevail||48|
"I will stand upon my watch, and set my foot upon the Tower, and will watch to see what He shall say unto me, and what answer I shall make to them that oppose me." Hab. 2:1
Upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity: the sea and the waves (the restless, discontented) roaring: men's hearts failing them for fear and for looking forward to the things coming upon the earth (society): for the powers of the heavens (ecclestiasticism) shall be shaken. . . .When ye see these things come to pass, then know that the Kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Look up, lift up your heads, rejoice, for your redemption draweth nigh. – Luke 21:25-28, 32.
It stands free from all parties, sects and creeds of men, while it seeks more and more to bring its every utterance into fullest subjection to the will of God in Christ, as expressed in the Holy Scriptures. It is thus free to declare boldly whatsoever the Lord hath spoken; – according to the divine wisdom granted unto us, to understand. Its attitude is not dogmatical, but confident; for we know whereof we affirm, treading with implicit faith upon the sure promises of God. It is held as a trust, to be used only in his service; hence our decisions relative to what may and what may not appear in its columns must be according to our judgment of his good pleasure, the teaching of his Word, for the upbuilding of his people in grace and knowledge. And we not only invite but urge our readers to prove all its utterances by the infallible Word to which reference is constantly made, to facilitate such testing.
Those of the interested who, by reason of old age, or other infirmity or adversity, are unable to pay for the TOWER will be supplied FREE, if they send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper. We are not only willing, but anxious, that all such be on our list continually.
The greatest minds, the noblest specimens of our race, have admitted our topic to be the one above all others in importance; and have weighed it carefully – whether as a result they accepted or rejected it. We are not now discussing the weight of mental acumen enlisted for and against the Gospel: we are merely noting the fact that all men of ability have recognized that the subject is worthy of their careful consideration, and as having claims upon their attention paramount to any and all others. Indeed, it may be set down as a fact that whoever has given the subject of religion no consideration is one of three things, – a novice in mental exercise, or a near relative to "the fool who hath said in his heart there is no God," or a coward, preyed upon by fears, instigated by Satan to hinder honest investigation of the divine message of love and mercy.
Even a hasty glance into the intelligent faces of this large audience assures me that you all have given some thought to our theme; – though experience assures me that comparatively few of you have ever reached conclusions on this subject fully satisfactory to yourselves. Hence your faith and love and zeal toward God and your zeal for the Gospel are less strong than you could desire. Let us hope that as we reason together on this great subject to-day, we may, by God's grace, see more clearly than ever before which is the true Gospel – the one of which the Apostle was not ashamed, and of which, therefore, none of us need feel ashamed, – the Gospel, therefore, which should more and more move and energize us, as the power of God unto salvation.
No one of intelligence will dispute the meaning of the word "Gospel;" it signifies "good tidings," good news, – a good message. Nevertheless, in some unaccountable manner, by common consent, "a real Gospel sermon" is almost universally understood to signify bad tidings – tidings of eternal misery to the great mass of our race – to all except the little flock of God's faithful people. As a consequence the preacher of a "Gospel sermon" is expected to figuratively shake the congregation over an abyss of everlasting torture, making as strong an effort as possible to intimidate them thereby to a thorough reformation of life, in hope of thus escaping an awful eternity.
True, this that we might term "the Gospel (?) of damnation" is not so generally preached as it once was, because more enlightened minds of cultured people repudiate it as a fetich of the past. Yet this perversion of the Gospel is still to be heard in country places, at camp meetings, occasionally in the city pulpit, [R2759 : page 20] and universally in Salvation Army meetings. Nothing is further from our intention than a criticism of the consciences and honesty of intention of those who thus preach. It is no part of our mission to criticise persons and motives, but "With malice toward none and with charity toward all" we consider it not only our privilege but our duty to criticise doctrines, that thereby the truth may be more firmly established, and error brought into disrepute.
Before we proceed to the consideration of the Gospel of which the Apostle was not ashamed – the Gospel set forth in the Scriptures – it will be expedient for us to take a glance at the different Gospels set forth by the various denominations of Christendom. It is not our thought that each denomination represents a different Gospel, for the differences in many instances are chiefly respecting ceremonies, forms, methods of government, name, etc., and not in respect to the message or Gospel held forth. Nevertheless, there are three distinct lines of faith, or doctrine – three distinct Gospels set forth in Christendom, all recognized as "orthodox," because they all contain as their fundamental the doctrine of the eternal torment of all mankind, except the comparatively few "saved." Each of these three Gospels have millions of supporters, divided into numerous denominations. These in point of numbers are
(3) The Arminian Gospel, held and chiefly represented by the Methodists of various names and connections, and by the Free-Will Baptists: however, many of other denominations at heart accept the Arminian Gospel, while their church connections identify them with the Calvinistic Gospel. Hence we may say, so far as Protestantism is concerned, that the Arminian and the Calvinist Gospels are about equally supported.
It may not be possible for us to handle our subject properly and thoroughly without offering some criticism of these three Gospels which for centuries have entrenched themselves in Christian minds, each fortified by the decisions of its own Councils, backed by voluminous opinions from their several theological seminaries, but we can and assuredly will strenuously avoid saying one solitary word in criticism of those who we believe conscientiously uphold these several conflicting Gospels. We call you to witness that we are all Scripturally enjoined to "Contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints" (the true Gospel), at the same time that we are enjoined by the same authority to "Speak evil of no man." We shall endeavor to keep strictly within these admittedly proper lines, and, additionally, as the Apostle admonishes, "Speak the truth in love."
The Gospel according to Roman Catholicism is that all men fell into sin and under sentence of eternal torment: that Christ accomplished a redemptive work which, supplemented by the sacrifice of the mass, and by prayers and penances, permits all believers (Roman Catholics) to escape that eternal torment, which will be the sure portion of all heretics, regardless of their good works or morals. As for its own people, it holds that even its highest officials, including Bishops and Popes, go to Purgatory for refinement, purification from sin and to be prepared for heaven. It claims that some will spend only a short time in Purgatory, assisted out of it by the merit of prayers, masses, etc., on their behalf by their friends after death. But their expectation is that ultimately Purgatory will be no more, its thousands of millions being prepared for a better and happier condition. But according to all the great theologians of Papacy, and according to all the Papal bulls, all Protestants, all rejecters of Papacy's teachings, will suffer endless torment. This is the Roman Catholic Gospel fairly presented, as we understand it. It does not seem to us to be very good news – not very good tidings, even to those who get the very best it has to offer, and it certainly would be very bad tidings to all out of harmony with Papacy.
Calvinism claims that faith in Christ is essential to salvation and it admits that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Calvinism requires more than a mere knowledge of Christ and belief in him as a good and exemplary man, who died a martyr to his too extreme convictions. It requires faith in Christ's death as a sacrifice for man's sin, and at least some manifestation towards righteousness of life before any could be recognized as being of the elect Church. Consequently, according to Calvinism, the elect Church could not include the heathen of the present time and all the way back through the past, who have never heard of the only name given under heaven or amongst men whereby we must be saved. Stretched to its very broadest, Calvinism could not include more than one in twenty of earth's fifty thousand millions that are estimated to have lived from Adam's day until the present time. In other words, according to the broadest possible estimate of this view, more than forty-seven thousand millions of humanity were, in the language of the Westminster Confession of Faith, "passed by" as non-elect in the divine plan.
And what does this mean – "passed by" or "non-elect?" It means, according to Calvinism, that God, who knew the end from the beginning, before creating this world and mankind upon it, determined that he would "pass by" and not elect those forty-seven thousand millions of his creatures to life and happiness, but would predestine them to an eternity of torture, and that carrying out this diabolical plan, he prepared a great place large enough to hold forty-seven thousand millions, and fuel sufficient to produce the necessary combustion there to all eternity – did all this with a full appreciation of all the awful facts and circumstances of the case. [R2759 : page 21]
Moreover, we remember the statement of Calvinism which many of us learned in our youth, to the effect that God's favor toward the elect is not because of any worthiness on their part, nor because of any works which they had done, but "of his own sovereign grace" he saves them from all the horrible conditions which he has predestined shall be upon the others. Now if the salvation of the elect is not because of their works or worthiness, but because of God's sovereign grace only, the simplest mind can see that God might without any violation of principle have extended that sovereign grace to others – to all, since it was not because of worthiness nor because of works, but merely of his own volition that any are saved, – according to Calvinism.
The celebrated Jonathan Edwards, when preaching upon this subject in New England years ago, after picturing the awful torment of the non-elect, was asked the question, Would not the thought of the anguish of the lost mar the bliss of God's people in glory? His answer in substance was, No; you will be so changed that such matters will not affect you; you will look over the battlements of heaven and see in torment your neighbors and friends, yea, your own parents and children, brothers and sisters, and turning round will praise God the louder because his justice is made manifest.
Now, my dear friends, I do not charge any who are here present with having so false a view of the divine character and plan as this. Indeed, I am glad to note that our Calvinistic friends in general are repudiating this doctrine, realizing that there is in it a serious lack, not only as respects divine love, but also as respects divine justice. I was glad some years ago to note that some of our Presbyterian friends were so moved by higher and nobler conceptions of the Almighty that they wished to rid themselves of any part in so blasphemous a statement respecting his character and his plan. I was sorry, however, that when the matter of "the revision of the Presbyterian standards" was taken up it was found that only a minority was in favor of revision, and I was still more sorry to note that that minority of intelligent, godly people was willing to continue to confess to such a horrible mis-statement of their true views – willing, shall I say, to continue to "blaspheme that holy name" because a majority of their brethren were unwilling that such blasphemous misrepresentations should be discontinued.
I am glad to believe that if this matter were brought to the intelligent attention of Presbyterians in general, a large majority would be found willing, nay, anxious, to undo the wrong and to make such reparation as would be within their power, by way of honoring the great Jehovah and attesting their appreciation of his love and his justice, as well as of his wisdom and of his power. This is just the point: Calvinism, in its anxiety to establish the wisdom and power of God, his foreknowledge and his ability to carry out his plan, has conceived of a plan which is far from the correct one, lacking both in justice and in love.
It may be argued that Love is a grace and that its exercise is not incumbent upon Jehovah; that all that could be asked or expected of him would be simple Justice, and some might be ready to claim that for God to eternally torment these forty-seven thousand millions "passed by" would be in strict accord with Justice. This we deny! We claim that having the power to create mankind would not justify their creation if the Creator saw that the result would be the everlasting torture of a single creature. Justice would say that power is not to be exercised to the injury of another, and that to exercise the creative power under such foreknown conditions would be injustice. And Wisdom attuned to Justice would say, Better a thousand times never to have created anybody than to have created one being to suffer unjustly eternally.
This statement, dear friends, is a fair, impartial statement of the Gospel according to our beloved brother, John Calvin, and those who subscribe to the Westminster Confession, and their allies. This surely is not the Gospel of which the Apostle Paul, in our text, declared, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ." Paul would assuredly have been ashamed of such a Gospel, and so are all true Christians, who have the true spirit of love and justice, – none more so, perhaps, than those who unfortunately, through circumstances of birth, etc., and hitherto without realizing what it meant, have been lending their name and influence to this great blasphemy against the divine character.
Let us now examine the Arminian view. This view is growing popular. Its message or Gospel is, God is love – he loves you; he loves everybody; he is doing all that he can to save everybody; if you are lost it will not be God's fault, but your own. On the surface, at least, this theory seems much more loving and much more just than the one already examined, but before we go far we will also find it very defective, very far from being either a reasonable or a Scriptural Gospel. We will find it inconsistent with its own statement – illogical.
For instance, while it sounds nice theoretically to say that God is doing all that he can do to save the whole world at the present time, everybody knows that this is not true; that on the contrary you or I or any other intelligent human being if possessed of the one-thousandth part of the divine power and wisdom could speedily accomplish the evangelization of the whole world. Nor will it do to say that God has committed himself to a certain mode of procedure through his Church, and that if the Church fails to contribute with sufficient liberality both money and evangelists the heathen will not hear of "the only name given under heaven or amongst men whereby we must be saved," but will go to eternal torment, etc. Neither will it do to say that God is doing all that he can do and is hampered by the lack of interest in the Church; because his wisdom and foreknowledge foresaw all these conditions as they are, and he could not justly be excused from the real responsibility of the matter, since he is the Creator, and in him is vested the all-power as well as the all-wisdom. Such a claim as this would be tantamount to saying that God has erred in wisdom when he thought to leave the conversion of the world to the Church, seeing that the Church has not accomplished this. Such a [R2759 : page 22] claim would be merely excusing God from doing all that he can do, instead of showing that he is doing all that he can do.
But let us look more critically into this matter. If this view we are criticising is correct, if God is doing all that he can to save the world, and if he has been doing this during all the past ages, then without question the world's conversion is a hopeless thing, and we can never expect to see better results than at present. This theory presupposes a race or battle between the Almighty and Satan, each seeking to capture the human family, and to the discredit of the theory it shows Satan the victor thus far. Starting out with one pair, both on the Lord's side, the first 1656 years ended with a flood in which the whole world of mankind was blotted out because of wickedness, and only eight persons reckoned sufficiently righteous to be preserved. Starting again with those eight persons counted sufficiently righteous for preservation, we find that there are in the world to-day sixteen hundred millions, and that out of that whole number there are about two hundred millions nominal Roman Catholics and one hundred millions nominal Protestants, and a very much smaller number of true "saints of God."
What would be the lesson from this if the Arminian theory be correct, that God is doing all that he can do to save the world? The lesson would be that with all his good intentions of love and mercy our God is thoroughly incapable of the work he undertook to do. And if these are the results in six thousand years, what could we hope for in the future? How many hundreds of millions of years would it be before the whole world would be converted? We answer that according to statistics it would never be, for statistics show that the natural increase of population throughout the world is far, far beyond the proportion of even nominal conversions from heathendom. Indeed, according to some good reckonings, the percentage of Christians every year is decreasing, the births of heathen lands so far outnumbering the births of Christian lands – even counting all the children born in Christendom as Christians.
Is any Christian, in view of these facts, prepared to claim that our God has been doing all that he could do for the conversion of the world? If so, that Christian may as well write upon his hopes at once the word "Ichabod." If we saw that the Calvinistic view magnifies the wisdom and power of God at the expense of his justice and love, we find on the other hand that the Arminian view magnifies the love of God at the expense of his wisdom and power. The true Gospel must show divine Wisdom and Power in full accord with divine Justice and Love: of any other we must needs be ashamed.
But, my dear friends, we may as well now as at any time concede that there is comparatively little difference in the outcome of these two popular Protestant Gospels – the difference is merely a theoretical one respecting how the results are to be reached. The results themselves are the same in both cases – the eternal doom and torment of over forty-seven thousand millions of human creatures. For our Arminian friends no less than Calvinists agree that there is no salvation aside from faith in Christ, the only name given; and they admit also that of those who believe in Christ only the sanctified are of the real Church; and their Gospel is also that only the real Church is to be saved and that all others are to be eternally and most horribly tormented; – some claim in literal flames, others say by the torments and gnawings of conscience and remorse, which they proceed to say will be worse than the literal flames, – and we respond, if worse, so much worse for the argument.
