Where are our friends and our neighbors, the holy and the unholy, the civilized and the vile?
The proper answer to this questions stands related to our own destiny, colors and influences our theology, and the entire trend of our lives! The correct answer gives strength, confidence, courage and assists towards the spirit of a sound mind!
“Men and brethren, let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. For David is not ascended into the heavens.” (Acts 2:29, 34)
“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man.” — John 3:13
For a man to declare himself uninterested in this subject would be to proclaim himself idiotic — thoughtless. If the ordinary affairs of this present life, food, raiment, finance, politics, etc., which concern us but for a few years, are deemed worthy of thought, study, how much more concern should we have in respect to the eternal future of ourselves and neighbors and mankind in general?
Of course, so important a question has had the most profound study, ever since the reign of Sin and Death began six thousand years ago. By this time the subject should be threadbare. The entire world should be so thoroughly informed respecting this question that there would be nothing new to say and nobody curious to hear. But the large audiences of intelligent, thoughtful people which come to hear, and which listen with breathless interest to what we have to say, imply that after all the study the subject has had, but few are thoroughly satisfied with their conclusions.
Before presenting what we claim is the Scriptural and only satisfactory answer to our query, we think it but proper respect to the intelligence and thought of our day and of past centuries to make general inquiries on the subject and have before our minds the most profound thoughts of the most astute thinkers of our race. We cannot, however, go into this matter elaborately and give lengthy quotations. We must content ourselves with brief, synoptical answers, which will be stated kindly and truthfully, and with a desire not to offend anybody, however much we may disagree with his conclusions. We recognize the right of every man to do his own thinking and to reach his own conclusions, whether these agree with our conceptions or not.
We begin our examination by asking our agnostic friends, who boast of their untrammeled freedom of thought, “What say you, Free-thinkers, in reply to our query, ‘Where are the dead?'” Their answer is, “We do not know. We would like to believe in a future life, but we have no proof of it. Lacking the evidences, our conclusion is that man dies as does the brute beast. If our conclusion disappoints your expectations in respect to having joy for the saints, it certainly should be comforting to all as respects the vast majority of our race, who certainly would be much better off perished like the brute beast than to be preserved in torture, as the majority believe.”
We thank our agnostic friends for the courteous reply, but feel that the answer is not satisfactory, either to our heads or to our hearts; which cry out that there must, or should be, a future life; that the Creator made man with powers of mind and heart so superior to the brute that his pre-eminence in the Divine plan should be expected. Furthermore, the brevity of the present life, its tears, its sorrows, its experiences, its lessons, will nearly all be valueless, useless, unless there be a future life — an opportunity for making use of these lessons. We must look further for some more satisfactory answer to our question.
Since three-fourths of the world are heathen, the weight of numbers implies that they next should be asked for their solution to the question — Where are the dead? Heathenism gives two general answers:
(1) Prominent are those which hold to Transmigration. These reply to us, “Our view is that when a man dies, he does not die, but merely changes his form. His future estate will correspond to his present living and give him either a higher or a lower position. We believe that we lived on earth before, perhaps as cats, dogs, mice, elephants, or whatnot, and that if the present life has been wisely used, we may reappear as men of nobler talents, as philosophers, etc.; but if, as usual, life has been misspent, at death we will be remanded to some lower form of being — an elephant or a worm, perhaps. It is because of this belief that we are so careful in respect to our treatment of the lower animals and refuse to eat meat of any kind. Were we to tramp ruthlessly on the worm, our punishment might be a form in which we ourselves should be treated ruthlessly after the change which we call death.”
(2) The other large class of heathen believe in a spirit world with happy hunting grounds for the good and a hell of different torments for the wicked. We are told that when people seem to die, they really become more alive than ever; and that the very minute they cross the river Styx they go to the realms of either the blessed or the ever doomed, and there are steps or degrees of punishment and reward. We inquire, “Where did you receive these views?” The answer is, “They have been with us for a long, long time. We know not where they came from. Our learned men have handed them down to us as truths, and we have accepted them as such.”
But heathenism’s answer is not satisfactory to our heads and hearts. We must look further. We must not trust to speculation. We must look for divine revelation; the message from Him with whom we have to do — our Creator.
The Catholic Answer to Our Question
Turning from heathenism we address our question to that informed one-fourth of the world’s population known as Christendom. We say, “Christendom, What is your answer to the question?” The reply is, “We are divided in our opinion, more than two-thirds of us holding the Catholic and nearly one-third the general Protestant view.” Let us hear the Catholic view (Greek and Roman) first then, because age, as well as numbers, suggests such precedence.
“Catholic friends, Give us, please, the results of your labors and studies, the conclusions of your ablest thinkers and theologians, in respect to the revelation which you claim to have from God on this subject: Where are the dead? We will hear you thoughtfully, patiently, unbiasedly.” Our Catholic friends respond: “Our teachings are very explicit along the lines of your question. We have canvassed the subject from every standpoint in the light of divine revelation. Our conclusion and teaching are that when anyone dies, he goes to one of three places: first, the saintly, of whom we claim there are but a few, go immediately to the presence of God, to heaven. These are referred to by our Lord, saying, “Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27) Those who faithfully bear the cross are the “little flock,” the “elect.” Respecting these Jesus says, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth to life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:14) These saintly do not include our clergy, not even our bishops, cardinals and popes; for you will find that when any of these die, it is a custom of the church that masses be said for the repose of their souls. We would not say masses for any we believe to be in heaven, because there surely is repose for every soul; neither would we say masses for them if we believed them to be in eternal hell, for masses could not avail them there. We might remark, however, that we do not teach that many go to the eternal hell. It is our teaching that only incorrigible heretics — persons who have had a full knowledge of Catholic doctrines and who have willfully and deliberately opposed them — these alone meet the awful, hopeless fate.
Millions to Purgatory
“The dead in general, according to our teaching, pass immediately to purgatory, which is, as the name indicates, a place of purgation from sin, a place of penances, sorrows, woes, anguish indeed, but not hopeless. The period of confinement here may be centuries or thousands of years, according to the deserts of the individual and the alleviations granted…. The vast majority are in purgatory. The billions of the heathen are there; because ignorance does not save, does not qualify for the heavenly condition. All who enter heaven must previously have been fitted and prepared in a manner impossible to the heathen. Millions of Protestants are there. They could not enter heaven, except through the portals of the Catholic church; neither would God deem them worthy of eternal hell, because their rejection of Catholicism was due to the confession of faith under which they were born and environed. Nearly all Catholics go to purgatory also, because, notwithstanding the good offices of our church, our holy water, confessions, masses, holy candles, and consecrated burying ground, nevertheless, not having attained to saintship of character, they would be excluded from heaven until the distressing experiences of purgatory would prepare their hearts for heaven. We hold, however, that for the reason stated, Catholics will not need to remain as long in purgatory as will the Protestants and the heathen.”
We can thank our Catholic friends for so kind a statement of their case. We will not ask them where their purgatory is, nor how they obtain the details of information respecting it, because such questions might offend them, and we have no desire to offend. We merely wish for their ripest, clearest, maturest thought respecting our question. We regret to say that the answer is not all that we might have hoped for in clearness and reasonableness and scripturalness. Our hearts are heavy with the thought that our poor race, by reason of original sin, is already, as the apostle says, a “groaning creation,” and the present life of a few years is full of trouble. It is saddening, discouraging to all of us, to think that when present trials and difficulties are past, of being obliged, even for centuries (not to mention eternity), to have such awful experiences as Dante portrays, even though those centuries of anguish would purge us and fit us for the Divine presence of heavenly glory. It may seem strange to some theologians, but it is nevertheless true, that the answer of Catholicism to our question is not much better than the answer of heathendom. Neither our heads nor our hearts are yet satisfied. It cannot be wrong to look further for something more satisfactory.
The Protestant Answer to Our Question
Many of us in times past have been inclined to boast a little of Protestant “breadth of mind,” “intelligence,” “education,” etc. May we not reasonably expect from Protestants a clear, logical, satisfactory answer to our question? Having found all the other answers unsatisfactory, and having now come to the one-twelfth portion of our race which has had most advantage every way, we might reasonably expect to find in its answer the quintessence of wisdom and proof from every quarter and from every age. But what do we find, dear friends? We find the very reverse! We find that the voice of Protestantism as a whole (barring numerically insignificant denominations) giving the most absurd answer to my question that could be conceived — an answer which is put to shame by the Catholics, the heathen and the agnostics. Is not this marvelous? Can this be? It is written, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6). Bear with me, therefore, while I expose to you the weaknesses of our position as Protestants; not with a view to our vexation and shame, but with the thought that our intelligent investigation of the subject can be turned to our advantage and enable us to know the Truth and to lift the true, Divine standards before the people, to the intent that we and all may come to clearer views of our heavenly Father’s character, purposes and future dealings with our race.
Permit us as gently as possible to touch this sore spot. The removal of the bandages and the cleansing of the sore may cause us pain, but the investigation should be helpful, nevertheless. We got our name, Protestants, from the fact that our intelligent and well-meaning forefathers, who were Catholics, thought that they discovered inconsistencies and unscripturalness in Catholic doctrines in which they had been reared. They protested against these, and hence came the name Protestants. We cannot defend all that they did to their enemies nor all that their enemies did to them.