All will surely agree as respects these two theories or Gospels held out to the world by Protestant Christendom that it would make no difference to the forty-seven thousand millions, whether they got into that awful state of hopeless woe by divine predestination and lack of love and justice, or by divine incapacity and lack of foreknowledge and proper arrangements. We believe that no true Christian will be ready after examining the subject thus far to say that he fully approves either of these theories, and that he is not ashamed of both of them.
The word "gospel" itself should be the clue – should save the intelligent Christian from being misled by the various theories of bad tidings of great misery for nearly all people, miscalled "gospel." He who thinks it good news that one out of a thousand of the human family is to be saved and the remaining 999 to be eternally tormented, is either not a Christian at all, or he is decidedly undeveloped in Christian character, in mercy, in love, in justice. In our opinion he is at most only a "babe in Christ" who has need first of the milk of the Word and subsequently of the "strong meat" thereof, that he may grow up into Christ in all things, and be able to comprehend with all saints the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the love of God which passeth all understanding. – Eph. 3:18,19.
When occasionally we come across some one who gives evidence of being a Christian, and who still entertains such horribly blasphemous views respecting the Heavenly Father's character, we feel like quoting to him the Lord's words through the Prophet, "My ways are not as your ways, nor my thoughts as your thoughts, for as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my plans higher than your plans." (Isa. 55:8,9.) And part of our object in this discourse, dear friends, is to have those, whose eyes are anointed of the Lord, that they may see spiritual things, discern some of the Lord's higher ways and higher plans which he presents to us in his Word under the name "gospel" – good tidings.
The Apostle tells us that God preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham, "beforehand" signifying [R2759 : page 23] before it was due to begin; for the Gospel did not begin with Abraham, but with our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Apostle again declares, this salvation "began to be declared by our Lord and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him." (Heb. 2:3.) All that ever went before our Lord's preaching was not the Gospel, but merely types and promises which foreshadowed it. Let us notice next what, according to the Apostle, constituted this forestatement of the Gospel to Abraham: he says that it was couched in the words, "In thee and in thy seed shall all nations be blessed." (Gal. 3:16,29.) Note this carefully: it does not say, In thy seed shall one out of a thousand out of the families of the earth be blessed, and the remainder be doomed to an indescribably horrible eternity, but that the whole Gospel is a Gospel of blessing, applicable to all the families of the earth – through Christ, the true seed of Abraham.
When our Lord Jesus was born into the world, the Heavenly Father sent a message respecting him, and the angels who bore that message declared that it was a Gospel message. Let us hearken to what the angels said about the eternal torment of the vast majority of our race. They said to the shepherds, "Behold we bring you good tidings [gospel] of great joy, which shall be unto all people." (Luke 2:10.) Let it be distinctly noted that the Gospel of the angels, like the Gospel communicated to Abraham, contains no reference to the damnation and eternal misery of any of the Lord's creatures, and that consequently our friends of the Salvation Army and others, who in ignorance preach damnation and call it the Gospel, are doing so in utter violation of the meaning of the word and of all the uses of that word throughout the Scriptures. However well they may mean, they are in this certainly committing a wrong, a grievous wrong, and we long to see the light of the knowledge of the goodness of God shine into their hearts and relieve them of this blindness which comes not from God nor from his Word, but from the prince of darkness. – 2 Cor. 4:4.
It will require all the Millennial age (which is to follow this Gospel age in which we live) to bless all the families of the earth with the joyful knowledge of divine grace in Christ. Just so surely as the forty-seven thousand millions went down into death without hearing of the Saviour, without coming to a clear knowledge of the truth, without the good tidings of great joy reaching their ears, – just so surely must they all come forth from the grave that this very Gospel message of "good tidings" may be declared to them, and that they may be tested thereby and either be accepted to eternal life or destroyed, as unworthy of life, in the Second Death. We say just so surely, for three reasons:
(1) The announcement of the Gospel to Abraham says, "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed," and all of these forty-seven thousand millions belong to this very class specified, the families of the earth – and they have not yet been blessed with this knowledge of the only name wherein is the blessing.
(3) We are sure that this testimony must be given to them in the future because the Scriptural declaration is that "Christ died for the ungodly;" "he tasted death for every man," and as a consequence every man must have an opportunity granted him for benefitting by that death, and of availing himself of the privilege of eternal life which was secured by our Lord's ransom sacrifice.
But some one would perhaps say, Christ died only for the sins of the Church and not for the sins of the world, and consequently the sins of the world cannot be forgiven them. We answer, No; the Scriptural declaration most positively is that "Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man," "to be testified in due time." And, additionally, the Apostle says, "He is a propitiation [satisfaction] for our [the Church's] sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." – 1 John 2:2.
What could be plainer than this? If the price for the sins of the whole world has been paid to Justice, we may rest well assured that Justice will furnish opportunity through the Redeemer whereby all these whose sins were atoned for may come to a knowledge of Christ, and to an opportunity of accepting divine grace through him.
But some one will say, Why should God adopt a plan which would necessitate a resurrection of the dead, and a post-resurrection trial for eternal life except for all the elect Church of this Gospel age?
We answer, – (1) It is not for us to inquire why the Lord adopts certain plans which differ from those which our poor finite minds might arrange for him: rather it is for us to acknowledge that our wisdom is insufficient on such a subject and that we should come humbly to the Lord to hear from his Word whatever he may be pleased to inform us respecting his purposes. (2) As a matter of fact only those who approach the question from this standpoint need expect to see the truth or to "comprehend with all saints the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the love of God." – Eph. 3:18; 1 Cor. 2:12.
God has been pleased, however, to reveal to us some of his reasons for arranging his plan as we see it. He assures us of his full wisdom and power to manage every feature of his own work according to his own good pleasure, assuring us that he knows the end from the beginning, and that the end will fully justify every step that he has taken. His Word, no less than observation, shows us that during all these six thousand years the world has been getting a lesson respecting the exceeding sinfulness of sin and its wages of sorrow and death. His Word assures us also that during the next age, the Millennium, the whole world will be brought to a knowledge of the way of righteousness and love and peace, and will see the divine law in practical operation, and witness its beneficent results in all those who will come into harmony with the great Mediator.
Thus mankind learns the lesson of evil and its consequences first in the present life, and the lesson of righteousness and its blessed results under divine [R2759 : page 24] providence, in the Millennium; and when thus fully equipped with knowledge on both sides of the question and instructed by the Royal Priesthood, (the completed and glorified elect Gospel Church), mankind will be ready for the tests, that will be applied by the Lord Jesus, under which the obedient and faithful will be granted full perfection and eternal life, and the disobedient and incorrigible will "be destroyed from amongst the people." – Acts 3:22,23.
Another matter, really the key to the whole question which we are discussing, is revealed in God's Word, viz., that in the divine purpose the promised "Seed of Abraham" that should perform the great work of blessing all the families of the earth, is to be one, in the sense of one kind, but not in the sense of one person – that is to say, that the seed of Abraham consists of Jesus Christ the Head, and of the Church which is the body. Not the nominal or professing church, but the true Church, "whose names are written in heaven," and who walk in the footsteps of their Lord, and are found faithful unto death, and shall be granted with their Lord the crown of life.
This Gospel age intervening between the time of the great sin offering and the time when the blessing of earth's billions will commence, God has set apart for the work of selecting or electing the body of Christ, the Church, the Bride, the "little flock," the "royal priesthood," the joint heirs with Christ in his kingdom. These, like their Head, are called with a "high calling," a "heavenly calling," and the salvation provided for them is higher than that which God purposes for the world in general. He is selecting this "little flock" and trying them and proving them, fitting them and polishing them for the heavenly Kingdom, and it is to these, as the Apostle Peter declares, God has given "exceeding great and precious promises [far beyond any promises given to any other of his creatures] that by these [promises] we might become partakers of the divine nature," and joint-heirs with his Son. This is denominated a "heavenly calling" in contrast with the earthly salvation intended for whosoever will "in due time."
This true view of the calling and election of the Church is another feature of the Gospel. If it is splendid, good news to know that ultimately all families of the earth are to be blessed with opportunities for salvation through the Christ, it is still an additional feature to the good news to know that God has invited us to become members of the Christ company, "members in particular of the body of Christ." No wonder the Apostle calls this our "high calling," our "heavenly calling": it is to the attainment of this great prize that the Apostle exhorts all the faithful to lay aside every weight and every besetment and to run with patience the race set before us in the Gospel, looking unto Jesus, the author, until he shall have become the finisher of our faith.
This is the true Gospel, dear friends, the one we find set forth in the Scriptures, set forth by Paul himself, and of which he was not ashamed. This Gospel shows the character of our Creator in a most wonderful light, – his Wisdom, able to discern the end from the beginning; his Power, able to accomplish that which he pleases; his Justice, squaring every feature of the plan from first to last, according to the most absolute features of righteousness; his Love, whose lengths and breadths and heights and depths we have not yet been able to explore; a love which sympathizes with his creatures in their fallen estate; a love which provided a Saviour, and a great one; a love which prompted that Saviour to give his life as our ransom price; a love which met all the requirements of divine justice for us; a love which still pursues mankind, and in this Gospel age calls us to joint heirship with his Son in a nature and kingdom far above angels, principalities and powers, of which the Apostle says:
"Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God." This divine love, still pursuing its original plan for man's salvation, will use the "elect" glorified house of sons, of which Christ Jesus is the Head (Eph. 1:22), in blessing all families of the earth with full opportunity of knowledge and full assistance up the highway of holiness (Isa. 35:8) that so many as will may attain to restitution to all that was lost in Adam by coming back into harmony with God through the great Mediator. – Acts 3:19-23.
Verily, dear friends, of this Gospel we are not ashamed, "for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth." It has in our hearts a transforming and renewing power, a sanctifying power which no error could possibly have, and which all the theories of eternal torment have never equaled and never will. Let us more and more "show forth the praises of our God, who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light," by renouncing all God-dishonoring creeds and theories, and instead hold forth the Word of life, and witness the good confession – the "good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people."
All who will declare the true Gospel will need to be well shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (gentleness, patience, meekness) for, strange to say, they will find bitter opposition from professed servants of the Lord who have been blinded and prejudiced by Satan's misrepresentations of the Gospel, – by which he seeks to drive from the Lord all who have a remnant of reason in their religious thinking. All who have ears to hear, and who do hear the true Gospel, will quickly distinguish it from the miserable counterfeits which for so long have passed current among God's people. Let all such remember that ability to hear is an evidence of divine favor, and let them not be ashamed, but glorify God on this behalf. Let such remember, also, that their acceptance of truth as due, in the face of unpopularity, is a part of their testing. The Lord puts his plan, his Word, as his representative, saying – He that is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with his holy angels. – Mark 8:38.
As knowledge increases and superstitions fade, this monstrous view of the divine arrangement and character is losing its force; and thinking people cannot but disbelieve the legend, which used to be illustrated on the church walls in the highest degree of art and realism, samples of which are still to be seen in Europe. Some now claim that the place is literal, but the fire symbolic, etc., etc., while others repudiate the doctrine of "hell" in every sense and degree. While glad to see superstitions fall, and truer ideas of the great, and wise, and just, and loving Creator prevail, we are alarmed to notice that the tendency with all who abandon this long revered doctrine is toward doubt, skepticism, infidelity.
Why should this be the case, when the mind is merely being delivered from an error, – do you ask? Because Christian people have so long been taught that the foundation for this awful blasphemy against God's character and government is deep-laid, and firmly fixed, in the Word of God – the Bible – and, consequently, to whatever degree that belief in "hell" is shaken, to that extent their faith in the Bible, as the revelation of the true God, is shaken also; – so that those who have dropped their belief in a "hell," of some kind of endless torment, are often open infidels, and scoffers at God's Word.
Guided by the Lord's providence to a realization that the Bible has been slandered, as well as its divine Author, and that, rightly understood, it teaches nothing on this subject derogatory to God's character nor to an intelligent reason, we will attempt to lay bare the Scripture teaching on this subject, that thereby faith in God and his Word may be re-established, in the hearts of his people, on a better, a reasonable foundation. Indeed, it is our opinion that whoever shall hereby find that his false view rested upon human misconceptions and misinterpretations, will, at the same time, learn to trust hereafter less to his own and other men's imaginings, and, by faith, to grasp more firmly the Word of God, which is able to make wise unto salvation.
That the advocates of the doctrine of eternal torment have little or no faith in it is very manifest from the fact that it has no power over their course of action. While all the denominations of Christendom sustain the doctrine that eternal torment and endless, hopeless despair will constitute the punishment of the wicked, they are mostly quite at ease in allowing the wicked to take their course, while they pursue the even tenor of their way. Chiming bells and pealing organs, artistic choirs, and costly edifices, and upholstered pews, and polished oratory which more and more avoids any reference to this alarming theme, afford rest and entertainment to fashionable congregations that gather on the Lord's day and are known to the world as churches of Christ and representatives of his doctrines. But they seem little concerned about the eternal welfare of the multitudes, or even of themselves and their own families, though one would naturally presume that with such awful possibilities in view they would be almost frantic in their efforts to rescue the perishing.
The plain inference is that they do not believe it. The only class of people that to any degree show their faith in it by their works is the Salvation Army; and these are the subjects of ridicule from almost all other Christians, because they are somewhat consistent with their belief. Yet their peculiar, and often absurd, methods, so strikingly in contrast with those of the Lord of whom it was written, "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street" (Isa. 42:2), are very mild compared with what might be expected if they were fully convinced of the doctrine. We cannot imagine how sincere believers of this terrible doctrine go from day to day about the ordinary affairs of life, or meet quietly in elegance every Sunday to hear an essay from the pulpit on the peculiar subjects often advertised. Could they do so while really believing all the time that fellow mortals are dying at the rate of one hundred a minute, and entering
If they really believed this few saints could complacently sit there and think of those hurrying every moment into that awful state described by that good, well-meaning, but greatly deluded man, Isaac Watts (whose own heart was immeasurably warmer and larger than that he ascribed to the great Jehovah), when he wrote the hymn –
People often become frantic with grief when friends have been caught in some terrible catastrophe, as a fire, or a wreck, though they know they will soon be relieved by death; yet they pretend to believe that God is less loving than themselves, and that he can look with indifference, if not with delight, at billions of his creatures enduring an eternity of torture far more terrible, which he prepares for them and prevents any escape from forever. Not only so, but they expect that they will get literally into Abraham's bosom, and will then look across the gulf and see and hear the agonies of the multitudes (some of whom they now love and weep over); and they imagine that they will be so changed, and become so like their present idea of God, so hardened against 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 men and women, who love their fellows, and who establish hospitals, orphanages, asylums, and societies for the prevention of cruelty even to the brute creation, are so unbalanced mentally that they can believe and subscribe [R2759 : page 26] to such a doctrine, and yet be so indifferent about investigating its authority!
Only one exception can we think of – those who hold the ultra-Calvinistic doctrine; who believe that God has decreed it thus, that all the efforts they could put forth could not alter the result with a single person; and that all the prayers they could offer would not change one iota of the awful plan they believe God has marked out for his and their eternal pleasure. These indeed could sit still, so far as effort for their fellows is concerned: but why sing the praises of such a scheme for the damnation of their neighbors whom God has told them to love as themselves?
Why not rather begin to doubt this "doctrine of devils," this blasphemy against the great God, hatched in the "dark ages," when a crafty priesthood taught that it is right to do evil that good may result?