One of their points of protest was that our forefathers could find nothing of purgatory anywhere on earth, nor any declaration respecting it in the Bible. With a simplicity that is certainly marvelous to us, they concluded that they would merely pick up their views of purgatory and throw them away forever. This left them heaven and hell, into one of which, they said, every member of the race must go at death and there spend his eternity. Quite evidently these well-meaning forefathers of ours were not as long-headed, far-sighted and logical as we might have expected them to be, when they did not perceive the difficulty into which they were walking. Rather we should say, perhaps, that they did see something of the difficulty, but viewed matters differently from what we do. The theory of Calvin and Knox prevailed at that time amongst Protestants and led each denomination to hope that it was God’s “elect” (Titus 1:1) and that it would constitute the “little flock” (Luke 12:32) who would go to heaven, while all the remainder of mankind would be consigned to an eternity of hellish torture.
No longer does either Catholic or Protestant pray,
“God bless me and my wife,
My son John and his wife,
Us four and no more.”
Both Catholics and Protestants, looking back to that period which we often term the “dark ages,” have reason to give thanks to God for the anointing of the eyes of our understanding, which enables us, we believe, to think more logically than our forefathers. Even those of us reared under the doctrine of predestination have lost the idea that the heathen were passed by because they were predestined to damnation; instead, those who accepted the Westminster confession of faith are today the most zealous in the preaching of the Gospel amongst the heathen by missionary effort. We are glad of this. It is a sign that our hearts are in truer and nobler condition, even though our heads have not yet gotten into proper adjustment with our hearts; and we still look at crooked doctrines and endeavor to imagine them altogether straight.
Theoretically Protestant doctrines stand with the Bible and with Catholics and declare that heaven is a place of perfection; that there can be no change to any who enter there; hence, that all trial, all refinement, all chiseling, all polishing of character must be accomplished in advance of an entrance into the abode of the saints. In a word, we agree that only the saints will ever enter there, the “pure in heart” (Matt. 5:8), the “overcomers” (1 John 4:4), the “little flock” (Luke 12:32), who now walk in the footsteps of Jesus. What about the remainder of mankind? Ah! there is difficulty. Our larger hearts will not consent that all except the saints must spend an eternity of torture, though this is the logic of our creeds. Our hearts protest, saying that three-fourths of humanity today are heathen and that fully that proportion of humanity altogether have never heard of God and the terms of salvation.
The Best of People Perplexed
Our creeds perplex us; for, as our hearts will not permit us to think of these poor creatures going to an eternity of misery, neither will our heads permit us to say that they are fit for heaven. Indeed it would be at variance not only with the Scripture, but also with reason itself, to suppose heaven with three-fourths of its inhabitants unregenerate in every sense of the word. Our forefathers merely spoiled things for us when they threw away purgatory and kept the remainder of the arrangement. If we must object to purgatory as being unscriptural, must we not equally object to the eternal torment of all the families of the earth as being unscriptural, especially when the Bible declares that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 28:14) through Christ — blessed with a knowledge of the Truth and opportunity to come into heart harmony with God and attain everlasting life through Christ. I believe that it is necessary to press this point of the unreasonableness of the eternal torment doctrine. Nevertheless, I will remind you of what our prominent Protestant theories are on the subject:
(1) The Calvinistic thought is that divine wisdom and power planned for mankind in advance — knew of the fall of man in advance, and prepared therefor by the creating of a great place called hell and the manning of it with fire-proof devils for the torment of the race — all except the “little flock” (Luke 12:32), the “elect” (Titus 1:1). Love and justice were left out of this calculation.
(2) The other prominent Protestant theory, the Armenian, held today probably by the majority, insists that both love and justice created the world and arranged the torment, and that wisdom and power were not consulted; hence that God has gotten into difficulty, while endeavoring to do justly and lovingly by his creatures; because lacking in power to render the needed aid.
The entire difficulty, dear friends, is that, in our reasoning on the subject, we have merely asked the opinions of men and have not sought the Word of the Lord.
Let us consider the clear, plain, reasonable, just, loving and wise program of our heavenly Father. It has been so long overlooked, so long buried under the rubbish of human tradition of the “dark ages” that today “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Well did our Lord through the prophet declare:
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” — Isa. 55:9.
What Say the Scriptures?
All of the foregoing theories, be it noticed, are based upon the assumption that death does not mean death — that to die is to become more alive than before death. In Eden it was God who declared to our first parents, “Thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). It was Satan who declared, “Ye shall not surely die (Gen 3:4). Notice that the heathen, as well as the Christians, have accepted Satan’s lie and correspondingly rejected God’s truth. Do they not all agree with the serpent’s statement, “Ye shall not surely die”? Do they not all claim that the dead are alive — much more alive than before they died? This, dear friends, has been our common point of mistake. We have followed the wrong teacher, the one of whom our Lord said, “He abode not in the Truth,” and that he is the father of lies. — John 8:44.
These false doctrines have prevailed amongst the heathen for many, many centuries, but they gained an ascendancy in the church of Christ during the “dark ages” and had much to do with producing the darkness thereof. If our forefathers had believed God’s testimony, “Thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17), there would have been no room for the introduction of prayers for the dead, masses for their sins, frightful thoughts respecting their torture. The scriptures agree from first to last that “the dead know not anything” (Ecc. 9:5) and that “His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them” (Job 14:21). It is the scriptures that tell us where the dead are and their condition; that they are experiencing neither joy nor sorrow, pleasure nor suffering; that they will have no knowledge of anything done under the sun until their awakening in the resurrection. Remember the wise man’s words, “Do with thy might what thy hand findeth to do, for there is neither wisdom nor knowledge nor device in (sheol) the grave, whither thou goest.” (Ecc. 9:10) Both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament it is written of both the good and the bad that they fell asleep in death. The apostle speaks of those who “sleep in Jesus,” (1 Thes. 4:14) and of those who have “fallen asleep in Christ” (1 Cor. 15:18) who, he declares, are perished, if there be no resurrection of the dead. Could they perish in heaven or in purgatory or in a hell of torment? Assuredly no one so teaches. They are already in a perished condition in the tomb; and the perishing would be absolute, complete, unless a resurrection be provided for their deliverance from the power of death. Hence we read, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
In a word, then, the Bible teaching is that man was made superior to all the brute creation — in the image and likeness of his Creator; that he possessed life in a perfect degree in Eden and might have retained it by full obedience. But in his trial, his testing, he failed and came under the death sentence. “In the day that thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die.” (Gen. 2:17) There the dying began, which, after nine hundred and thirty years, brought father Adam to the tomb and involved all of his children in his weaknesses and death sentence. He died in the very day, which the Apostle Peter explains was not a twenty-four hour day but a thousand-year day, saying, “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years.” (2 Peter 3:8) During six of these great days the death sentence has brought man down in some respects to the level of the brute and left him without hope of future life, except as God might take compassion upon him and bring him some relief. This was hinted at in the statement that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. It was yet further elaborated to Abraham saying, “In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” — Gen. 28:14.
Death, Not Torment, the Penalty
Note well the mistake made in assuming eternal torment the wages of original sin, when the scriptures explicitly declare that “The wages of sin is death” — not eternal torment. (Rom. 6:23) We search the Genesis account of man’s fall and the sentence imposed, but find no suggestion of a future punishment, but merely of a death penalty. Repeating it the second time the Lord said, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. 3:19) But he said not a word respecting devils, fire and torment. How, then, did the Adversary deceive our fathers during the “dark ages” with his errors, which the apostle styles “doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1)? Note the fact that none of the prophecies mention any other than a death penalty for sin. Note that the New Testament likewise declares the same. St. Paul, who wrote more than one-half of the New Testament, and who assures us that he did not shun to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), says not a word about torment. On the contrary, discussing this very matter of sin and its penalty, he says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) Note that it was not eternal torment that passed upon one man nor upon all men, but death. If some one suggests that death would not be a sufficient penalty for sin, all we would need to do would be to point him to the facts and thus prove his suggestion illogical. For the sin of disobedience Adam lost his paradisaic home — lost eternal life and divine fellowship, and instead got sickness, pain, sorrow, death. Additionally the billions and billions of his posterity, disinherited so far as the blessings are concerned, have inherited weaknesses, mental, moral and physical, and are, as the apostle declares, “A groaning creation.” — Rom. 8:22.
God’s Penalty a Just One
Let no one think the death penalty unjust and too severe. God could have blotted out Adam, the sinner, thus fulfilling the sentence. He could have blotted out the race instantly. But would we have preferred that? Assuredly not. Life is sweet, even amidst pain and suffering. Besides, it is the divine purpose that present trials and experiences shall prove useful as disciplines; to prepare us for a wiser course than father Adam took, when we shall be privileged to have a further individual trial. Our race would have been without hope of future existence, just as agnosticism claims, had it not been for divine compassion and the work of redemption.
Notice again why our Lord died for our redemption and see in that another evidence of the penalty. If the penalty against us had been eternal torment, our redemption from it would have cost our Lord that price. He would have been obliged to suffer eternal torment, the just for the unjust. But eternal torment was not the penalty; hence Jesus did not pay that penalty for us. Death was the penalty and hence “Christ died for our sins.” “He by the grace of God” tasted “death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). Whoever could pay Adam’s penalty could settle with divine justice for the sins of the whole world, because Adam alone had been tried — Adam alone had been condemned. We, his children, were involved through him. Behold the wisdom and the economy of our Creator. The scriptures assure us that he condemned the whole world for one man’s disobedience, in order that he might have mercy upon all through the obedience of another — Christ. We were condemned to death without our consent or knowledge. We were redeemed from death without our consent or knowledge.
Some one may inquire, “Are we, therefore, without responsibility? Will there be no individual penalty upon us for individual wrong doings?” We answer, “A just recompense of reward” (Heb 2:2) will be meted out to all. But our eternal destiny can be settled only by ourselves, by our individual acceptance or rejection of the grace of God. The scriptures clearly inform us that every sin, in proportion to its willfulness, brings a measure of degradation which involves “stripes,” chastisements, corrections to regain the lost standing. (Luke 12:47,48) Thus the more mean and more wicked a man or woman may be, the greater will be his or her disadvantages in the resurrection time, and the more he will then have to overcome to get back to all that was lost in Adam and redeemed by Christ.
“And the Dead Came Forth”
At his first advent our Lord’s miracles foreshadowed the great work which he, with his glorified Church, will accomplish for the world during the Millennium — then all the sick, lame, blind and deaf will be revived and, if obedient, will be brought ultimately to full perfection. The disobedient will be destroyed in the Second death. The most notable miracle which our Lord performed was the awakening of Lazarus, his friend. Jesus was gone several days when Lazarus took sick and, of course, knew about the matter. Nevertheless Martha and Mary sent him a special message, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.” (John 11:3) They knew of Jesus’ power to heal, even by the word of his mouth. They had faith that if he could help strangers, he would surely be glad to assist his friend. But Jesus remained where he was and allowed Lazarus to die and a rude shock to come to the dear sisters. Then he said to his disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.” (John 11:11) Then, coming down to their comprehension, he added, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there.” — John 11:14,15.
He was glad to let his friend fall asleep in death because it would provide a special opportunity for a special miracle. Then, with his disciples, he began the three-days’ journey to Bethany. We cannot blame the sorrowing sisters that they felt hurt that the Messiah should apparently neglect their interests. They knew that he had the power to relieve them. Martha’s gentle reproof was, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (John 11:21,23,24) Notice that our Lord did not say, “Thy brother is not dead; thy brother is more alive than he ever was; he is in heaven or in purgatory.” Nothing of the kind! Purgatory had not yet been invented, and he knew nothing of it. And as for heaven our Lord’s testimony is, in our text, “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven.” Martha was also well informed. The errors of the “dark ages” had not yet supplanted the truth. Her hope for her brother was the Scriptural one — that he would rise in the resurrection, in the last day, the Millennial day, the seventh of the great thousand-year days from creation.
Our Lord explained that the power of resurrection was vested in himself, that he was there with her, and could give relief to them without waiting. Martha told our Lord that it was too late, that putrefaction had set in by this time. But Jesus insisted on seeing the tomb and when he arrived at it, he said, “Lazarus, come forth.” And we read, “He that was dead came forth.” (John 11:43,44) Mark well that it was not the living that came forth, but that Lazarus was really dead. Mark well that he was not called from heaven nor from purgatory.
“All That Are in Their Graves”
What Jesus did for Lazarus he intimated he would ultimately do for Adam and his entire race. Note his words: “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.” (John 5:28,29) Does this astonish us? If so, the reason is not far to seek. It is because we have gotten so far away from the teachings of the Bible — so fully immersed in the “doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1), so fully to believe in the serpent’s lie, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4) — so blinded to the Lord’s declaration, “Thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17), and “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
The remainder of John 5:29 explains that there will be two general classes of the dead to come forth. The first, those who have had their trial and who have passed it successfully; the second, all the remainder of mankind who have thus far failed to have divine approval. The approved will come forth from the tomb unto a resurrection of life — perfection. The disapproved will come forth unto a resurrection of judgment (see Revised Version). The coming forth is one thing. The resurrection is another. The apostle explains that they will come forth, “every man in his own order.” (1 Cor. 15:23) On thus being awakened the privilege will be theirs of rising, up, up, up out of present degradation, mental, moral, physical, to the glorious perfection which father Adam enjoyed in the image and likeness of his Creator. The uplifting or resurrection work St. Peter refers to as the “restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).
Not Universalism Either
Nor does this mean universal everlasting life, for the scriptures declare that such as refuse to profit by the glorious opportunities of the Millennium, such as refuse to be uplifted to perfection, shall be destroyed from amongst the people in the Second death — “They shall be as though they had not been.” (Obadiah 16) Our Lord entered the synagogue at Capernaum and, being asked to read the lesson, chose Isaiah, the sixty-first chapter. He read respecting himself and his work — that a part of it would be to open the prison doors and set at liberty the captives. We are well aware that our Lord did not open any of the literal prisons, such as John the Baptist was confined in. He made no effort to succor him. The prison-house which Christ will open is the great prison-house, the tomb, which holds billions of our race. At this second advent our Lord will open this great prison-house and allow all the prisoners to come forth, just as truly as he did in the example — in the case of Lazarus. Nor will he call them from heaven, purgatory and hell, but, just as he declared,”Lazarus, come forth,” “all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth” (John 5:28,29).
Where Are the Dead?
My dear friends, you had before your minds the answers to our question from the highest to the lowest earthly authorities. None of them was satisfactory. Now you have heard the testimony of God’s Word — the divine declaration as to “Where are the dead?” Harkening to the voice from heaven we are assured that they are really dead and that all their hopes as respects the future are centered, first upon the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus, accomplished at Calvary, and secondly, upon the work or resurrection which, at his second advent, he is to accomplish for those whom he redeemed. If perchance you have a shade of disappointment as respects a saintly brother or sister, father or mother or child who you hoped was already in heaven, then as a consolation look at the other side of the question — behold how many of your loved ones, kith and kin, friends and foes and neighbors, according to your theory and all the prevalent theories, have been suffering untellable woe since their death and would be suffering similarly for long centuries to come — consider the relief of mind and heart you get from the knowledge of the truth: that they are not alive anywhere, but simply dead, or more poetically, they are “Asleep in Jesus,” in the sense that he is their Redeemer, in whom all their hopes of a future awakening reside.
Present Your Bodies Sacrifices
Just a closing word! Our subject would lack a proper finish if we did not explain scripturally why God has delayed the world’s blessing, the resurrection, nearly two thousand years since the death of Jesus. The reason is such a glorious one! It must appeal to every true Christian heart and make it glad. It is this:
God purposed the selection of the Church before the blessing of resurrection should go to the world. This Church is called sometimes “the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27), which is the church of which Jesus is the head (Eph. 5:23). Again it is styled “The Bride — the Lamb’s Wife” (Rev. 21:9). Ever since Pentecost the heavenly Father has been drawing believers to Jesus’ side. After having been justified through faith in the precious blood, they have been invited to become Jesus’ disciples, his followers, to walk in his steps, to lay down their lives in the Father’s service, as Jesus did, and to develop in their hearts the fruits and graces of the holy Spirit to such a degree that they might be called copies of God’s dear Son.
The promise to these is not the resurrection of restitution promised to the world during the Millennium. On the contrary, these have a “heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1). After their consecration they are begotten of the holy Spirit and then instructed in the school of Christ and submitted to trials and disciplines in various ways, for the purpose of chiseling ad polishing their characters as New Creatures. These are a “little flock” (Luke 12:32), gathered one here and one there; “saints” (Rom. 1:7) from all denominations and from outside of all denominations, for “the Lord knoweth them that are his” (2 Tim. 2:19). When the predestined number of the “elect” (Titus 1:1) shall have been selected and polished, the present age will end. Our Lord will come in second advent glory and power. His elect Bride will constitute the First Resurrection class, from earthly to heavenly nature, “changed in a moment,” for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.” — 1 Cor. 15:50-52.
Then will come the holy, invisible Millennial Kingdom and the binding of Satan and the destruction of his unholy, invisible kingdom, and the setting loose of agencies for the enlightening and uplifting of the whole race.
Those of you who are already the Lord’s consecrated saints, lift up your heads and realize more fully than ever before the glorious fullness of the heavenly calling, of which you have been made partakers. To others who have the hearing ear and appreciate this high calling we way, Permit the love of God and of Christ to constrain you (2 Cor. 5:14) and become disciples indeed of Jesus, laying aside every weight and every besetting sin, and entering the race and pressing with vigor to its end and crown of glory! (Heb. 12:1)
“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” — Isa. 8:20
A correct understanding of this subject has become almost a necessity to Christian steadfastness. For centuries it has been the teaching of “orthodoxy,” of all shades, that God, before creating man, had created a great abyss of fire and terrors, capable of containing all the billions of the human family, which he purposed to bring into being; that this abyss He had named “hell”; and that all of the promises and threatenings of the Bible were designed to deter as many as possible (a “little flock”) from such wrong-doing as would make this awful place their perpetual home.