The doctrine of eternal torment was undoubtedly introduced by Papacy to induce pagans to join her and support her system. It flourished at the same time that "bull fights" and gladiatorial contests were the public amusements most enjoyed; when the Crusades were called "holy wars," and when men and women were called "heretics" and were often slaughtered for thinking or speaking contrary to the teachings of the Papacy; at a time when the sun of gospel truth was obscure; when the Word of God had fallen into disuse and was prohibited to be read by any but the clergy, whose love of their neighbors was often shown in torturing "heretics" to induce them to recant and deny their faith and their Bibles – to save them, if possible, they explained, from the more awful future of "heretics," – eternal torture. They did not borrow this doctrine from the heathen, for no heathen people in the world have a doctrine so cruel, so fiendish and so unjust. Find it, whoever can, and show it up in all its blackness, that, if possible, it may be shown that the essence of barbarism, malice, hate and ungodliness has not been exclusively appropriated by those whom God has most highly favored with light from every quarter, and to whom he has committed the only oracle – his Word. Oh! the shame and confusion that will cover the faces of many, even good men, who verily thought that they did God service while propagating this blasphemous doctrine, when they awake in the resurrection, to learn of the love and justice of God, and when they come to know that the Bible does not teach this God-dishonoring, love-extinguishing, truth-beclouding, saint-hindering, sinner-hardening, "damnable heresy" of eternal torment. – 2 Pet. 2:1.
But we repeat that, in the light and moral development of this day, sensible people do not believe this doctrine. However, since they think that the Bible teaches it, every step they progress in real intelligence and brotherly kindness, which hinders belief in eternal torment, is in most cases a step away from God's word, which is falsely accused of being the authority for this teaching. Hence the second crop of evil fruit, which the devil's engraftment of this error is producing, is skepticism. The intelligent, honest thinkers are thus driven from the Bible into vain philosophies and sciences, falsely so-called, and into infidelity. Nor do the "worldly" really believe this doctrine, nor is it a restraint to crime, for convicts and the lower classes are the firmest believers in it.
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 what little truth was held before, and mingled it with their unholy sentiments and errors so that, to meet the changed condition of things, the "clergy" found it needful to add error to error, and resorted to methods, forms, etc., not taught in the Scriptures and useless to the truly converted whom the truth controls. Among these were pictures, images, beads, vestments, candles, grand cathedrals, altars, etc., to help the unconverted heathen to a form of godliness more nearly corresponding to their former heathen worship, but lacking all the power of vital godliness.
The heathen were not benefited, for they were still heathen in God's sight, but deluded into aping what they did not understand or do from the heart. They were added "tares" to choke the "wheat," without being profited themselves. The Lord tells who sowed the seed of this enormous crop. (Matt. 13:39). The same is true of those who assume the name "Christian" 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 except in the sense that God is able to make even the wrath of man to praise him. So also he will overrule this evil thing eventually to serve his purposes. When by and by all men (during the Millennium) shall come to see through this great deception by which Satan has blinded the world to God's true character, it will perhaps awaken in them a warmer, stronger love for God.
In the first place bear in mind that the Old Testament Scriptures were written in the Hebrew language, and the New Testament in the Greek. The word "hell" is an English word sometimes selected by the translators of the English Bible to express the sense of the Hebrew word sheol and the Greek words hades, tartaroo and gehenna, – sometimes rendered "grave" and "pit."
The word "hell" in old English usage, before Papal theologians picked it up and gave it a new and special significance to suit their own purposes, simply meant to conceal, to hide, to cover; hence the concealed, [R2759 : page 27] hidden or covered place. In old English literature records may be found of the helling of potatoes – putting potatoes into pits; and of the helling of a house – covering or thatching it. The word hell was therefore properly used synonymously with the words "grave" and "pit," to translate the words sheol and hades as signifying the secret or hidden condition of death. However, the same spirit which was willing to twist the word to terrorize the ignorant is willing still to perpetuate the error; – presumably saying – "Let us do evil that good may follow."
If the translators of the Revised Version Bible had been thoroughly disentangled from the Papal error, and thoroughly honest, they would have done more to help the English student than merely to substitute the Hebrew word sheol and the Greek word hades as they have done. They should have translated the words. But they were evidently afraid to tell the truth, and ashamed to tell the lie; and so gave us sheol and hades untranslated, and permitted the inference that these words mean the same as the word "hell" has become perverted to mean. Their course, while it for a time shields themselves, dishonors God and the Bible, which the common people still suppose teaches a "hell" of torment in the words sheol and hades. Yet anyone can see that if it was proper to translate the word sheol thirty-one times "grave" and three times "pit," it could not have been improper to have so translated it in every other instance.
A peculiarity to be observed in comparing these cases, as we will do shortly, is that in those texts where the torment idea would be an absurdity the translators of the King James version have used the words "grave" or "pit"; while in all other cases they have used the word "hell;" and the reader, long schooled in the Papal idea of torment, reads the word "hell" and thinks of it as signifying a place of torment, instead of the grave, the hidden or covered place or condition. For example, compare Job 14:13 with Psa. 86:13. The former reads, – "Oh, that thou wouldst hide me in the grave [sheol] etc.," while the latter reads, – "Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell [sheol]." The Hebrew word being the same in both cases, there is no reason why the same word "grave" should not be used in both. But how absurd it would have been for Job to have prayed to God to hide him in a hell of eternal torture! The English reader would have asked questions and the secret would have gotten out speedily.
While the translators of the Reformation times are somewhat excusable for their mental bias in this matter, as they were just breaking away from the old Papal system, our modern translators, specially those of the recent Revised Version, are not entitled to any such consideration. Theological professors and pastors of congregations consider that they are justified in following the course of the revisers in not explaining the meaning of either the Hebrew or Greek words sheol or hades and by their use of the words they also give their confiding flocks to understand that a place of torture, a lake of fire, is meant. While attributing to the ignorant only the best of motives, it is manifestly only duplicity and cowardice which induces educated men, who know the truth on this subject, to prefer to continue to teach the error inferentially.
But not all ministers know of the errors of the translators, and deliberately cover and hide those errors from the people. Many, indeed, do not know of them, having merely accepted, without investigation, the theories of their seminary professors. It is the professors and learned ones who are most blameworthy. These have kept back the truth about "hell" for several reasons. First, there is evidently a sort of understanding or etiquette among them, that if they wish to maintain their standing in the "profession" they "must not tell tales out of school;" i.e., they must not divulge professional secrets to the "common people," the "laity." Second, they all fear that to let it be known that they have been teaching an unscriptural doctrine for years would break down the popular respect and reverence for the "clergy," the denominations and the theological schools, and unsettle confidence in their wisdom. And, oh, how much depends upon confidence and reverence for men, when God's Word is so generally ignored! Third, they know that many of the members of their sects are not constrained by "the love of Christ" (2 Cor. 5:14), but merely by the fear of hell, and they see clearly, therefore, that to let the truth be known now would soon cut loose the names and the dollars of many in their flocks; and this, to those who "desire to make a fair show in the flesh" (Gal. 6:12) would seem to be a great calamity.
But what will be the judgment of God, whose character and plan are traduced by the blasphemous doctrine which these untranslated words help to support? Will he commend these unfaithful servants? Will he justify their course? Will the Chief Shepherd call these his beloved friends, and make known to them his further plans (John 15:15) that they may misrepresent them also to preserve their own dignity and reverence? Will he continue to send forth "things new and old," "meat in due season," to the household of faith, by the hand of the unfaithful servants? No, such shall not continue to be his mouthpieces or to shepherd his flock. (Ezek. 34:9,10.) He will choose instead, as at the first advent, from among the laity – "the common people" – mouthpieces, and will give them words which none of the chief priests shall be able to gainsay or resist. (Luke 21:15.) And, as foretold, "the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid." – Isa. 29:9-19.
The word "hell" occurs thirty-one times in the Old Testament, and in every instance it is sheol in the Hebrew. It does not mean a lake of fire and brimstone, nor anything at all resembling that thought: not in the slightest degree! Quite the reverse: instead of a place of blazing fire it is described in the context as a state of "darkness" (Job 10:21); instead of a place where shrieks and groans are heard, it is described in the context as a place of "silence" (Psa. 115:17); instead of representing in any sense pain and suffering, or remorse, the context describes it as a place or condition of forgetfulness. (Psa. 88:11,12.) "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, [R2759 : page 28] by proper and close association, the word was often used in the sense of grave – the tomb, the hidden place, or place beyond which only those who have the enlightened eye of the understanding can see resurrection, restitution of being. And be it particularly noted that this identical word sheol is translated "grave" thirty-one times and "pit" three times in our common version by the same translators – more times than it is translated "hell"; and twice, where it is translated "hell," it seemed so absurd, according to the present accepted meaning of the English word "hell," that scholars have felt it necessary to explain in the margin of modern Bibles, that it means grave. (Isa. 14:9 and Jonah 2:2.) In the latter case, the hidden state, or grave, was the belly of the fish in which Jonah was buried alive, and from which he cried to God.
(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.]
(5) Psa. 55:15. – "Let them go down quick into hell" – margin, "the grave."
(6) Psa. 9:17. – "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." This text will be treated later, under a separate heading.
(7) Psa. 86:13. – "Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell" – margin, "the grave."
(8) 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.]
(9) Psa. 139:8. – "If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there." [God's power is unlimited: even over those in the tomb he can and will exert it and bring forth all that are in the graves. – John 5:28.]
(10) Deut. 32:22. – "For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn into the lowest hell." [A figurative representation of the destruction, the utter ruin, of Israel as a nation – "wrath to the uttermost," as the Apostle called it, God's anger burning that nation to the "lowest deep," as Leeser here translates the word sheol. – 1 Thes. 2:16.]
(11) Job 11:8. – "It [God's wisdom] is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell [than any pit]; what canst thou know?"
(12) Job 26:6. – "Hell [the tomb] is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering."
(13) Prov. 5:5. – "Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell [i.e., lead to the grave]."
(14) Prov. 7:27. – "Her house is the way to hell [the grave], going down to the chambers of death."
(15) 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, and many of the victims of sensuality in premature graves from diseases which also hurry off their posterity to the tomb.]
(16) Prov. 15:11. – "Hell and destruction are before the Lord." [Here the grave is associated with destruction and not with a life of torment.]
(17) Prov. 15:24. – "The path of life (leadeth) upward for the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath." [This illustrates the hope of resurrection from the tomb.]
(18) Prov. 23:14. – "Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell" [i.e., wise correction will save a child from vicious ways which lead to premature death, and may also possibly prepare him to escape the "Second Death"].
(19) Prov. 27:20. – "Hell [the grave] and destruction are never full: so the eyes of man are never satisfied."
(20) Isa. 5:14. – "Therefore hell hath enlarged herself and opened her mouth without measure." [Here the grave is a symbol of destruction.]
(23) Isa. 57:9. – "And didst debase thyself even unto hell." [Here figurative of deep degradation.]
(24,25) 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.]
(26) 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 – buried.]
(27) 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.]
(28) Hab. 2:5. – "Who enlargeth his desire as hell [the grave] and as death, and cannot be satisfied."
(29) Jonah 2:1,2. – "Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God, out of the fish's belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice." [The belly of the fish was for a time his grave – see margin.]
(30,31) 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 [the grave] shall not stand." [God thus declares that the present prevalent [R2759 : page 29] 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, now and that it 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."
Gen. 42:38. – "Then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave." [See also the same expression in 44:29,31. The translators did not like to send God's servant, Jacob, to hell simply because his sons were evil.]
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 with peace....His hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood."
Job 7:9. – "He that goeth down to the grave."
Job 14:13. – "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 17:16. – "They shall go down to the bars of the pit [grave], when our rest together is in the dust."
Job 21:13. – "They spend their days in mirth, and in a moment go down to the grave."
Job 24:19,20. – "Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so doth the grave those which have sinned." [All have sinned, hence "Death passed upon all men," and all go down to the grave. But all have been redeemed by "the precious blood of Christ"; hence all shall be awakened and come forth again in God's due time – "in the morning," Rom. 5:12,18,19.]
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." [This passage expresses gratitude for 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."
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. 16:30-33. – "If...they go down quick into the pit, then shall ye understand....The ground clave asunder that was under them, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They and all that appertained to them went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the 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.]
The above list includes every instance of the use of the English word "hell" and the Hebrew word sheol in the Old Testament. From this examination it must be evident to all readers that God's revelations for four thousand years contain not a single hint of a "hell," such as the word is now understood to signify.
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 in 1 Cor. 15:54,55, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave [hades], where is thy victory?" is an allusion to 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: "Shall be thrust down to hell." [In privileges of knowledge and opportunity the city was highly favored, or, figuratively, "exalted unto heaven;" but because of misuse of God's favors, it would be debased, or, figuratively, cast down to hades, overthrown, destroyed. It is now so thoroughly buried in oblivion, that even the site where [R2759 : page 30] 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 explained further along, under a separate heading.]
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." [Although bitter and relentless persecution, even unto death, should afflict the Church during the Gospel age, it should never prevail to her utter extermination; and eventually, by her resurrection, accomplished by her Lord, the Church will prevail over hades – the tomb.]
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, ...Peter...lifted up his voice and said,...Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you,...being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God ['He was delivered for our offenses'], ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains [or bands] of death, because it was not possible that he should be holden of it [for the Word of Jehovah had previously declared his resurrection]; for David speaketh concerning him [personating or speaking for him], 'I [Christ] foresaw the Lord [Jehovah] always before my face; for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved. Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope, because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [hades, the tomb, the state of death], neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou [Jehovah] hast made known to me [Christ] the ways of life.'" Here our Lord, as personified by the prophet David, expresses his faith in Jehovah's promise of a resurrection and in the full and glorious accomplishment of Jehovah's plan through him, and rejoices in the prospect.
Peter then proceeds, saying – "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day [so that this prophecy could not have referred to himself personally; for David's soul was left in "hell" – [hades, the tomb, the state of death – and his flesh did see corruption]: Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he, seeing this before [prophetically], spake of the resurrection of Christ [out of "hell" – hades, the tomb – to which he must go for our offenses], that his soul was not left in hell [hades – the death state], neither his flesh did see corruption." Thus Peter presents a strong, logical argument, based on the words of the prophet David – showing first, that Christ, who was delivered by God for our offenses, went to "hell," the grave, the condition of death, destruction (Psa. 16:10;) and, second, that according to promise he had been delivered from hell, the grave, death, destruction, by a resurrection – a raising up to life; being created again, the same identical being, yet more glorious, and exalted even to "the express image of 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 the tomb and of death and in due time will release all the prisoners who are, therefore, called the "prisoners of hope." (Zech. 9:12; Luke 4:18.) No craft or cunning can by any possible device wrest these Scriptures entire and pervert them to the support of that monstrous and blasphemous Papal tradition of eternal torment. Had that been our penalty, Christ, to be our vicarious sacrifice, must still, and to all eternity, endure such torment, which no one will claim. But death was our penalty, and "Christ died for our sins," and "also for the sins of the whole world." – 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 John 2:2.
Rev. 20:13,14. – "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [the grave] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged, every man, according to their works. And death and hell [the grave] were cast into the lake of fire: this is the Second Death." [The lake of fire is the symbol of final and everlasting destruction. Death and hell [the grave] both go into it. There shall be no more death; "the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." – 1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 21:4.]