As knowledge increases and superstitions fade, this monstrous view of the divine arrangement and character is losing its force; and thinking people cannot but disbelieve the legend, which used to be illustrated on the church walls in the highest degree of art and realism, samples of which are still to be seen in Europe. Some now claim that the place is literal, but the fire symbolic, etc., while others repudiate the doctrine of “hell” in every sense and degree. While glad to see superstitions fail, and truer ideas of the great, and wise, and just, and loving Creator prevail, we are alarmed to notice that the tendency with all who abandon this long revered doctrine is toward doubt, skepticism, infidelity. Why should this be the case, when the mind is merely being delivered from an error — do you ask? Because Christian people have so long been taught that the foundation for this awful blasphemy against God’s character and government is deep-laid, and firmly fixed, in the Word of God — the Bible — and, consequently, to whatever degree that belief in “hell” is shaken, to that extent their faith in the Bible as the revelation of the true God, is shaken also — so that those who have dropped their belief in a “hell,” of some kind of endless torment, are often open infidels, and scoffers at God’s Word.
Guided by the Lord’s providence to a realization that the Bible has been slandered, as well as its divine Author, and that, rightly understood, it teaches nothing on this subject derogatory to God’s character nor to an intelligent reason, we will attempt to lay bare the Scripture teaching on this subject, that thereby faith in God and His Word may be re-established, in the hearts of His people, on a better, a reasonable foundation. Indeed, it is our opinion that whoever shall hereby find that his false view rested upon human misconception and misinterpretations, will, at the same time, learn to trust hereafter less to his own and other men’s imaginings, and, by faith, to grasp more firmly the Word of God, which is able to make wise unto salvation.
That the advocates of the doctrine of eternal torment have little or no faith in it is very manifest from the fact that it has no power over their course of action. While all the denominations of Christendom sustain the doctrine that eternal torment and endless, hopeless despair will constitute the punishment of the wicked, they are mostly quite at ease in allowing the wicked to take their course, while they pursue the even tenor of their way. Chiming bells and pealing organs, artistic choirs, and costly edifices, and upholstered pews, and polished oratory which more and more avoids any reference to this alarming theme, afford rest and entertainment to fashionable congregations that gather on the Lord’s day and are known to the world as churches of Christ and representatives of his doctrines. But they seem little concerned about the eternal welfare of the multitudes, or even of themselves and their own families, though one would naturally presume that with such awful possibilities in view they would be almost frantic in their efforts to rescue the perishing.
The plain inference is that they do not believe it. The only class of people that to any degree show their faith in it by their words is the Salvation Army; and these are the subjects of ridicule from almost all other Christians because they are somewhat consistent with their belief. Yet their peculiar, and often absurd, methods, so strikingly in contrast with those of the Lord, of whom it was written, “He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street” (Isa. 42:2), are very mild compared with what might be expected if they were fully convinced of their doctrine. We cannot imagine how sincere believers of this terrible doctrine go from day to day about the ordinary affairs of life, or meet quietly in elegance every Sunday to hear an essay from the pulpit on the peculiar subjects often advertised. Could they do so while really believing all the time that fellow mortals are dying at the rate of one hundred a minute, and entering
“That lone land of deep despair,” where
“No God regards their bitter prayer”?
If they really believed this, few saints could complacently sit there and think of those hurrying every moment into that awful state described by that good, well-meaning, but greatly deluded man, Isaac Watts (whose own heart was immeasurable warmer and larger than that he ascribed to the great Jehovah), when he wrote the hymn —
“Tempests of angry fire shall roll
To blast the rebel worm,
And beat upon the naked soul
In one eternal storm.”
People often become frantic with grief when friends have been caught in some terrible catastrophe, as a fire, or a wreck, though they know they will soon be relieved by death. Yet they pretend to believe that God is less loving than themselves, and that He can look with indifference, if not with delight, at billions of His creatures enduring an eternity of torture far more terrible, which He prepares for them and prevents any escape from forever. Not only so, but they expect that they will get literally into Abraham’s bosom, and will then look across the guilt and see and hear the agonies of the multitudes (some of whom they now love and weep over); and they imagine that they will be so changed and become so like their present idea of God, so hardened against al pity, and so barren of love and sympathy, that they will delight in such a God and in such a plan.
It is wonderful that otherwise sensible men and women, who love their fellows, and who establish hospital, orphanages, asylums, and societies for the prevention of cruelty even to the brute creation, are so unbalanced mentally that they can believe and subscribe to such a doctrine, and yet be so indifferent about investigating its authority!
Only one exception can we think of — those who hold the ultra-Calvanistic doctrine; who believe that God has decreed it thus, that all the efforts they could put forth could not alter the result with a single person; and that all the prayers they could offer would not change one iota of the awful plan they believe God has marked out for His and their eternal pleasure. These indeed could sit still so far as effort for their fellows is concerned. But why sing the praises of such a scheme for the damnation of their neighbors whom God has told them to love as themselves? Why not rather begin to doubt this “doctrine of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1), this blasphemy against the great God, hatched in the “dark ages,” when a crafty priesthood taught that it is right to do evil that good may result.
The doctrine of eternal torment was undoubtedly introduced by Papacy to induce pagans to join her and support her system. It flourished at the same time that bull fights and gladiatorial contests were the public amusements most enjoyed; when the Crusades were called “holy wars,” and when men and women were called “heretics” and were often slaughtered for thinking or speaking contrary to the teachings of the Papacy; at a time when the sun of gospel truth was obscure; when the Word of God had fallen into disuse and was prohibited to be read by any but the clergy, whose love of their neighbors was often shown in torturing “heretics” to induce them to recant and deny their faith and their Bibles — to save them, if possible, they explained, from the more awful future of “heretics” — eternal torture. They did not borrow this doctrine from the heathen, for no heathen people in the world have a doctrine so cruel, so fiendish and so unjust. Find it, whoever can, and show it up in all its blackness, that if possible it may be shown that the essence of barbarism, malice, hate and ungodliness has not been exclusively appropriated by those whom God has most highly favored with light from every quarter, and to whom He has committed the only oracle — His Word. Oh, the shame and confusion that will cover the faces of may, even good men, who verily thought that they did God service while propagating this blasphemous doctrine, when they awake in the resurrection to learn of the love and justice of God, and when they come to know that the Bible does not teach this God-dishonoring, love-extinguishing, truth-beclouding, saint-hindering, sinner-hardening, “damnable heresy” of eternal torment. — 2 Peter 2:1.
But we repeat that, in the light and moral development of this day, sensible people do not believe this doctrine. However, since they think that the Bible teaches it, every step they progress in real intelligence and brotherly kindness, which hinders belief in eternal torment, is in most cases a step away from God’s Word, which is falsely accused of being the authority for this teaching. Hence the second crop of evil fruit, which the devil’s engraftment of this error is producing, is skepticism. The intelligent, honest thinkers are thus driven from the Bible into vain philosophies and sciences, falsely so-called, and into infidelity. Nor do the “worldly” really believe this doctrine, nor is it a restraint to crime, for convicts and the less educated are the firmest believers in it.
But, says one, Has not the error done some good? Have not many been brought into the churches by the preaching of this doctrine in the past?
No error ever did real good, but always harm. Those whom error brings into a church, and whom the truth would not move, are an injury to the church. The thousands terrorized, but not at heart converted, which this doctrine forced into Papacy, and which swelled her numbers and her wealth, diluted what little truth was held before, and mingled it with their unholy sentiments and errors, so that, to meet the changed conditions of things, the clergy found it needful to add error to error, and resorted to methods, forms, etc., not taught in the scriptures and useless to the truly converted whom the truth controls. Among these were pictures, images, beads, vestments, candles, grand cathedrals, altars, etc., to help the unconverted heathen to a form of godliness more nearly corresponding to their former heathen worship, but lacking all the power of vital 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” today, who are not really at heart converted by the truth, but merely frightened by the error, or allured by promised earthly advantages of a social or business kind. Such add nothing to the true Church; by their ideas and manners become stumbling blocks to the truly consecrated, and by their inability to digest the truth, the real food of the saints, they lead even the few true pastors to defraud the true “sheep” (Matt. 25:33) in order to satisfy the demands of these “goats” for something pleasing to their unconverted tastes. No: in no way has this error accomplished good except in the sense that God is able to make even the wrath of man to praise Him. So also He will overrule this evil thing eventually to serve His purposes. When by and by all men (during the Millennium) shall come to see through this great deception by which Satan has blinded the world to God’s true character, it will perhaps awaken in them a warmer, stronger love for God.
Seeing, then, the unreasonableness of man’s view, let us lay aside human opinions and theories and come to the Word of God, the only authority on the subject, remembering that
“God is his own interpreter
and He will make it plain.”
“Hell” As an English Word
In the first place bear in mind that the Old Testament scriptures were written in the Hebrew language, and the New Testament in the Greek. The word “hell” is an English word sometimes selected by the translators of the English Bible to express the sense of the Hebrew word sheol and the Greek words, hades, tartaroo and gehenna — sometimes rendered “grave” and “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, hidden or covered place. In old English literature records may be found of the helling of potatoes — putting potatoes into pits; and of the helling of a house — covering or thatching it. The word hell was therefore properly used synonymously with the words “grave” and “pit,” to translate the word sheol and hades as signifying the secret or hidden condition of death. However, the same spirit which was willing to twist the word to terrorize the ignorant is willing still to perpetuate the error, presumably saying, “Let us do evil that good may 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 thirty-one times “grave” and three times “pit,” it could not have been improper to so translate it in every other instance.