Having examined the word sheol, the only word in the Old Testament rendered "hell," and the word hades, most frequently in the New Testament rendered "hell" we now notice every remaining instance in Scripture of the English word "hell." In the New Testament two other words are rendered "hell;" namely, gehenna and tartaroo, which we will consider in the order named.
This word occurs in the following passages – in all twelve times: – Matt. 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43-47; Luke 12:5; Jas. 3:6. It is the Grecian mode of spelling the Hebrew words which are translated "Valley of Hinnom." This valley lay just outside the city of Jerusalem, and served the purpose of sewer and garbage burner to that city. The offal, garbage, etc., were emptied there, and fires were kept continually burning to consume utterly all things deposited therein, brimstone being added to assist combustion and insure complete destruction. But no living thing was ever permitted to be cast into Gehenna. The Jews were not allowed to torture any creature.
When we consider that in the people of Israel God was giving us object lessons illustrating his dealings and plans, present and future, we should expect [R2759 : page 31] that this Valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna, would also play its part in illustrating things future. We know that Israel's priesthood and temple illustrated the Royal Priesthood, the Christian Church as it will be, the true temple of God; and we know that their chief city was a figure of the New Jerusalem, the seat of kingdom power and center of authority – the city (government) of the Great King, Immanuel. We remember, too, that Christ's government is represented in the book of Revelation (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 maketh a lie; but only such as the Lamb shall write as worthy of life. This city, which thus will represent the entire saved world in the end of the Millennium, was typified in the earthly city, Jerusalem; and the defiling, the abominable, etc., the class unworthy of life everlasting, who do not enter in, were represented by the refuse and the filthy, lifeless carcasses cast into Gehenna outside the city, – whose utter destruction was thus symbolized – the Second Death. Accordingly, we find it stated that those not found worthy of life are to be cast into the "lake of fire" (Rev. 20:15) – fire here, as everywhere, being used as a symbol of destruction, and the symbol, lake of fire, being drawn from this same Gehenna, or Valley of Hinnom.
Therefore, while Gehenna served a useful purpose to the city of Jerusalem as a place for garbage burning, it, like the city itself, was typical, and illustrated the future dealings of God in refusing and committing to destruction all the impure elements, thus preventing them from defiling the holy city, the New Jerusalem, after the trial of the Millennial age of judgment shall have fully proved them and separated with unerring accuracy the "sheep" from the "goats."
So, then, Gehenna was a type or illustration of the Second Death – final and complete destruction, from which there can be no recovery; for after that, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins," but only "fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries." – Heb. 10:26.
Let us remember that Israel, for the purpose of being used as types of God's future dealing with the race, was typically treated as though the ransom had been given before they left Egypt, though only a typical lamb had been slain. When Jerusalem was built, and the Temple – representative of the true temple, the Church, and the true kingdom as it will be established by Christ in the Millennium – that people typified the world in the Millennial age. Their priests represented the glorified Royal Priesthood, and their Law and its demands of perfect obedience represented the law and 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 heartily submit to the righteous ruling and laws of the Great King.
Seeing then, that Israel's polity, condition, etc., prefigured those of the world in the coming age, how appropriate that we should find the valley or abyss, Gehenna, a figure of the Second Death, the utter destruction in the coming age of all that is unworthy of preservation; and how aptly, too, is the symbol, "lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Rev. 19:20), drawn from this same Gehenna, or Valley of Hinnom, burning continually with brimstone. The expression, "burning with brimstone," adds force to the symbol, "fire," to express the utter and irrevocable destructiveness of the Second Death; for burning brimstone is the most deadly agent known. How reasonable, too, to expect that Israel would have courts and judges resembling or prefiguring the judgments of the next age; and that the sentence of those (figurative) courts of that (figurative) people under those (figurative) laws to that (figurative) abyss, outside 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 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 offenses. The most serious sentence was death; but certain very obnoxious criminals were subjected to an indignity after death, being refused burial and cast with the carcasses of dogs, the city refuse, etc., into Gehenna, there to be consumed. The object of this burning in Gehenna was to make the crime and the criminal detestable in the eyes of the people, and signified that the culprit was a hopeless case. It must be remembered that Israel hoped for a resurrection from the tomb, and hence they were particular in caring for the corpses of their dead. Not realizing fully God's power, they apparently thought he needed their assistance to that extent. (Exod. 13:19; Heb. 11:22; Acts 7:15,16.) Hence the destruction of the body in Gehenna after death (figuratively) implied the loss of hope of future life by a resurrection. Thus to such Gehenna represented the Second Death in the same figurative way that they as a people represented or illustrated a future order of things under the New Covenant.
Notice that our Lord, in the above words, pointed out to them that their construction of the Law, severe though it was, was far below the real import [R2759 : page 32] of that Law, as it shall be interpreted under the real Kingdom and Judges, which theirs only typified. He shows that the command of their Law, "Thou shalt not kill," reached much farther than they supposed; that malicious anger and vituperation "shall be" considered a violation of God's Law, under the New Covenant; and that such as, under the favorable conditions of that new age, will not reform so thoroughly as to fully observe God's Law will be counted worthy of that which the Gehenna near them typified – the Second Death. However, the strict severity of that Law will be enforced only in proportion as the discipline, advantages and assistance of that age, enabling each to comply with its laws, shall be disregarded.
Here again the operation of God's Law under the New Covenant is contrasted with its operation under the Old or Jewish Covenant, and the lesson of self-control is urged by the statement that it is far more profitable that men should refuse to gratify depraved desires (though they be dear to them as a right eye, and apparently indispensable as a right hand) than that they should gratify these, and lose, in the Second Death, the future life provided through the atonement for all who will return to perfection, holiness and God.
These expressions of our Lord not only serve to show us the perfection (Rom. 7:12) of God's Law, and how fully it will be defined and enforced in the Millennium, but they served as a lesson to the Jews also, who previously saw through Moses' commands only the crude exterior of the Law of God. Since they found it difficult in their fallen state to keep inviolate even the surface significance of the Law, they must now see the impossibility of their keeping the finer meaning of the Law revealed by Christ. Had they understood and received his teaching fully, they would have cried out, Alas! if God judges us thus, by the very thoughts and intents of the heart, we are all unclean, all undone, and can hope for naught but condemnation to Gehenna (to utter destruction, as brute beasts). They would have cried, "Show us a greater priesthood than that of Aaron, a High Priest and Teacher able fully to appreciate the Law, and able fully to appreciate and sympathize with our fallen state and inherited weaknesses, and let him offer for us 'better sacrifices,' and apply to us the needed greater forgiveness of sin, and let him as a great physician heal us and restore us, so that we can obey the perfect Law of God from our hearts." Then they would have found Christ.
But this lesson they did not learn, for the ears of their understanding were "dull of hearing;" 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" – the vail of ignorance, pride and human wisdom which Satan now uses to blind the world to God's true law and true plan of salvation in Christ.
And not only did our Lord's teaching here show the Law of the New Covenant, and teach the Jew a lesson, but it is of benefit to the Gospel Church also. In proportion as we learn the exactness of God's Law, and what would constitute perfection under its requirements, we see that our Redeemer was perfect, and that we, totally unable to commend ourselves to God as keepers of that Law, can find acceptance with the Father only in the merit of our Redeemer, while none can be of that "body," covered by the robe of his righteousness, except the consecrated who endeavor to do only those things well pleasing to God, which includes the avoidance of sin to the extent of ability. Yet their acceptability with God rests not in their perfection, but upon the perfection of Christ, so long as they abide in him. These, nevertheless, are benefited by a clear insight into the perfect Law of God, even though they are not dependent on the perfect keeping of it. They delight to do God's will to the extent of their ability, and the better they know his perfect Law, the better they are able to rule themselves and to conform to it. So, then, to us also the Lord's words have a lesson of value.
The point, however, to be specially noticed here is that Gehenna which the Jews knew, and of which our Lord spoke to them, was not a lake of fire to be kept burning to all eternity, into which all would be cast who get "angry with a brother" and call him a "fool." No; the Jews gathered no such extreme idea from the Lord's words. The eternal torment theory was unknown to them. It had no place in their theology, as will be shown. It is a comparatively modern invention, coming down, as we have shown, from Papacy – the great apostasy. The point is that Gehenna symbolizes the Second Death – utter, complete and everlasting destruction. This is clearly shown by its being contrasted with life as its opposite. "It is better for thee to enter into life halt, or maimed, than otherwise to be cast into Gehenna." It is better that you should deny yourselves sinful gratifications than that you should 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 courage and bravery under the most trying circumstances. They were to expect persecution, and to have all manner of evil spoken against them falsely, for his sake, and for the sake of the "good tidings" 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 [R2759 : page 33] to be received, not in the present life, but in the life to come. They were assured, and they believed, that he had come to give his life a ransom for many, 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 had been passed in this life successfully), future trial, or judgment, as must be the case with the great majority who do not, in this present life, come to the necessary knowledge and opportunity essential to a complete trial.
Under present conditions men are able to kill our bodies, but nothing that they can do will affect our future being (soul),* which God has promised shall be revived or restored by his power in the resurrection day – the Millennial age. Our revived souls will have new bodies (spiritual or natural – "to each 'seed' his own [kind of] body"), and these none will have liberty to kill. God alone has power to destroy utterly – soul and body. He alone, therefore, should be feared, and the opposition of men even to the death is not to be feared, if thereby we gain divine approval. Our Lord's bidding then is, Fear not them which can terminate the present (dying) life in these poor dying bodies. Care little for it, its food, its clothing, its pleasures, in comparison with that future existence or being which God has provided for you, and which, if secured, may be your portion forever. Fear not the threats, or looks, or acts of men, whose power can extend no farther than the present existence; who can harm and kill these bodies, but can do no more. Rather have respect and deference to God, with whom are the issues of life everlasting – fear him who is able to destroy in Gehenna, the Second Death, both the present dying existence and all hope of future existence.
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 his just requirements. For it does not say that God will preserve soul or body in Gehenna, but that in it he can and will "destroy" both. Thus we are taught that any who are condemned to the Second Death are hopelessly and forever blotted out of existence.
[Since these two passages refer to the same discourse, we quote from Mark – remarking that verses 44 and 46, and part of 45, are not found in the oldest Greek MSS., though verse 48, which reads the same, is in all manuscripts. We quote the text as found in these ancient and reliable MSS.] "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Gehenna, into the fire that never shall be quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into Gehenna. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into Gehenna, where the worm 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 the Lord addressed, having no conception of a place of everlasting torment, and who knew the word Gehenna to refer to the valley outside their city, which was not a place of torment, nor a place where any living thing was cast, but a place for the utter destruction of whatever might be cast into it, recognizing the Lord's expression regarding limbs and eyes to be figurative, knew that Gehenna also was used in the same figurative sense, to symbolize utter destruction.
The Lord meant simply this: The future life, which God has provided for redeemed man, is of inestimable value, and it will richly pay you to make any sacrifice to receive and enjoy that life. Should it even cost an eye, a hand or a foot, so that to all eternity you would be obliged to endure the loss of these, yet life would be cheap at even such a cost. That would be better far than to retain your members and lose all in Gehenna. Doubtless, too, the hearers drew the lesson as applicable to all the affairs of life, and understood the Master to mean that it would richly repay them to deny themselves many comforts, pleasures and tastes, dear to them as a right hand, precious as an eye, and serviceable as a foot, rather than by gratification to forfeit the life to come and be utterly destroyed in Gehenna – the Second Death.
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 destroyed by them, as completely and as surely as those which burned. No one was allowed to disturb the contents of this valley; hence the worm and the fire together completed the work of destruction – the fire was not quenched and the worms died not. This would not imply a never-ending fire, nor everlasting worms. The thought is that the worms did not die off and leave the carcasses there, but continued and completed the work of destruction. So with the fire: it was not quenched, it burned on until all was consumed. Just so if a house were ablaze and the fire could not be controlled or quenched, but burned until the building was destroyed, we might properly call such an "unquenchable fire."
Our Lord wished to impress the thought of the completeness and finality of the Second Death, symbolized in Gehenna. All who go into the Second Death will be thoroughly and completely and forever destroyed; no ransom will ever again be given for any (Rom. 6:9); for none worthy of life will be cast into the Second Death, or lake of fire, but only those who [R2759 : page 34] 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 alive in flames and torture, but of the carcasses of those who transgressed against the Lord, who are thus represented as utterly destroyed in the Second Death.
The two preceding verses show the time when this prophecy will be fulfilled, and it is in perfect harmony with the symbols of Revelation: it appertains to the new dispensation, the Millennium, the "new heavens and 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 righteousness, as it is written: "They shall be an abhorring unto all flesh."
The class here addressed was not the heathen who had no knowledge of the truth, nor the lowest and most ignorant of the Jewish nation, but the Scribes and Pharisees, outwardly the most religious, and the leaders and teachers of the people. To these our Lord said, "How can ye escape the judgment of Gehenna?" These men were hypocritical: they were not true to their convictions. Abundant testimony of the truth had been borne to them, but they refused to accept it, and endeavored to counteract its influence and to discourage the people from accepting it. And in thus resisting the holy spirit of light and truth, they were hardening their hearts against the very agency which God designed for their blessing. Hence they were wickedly resisting his grace, and such a course, if pursued, must eventually end in condemnation to the Second Death, Gehenna. Every step in the direction of wilful blindness and opposition to the truth makes return more difficult, and makes the wrongdoer more and more of the character which God abhors, and which the Second Death is intended to utterly destroy. The Scribes and Pharisees were progressing rapidly in that course: hence the warning inquiry of our Lord, "How can ye escape?" etc. The sense is this, – Although you boast of your piety, you will surely be destroyed in Gehenna, unless you change your course.
Here, in strong, symbolic language, the Apostle points out the great and bad influence of an evil tongue – a tongue set on fire (figuratively) by Gehenna (figuratively). For a tongue to be set on fire of Gehenna signifies that it is set going in evil by a perverse disposition, self-willed, selfish, hateful, malicious, the sort of disposition which, in spite of knowledge and opportunity, unless controlled and reformed, will be counted worthy to be destroyed – the class for whom the "Second Death," the real "lake of fire," the real Gehenna, is intended. One in that attitude may by his tongue kindle a great fire, a destructive disturbance, which, wherever it has contact, will work evil in the entire course of nature. A few malicious words often arouse all the evil passions of the speaker, engender the same in others and react upon the first. And continuance in such an evil course finally corrupts the entire man, and brings him under sentence as utterly unworthy of life.
The Greek word tartaroo occurs but once in the Scriptures, and is translated hell. It is found in 2 Pet. 2:4, which reads thus:
Having examined all other words rendered "hell," in the Bible, and all the texts in which they occur, we conclude the examination with this text, which is the only one in which the word tartaroo occurs. In the above quotation, all the words shown in Italic type are translated from the one Greek word tartaroo. Evidently the translators were at a loss to know how to translate the word, but concluded they knew where the evil angels ought to be, and so they made bold to put them into "hell," though it took six words to twist the idea into the shape they had pre-determined it must take.
The word tartaroo, used by Peter, very closely resembles tartarus, a word used in Grecian mythology as the name for a dark abyss or prison. But tartaroo seems to refer more to an act than to a place. The fall of the angels who sinned was from honor and dignity, into dishonor and condemnation, and the thought seems to be – "God spared not the angels who sinned, but degraded them, and delivered them into chains of darkness."