A peculiarity to be observed in comparing these cases, as we will do shortly, is that in those texts where the torment idea would be an absurdity the translators of the King James’ version have used the words “grave” or “pit”; while in all other cases they have used the word “hell”; and the reader, long schooled in the Papal idea of torment, reads the word “hell” and thinks of it as signifying a place of torment, instead of the grave, the hidden or covered place or condition. For example, compare Job 14:13 with Psalms 86:13. The former reads “O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave (sheol), etc.” while the latter reads “Thou has delivered my soul from the lowest hell (sheol).” The Hebrew word being the same in both cases, there is no reason why the same word “grave” should not be used in both. But how absurd it would have been for Job to pray to God to hide him in a hell of eternal torture! The English reader would have asked questions and the secret would have gotten out speedily.
While the translators of the Reformation times are somewhat excusable for their mental bias in this matter, as they were just breaking away from the old Papal system, our modern translators, specially those of the recent Revised Version, are not entitled to any such consideration. Theological professors and pastors of congregations consider that they are justified in following the course of the revisers in not explaining the meaning of either the Hebrew or Greek words sheol or hades, and by their use of the words they also give their confiding flocks to understand that a place of torture, a lake of fire, is meant. While attributing to the ignorant only the best motives, it is manifestly only duplicity and cowardice which induces educated men, who know the truth on this subject, to prefer to continue to teach the error 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 the Chief Shepherd commend these unfaithful servants? Will he justify their course? Will he call these his beloved friends, and make known to them his further plans (John 15:15), that they may misrepresent them also to preserve their own dignity and reverence? Will he continue to send forth “things new and old” (Matt. 13:52), “meat in due season” (Matt. 24:45), to the household of faith, by the hand of the unfaithful servants? No, such shall not continue to be his mouthpiece or to shepherd his flock. (Ezek. 34:9,10) He will choose instead, as at the first advent, from among the laity — “the common people” — mouthpieces, and will give them words which none of the chief priests shall be able to gainsay or resist. (Luke 21:15) And, as foretold, “the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” — Isa. 29:9-19
“Hell” in the Old Testament
The word “hell” occurs thirty-one times in the Old Testament and in every instance it is “sheol” in the Hebrew. It does not mean a lake of fire and brimstone, nor anything at all resembling that thought: not in the slightest degree! Quite the reverse: instead of a place of blazing fire, it is described in the context as a state of “darkness” (Job 10:21); instead of a place where shrieks and groans are heard, it is described in the context as a place of “silence” (Psalms 115:17); instead of representing in any sense pain and suffering, or remorse, the context describes it as a place or condition of forgetfulness (Psalms 88:11,12). “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge . . . in the grave [sheol] whither thou goest.” — Ecc. 9:10.
The meaning of sheol is “the hidden state,” as applied to man’s condition in death, in and beyond which all is hidden, except to the eye of faith; hence, by proper and close association, the word was often used in the sense of grave — the tomb, the hidden place, or place beyond which only those who have the enlightened eye of understanding can see resurrection, restitution of being. And be it particularly noted that this identical word sheol is translated “grave” thirty-one times and “pit” three times in our common version by the same translators — more times than it is translated “hell.” Twice, where it is translated “hell,” it seemed so absurd, according to the present accepted meaning of the English word “hell,” that scholars have felt it necessary to explain in the margin of modern Bibles, that is means grave. (Isa. 14:9 and Jonah 2:2) In the latter case, the hidden state, or grave, was the belly of the fish in which Jonah was buried alive, and from which he cried to God.
All Texts in Which “Sheol” Is Translated “Hell”
(1) Amos 9:2. — “Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them.” [A figurative expression; but certainly pits of the earth are the only hells men dig into.]
(2) Psalms 16:10. — “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” [This refers to our Lord’s three days in the tomb. — Acts 2:31; Acts 3:15.]
(3, 4) Psalms 18:5 and 2 Samuel 22:6 margin. — “The cords of hell compassed me about.” [A figure in which trouble is represented as hastening one to the tomb.]
(5) Psalms 55:15. — “Let them go down quick into hell” –margin, “the grave.”
(6) Psalms 9:17. — “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” This text will be treated later, under a separate heading.
(7) Psalms 86:13. — “Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell” — margin, “the grave.”
(8) Psalms 116:3. — “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me.” [Sickness and trouble are the figurative hands of the grave to grasp us.]
(9) Psalms 139:8. — “If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” [God’s power is unlimited; even over those in the tomb. He can and will exert it and bring forth all that are in the graves. — John 5:28]
(10) Deuteronomy 32:22. — “For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell.” [A figurative representation of the destruction, the utter ruin of Israel as a nation — “wrath . . . to the uttermost,” as the apostle called it, God’s anger burning that nation to the “lowest deep,” as Leeser here translates the word sheol. — 1 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) Proverbs 5:5. — “Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell [i.e., lead to the grave].”
(14) Proverbs 7:27. — “Her house is the way to hell [the grave], going down to the chambers of death.”
(15) Proverbs 9:18. — “He knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.” [Here the harlot’s guests are represented as dead, diseased, or dying, and many of the victims of sensuality in premature graves from diseases which also hurry off their posterity to the tomb.]
(16) Proverbs 15:11. — “Hell and destruction are before the LORD.” [Here the grave is associated with destruction and not with a life of torment.]
(17) Proverbs 15:24. — “The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.” [This illustrates the hope of resurrection from the tomb.]
(18) Proverbs 23:14. — “Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell” [i.e., wise correction will save a child from vicious ways which lead to premature death, and may also possibly prepare him to escape the “Second death“].
(19) Proverbs 27:20. — “Hell [the grave] and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.”
(20) Isaiah 5:14. — “Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure.” [Here the grave is a symbol of destruction.]
(21, 22) Isaiah 14:9,15. — “Hell [margin, grave] from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming.” “Thou shalt be brought down to hell” [the grave — so rendered in verse 11].
(23) Isaiah 57:9. — “And didst debase thyself even unto hell.” [Here figurative of deep degradation.]
(24, 25) Ezekiel 31:15-17. — “In the day when he went down to the grave. . . . I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit. . . . They also went down into hell with him unto them that be slain with the sword.” [Figurative and prophetic description of the fall of Babylon into destruction, silence, the grave.]
(26) Ezekiel 32:21. — “The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him.” [A continuation of the same figure representing Egypt’s overthrow as a nation to join Babylon in destruction — buried.]
(27) Ezekiel 32:27. — “And they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone down to hell with their weapons of war: and they have laid their swords under their heads, but their iniquities shall be upon their bones, though they were the terror of the mighty in the land of the living.” [The grave is the only “hell” where fallen ones are buried and lie with their weapons of war under their heads.]
(28) Habakkuk 2:5. — “Who enlargeth his desire as hell [the grave], and as death, and cannot be satisfied.”
(29) Jonah 2:1,2. — “Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.” [The belly of the fish was for a time his grave — see margin.]
(30, 31) Isaiah 28:15,18. — “Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell [the grave] are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: Therefore, thus saith the Lord, . . . Your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell [the grave] shall not stand.” [God thus declares that the present prevalent idea, by which death and the grave are represented as friends, rather than enemies, shall cease; and men shall learn that death is the wages of sin, and that it is in Satan’s power (Rom. 6:23; Heb. 2:14) and not an angel sent by God.]
All Other Texts Where “Sheol” Occurs —
Rendered “Grave” and “Pit”
Genesis 37:35. — “I will go down into the grave unto my son.”
Genesis 42:38. — “Then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.” [See also the same expression 44:29,31. The translators did not like to send God’s servant, Jacob, to hell simply because his sons were evil.]
1 Samuel 2:6. — “The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.”
1 Kings 2:6,9. — “Let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace. . . . His hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood.”
Job 7:9. — “He that goeth down to the grave.”
Job 14:13. — “O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me [resurrect me]!”
Job 17:13. — “If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness.” [Job waits for resurrection — “in the 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 wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.”
Job 24:19,20. — “Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so doth the grave those which have sinned.” [All have sinned, hence “Death passed upon all men,” and all go down to the grave. But all have been redeemed by “the precious blood of Christ”; hence all shall be awakened and come forth again in God’s due time — “in the morning,” Rom. 5:12,18,19.]
Psalms 6:5. — “In death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?”
Psalms 30:3. — “O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.” [This passage expresses gratitude for recovery from danger of death.]
Psalms 31:17. — “Let the wicked be ashamed, let them be silent in the grave.”
Psalms 49:14,15, margin. — “Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright [the saints — Dan. 7:27] shall have dominion over them in the morning [the Millennial morning]; and their beauty shall consume, the grave being an habitation to every one of them. But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave.”
Psalms 88:3. — “My life draweth nigh unto the grave.”
Psalms 89:48. — “Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?”
Psalms 141:7. — “Our bones are scattered at the grave’s mouth.”
Proverbs 1:12. — “Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit” [i.e., as an earthquake, as in Num. 16:30-33].
Proverbs 30:15,16. — “Four things say not, It is enough: the grave,” etc.