This certainly agrees with the facts known to us through other Scriptures; for these fallen spirits frequented the earth in the days of our Lord and the apostles. Hence they were not down in some place, but "down" in the sense of being degraded from former honor and liberty, and restrained under darkness, as by a chain. Whenever these fallen spirits, in spiritualistic seances, manifest their powers through mediums, pretending to be certain dead human beings, they must always do their work in the dark, because darkness is the chain by which they are bound until the great Millennial day of judgment. Whether this implies that in the immediate future they will be able to materialize in daylight is difficult to determine. If so, it would greatly increase Satan's power to blind and deceive for a short season – until the Sun of Righteousness has fully risen and Satan is fully bound.
Thus we close our investigation of the Bible use [R2759 : page 35] of the word "hell." Thank God, we find no such place of everlasting torture as the creeds and hymn-books, and many pulpits, erroneously teach. Yet we have found a "hell," sheol, hades, to which all our race were condemned on account of Adam's sin, and from which all are redeemed by our Lord's death; and that "hell" is the tomb – the death condition. And we find another "hell" (Gehenna – the Second Death – utter destruction) brought to our attention as the final penalty upon all who, after being redeemed and brought to the full knowledge of the truth, and to full ability to obey it, shall yet choose death by choosing a course of opposition to God and righteousness. And our hearts say, Amen! True and righteous are thy ways, thou King of nations! Who shall not venerate thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou art entirely holy. And all nations shall come and worship before thee, because thy righteous dealings are made manifest. – Rev. 15:3,4.
The great difficulty with many in reading this scripture is that, though they regard it as a parable, they reason on it and draw conclusions from it as though it were a literal statement. To regard it as a literal statement involves several absurdities; for instance, that the rich man went to "hell" because he had enjoyed many earthly blessings and gave nothing but crumbs to Lazarus. Not a word is said about his wickedness. Again, Lazarus was blessed, not because he was a sincere child of God, full of faith and trust, not because he was good, but simply because he was poor and sick. If this be interpreted literally, the only logical lesson to be drawn from it is, that unless we are poor beggars full of sores, we will never enter into future bliss; and that if now we wear any fine linen and purple, and have plenty to eat every day, we are sure of future torment. Again, the coveted place of favor is "Abraham's bosom;" and if the whole statement be literal, the bosom must also be literal, and it surely would not hold very many of earth's millions of sick and poor.
But why consider absurdities? As a parable, it is easy of interpretation. In a parable the thing said is never the thing meant. We know this from our Lord's own explanations of his parables. When he said "wheat," he meant "children of the kingdom;" when he said "tares," he meant "the children of the devil;" when he said "reapers" his servants were to be understood, etc. (Matt. 13.) The same classes were represented by different symbols in different parables. Thus the "wheat" of one parable correspond to the "faithful servants," and the "wise virgins" of others. So, in this parable, the "rich man" represents a class, and "Lazarus" represents another class.
In attempting to expound a parable such as this, an explanation of which the Lord does not furnish us, modesty in expressing our opinion regarding it is certainly appropriate. We therefore offer the following explanation without any attempt to force our views upon the reader, except so far as his own truth-enlightened judgment may commend them as in accord with God's Word and plan. To our understanding, Abraham represented God, and the "rich man" represented the Jewish nation. At the time of the utterance of the parable, and for a long time previous, the Jews had "fared sumptuously every day" – being the especial recipients of God's favors. As Paul says: "What advantage, then, hath the Jew? Much every way: chiefly, because to them were committed the oracles of God [Law and Prophecy]." The promises to Abraham and David and their organization as a typical Kingdom of God invested that people with royalty, as represented by the rich man's "purple." The typical sacrifices of the Law constituted them, in a typical sense, a holy (righteous) nation, represented by the rich man's "fine linen," – symbolic of righteousness. – Rev. 19:8.
Lazarus represented the outcasts from divine favor under the Law, who, sin-sick, hungered and thirsted after righteousness. "Publicans and sinners" of Israel, seeking a better life, and truth-hungry Gentiles who were "feeling after God" constituted the Lazarus class. These, at the time of the utterance of this parable, were entirely destitute of those special divine blessings which Israel enjoyed. They lay at the gate of the rich man. No rich promises of royalty were theirs; not even typically were they cleansed; but, in moral sickness, pollution and sin, they were companions of "dogs." Dogs were regarded as detestable creatures in those days, and the typically clean Jew called the outsiders "heathen" and "dogs," and would never eat with them, nor marry, nor have any dealings with them. – John 4:9.
As to how these ate of the "crumbs" of divine favor which fell from Israel's table of bounties, the Lord's words to the Syro-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 to cast it to 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 great dispensational change in Israel's history when as a nation they rejected and crucified the Son of God. Then their typical righteousness ceased – then the promise of royalty ceased to be theirs, and the kingdom was taken from them to be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof – the Gospel Church, "a holy nation, a peculiar people." (Titus 2:14; 1 Pet. 2:7,9; Matt. 21:43.) Thus the "rich man" died to all these special advantages, and soon he (the Jewish nation) found himself in a cast-off condition, – in tribulation and affliction. In such condition that nation has suffered from that day to this.
Lazarus also died: the condition of the humble Gentiles and the God-seeking "outcasts" of Israel underwent a great change, being carried by the angels (messengers – apostles, etc.) to Abraham's bosom. Abraham is represented as the father of the faithful, and receives all the children of faith, who are thus recognized as the heirs of all the promises made to Abraham; for the children of the flesh are not the children of God, "but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (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 termination of the condition of things [R2759 : page 36] then existing was well illustrated by the figure, death – the dissolution of the Jewish polity and the withdrawal of the favors which Israel had so long enjoyed. There they were cast off and have since been shown "no favor," while the poor Gentiles, who before had been "aliens from the commonwealth [the polity] of Israel and strangers from the covenant of promise [up to this time given to Israel only] having no hope and without God in the world," were then "made nigh by the blood of Christ" and reconciled to God. – Eph. 2:12,13.
To the symbolisms of death and burial used to illustrate the dissolution of Israel and their burial or hiding among the other nations, our Lord added a further figure – "In hell [hades, the grave] he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off," etc. The dead cannot lift up their eyes, nor see either near or far, nor converse; for it is distinctly stated, "There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave;" and the dead are described as those who "go down into silence." (Eccl. 9:10; Psa. 115:17.) But the Lord wished to show that great sufferings or "torments" would be added to the Jews as a nation after their national dissolution and burial amongst the other peoples dead in trespasses and sins; and that they would plead in vain for release and comfort at the hand of the formerly despised Lazarus class.
And history has borne out this parabolic prophecy. For eighteen hundred years the Jews have not only been in distress of mind over their casting out from the favor of God and the loss of their temple and other necessaries to the offering of their sacrifices, but they have been relentlessly persecuted by all classes, including professed Christians. It was from the latter that the Jews have expected mercy, as expressed in the parable – "Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue;" but the great gulf fixed between them hinders that. Nevertheless, God still recognizes the relationship established in his covenant with them, and addresses them as children of the covenant. (Verse 25.) These "torments" have been the penalties attached to the violation of their covenant, and were as certain to be visited upon them as the blessings promised for obedience. – See Lev. 26.
The "great gulf fixed" represents the wide difference between the Gospel Church and the Jew – the former enjoying free grace, joy, comfort and peace, as true sons of God, and the latter holding to the Law, which condemns and torments. Prejudice, pride and error, from the Jewish side, form the bulwarks of this gulf which hinder the Jew from coming into the condition of true sons of God by accepting Christ and the gospel of his grace. The bulwark of this gulf which hinders true sons of God from going to the Jew – under the bondage of the Law – is their knowledge that by the deeds of the Law none can be justified before God, and that if any man keep the Law (put himself under it to try to commend himself to God by reason of obedience to it), Christ shall profit him nothing. (Gal. 5:2-4.) So, then, we who are of the Lazarus class should not attempt to mix the Law and the Gospel, knowing that they cannot be mixed, and that we can do no good to those who still cling to the Law and reject the sacrifice for sins given by our Lord. And they, not seeing the change of dispensation which took place, argue that to deny the Law as the power to save would be to deny all the past history of their race, and to deny all of God's special dealings with the "fathers," (promises and dealings which through pride and selfishness they failed rightly to apprehend and use); hence they cannot come over to the bosom of Abraham, into the true rest and peace – the portion of all the true children of faith. – John 8:39; 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 at the first, Dives represented the orthodox Jews, and not the "outcasts of Israel," 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, or such as have become infidels.
The people of Judea, at the time of our Lord's utterance of this parable, were repeatedly referred to as "Israel," "the lost sheep of the house of Israel," "cities of Israel," etc., because all of the tribes were represented there; but actually the majority of the people were of the two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, but few of the ten tribes having returned from Babylon under Cyrus' general permission. If the nation of the Jews (chiefly two tribes) were represented in the one "rich man," it would be a harmony of numbers to understand the "five brethren" to represent the ten tribes chiefly scattered abroad. The request relative to them was doubtless introduced to show that all special favor of God ceased to all Israel (the ten tribes, as well as to the two more directly addressed). It seems to us evident that Israel only was meant, for no other nation than Israel had "Moses and the prophets" as instructors. (Verse 29.) The majority of the ten tribes had so far disregarded Moses and the prophets that they did not return to the land of promise, but preferred to dwell among idolaters; and hence it would be useless to attempt further communication with them, even by one from the dead – the figuratively dead, but now figuratively risen, Lazarus class. – Eph. 2:5.
Though the parable mentions no bridging of this "great gulf," other portions of Scripture indicate that it was to be "fixed" only throughout the Gospel age, and that at its close the "rich man," having received the measurement of punishment for his sins,* will walk out of his fiery troubles over the bridge of God's promises yet unfulfilled to that nation.
Though for centuries the Jews have been bitterly persecuted by pagans, Mohammedans and professed Christians, they are now gradually rising to political freedom and influence; and although much of "Jacob's trouble" is just at hand, yet as a people they will be very prominent among the nations in the beginning of the Millennium. The "vail" (2 Cor. 3:13-16) of prejudice still exists, but it will be gradually taken away as the light of the Millennial morning dawns; [R2759 : page 37] nor should we be surprised to hear of great awakenings among the Jews, and many coming to acknowledge Christ. They will thus leave their hadean state (national death) and torment, and come, the first of the nations, to be blessed by the true seed of Abraham, which is Christ, Head and body. Their bulwark of race prejudice and pride is falling in some places, and the humble, the poor in spirit, are beginning already to look upon him whom they have pierced, and to inquire, Is not this the Christ? And as they look the Lord pours upon them the spirit of favor and supplication. (Zech. 12:10.) Therefore, "Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her appointed time is accomplished." – Isa. 40:1,2, margin.
In a word, this parable seems to teach precisely what Paul explained in Rom. 11:19-32. Because of unbelief the natural branches were broken off, and the wild branches grafted into the Abrahamic root-promise. The parable leaves the Jews in their trouble, and does not refer to their final restoration to favor – doubtless because it was not pertinent to the feature of the subject treated; but Paul assures us that when the fulness of the Gentiles – the full number from among the Gentiles necessary to make up the bride of Christ – is come in, "they [natural Israel] shall obtain mercy through your [the Church's] mercy." He assures us that this is God's covenant with fleshly Israel (who lost the higher, spiritual promises, but are still the possessors of certain earthly promises), to become the chief nation of earth, 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 depth 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.
God has had definite and stated times and seasons for every part of his work; and in the end of each of these seasons there has been a finishing up of its work and a clearing off of the rubbish, preparatory to the beginning of the new work of the dispensation to follow. Thus in the end of the Jewish age order is observed – a harvesting and complete separation of the "wheat" class from the "chaff," and an entire rejection of the latter class from God's favor. With the few judged worthy in the end of that age, a new age – the Gospel age – began. And now we find ourselves amidst the closing scenes, the "harvest," of this age: the "wheat" and the "tares" which have grown together during this age are being separated. With the former class, of which our Lord Jesus is the Head, a new age is about to be inaugurated, and these "wheat" are to reign as kings and priests in that new dispensation, while the "tare" element is judged as utterly unworthy of that favor.
While observing this order with reference to the Jewish age and the one just closing, our Lord informs us through the parable under consideration that the same order will be observed with reference to the age to follow this Gospel age.
The harvest of the Jewish age was likened to the separation of wheat from chaff; the harvest of this age to the separation of wheat from tares; and the harvest of the Millennial age to the separation of sheep from 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 each age there is a "harvest" or general separating time in the end of the age.
In the dawn of the Millennial age, after the "time of trouble," there will be a gathering of the living nations before Christ, and, in their appointed time and order, the dead of all nations shall be called to appear before the judgment seat of Christ – not to receive an immediate sentence, but to receive a fair and impartial, individual trial (Ezek. 18:2-4,19,20) under the most favorable circumstances, the result of which trial will be a final sentence, as worthy or unworthy of everlasting life.*
The scene of this parable, therefore, is laid after the time of trouble, when the nations shall have been subdued, Satan bound (Rev. 20:1,2) and the authority of Christ's kingdom established. Ere this, the bride of Christ (the overcoming Church) will have been seated with him in his throne of spiritual power and will have taken part in executing the judgments of the [R2759 : page 38] great day of wrath. Then the Son of man and his bride, the glorified Church, will be revealed and be seen by men, with the eyes of their understanding and shall "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." – Matt. 13:43.
Here is the New Jerusalem as John saw it (Rev. 21), "that holy city [symbol of government]...coming down from God out of heaven." During the time of trouble it will be coming down, and before the end of it, it will have touched the earth. This is the stone cut out of the mountains without hands (but by the power of God), and it will then have become a great mountain (kingdom), filling the whole earth (Dan. 2:35), its coming having broken to pieces the evil kingdoms of the prince of darkness. – Dan. 2:34,35.
Here is that glorious city (government), prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2), and early in the dawn of the Millennium the nations will begin to walk in the light of it. (Verse 24.) These may bring their glory and honor into it, but "there shall in no wise enter into it [or become a part of it] anything that defileth," etc. (Verse 27.) Here, from the midst of the throne, proceeds a pure river of water of life (truth unmixed with error), and the Spirit and the Bride say, Come, and take it freely. (Rev. 22:17.) Here begins the world's probation, the world's great judgment day – a thousand years.*
But even in this favored time of blessing and healing of the nations, when Satan is bound, evil restrained, mankind in process of release from the grasp of death, and when the knowledge of the Lord fills the earth, two classes will be developed, which our Lord here likens to sheep and goats. These, he tells us, he will separate. The sheep class – those who are meek, teachable and willing to be led, shall, during the Millennial age, be gathered at the Judge's right hand – symbol of his approval and favor; but the goat class, self-willed and stubborn, always climbing on the rocks – seeking prominence and approval among men – and feeding on miserable refuse, while the sheep graze in the rich pastures of the truth furnished by the Good Shepherd – these are gathered to the Judge's left hand, the opposite of the position of favor – as subjects of his disfavor and condemnation.
This work of separating sheep and goats will require all of the Millennial age for its accomplishment. During that age, each individual, as he comes gradually to a knowledge of God and his will, takes his place at the right hand of favor or the left hand of disfavor, according as he improves or misimproves the opportunities of that golden age. By the end of that age, all the world of mankind will have arranged themselves, as shown in the parable, into two classes.
The end of that age will be the end of the world's trial or judgment, and then final disposition will be made of the two classes. The reward of this "sheep" class will be granted them because, during the age of trial and discipline, they cultivated and manifested the beautiful character of love, which Paul describes as the fulfilling of the Law of God. (Rom. 13:10.) They will have manifested it to each other in their times of sorest need; and what they will have done for one another the Lord will count as done unto him, counting them all as his brethren – children of God, though they will be of the human nature, while he is of the divine.
The condemnation of the "goat" class is shown to be for the lack of this spirit of love. Under the same favorable circumstances as the "sheep," they wilfully resist the moulding influence of the Lord's discipline, and harden their hearts. The goodness of God does not lead them to true repentance; but, like Pharaoh, they take advantage of his goodness and do evil. The "goats," who will not have developed the element of love, the law of God's being and Kingdom, will be counted unworthy of everlasting life, and will be destroyed; while the "sheep," who will have developed God-likeness (love), and who will have exhibited it in their characters, are to be installed as the subordinate rulers of earth for future ages.
In the end of the Millennial age, in the final adjustment of human affairs, Christ thus addresses his sheep: "Come, ye blessed,...inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
It is manifest the "sheep" here addressed, at the close of the Millennium, are not the sheep of the Gospel age, the Gospel Church, but those "other sheep" to whom the Lord referred in John 10:16. And the kingdom prepared for them in the divine plan, from the foundation of the world, is not the kingdom prepared for the Gospel Church. The Church will receive her kingdom at the beginning of the Millennium; but this is the kingdom prepared for the "sheep" of the Millennial age. Their kingdom will be the dominion of earth which was originally given to Adam, but which was lost through sin, and which is again to be restored when man is brought to perfection, and so made fit to receive and enjoy it. That dominion will not be a dominion of some of the race over others, but a joint dominion, in which every man will be a king, and all will have equal rights and privileges in appropriating and enjoying every earthly good. It will be a sovereign people – a great and grand republic on a basis of perfect righteousness, wherein the rights of every man will be conserved; because the golden rule will be inscribed on every heart, and every man will love his neighbor as himself. The dominion of all will be over the whole earth, and all its rich and bountiful stores of blessing. (Gen. 1:28; Psa. 8:5-8.) The kingdom of the world, to be given to the perfected and worthy ones of the redeemed race at the close of the Millennium, is clearly distinguished from all others by being called the kingdom prepared for them "from the foundation of the world," the earth having been made to be the everlasting home and kingdom of perfect men. But the kingdom bestowed upon Christ, of which the Church, his "bride," becomes joint-heir, is a spiritual kingdom, "far above angels, principalities and powers," and it also shall "have no end" – Christ's Millennial Kingdom, which will end, being merely a beginning of Christ's power and rule. (1 Cor. 15:25-28.) This endless heavenly, spiritual kingdom was prepared long before the earth was founded – its inception being recognized in Christ, "the beginning of the creation of God." It was intended for Christ Jesus, the First Begotten; but even the Church, his bride and joint-heir, was chosen or designed also, in him, before the foundation of the world. – Eph. 1:4.
The kingdom or rule of earth, is the kingdom that has been in preparation for mankind from the foundation of the world. It was expedient that man should suffer six thousand years under the dominion of evil, to learn its inevitable results of misery and death, in order by contrast to prove the justice, wisdom and goodness of God's law of love. Then it will [R2759 : page 39] require 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 be one grand, universal republic, whose stability and blessed influence will be assured by the perfection of its every citizen, a result now much desired, but an impossibility because of sin. The kingdom of Christ during the Millennium will be, on the contrary, a theocracy, which will rule the world (during the period of its imperfection and restoration) without regard to its consent or approval.
The brethren of the Gospel Church are not the only "brethren" of Christ. All who at that time will have been restored to perfection will be recognized as sons of God – sons in the same sense that Adam was a son of God (Luke 3:38) – human sons. And all of God's sons, whether on the human, the angelic or the divine plane, are brethren. Our Lord's love for these, his human brethren, is here expressed. As the world now has the opportunity to minister to those who are shortly to be the divine sons of God, and brethren of Christ, so they will have abundant opportunity during the age to come to minister to (each other) the human brethren.
The dead nations when again brought into existence will need food, raiment and shelter. However great may have been their possessions in this life, death will have brought all to a common level: the infant and the man of mature years, the millionaire and the pauper, the learned and the unlearned, the cultured and the ignorant and degraded: all will have an abundant opportunity for the exercise of benevolence, and thus they will be privileged to be co-workers with God. We are here reminded of the illustration given in the case of Lazarus: Jesus only awakened him from death, and then were the rejoicing friends permitted to loose him from his grave clothes and to clothe and 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: not dead, neither are they yet perfected in life: and any condition between those two may be properly symbolized by sickness. And they will continue to be under watch or ward until made well – physically, mentally and morally perfect. During that time there will be abundant opportunity for mutual helpfulness, sympathy, instruction and encouragement, and any failure to assist will mark a lack of the Lord's spirit of love.
Since all mankind will not be raised at once, but gradually, during the thousand years, each new group will find an army of helpers in those who will have preceded it. The love and benevolence which men will then show to each other (the brethren of Christ) the King will count as shown to him. No great deeds are assigned as the ground for the honors and favors conferred upon the righteous: they will have simply come into harmony with God's law of love and proved it by their works. "Love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10), and "God is love." So, when man is restored again to the image of God – "very good" – man also will be a living expression of love.
"Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," does not signify a rule independent of the divine law and supremacy: for although God gave earth's dominion to man at first, and designs restoring it to him when he has prepared him for the great trust, we are not to suppose that God intends man to rule it, otherwise than as under, or in harmony with, his supreme law. "Thy will be done in earth as in heaven," must forever be the principle of government. Man 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 ye along, ages of glory!" and give glory and honor to him whose loving plans are blossoming into such fulness of blessing?
Let us now examine the message to those on the left – "Depart from me, ye cursed" (condemned) – condemned as unfit vessels for the glory and honor of life, who would not yield to the moulding and shaping influences of divine love. When these, "brethren," were hungry and thirsty, or naked, sick, and in prison, ye ministered not to their necessities, thus continually proving yourselves out of harmony with the heavenly city (Kingdom); for "there shall in no case enter into it anything that defileth." The decision or sentence regarding this class is – "Depart from me into everlasting fire [symbol of destruction], prepared for the devil and his angels." Elsewhere (Heb. 2:14) we read without symbol 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 will be as lasting as the reward. Both will be everlasting.
THE EVERLASTINGNESS of the punishment being thus established, only one point is left open for discussion; namely, the nature of the punishment. Take your Concordance and search out what saith the great Judge regarding the punishment of 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? No; we find not a single text where life in any condition is promised to that class.
God's declarations assure us that ultimately he will have a clean universe, free from the blight of sin and sinners, – because "All the wicked will he destroy." – Psa. 145:20.
But while we do not find one verse of the Bible saying that this class can have life in torment, or in any other condition, we do find numerous passages teaching the reverse. Of these we give a few merely as samples – "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23.) "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." (Ezek. 18:4,20.) [R2759 : page 40] "The wicked shall perish." (Psa. 37:20.) "Yet a little while and the wicked shall not be." (Psa. 37:10.) Thus God has told us plainly the nature of the everlasting punishment of the wicked – that it will be death, destruction.
The false ideas of God's plan of dealing with the incorrigible, taught ever since the great "falling away," which culminated in Papacy, and instilled into our minds from childhood, are alone responsible for the view generally held, that the everlasting punishment provided for wilful sinners is a life of torment. This view is held, notwithstanding the many clear statements of God's Word that their punishment is to be death. 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," in the true sense and "obey not," he says – "Who shall be punished." Ah, yes! but how punished? He tells us how: They "shall be punished with everlasting destruction [a destruction from which there shall be no recovery, no redemption or resurrection – Heb. 10:26-29] from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power." (2 Thes. 1:9.) This destruction is represented in the parable as the everlasting "fire" prepared for the devil and his angels: it is "the lake of fire and brimstone," which is the Second death (Rev. 20:14), into which the "goat" class of this parable are sent. – Matt. 25:41.
Thus the meaning and reasonableness of this statement concerning everlasting punishment are readily seen when looked at from the correct standpoint. The fire of the parable, by which the punishment (destruction) is to be accomplished, will not be literal fire, for the "fire" is as much a symbol as the "sheep" and "goats" are symbols. Fire here, as elsewhere, symbolizes destruction, and not in any sense preservation.
We might well leave this subject here, and consider that we have fully shown that the everlasting punishment of the "goat" class will be destruction; but we direct attention to one other point which clinches the truth upon this subject. We refer to the Greek word kolasin, translated "punishment," in verse 46. This word has not in it the remotest idea of torment. Its primary signification is to cut off, or prune, or lop off, as in the pruning of trees; and a secondary meaning is to restrain. The wicked will be everlastingly restrained, cut off from life in the Second death. Illustrations of the use of kolasin can easily be had from Greek classical writings. The Greek word for "torment" is 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 (page 995) that the definition of the word kolasis is "pruning, restraining, restraint." And the author of the Emphatic Diaglott, 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, the contrast, shown between the reward of the "sheep" and the reward of the "goats," which the correct idea of kolasin gives – the one class goes into everlasting life, while the other is everlastingly cut off from life – forever restrained in death. And this exactly agrees with what the Scriptures everywhere else declare concerning the wages or penalty of 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 the Second death, by the One who redeemed them from the first curse], into everlasting fire [symbol of everlasting destruction], prepared for the devil and his messengers [servants]."
Remember that this is the final sentence at the close of the final trial – at the close of the Millennium; and that none will then be servants of Satan ignorantly or unwillingly, as so many now are; for the great Deliverer, Christ, will remove outside temptations, and provide assistance toward self-improvement, which will enable all who will to overcome inherent weaknesses and to attain perfection. These "goats," who love evil and serve Satan, are the messengers ("angels") of Satan. For these and Satan, and for no others, God has prepared Second death – the everlasting destruction. Fire will come from God out of heaven and consume them. Consuming fire and devouring fire all can appreciate, unless their eyes are holden by false doctrine and prejudice. No one ever knew of a preserving fire; and as fire never preserves, but always consumes, God uses it as a symbol of utter destruction. – Rev. 20:9.
"The lake of fire and brimstone" is several times mentioned in the book of Revelation, which all Christians admit to be a book of symbols. However, they generally think and speak of this particular symbol as a literal statement giving strong support to the torment doctrine, notwithstanding the fact that the symbol is clearly defined as meaning the Second death: "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the Second Death," etc. (Rev. 20:14.) It is sometimes spoken of as "a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Rev. 19:20), the element brimstone being [R2759 : page 41] mentioned to intensify the symbol of destruction, the Second death: burning brimstone being one of the most deadly elements known. It is destructive to all forms of life.
The symbolism of this lake of fire is further shown by the fact that the symbolic "beast" and the symbolic "false prophet," and death and hell [hades], as well as the devil and his followers, are destroyed in it. – Rev. 19:20; 20:10,14,15; 21:8.
This destruction or death is called the Second death in contradistinction to the First or Adamic death, and not to signify that everything which goes into it dies a second time. For instance, death (the first or Adamic death), and hades, the grave, are to be cast into it; – this work will require the entire Millennium to accomplish it; and in no sense will they ever have been destroyed before. So also "the devil," "the beast," and "the false prophet," will never have been destroyed before.
From the first, or Adamic death, a resurrection has been provided. All that are in their graves shall therefore come forth. The Revelator prophetically declares: "The sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and hell [hades, the grave] gave up the dead which were in them....And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened." (Rev. 20:13,12.) It was in view of God's plan for redeeming the race from Adamic death that in both the Old and New Testaments it is called a "sleep." In Israel's history of the good and the wicked it is repeatedly stated that they "slept with their fathers." The Apostles used the same symbol, and our Lord also. But no such symbol is used in reference to the Second death. On the contrary, the strongest figures of total and utter destruction are used to symbolize it; viz., "fire and brimstone;" because that will be a destruction from which there will be no recovery.
Blessed thought! the Adamic death (which claimed the whole race for the sin of their progenitor) shall be forever swallowed up, and shall cease in this Second death into which it is to be cast by the great Redeemer who bought the whole world with the sacrifice of himself. Thus God tells us through the Prophet, "I will ransom them from the power of the grave [sheol]. I will redeem them from death....O grave [sheol] I will be thy destruction." (Hos. 13:14.) The first or Adamic death shall no longer have liberty or power over men, as it has had for the past six thousand years; no longer shall any die for Adam's sin. (Rom. 5:12; Jer. 31:29,30; Ezek. 18:2.) Thenceforth the New Covenant, sealed with the precious blood, shall be in force, and only wilful transgressions will be counted as sin and punished with the wages of sin – death – the Second death. Thus will the Adamic death be cast into and swallowed up by the Second death.
And hades and sheol – the dark, secret condition, the grave, which in the present time speaks to us of a hope of future life by God's resurrection power in Christ – shall be no more; for the Second death will devour no being fit for life – none for whom there remains a shadow of hope, but such only as, by the unerring Judge, have been fully, impartially and individually found worthy of destruction. And Satan, that lying tempter who deceived and ruined the race, and who, with persistent energy and cunning, has sought continually to thwart the purpose of God for our salvation through Christ, and with him all who are of his spirit, "his angels," shall be destroyed, and shall never awake from death to trouble the world again. Here he is said to be cast into "the lake of fire," – the Second death; and Paul in Heb. 2:14, referring to the same thing, calls it destruction – "that he might destroy death, and him that hath the power of death, that is the devil." And "the beast and the false prophet," the great false systems which have long oppressed and misled nominal Christendom, shall never escape from it. These systems are said to be cast "alive" (that is, while they are still organized and operative) into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. – Rev. 19:20.
The great time of trouble, the Lord's judgment, which will utterly destroy these systems, will undoubtedly cause great social, financial and religious difficulty and pain to all those identified with these deceived and deceiving systems, before they are utterly destroyed. These systems will be cast in, destroyed, at the beginning of the Millennium, while Satan's destruction is reserved until its close, when all the "goats" shall have been separated from the "sheep," and they shall perish with Satan in the Second death, as "his angels," messengers or servants. None of those abominable characters among men, who, knowing the truth, yet love unrighteousness – none of "the fearful and unbelieving" – those who will not trust God after all the manifestations of his grace afforded during the Millennial reign of Christ; nor the abominable, who, at heart are murderers and whoremongers and sorcerers and idolaters and liars: none of these shall escape from the Second death, to defile the earth again. All such, after a full and abundant opportunity for reformation, will be judged unworthy of life, and will be forever cut off in the Second death, symbolized by the lake of fire and brimstone.
Several prophetic pen pictures of the Millennial age and its work, in 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 already noted.
Chapter 20, verses 2,4,11, with verses 1,2,10,11 of chapter 21, show the beginning of that Age of Judgment, and the restraining of blinding errors and misleading systems. The "beast" and the "false prophet" are the chief symbols, and represent the organizations or systems of error which, together, constitute "Babylon." This judgment against the "thrones" of the present time, and against "the beast and the false prophet" systems follows speedily upon the introduction of this Millennial judgment reign. The thrones of the present dominion of earth will be "cast down," and the dominion transferred to the great Prophet, Priest, King and Judge, "whose right it is." (Compare Dan. 7:14,22; Ezek. 21:27.) Then the systems of error will be speedily judged worthy of destruction, "the lake of fire," "the Second death." – Rev. 19:20.