Ecclesiastes 9:10. — “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”
Song of Solomon 8:6. — “Jealousy is cruel as the grave.”
Isaiah 14:11. — “Thy pomp is brought down to the grave.”
Isaiah 38:10. — “I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years.”
Isaiah 38:18. — “The grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.”
Numbers 16:30-33. — “If . . . they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand. . . . The ground clave asunder that was under them: and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.”
Ezekiel 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.
“Hell” in the New Testament
In the New Testament, the Greek word hades corresponds exactly to the Hebrew word sheol. As proof see the quotations of the apostles from the Old Testament in which they render it hades. For instance, Acts 2:27, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hades,” is a quotation from Psalms 16:10, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in sheol.” And in 1 Cor. 15:54,55, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave [hades], where is thy victory?” is an allusion to Isaiah 25:8, “He will swallow up death in victory,” and to Hosea 13:14, “O death, I will be thy plagues; O sheol, I will be thy destruction.”
“Hell” From the Greek Word “Hades”
Matthew 11:23. — “And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell.” Luke 10:15 — “Shalt be thrust down to hell.” [In privileges of knowledge and opportunity the city was highly favored or, figuratively, “exalted unto heaven”; but because of misuse of God’s favors, it would be debased, or, figuratively, cast down to hades, overthrown, destroyed. It is now so thoroughly buried in oblivion, that even the site where it stood is a matter of dispute. Capernaum is certainly destroyed, thrust down to hades.]
Luke 16:23. — “In hell he lift[ed] up his eyes, being in torments.” [A parabolic figure explained further along, under a separate heading.]
Revelation 6:8. — “And behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” [Symbol of destruction or the grave.]
Matthew 16:18. — “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” [Although bitter and relentless persecution, even unto death, should afflict the Church during the Gospel age, it should never prevail to her utter extermination; and eventually, by her resurrection, accomplished by her Lord, the Church will prevail over hades — the tomb.]
Christ in “Hell” (Hades) and Resurrected from “Hell”
(Hades) — (Acts 2:1, 14, 22-31)
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come . . . Peter . . . lifted up his voice, and said . . . Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you . . . being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God [‘He was delivered for our offenses’], ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains [or bands] of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it [for the Word of Jehovah had previously declared his resurrection]. For David speaketh concerning him [personating or speaking for him], ‘I [Christ] foresaw the Lord [Jehovah] always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [hades, the tomb, the state of death], neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou [Jehovah] hast made known to me [Christ] the ways of life.'”
Here our Lord, as personified by the prophet David, expresses his faith in Jehovah’s promise of a resurrection and in the full and glorious accomplishment of Jehovah’s plan through him, and rejoices in the prospect. Peter then proceeds, saying:
“Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day [so that this prophecy could not have referred to himself personally; for David’s soul was left in “hell” — [hades, the tomb, the state of death — and his flesh did see corruption]. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before [prophetically] spake of the resurrection of Christ [out of “hell” — hades, the tomb — to which he must go for our offenses], that his soul was not left in hell [hades — the death state], neither his flesh did see corruption.”
Thus Peter presents a strong, logical argument, based on the words of the prophet David — showing first, that Christ, who was delivered by God for our offenses, went to “hell,” the grave, the condition of death, destruction (Psalms 16:10); and, second, that according to promise he had been delivered from hell, the grave, death, destruction by a resurrection — a raising up to life; being created again, the same identical being, yet more glorious and exalted even to “the express image of his [the Father’s] person.” (Heb. 1:3) And now “that same Jesus” (Acts 2:36), in his subsequent revelation to the Church, declares:
“I am he that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell [hades, the grave] and of death.” — Rev. 1:18.
Amen! Amen! our hearts respond; for in his resurrection we see the glorious outcome of the whole plan of Jehovah to be accomplished through the power of the Resurrected One who now holds the keys of the tomb and of death and in due time will release all the prisoners who are, therefore, called the “prisoners of hope.” (Zech. 9:12; Luke 4:18) No craft or cunning can by any possible device wrest these scriptures entire and pervert them to the support of that monstrous and blasphemous Papal tradition of eternal torment. Had that been our penalty, Christ, to be our vicarious sacrifice, must still, and to all eternity, endure such torment, which no one will claim. But death was our penalty, and “Christ died for our sins,” and “also for the sins of the whole world.” — 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 John 2:2.
Revelation 20:13,14. — “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [the grave] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell [the grave] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the Second death.” The lake of fire is the symbol of final and everlasting destruction. Death and hell [the grave] both go into it. There shall be no more death; “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” — 1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 21:4.
Other Occurrences of the Word “Hell”
Having examined the word sheol, the only word in the Old Testament rendered “hell,” and the word hades, most frequently in the New Testament rendered “hell,” we now notice every remaining instance in Scripture of the English word “hell.” In the New Testament two other words are rendered “hell”: namely, Gehenna and tartaroo, which we will consider in the order named.
“Gehenna” Rendered “Hell”
This word occurs in the following passages — in all twelve times: Matt. 5:22,29,30; Matt. 10:28; Matt. 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43-47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6. It is the Grecian mode of spelling the Hebrew words which are translated “Valley of Hinnom.” This valley lay just outside the city of Jerusalem and served the purpose of sewer and garbage burner to that city. The offal, garbage, etc., were emptied there, and fires were kept continually burning to consume utterly all things deposited therein, brimstone being added to assist combustion and insure complete destruction. But no living thing was ever permitted to be cast into Gehenna. The Jews were not allowed to torture any creature.
When we consider that in the people of Israel God was giving us object lessons illustrating his dealings and plans, present and future, we should expect that this Valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna, would also play its part in illustrating things future. We know that Israel’s priesthood and temple illustrated the Royal Priesthood, the Christian Church as it will be, the true Temple of God; and we know that their chief city was a figure of the New Jerusalem, the seat of kingdom power and center of authority — the city (government) of the Great King, Immanuel. We remember, too, that Christ’s government is represented in the book of Revelation (21:10-27) under the figure of a city — the New Jerusalem. There, after describing the class permitted to enter the privileges and blessings of that Kingdom — the honorable and glorious, and all who have right to the trees of life — we find it also declared that there shall not enter into it anything that defileth, or that worketh abomination, or maketh a lie; but only such as the Lamb shall write as worthy of life. This city, which thus will represent the entire saved world in the end of the Millennium, was typified in the earthly city, Jerusalem; and the defiling, the abominable, etc., the class unworthy of life everlasting, who do not enter in, were represented by the refuse and the filthy, lifeless carcasses cast into Gehenna outside the city — whose utter destruction was thus symbolized, the Second death. Accordingly, we find it stated that those not found worthy of life are to be cast into the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15) — fire here, as everywhere, being used as a symbol of destruction, and the symbol, lake of fire, being drawn from the same Gehenna or Valley of Hinnom.
Therefore, while Gehenna served a useful purpose to the city of Jerusalem as a place for garbage burning, it, like the city itself, was typical, and illustrated the future dealings of God in refusing and committing to destruction all the impure elements, thus preventing them from defiling the holy city, the New Jerusalem, after the trial of the Millennial age of judgment shall have fully proved them and separated with unerring accuracy the “sheep” from the “goats.”
So, then, Gehenna was a type or illustration of the Second death — final and complete destruction, from which there can be no recovery; for after that, “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,” but only “fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” — Heb. 10:26,27.
Let us remember that Israel, for the purpose of being used as types of God’s future dealing with the race, was typically treated as though the ransom had been given before they left Egypt, though only a typical lamb had been slain. When Jerusalem was built and the temple — representative of the true Temple, the Church and the true Kingdom as it will be established by Christ in the Millennium — that people typified the world in the Millennial age. Their priests represented the glorified Royal Priesthood, and their Law and its demands of perfect obedience represented the law and condition under the New Covenant, to be brought into operation for the blessing of all the obedient, and for the condemnation of all who, when granted fullest opportunity, will not heartily submit to the righteous ruling and laws of the Great King.
Seeing, then, that Israel’s polity, condition, etc., prefigured those of the world in the coming age, how appropriate that we should find the Valley or abyss, Gehenna, a figure of the Second death, the utter destruction in the coming age of all that is unworthy of preservation; and how aptly, too, is the symbol, “lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Rev. 19:20) drawn from this same Gehenna, or Valley of Hinnom, burning continually with brimstone. The expression, “burning with brimstone,” adds force to the symbol “fire,” to express the utter and irrevocable destructiveness of the Second death; for burning brimstone is the most deadly agent known. How reasonable, too, to expect that Israel would have courts and judges resembling or prefiguring the judgments of the next age; and that the sentence of those (figurative) courts of that (figurative) people under those (figurative) laws to that (figurative) abyss, outside the (figurative) city, would largely correspond to the (real) sentences of the (real) court and judges in the next age. If these points are kept in mind, they will greatly assist us in understanding the words of our Lord in reference to Gehenna; for, though the literal valley just at hand was named and referred to, yet his words carry with them lessons concerning the future age and the antitypical Gehenna — the Second death.
Shall be in Danger of Gehenna (Matt. 5:21,22)
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be amenable to the judges:’ but I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall [future, under the regulations of the real Kingdom] be amenable to the judges; and whosoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca’ [villain] shall be in danger of the high council; but whosoever shall say, ‘Thou fool,’ shall be in danger of hell [Gehenna] fire.”
To understand these references to council and judges and Gehenna, all should know something of Jewish regulations. The “Court of Judges” consisted of seven men (or twenty-three — the number is in dispute), who had power to judge some classes of crimes. The High Council, or Sanhedrin, consisted of seventy-one men of recognized learning and ability. This constituted the highest court of the Jews, and its supervision was over the gravest offenses. The most serious sentence was death; but certain very obnoxious criminals were subjected to an indignity after death, being refused burial and cast with the carcasses of dogs, the city refuse, etc., into Gehenna, there to be consumed. The object of this burning in Gehenna was to make the crime and the criminal detestable in the eyes of the people, and signified that the culprit was a hopeless case. It must be remembered that Israel hoped for a resurrection from the tomb, and hence they were particular in caring for the corpses of their dead. Not realizing fully God’s power, they apparently thought he needed their assistance to that extent. (Exod. 13:19; Heb. 11:22; Acts 7:15,16) Hence the destruction of the body in Gehenna after death (figuratively) implied the loss of hope of future life by a resurrection. Thus to such Gehenna represented the Second death in the same figurative way that they as a people represented or illustrated a future order of things under the New Covenant.
Notice that our Lord, in the above words, pointed out to them that their construction of the Law, severe though it was, was far below the real import of that Law, as it shall be interpreted under the real Kingdom and Judges, which theirs only typified. He shows that the command of their Law, “Thou shalt not kill,” reached much farther than they supposed; that malicious anger and vituperation “shall be” considered a violation of God’s Law under the New Covenant; and that such as, under the favorable conditions of that new age, will not reform so thoroughly as to fully observe God’s Law will be counted worthy of that which the Gehenna near them typified — the Second death. However, the strict severity of that Law will be enforced only in proportion as the discipline, advantages and assistance of that age, enabling each to comply with its laws, shall be disregarded. The same thought is continued in:
“Ye have heard,” etc., “but I say unto you . . . it is better for thee to lose one of thy members, than that thy whole body should be cast into Gehenna.”
Here again the operation of God’s Law under the New Covenant is contrasted with its operation under the Old or Jewish Covenant, and the lesson of self control is urged by the statement that it is far more profitable that men should refuse to gratify depraved desires (though they be dear to them as a right eye, and apparently indispensable as a right hand) than that they should gratify these, and lose, in the Second death, the future life provided through the atonement for all who will return to perfection, holiness and God.
These expressions of our Lord not only serve to show us the perfection (Rom. 7:12) of God’s Law, and how fully it will be defined and enforced in the Millennium, but they served as a lesson to the Jews also, who previously saw through Moses’ commands only the crude exterior of the Law of God. Since they found it difficult in their fallen state to keep inviolate even the surface significance of the Law, they must now see the impossibility of their keeping the finer meaning of the Law revealed by Christ. Had they understood and received his teaching fully, they would have cried out, Alas! if God judges us thus, by the very thoughts and intents of the heart, we are all unclean, all undone, and can hope for naught but condemnation to Gehenna (to utter destruction, as brute beasts). They would have cried, “Show us a greater Priesthood than that of Aaron, a High Priest and Teacher able fully to appreciate the Law and able fully to appreciate and sympathize with our fallen state and inherited weaknesses, and let him offer for us ‘better sacrifices,’ and apply to us the needed greater forgiveness of sin, and let him as a Great Physician heal us and restore us, so that we can obey the perfect Law of God from our hearts.” Then they would have found Christ.
But this lesson they did not learn, for the ears of their understanding were “dull of hearing” (Matt. 13:15); hence they knew not that God had already prepared the very priest and sacrifice and teacher and physician they needed, who in due time redeemed those under the typical Law, as well as all not under it, and who also “in due time” (1 Tim. 2:6), shortly, will begin his restoring work — restoring sight to the blind eyes of their understanding, and hearing to their deaf ears. Then the “vail shall be taken away” (2 Cor. 3:16) — the vail of ignorance, pride and human wisdom, which Satan now uses to blind the world to God’s true law and true plan of salvation in Christ.
And not only did our Lord’s teaching here show the Law of the New Covenant, and teach the Jew a lesson, but it is of benefit to the Gospel Church also. In proportion as we learn the exactness of God’s Law, and what would constitute the perfection under its requirements, we see that our Redeemer was perfect, and that we, totally unable to commend ourselves to God as keepers of that Law, can find acceptance with the Father only in the merit of our Redeemer, while none can be of that “Body” (Col. 1:18), covered by the robe of his righteousness, except the consecrated who endeavor to do only those things well pleasing to God, which include the avoidance of sin to the extent of ability. Yet their acceptability with God rests not in their perfection, but upon the perfection of Christ so long as they abide in him. These, nevertheless, are benefited by a clear insight into the perfect Law of God, even though they are not dependent on the perfect keeping of it. They delight to do God’s will to the extent of their ability, and the better they know His perfect Law, the better they are able to rule themselves and to conform to it. So, then, to us also the Lord’s words have a lesson of value.
The point, however, to be specially noticed here is that Gehenna, which the Jews knew, and of which our Lord spoke to them, was not a lake of fire to be kept burning to all eternity, into which all would be cast who get “angry with a brother” and call him a “fool.” No; the Jews gathered no such extreme idea from the Lord’s words. The eternal torment theory was unknown to them. It had no place in their theology, as will be shown. It is a comparatively modern invention, coming down, as we have shown, from Papacy — the great apostasy.
The point is that Gehenna symbolizes the Second death — utter, complete and everlasting destruction. This is clearly shown by its being contrasted with life as its opposite. “It is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, than otherwise to be cast into Gehenna” (Matt. 18:8). It is better that you should deny yourselves sinful gratifications than that you should lose all future life, and perish in the Second death.
Able to Destroy Both Soul and Body in Gehenna
(Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:5)
“Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna].”
Here our Lord pointed out to his followers the great cause they had for courage and bravery under the most trying circumstances. They were to expect persecution, and to have all manner of evil spoken against them falsely, for his sake, and for the sake of the “good tidings” (Luke 2:10) of which he made them the ministers and heralds; yea, the time would come that whosoever would kill them would think that he did God a service. (John 16:2) Their consolation of reward for this was to be received, not in the present life, but in the life to come. They were assured, and they believed, that he had come to give his life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28), and that all in their graves must in consequence, in due time, hear the Deliverer’s voice and come forth (John 5:28,29), either to reward (if their trial had been passed in this life successfully), future trial, or judgment, as must be the case with the great majority who do not, in this present life, come to the necessary knowledge and opportunity essential to a complete trial.
Under present conditions men are able to kill our bodies, but nothing that they can do will affect our future being (soul) (Matt. 10:28), which God has promised shall be revived or restored by His power in the resurrection day — the Millennial age. Our revived souls will have new bodies (spiritual or natural — “to every ‘seed’ his own [kind of] body” — 1 Cor. 15:38), and these none will have liberty to kill. God alone has power to destroy utterly — soul and body. He alone, therefore, should be feared, and the opposition of men even to the death is not to be feared, if thereby we gain divine approval. Our Lord’s bidding, then, is, Fear not them which can terminate the present (dying) life in these poor, dying bodies. Care little for it, its food, its clothing, its pleasures, in comparison with that future existence or being which God has provided for you, and which, if secured, may be your portion forever. Fear not the threats, or looks, or acts of men, whose power can extend no farther than the present existence; who can harm and kill these bodies, but can do no more. Rather have respect and deference to God, with whom are the issues of life everlasting — fear him who is able to destroy in Gehenna, the Second death, both the present dying existence and all hope of future existence.
Undying Worms and Quenchless Fires
(Matt. 18:8, 9; Mark 9:43-48)
Here it is conclusively shown that Gehenna as a figure represents the Second death — the utter destruction which must ensue in the case of all who, after having fully received the opportunities of a future being or existence through our Lord’s sacrifice, prove themselves unworthy of God’s gift, and refuse to accept it, by refusing obedience to His just requirements. For it does not say that God will preserve soul or body in Gehenna, but that in it He can and will “destroy” both. Thus we are taught that any who are condemned to the Second death are hopelessly and forever blotted out of existence. Since these two passages refer to the same discourse, we quote from Mark — remarking that verses 44 and 46, and part of 45, are not found in the oldest Greek MSS., though verse 48, which reads the same, is in all manuscripts. We quote the text as found in these ancient and reliable MSS.
“If thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Gehenna, into the fire that never shall be quenched: And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into Gehenna. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into Gehenna: Where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:43, 45, 47, 48)
After reading the above, all must agree with the prophet that our Lord opened his mouth in figures and obscure sayings. (Psalms 78:2; Matt. 13:35) No one for a moment supposes that our Lord advised the people to mutilate their bodies by cutting off their limbs, or gouging out their eyes. Nor does he mean us to understand that the injuries and disfigurements of the present life will continue beyond the grave, when we shall “enter into life.” The Jews, whom the Lord addressed, having no conception of a place of everlasting torment, and who knew the word Gehenna to refer to the valley outside their city, which was not a place of torment, nor a place where any living thing was cast, but a place for the utter destruction of whatever might be cast into it, recognizing the Lord’s expression regarding limbs and eyes to be figurative, knew that Gehenna also was used in the same figurative sense, to symbolize utter destruction.