Thus the second destruction (or death) begins quite early in the new judgment: it begins with the false systems symbolized by the beast, false prophet, etc., but it will not reach the world of mankind, as individuals, until they have first had full trial, with full opportunity to choose life and live forever. Chapters 20:12,13, and 21:3-7, indicate the blessed, favorable [R2759 : page 42] 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 then that 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 will have had his justice and love fully demonstrated to them), that those who finally prefer and choose evil may be cut off – destroyed. Thus God will for all eternity remove all who do not love righteousness and hate iniquity.
We read, regarding that testing, that Satan will endeavor to lead astray all mankind, whose numbers will then be as the sand of the sea for multitude; but that many of them will follow Satan's evil example and choose evil and disobedience, with past experience before them, and unhampered by present weaknesses and blinding influences, we need not suppose. However, when God does not tell us either the number or the proportion of those to be found worthy of life, and those to be judged worthy of death (the Second death), we may not dogmatize. Of one thing we may be confident, God willeth not the death of the wicked, but would that all should turn to him and live; and no one will be destroyed in that "lake of fire and brimstone" (figurative of utter destruction, – Gehenna) who is worthy of life, whose living longer would be a blessing to himself or to others in harmony with righteousness.
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 all to an abhorrence of sin, will lead some to suppose that God is too loving to cut them off in the Second death, or that if he did so he would give them other, and yet other future opportunities. Building thus upon a supposed weakness in the divine character, these may be led to try to take advantage of the grace (favor) of God, as a license for wilful sin. But they shall go no further, for their folly shall be made manifest. Their utter destruction will prove to the righteous the harmony and perfect balance of Justice, Wisdom, Love and Power in the Divine Ruler.
The true character of the goat class is portrayed. "The fearful and unbelieving [who will not trust God], the abominable, murderers [brother-haters], 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 Millennial judgment, when the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall have given every advantage and opportunity of knowledge and ability, this class will be an abhorrence and detestation to all who are in harmony with the King of Glory. And the righteous will be glad when, the trial being ended, the gift of life of which these shall have proved themselves unworthy, shall be taken from them, and when the corrupters of the earth, and all their work and influence, shall be destroyed.
Rev. 20:9 tells of the destruction of those individuals who join with Satan in the last rebellion; and verse 15 tells of that same destruction in other words, using the symbol "lake of fire." They are devoured or consumed in fire. This being the case, the torment of verse 10 cannot refer to these human beings who are consumed, destroyed. Hence the question narrows down to this, Will Satan and a false prophet and a beast be tortured forever? and does this verse so teach?
We answer in God's own words, "All the wicked will he destroy." Concerning Satan, the arch enemy of God and man, God expressly advises us that he will be destroyed, and not preserved in any sense or condition. – Heb. 2:14.
The beast and false prophet systems, which during the Gospel age have deceived and led astray, will be cast into a great, consuming trouble in the close of this Gospel age. The torment of those systems will be aionion, i.e., lasting. It will continue as long as they last, until they are utterly consumed. So also the system of error, which will suddenly manifest itself at the end of the Millennial age and lead the "goats" to destruction, will be consumed. (Rev. 20:7-10.) That deceiving system (not specified as to kind, but merely called Satan, after its instigator) will be cast into the same sort of trouble and destruction, in the end of the Millennial age, as the beast and false prophet systems are now being cast into, 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 ("smoke") of the destruction of these systems of deception and error will be lasting, the lesson will never be forgotten – as smoke, which continues to ascend after a destructive fire, is testimony that the fire has done its work. – See also Isa. 34:8-10.
Of Rev. 14:9-11 we remark, incidentally, that all will at once concede that if a literal worshiping of a [R2759 : page 43] beast and image were meant in verse 9, then few, if any, in civilized lands are liable to the penalty of verse 11; and if the beast and his image and worship and wine and cup are symbols, so also are the torments and smoke and fire and brimstone.
The casting of death and the grave into utter destruction, the Second death, during the Millennial age, is a part of the utter destruction which will include every improper, injurious and useless thing. (Isa. 11:9; Psa. 101:5-8.) The Second death, the sentence of that individual trial, will be final: it will never be destroyed. And let all the lovers of righteousness say, Amen; for to destroy the Second Death, to remove the sentence of that just and impartial trial, would be to let loose again not only Satan, but all who love and practice wrong and deception, and who dishonor the Lord with their evil institutions – to oppose, offend and endeavor to overthrow those who love and desire to serve him and enjoy his favor. We rejoice that there is no danger of this, but that divine justice unites with divine wisdom, love and power, to bring in everlasting righteousness on a permanent basis.
"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and 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" respecting hell were true, this would be, indeed, a fearful message.
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.
As yet few – only consecrated believers – have come to a true knowledge of God. The world knows him not, and the nations cannot forget God until they are first brought to a knowledge of him. The consecrated have been enlightened, led of the Spirit through faith to understand the deep and hidden things of God, which reveal the glory of God's character, but which, though expressed in his Word, appear only as foolishness to the world.
As we have hitherto seen, this will not be so in the age to come, for then "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Isa. 11:9.) Much that we now receive by faith will then be demonstrated to the world. When he who has ransomed man from the power of the grave (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 possible to all, and comparatively easy, 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 an one again into sheol – the condition of death. Such an one would be unworthy of life; and, were he permitted to live, his life would be a curse to himself and to the rest of mankind, and a blemish on the work of God.
This will be the Second Death, from which there will be no resurrection. Having been ransomed from the grave (sheol) by the sacrifice of Christ, if they die again on account of their own sin, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for 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 end of existence to all those deemed unworthy of life. But in it there can be no suffering. Like Adamic death, it is the extinction of life.
It is because through sin mankind had become subject to death (sheol, hades) that Christ Jesus came to deliver us and save us from death. (1 John 3:8; Heb. 2:14.) Death is a cessation of existence, the absence of life. There is no difference between the conditions in the Adamic and Second deaths, but there is hope of a release from the first, while from the second there will be no release, no return to life. The first death sentence passed upon all on account of Adam's sin, while the Second death can be incurred only by 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. 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 be until the coming time, when the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth, and none shall need to say unto his neighbor, Know thou the Lord, for all shall know him, from the least to the greatest of them. – Isa. 11:9; Jer. 31:34.
The Hebrew word goi, rendered "nations" in this verse, is elsewhere used by the same writer and rendered "heathen," "Gentiles" and "people." The thought seems to be, – any who do not become God's covenant people, even though they be not openly wicked. The nations (Gentiles, all who under that full knowledge do not become Israelites indeed) who are forgetful or negligent of God's favors enjoyed, and of their duties and obligations to him, shall share the fate of the wilfully "wicked," and be cast into the Second death.
In further proof of this, we find that the Hebrew word shub, which in our text is translated "turned," signifies turned back, as to a previous place or condition. Those referred to in this text 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 or returned to sheol. [R2759 : page 44]
Noting that we teach that the doctrine of everlasting torment was engrafted upon the doctrines of the Christian Church during the period of the apostasy, the great falling away which culminated in Papacy, some have inquired whether it does not seem, according to the works of Josephus, that this doctrine was firmly held by the Jews; and, if so, they ask, does it not seem evident that the early Christians, being largely converts from Judaism, brought this doctrine with them, in the very outstart of Christianity?
We answer, No; the doctrine of everlasting torment sprang naturally from the doctrine of human immortality, which as a philosophic question was first promulgated in anything like the present form by the Platonic school of Grecian philosophy. These first affirmed that each man contained a fragment of deity, and that this would prevent him from ever dying. This foundation laid, it was as easy to describe a place for evil-doers as for well-doers. But to the credit of those heathen philosophers be it recorded that they failed to develop, or at least to manifest, that depth of degradation from benevolence and reason and pity, necessary to paint, by word and pen and brush, such details of horrors and agonies as were soon incorporated into their doctrine, and a belief thereof declared "necessary to salvation" in the professed church of Christ.
To appreciate the case, it is necessary to remember that, when the Christian Church was established, Greece stood at the head of intelligence and civilization. Alexander the Great had conquered the world, and had spread respect for Greece everywhere; and though, from a military point of view, Rome had taken her place, it was otherwise in literature. For centuries, Grecian philosophers and philosophies led the intellectual world, and impregnated and affected everything. It became customary for philosophers and teachers of other theories to claim that their systems and theories were nearly the same as those of the Grecians, and to endeavor to remove differences between their old theories and the popular Grecian views. And some sought to make capital by claiming that their system embraced all the good points of Platonism with others which Plato did not see.
Of this class were the teachers in the Christian Church in the second, third and fourth centuries. Conceding the popularly accepted correctness of the philosophers, they claimed that the same good features of philosophy were found in Christ's teachings, and that he was one of the greatest philosophers, etc. Thus a blending of Platonism and Christianity took place. This became the more pronounced as kings and emperors began to scrutinize religious teachings, and to favor those most likely to awe the people and make them law-abiding. While heathen teachers were truckling to such imperial scrutiny, and teaching an everlasting punishment for those who violated the laws of the emperors (who ruled as divinely appointed), we cannot suppose otherwise than that the ambitious characters in the church at that time, who were seeking to displace heathenism and to become the dominant religious power instead, would make prominent such doctrines as would in the eyes of the emperors seem to have an equal hold upon the fears and prejudices of the people. And what could be more to the purpose than the doctrine of the endless torment of the refractory?
The same motives evidently operated with Josephus when writing concerning the belief of the Jews. His works should be read as apologies for Judaism, and as efforts to exalt that nation in the eyes of Rome and the world. It should be remembered that the Jews had the reputation of being a very rebellious people, very unwilling to be ruled even by the Caesars. They were hoping, in harmony with God's promises, to become the chief nation. Many rebellious outbreaks had occurred among them, and their peculiar religion, different from all others, came in for its share of blame for favoring too much the spirit of liberty.
Josephus had an object in writing his two principal works, "Antiquities" and "Wars of the Jews." He wrote them in the Greek language while living at Rome, where he was the friend and guest successively of the Roman emperors Vespasian, Titus and Domitian, and where he was in constant contact with the Grecian philosophers. These books were written for the purpose of showing off the Jewish people, their courage, laws, ethics, etc., to the best advantage before the Grecian philosophers and Roman dignitaries. This object is covertly admitted in his preface to his "Antiquities," in which he says:
"I have undertaken the present work as thinking it will appear to all the Greeks worthy of their study. ...Those that read my book may wonder that my discourse of laws and historical facts contains so much of philosophy....However, those that have a mind to know the reasons of everything may find here a very curious philosophical theory."
In a word, as a shrewd man who himself had become imbued with the spirit of the Grecian philosophers then prevailing, Josephus drew from the Law and the Prophets, and from the traditions of the elders and the theories of the various sects of the Jews, all he could find that in the most remote degree would tend to show: –
First, that the Jewish religion was not far behind popular Grecian philosophy; but that somewhat analogous theories had been drawn from Moses' Law, and held by some Jews, long before the Grecian philosophers broached them.
Secondly, that it was not their religious ideas which made the Jews as a people hard to control or "rebellious," as all liberty-lovers were esteemed by the Caesars. Hence he attempts to prove, at a time when virtue was esteemed to consist mainly in submission, that Moses' Law "taught first of all that God is the Father and Lord of all things, and bestows a happy life upon those that follow him, but plunges such as do not walk in the paths of virtue into inevitable miseries." And it is in support of this idea, and for such purposes, evidently, that Josephus, after saying: "There are three philosophical sects among the Jews; first, the Pharisees; second, the Sadducees, and third, the Essenes," proceeds to give an account of their three theories; especially detailing any features which resembled Grecian philosophy. And because the last and least, the Essenes, most resembled the doctrines of the Stoics and leading Grecian theories, Josephus devotes nearly ten times as much space to their views as to the views of both Sadducees [R2759 : page 45] and Pharisees combined. And yet the Essenes were so insignificant a sect that the New Testament does not even mention them, while Josephus himself admits they were few. Whatever views they held, therefore, on any subject, cannot be claimed as having Jewish sanction, when the vast majority of Jews held contrary opinions. The very fact that our Lord and the apostles did not refer to them is good evidence that the Essenes' philosophy by no means represented the Jewish ideas. This small sect probably grew up later and probably absorbed from Grecian philosophy its ideas concerning immortality and the everlasting torment of the non-virtuous. It should be remembered that Josephus was not born until three years after our Lord's crucifixion, and that he published his "Wars" A.D. 75 and "Antiquities" A.D. 93 – at a time when he and other Jews, like all the rest of the world, were eagerly swallowing Grecian philosophy and science falsely so called, against which Paul warned the church. – Col. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:20.
Josephus directed special attention to the Essenes because it suited his object to do so. He admits that the Sadducees, next to the largest body of Jewish people, did not believe in human immortality. And of the Pharisees' views he makes a blind statement, calculated to mislead, as follows: "They also believe that souls have an immortal vigor in them [This might be understood to mean that the Pharisees did not believe as the Sadducees that death ended all existence, but believed in a vigor or life beyond the grave – by a resurrection of the dead], and that under the earth there will be rewards and punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and that the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison [death – not torture], but that the former [the virtuous] shall have power to revive and live again."
Is it not apparent that Josephus has whittled and stretched the views of the Pharisees, as much as his elastic conscience would allow, to show a harmony between them and the philosophies of Greece? Paul, who had been a Pharisee, contradicts Josephus. While Josephus says they believed "that only the virtuous would revive and live again [Does not this imply a resurrection, and imply also that the others would not live again, but remain dead, in the great prison – the tomb?]" Paul, on the contrary, says: "I have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." – Acts 24:15.
We have no hesitancy about accepting the testimony of the inspired Apostle Paul, not only in regard to what the Jews believed, but also as to what he and the early Church believed; and we repeat, that the theory of the everlasting torment of the wicked, based upon the theory that the human soul cannot die, is contrary to both the Old and the New Testament teachings, and was introduced among Jews and Christians by Grecian philosophers. Thank God for the purer philosophy of the Scriptures, which teaches that the death of the soul (being) is the penalty of sin (Ezek. 18:20); that all souls condemned through Adam's sin were redeemed by Christ's soul (Isa. 53:10); and that only for wilful, individual sin will any die the Second death – an everlasting punishment, but not an everlasting torment.
"I have set before thee this day life and good, death and evil." "I have set before thee 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 individual trial insured to the whole world (which Israel typified) and secured by the better sacrifices for sin, which were there prefigured, to be accomplished by the great prophet of whom Moses was but a type.
Thus seeing that the trial for life or death presented to Israel was but typical of the individual trial of the whole world, and its issues of life and death (of eternal life or the Second death), may help some to see that the great thousand-year-day of trial, of which our Lord Jesus has been appointed the Judge, contains the two issues, life and death. All will then be called upon to decide, under that most favorable opportunity, for righteousness and life or sin and death, and a choice must be made. And, although there will be rewards and "stripes" according to the deeds of the present life, as well as according to their conduct under that trial (John 3:19; Matt. 10:42; Matt. 11:20-24), the verdict in the end will be in harmony with the choice expressed by the conduct of each during that age of trial.
The second trial, its sentence and its result, are also shown in the words of Moses quoted by Peter (Acts 3:22,23): "A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me. Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul [being] which will not hear [obey] that Prophet [and thus choose life] shall be destroyed from among the people." In few words this calls attention to the world's great trial, yet future. It shows the great Prophet or Teacher raised up by God to give a new judgment or trial to the condemned race which he has redeemed from the condemnation which came upon it through its progenitor, Adam. It shows, too, the conditions of eternal life to be righteous obedience, and that with the close of that trial some will be [R2759 : page 46] judged worthy of that life, and some worthy of destruction – the Second death.
Our Lord Jesus, having redeemed all by his perfect and precious sacrifice, is the Head of this great Prophet; and during the Gospel age God has been selecting the members of his body, who, with Christ Jesus, shall be God's agents in judging the world. Together they will be that Great Prophet or Teacher promised. "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?" – 1 Cor. 6:2.
The first trial 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 – civil, social and religious. These will be judged, condemned and banished early in the Millennial day, the light of truth causing them to come into disrepute and therefore to pass away. This judgment comes first, in order that the trial of man may proceed unhindered by error, prejudice, etc. It will also include the trial of "the angels 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 Millennial trial (destruction, second death) will cover a wider range of offenders than the penalty or curse for the sin of Adam, which "passed upon all men." In a word, the destruction at the close of the trial will be the utter destruction of every being and every thing which will not glorify God and be of use and blessing to his general creation.
IN THE preceding pages we briefly show the extreme penalty for wilful sin. Adam's penalty, which involved his entire race, was of this sort; and only as the result of Christ's death as our ransom from that penalty of that wilful sin, is any forgiveness of it or subsequent sins possible.
Forgivable sins are those which result from weaknesses incurred through that one Adamic sin which Christ settled once for all. They are such as are not wilful, but are committed through ignorance or weaknesses of the flesh. God stands pledged to forgive all such sins upon our repentance, in the name and merit of Christ's sacrifice.
Unpardonable sins, sins which cannot be forgiven, are such as are wilfully done. As the penalty of the first wilful sin was death – extinction of being – so death is the penalty of every wilful sin against full knowledge and ability to choose and to do the right. This is called Second Death, in distinction from the first or Adamic penalty, from which Christ's ransom sacrifice will release all mankind.
The "sin unto [second] death," for the forgiveness of which the Apostle declares it is useless to pray (1 John 5:16), is not only a wilful sin but a sin against clear knowledge; a sin for which no adequate excuse can be found. Because it is a sin against clear knowledge, or enlightenment in holiness, it is called the "sin against the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 12:31,32), for which there is no forgiveness.
But there are other partly-wilful sins, which are, therefore, partially unpardonable. In such the temptations within and without (all of which are directly or indirectly results of the fall) have a share; – the will consenting under the pressure of the temptation or because of the weakness. The Lord alone knows how to properly estimate our responsibilities and guilt in such cases. But to the true child of God there is but one proper course to take; – repentance and an appeal for mercy in the name and merit of Christ, the great sacrifice for sin. The Lord will forgive such a penitent, in the sense of restoring him to his favor; but he will be made to suffer "stripes" (Luke 12:47,48) for the sin, in proportion as God sees it to have been wilfully committed.
Not infrequently a conscientious person realizes that he has committed sin, and that it had some wilfulness in it. He properly feels condemned, guilty before God; realizing his own guilt, and forgetting the fountain for sin and uncleanness, opened by God for our weak, fallen race, he falls into a state of sadness, believing that he has committed the sin unto death. Such wander in deserts drear, until they find the cleansing fountain. Let such remember, however, that the very facts of their sorrow for sin and their desire to return to divine favor are proofs that they have not committed the sin unto death; for the Apostle declares that those who commit sin of this sort cannot be renewed unto repentance. (Heb. 6:6.) Penitents, then, may always feel confident that their sins were in part, at least, results of the fall, and hence not unto death, but requiring forgiveness and stripes.
Such is the wonderful provision of God, through Christ, for the acceptance of every soul which, forsaking sin and the love of it, seeks righteousness and life through him who is the Way, as well as the Truth and the Life. Thus all, whether naturally stronger or weaker, have an equal opportunity to gain everlasting life as well as to gain the great prize of joint-heirship with Christ.
While the Scriptures teach that the present Gospel age is the Church's Judgment-day or period of trial, and that the world's Judgment-day or time of trial will be the Millennial age, it is, nevertheless, a reasonable question to ask, – To what extent will those who are not of the consecrated Church be held responsible, in the Millennial age, for their misdeeds, of cruelty, dishonesty and immorality, of the present time? And to what extent will those of the same class then be rewarded for present efforts to live moral and benevolent lives?
These are important questions, especially to the world; and well would it be for them if they could realize their importance and profit thereby. They are important also to the Church, because of our interest in the world, and because of [R2759 : page 47] our desire to understand and teach correctly our Father's plans.
We have learned that the sacrifice of Christ secures for all mankind, however vile, an awakening from death, and the privilege of thereafter coming to perfection, and, if they will, of living forever. "There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust." (Acts 24:15.) The object of their being again brought into existence will be to give them a favorable opportunity to secure everlasting life, on the conditions which God requires – obedience to his righteous will. We have no intimation whatever in the Scriptures that, when awakened, the moral condition of men will have changed, but we have much, in both reason and revelation, to show that as they went into death weak and depraved so they will come out of it. As there is "no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave" (Eccl. 9:10), they will have learned nothing; and since they were sinners and unworthy of life and divine favor when they died, they will still be unworthy; and as they have received neither full rewards nor full punishments for the deeds of the present life, it is evident that just such a time of awakening as God has promised during the Millennium is necessary; – for rewarding, and punishing, and giving to all mankind the opportunity for eternal life secured by Christ's great ransom-sacrifice.
While, strictly speaking, the world is not now on trial: that is, the present is not the time for its full and complete trial, yet men are not now, nor have they ever been, entirely without light and ability, for the use of which they are accountable. In the darkest days of the world's history, and in the deepest degradation of savage life, there has always been at least a measure of the light of conscience pointing more or less directly to righteousness and virtue. That the deeds of the present life have much to do with the future, Paul taught very clearly when, before Felix, he reasoned of justice and self-government, in view of the judgment to come, so that Felix trembled. – Acts 24:25, Diaglott translation.
At the first advent of our Lord, an increased measure of light came to men, and to that extent increased their responsibility, as he said: "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19.) For those evil deeds committed against the light possessed, whether of conscience or of revelation, men will have to give an account, and will receive, in their day of judgment, a just recompense of reward. And, likewise, to the extent of their effort to live righteously: they will receive their reward in the day of trial. – Matt. 10:42.
If men would consider what even reason discerns, that a time of reckoning, of judgment, is coming, that God will not forever permit evil to triumph, and that in some way he will punish evil-doers, it would undoubtedly save them many sorrows and chastisements in the age to come. Said the Prophet, "Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?" (Isaiah 29:15.) Behold, "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good" (Prov. 15:3); and "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." (Eccl. 12:14.) He "will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts." – 1 Cor. 4:5.
The age of Christ's reign will be a time of just judgment; and though it will be an age of golden opportunities to all, it will be a time of severe discipline, trial and punishment to many. That the judgment will be fair and impartial, and with due consideration for the circumstances and the opportunities of each individual, is also assured – by the character of the Judge (the Christ – John 5:22; 1 Cor. 6:2), by his perfect knowledge, by his unwavering justice and goodness, by his divine power and by his great love as shown in his sacrifice to redeem men from death, that they might enjoy the privilege of this favorable, individual trial.
The varied circumstances and opportunities of men, in this and past ages, indicate that a just judgment will recognize differences in the degree of individual responsibility, which will also necessitate differences in the Lord's future dealings with them. And this reasonable deduction we find clearly confirmed by the Scriptures. The Judge has been, and still is, taking minute cognizance of men's actions and words (Prov. 5:21), although they have been entirely unaware of it; and he declares that "Every idle ["pernicious," injurious or malicious] word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" (Matt. 12:36); and that even a cup of cold water, given to one of his little ones, because he is Christ's, shall in nowise lose its reward. (Matt. 10:42.) The context shows that the "pernicious" words to which Jesus referred were words of wilful and malicious opposition spoken against manifest light. (Matt. 12:24,31,32.) He also affirmed that it would be more tolerable for Tyre, Sidon and Sodom in the day of judgment than for Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, which had misimproved greater advantages of light and opportunity." – Matt. 11:20-24.
In the very nature of things, we can see that the punishments of that age will be in proportion to past guilt. Every sin indulged, and every evil propensity cultivated, hardens the heart and makes the way back to purity and virtue more difficult. Consequently, sins wilfully indulged now, will require punishment and discipline in the age to come; and the more deeply the soul is dyed in willing sin, the more severe will be the measures required to correct it. As a wise parent would punish a wayward child, so Christ will punish the wicked for their good.
His punishments will always be administered in justice, tempered with mercy, and relieved by his approval and reward to those who are rightly exercised thereby. And it will only be when punishments, instructions and encouragements fail; in short, when love and mercy have done all that wisdom can approve (which is all that could be asked), that any will meet the final punishment which his case demands – the Second Death.
None of the world will meet that penalty until they have first had all the blessed opportunities of the age to come. And while this is true of the world, the same principle applies now to the consecrated children of God in this our judgment (trial) day. We now receive God's favors (through faith), while the world will receive them in the next age, viz., instruction, assistance, encouragement, discipline and punishment. "For what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons." Therefore, when we receive grievous chastisement, we should accept it as from a loving Father for our correction, not forgetting "the exhortation which speaketh unto us as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." – Heb. 12:4-13.
How just and equal are God's ways! Read carefully the rules of the coming age – Jer. 31:29-34 and Ezek. 18:20-32. [R2759 : page 48] They prove to us, beyond the possibility of a doubt, the sincerity and reality of all his professions of love to men: "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?" – Ezek. 33:11.
All who in this life repent of sin, and, as the term repentance implies, begin and continue the work of reformation to the best of their ability, will form character which will be a benefit to them in the age to come; when awakened in the resurrection age, they will be to that extent advanced towards perfection, and their progress will be more rapid and easy; while with others it will be more slow, tedious and difficult. This is implied in the words of our Lord (John 5:29,30 – Diaglott): "The hour is coming in the which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life [those whose trial is past, and who were judged worthy of life, will be raised perfect – the faithful of past ages to perfect human life, the overcomers of the gospel age to perfect life as divine beings], and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment." – These are awakened to judgment – to receive a course of discipline and correction – as the necessary means for their perfecting, or, otherwise, their condemnation to the second death.
The man who, in this life, by fraud and injustice, accumulated and hoarded great wealth, which was scattered to the winds when he was laid in the dust, will doubtless awake to lament his loss, and bewail his poverty and his utter inability under the new order of things to repeat unlawful measures to accumulate a fortune. With many it will be a severe chastisement and a bitter experience to overcome the propensities to avarice, selfishness, pride, ambition and idleness, fostered and pampered for years in the present life. Occasionally we see an illustration of this form of punishment now, when a man of great wealth suddenly loses all, and the haughty spirit of himself and family must fall.
We are told (Dan. 12:2) that some shall awake to shame and age-lasting contempt. And who can doubt that, when every secret thing is brought into judgment (Eccl. 12:14), and the dark side of many a character that now stands measurably approved among men is then made known, many a face will blush and hide itself in confusion? When the man who steals is required to refund the stolen property to its rightful owner, with the addition of twenty per cent. interest, and the man who deceives, falsely accuses or otherwise wrongs his neighbor, is required to acknowledge his crimes and so far as possible to repair damages, on peril of an eternal loss of life, will not this be retributive justice? Note the clear statement of this in God's typical dealings with Israel, whom he made to represent the world. – 1 Cor. 10:11; Lev. 6:1-7. See also "Tabernacle Shadows," page 99.
As we are thus permitted to look into the perfect plan of God, how forcibly we are reminded of his word through the prophet Isaiah, "Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet." (Isa. 28:17.) We also see the wholesome influence of such discipline. Parents, in disciplining their children, realize the imperative necessity of making their punishments proportionate to the character of the offences; and so in God's government: great punishments following great offences are not greater than is necessary to establish justice and to effect great moral reforms.
Seeing that the Lord will thus equitably adjust human affairs in his own due time, we can afford to endure hardness for the present, and resist evil with good, even at the cost of present disadvantage. Therefore, "Recompense to no man evil for evil." "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus our Lord." – Rom. 12:17-19; Phil. 2:5.
The present order of things will not always continue: a time of reckoning is coming. The just Judge of all the earth says, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay;" and the Apostle Peter adds, "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished." (2 Pet. 2:9.) And, as we have seen, those punishments will be adapted to the nature of the offences, and the benevolent object in view – man's permanent establishment in righteousness.
Other Scriptures corroborative of this view of future rewards and punishments are as follows: 2 Sam. 3:39; Matt. 16:27; 1 Pet. 3:12; Psa. 19:11; 91:8; Prov. 11:18; Isa. 40:10; 49:4; Matt. 5:12; 10:41,42; Luke 6:35; Rev. 22:12; Rom. 14:11,12.
Having demonstrated that neither the Bible nor reason offers the slightest support to the doctrine that eternal torment is the penalty for sin, we note the fact that the various church creeds, and confessions, and hymn-books, and theological treatises, are its only supports; and that under the increasing light of our day, and the consequent emancipation of reason, belief in this horrible, fiendish doctrine of the dark ages is fast dying out. But alas! this is not because Christian people generally are zealous for the truth of God's Word and for his character, and willing to destroy their grim creed-idols. Ah no! they still bow before their admitted falsities; they still pledge themselves to their defense, and spend time and money for their support, though at heart ashamed of them, and privately denying them.
The general influence of all this is, to cause the honest-hearted of the world to despise Christianity and the Bible; and to make hypocrites and semi-infidels of nominal Christians. Because the nominal church clings to this old blasphemy, and falsely presents its own error as the teaching of the Bible, the Word of God, though still nominally reverenced, is being practically repudiated. Thus the Bible, the great anchor of truth and liberty, is being cut loose from, by the very ones who, if not deceived regarding its teachings, would be held and blessed by it.
The general effect, not far distant, will be, first open infidelity, then anarchy. For much, very much of this, lukewarm Christians, both in pulpits and pews, who know or ought to know better, are responsible. Many such are willing to compromise the truth, to slander God's character, and to stultify and deceive themselves, for the sake of peace, or ease, or present earthly advantage. And any minister, who, by uttering a word for an unpopular truth, will risk the loss of his stipend and his reputation for being "established" in the bog of error, is considered a bold man, even though he ignominiously withhold his name from his published protests.
If professed Christians would be honest with themselves and true to God, they would soon learn that "their fear toward God is taught by the precepts of men." (Isa. 29:13.) If all would decide to let God be true, though it should prove every man a liar (Rom. 3:4), and show all human creeds to be imperfect and misleading, there would be a great creed-smashing work done very shortly. Then the Bible would be studied and appreciated as never before; and its testimony that the wages of sin is death (extinction), would be recognized as a "just recompense of reward."
We have given foregoing but a mere suggestion of the light now shining in "due season" for the "household of faith." We invite correspondence from all who "hunger and thirst after right." We have free tracts, and books to loan to the poor in spirit who are poor also in purse. See page 2.