The Lord meant simply this: The future life, which God has provided for redeemed man, is of inestimable value, and it will richly pay you to make any sacrifice to receive and enjoy that life. Should it even cost an eye, a hand or a foot, so that to all eternity you would be obliged to endure the loss of these, yet life would be cheap at even such a cost. That would be better far than to retain your members and lose all in Gehenna. Doubtless, too, the hearers drew the lesson as applicable to all the affairs of life, and understood the Master to mean that it would richly repay them to deny themselves many comforts, pleasures and tastes, dear to them as a right hand, precious as an eye, and serviceable as a foot, rather than by gratification to forfeit the life to come and be utterly destroyed in Gehenna — the Second death.
But what about the undying worms and the unquenchable fire?
In the literal Gehenna, which is the basis of our Lord’s illustration, the bodies of animals, etc, frequently fell upon ledges of rocks and not into the fire kept burning below. Thus exposed, these would breed worms and be destroyed by them, as completely and as surely as those which burned. No one was allowed to disturb the contents of this valley; hence the worm and the fire together completed the work of destruction — the fire was not quenched and the worms died not. This would not imply a never-ending fire, nor everlasting worms. The thought is that the worms did not die off and leave the carcasses there, but continued and completed the work of destruction. So with the fire: it was not quenched, it burned on until all was consumed. Just so if a house were ablaze and the fire could not be controlled or quenched, but burned until the building was destroyed, we might properly call such an “unquenchable fire.”
Our Lord wished to impress the thought of the completeness and finality of the Second death, symbolized in Gehenna. All who go into the Second death will be thoroughly and completely and forever destroyed; no ransom will ever again be given for any (Rom. 6:9); for none worthy of life will be cast into the Second death, or lake of fire, but only those who love unrighteousness after coming to the knowledge of 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 a basis of a discourse by the Prophet Isaiah. (Isa. 66:24) Though he gives it no name, he describes it; and all should notice that he speaks, not as some with false ideas might expect, of billions alive in flames and torture, but of the carcasses of those who transgressed against the Lord, who are thus represented as utterly destroyed in the Second death.
The two preceding verses show the time when this prophecy will be fulfilled, and it is in perfect harmony with the symbols of Revelation: it appertains to the new dispensation, the Millennium, the “new heavens and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:13) condition of things. Then all the righteous will see the justice as well as the wisdom of the utter destruction of the incorrigible, willful enemies of righteousness, as it is written: “They shall be an abhorring unto all flesh” (Isa. 66:24).
Matthew 23:15, 33
The class here addressed was not the heathen who had no knowledge of the truth, nor the lowest and most ignorant of the Jewish nation, but the scribes and Pharisees, outwardly the most religious, and the leaders and teachers of the people. To these our Lord said, “How can ye escape the judgment of the Gehenna?” (Diaglott translation) These men were hypocritical; they were not true to their convictions. Abundant testimony of the truth had been borne to them, but they refused to accept it, and endeavored to counteract its influence and to discourage the people from accepting it. And in thus resisting the holy spirit of light and truth, they were hardening their hearts against the very agency which God designed for their blessing. Hence they were wickedly resisting his grace, and such a course, if pursued, must eventually end in condemnation to the Second death, Gehenna. Every step in the direction of willful blindness and opposition to the Truth makes return more difficult, and makes the wrongdoer more and more of the character which God abhors, and which the Second death is intended to utterly destroy. The scribes and Pharisees were progressing rapidly in that course: hence the warning inquiry of our Lord, “How can ye escape?” etc. The sense is this — Although you boast of your piety, you will surely be destroyed in Gehenna, unless you change your course.
Set on Fire of Gehenna (James 3:6)
“So [important] is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and [or when] it is set on fire of Gehenna.”
Here, in strong, symbolic language, the apostle points out the great and bad influence of an evil tongue — a tongue set on fire (figuratively) by Gehenna (figuratively). For a tongue to be set on fire of Gehenna signifies that it is set going in evil by a perverse disposition, self-willed, selfish, hateful, malicious, the sort of disposition which, in spite of knowledge and opportunity, unless controlled and reformed, will be counted worthy to be destroyed — the class for whom the “Second death,” the real “lake of fire,” the real Gehenna, is intended. One in that attitude may by his tongue kindle a great fire, a destructive disturbance, which, wherever it has contact, will work evil in the entire course of nature. A few malicious words often arouse all the evil passions of the speaker, engender the same in others and react upon the first. And continuance in such an evil course finally corrupts the entire man, and brings him under sentence as utterly unworthy of life.
“Tartaroo” Rendered “Hell”
The Greek word tartaroo occurs but once in the scriptures and is translated hell. It is found in 2 Peter 2:4, which reads thus:
“God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast [them] down to hell [tartaroo], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.”
Having examined all other words rendered “hell” in the Bible, and all the texts in which they occur, we conclude the examination with this text, which is the only one in which the word tartaroo occurs. In the above quotation, all the words shown in italic type are translated from the one Greek work tartaroo. Evidently the translators were at a loss to know how to translate the word, but concluded they knew where the evil angels ought to be, and so they made bold to put them into “hell,” though it took five words to twist the idea into the shape they had pre-determined it must take.
The word tartaroo, used by Peter, very closely resembles tartarus, a word used in Grecian mythology as the name for a dark abyss or prison. But tartaroo seems to refer more to an act than to a place. The fall of the angels who sinned was from honor and dignity, into dishonor and condemnation, and the thought seems to be — “God spared not the angels who sinned, but degraded them, and delivered them into chains of darkness.”
This certainly agrees with the facts known to us through other scriptures; for these fallen spirits frequented the earth in the days of our Lord and the apostles. Hence they were not down in some place, but “down” in the sense of being degraded from former honor and liberty, and restrained under darkness, as by a chain. Whenever these fallen spirits, in spiritualistic seances, manifest their powers through mediums, pretending to be certain dead human beings, they must always do their work in the dark, because darkness is the chain by which they are bound until the great Millennial day of judgment. Whether this implies that in the immediate future they will be able to materialize in daylight is difficult to determine. If so, it would greatly increase Satan’s power to blind and deceive for a short season — until the Sun of Righteousness has fully risen and Satan is fully bound.
Thus we close our investigation of the Bible use of the word “hell.” Thank God, we find no such place of everlasting torture as the creeds and hymn-books and many pulpits erroneously teach. Yet we have found a “hell,” sheol, hades, to which all our race were condemned on account of Adam’s sin, and from which all are redeemed by our Lord’s death; and that “hell” is the tomb — the death condition. And we find another “hell” (Gehenna — the Second death — utter destruction) brought to our attention as the final penalty upon all who, after being redeemed and brought to the full knowledge of the truth, and to full ability to obey it, shall yet choose death by choosing a course of opposition to God and righteousness. And our hearts say, Amen! True and righteous are thy ways, thou King of nations! Who shall not venerate thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou art entirely holy. And all nations shall come and worship before thee, because thy righteous dealings are made manifest. — Rev. 15:3,4.
Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)
The great difficulty with many in reading this Scripture is that, though they regard it as a parable, they reason on it and draw conclusions from it as though it were a literal statement. To regard it as a literal statement involves several absurdities: for instance, that the rich man went to “hell” because he had enjoyed many earthly blessings and gave nothing but crumbs to Lazarus. Not a word is said about his wickedness. Again, Lazarus was blessed, not because he was a sincere child of God, full of faith and trust, not because he was good, but simply because he was poor and sick. If this be interpreted literally, the only logical lesson to be drawn from it is that unless we are poor beggars full of sores, we will never enter into future bliss; and that if now we wear any fine linen and purple, and have plenty to eat every day, we are sure of future torment. Again, the coveted place of favor is “Abraham’s bosom”; and if the whole statement be literal, the bosom must also be literal, and it surely would not hold very many of earth’s millions of sick and poor.
But why consider absurdities? As a parable, it is easy of interpretation. In a parable the thing said is never the thing meant. We know this from our Lord’s own explanations of his parables. When he said “wheat,” he meant “children of the kingdom”; when he said “tares,” he meant “the children of the devil”; when he said “reapers,” his servants were to be understood, etc. (Matthew 13) The same classes were represented by different symbols in different parables. Thus the “wheat” of one parable correspond to the “faithful servants” and the “wise virgins” of others. (Matt. 25:2) So in this parable, the “rich man” represents a class, and “Lazarus” represents another class.
In attempting to expound a parable such as this, an explanation of which the Lord does not furnish us, modesty in expressing our opinion regarding it is certainly appropriate. We therefore offer the following explanation without any attempt to force our views upon the reader, except so far as his own truth-enlightened judgment may commend them as in accord with God’s Word and plan. To our understanding Abraham represented God, and the “rich man” represented the Jewish nation. At the time of the utterance of the parable, and for a long time previous, the Jews had “fared sumptuously every day” — being the especial recipients of God’s favors. As Paul says: “What advantage then hath the Jews? . . . Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God [Law and Prophecy}.” (Rom. 3:1,2) The promises to Abraham and David and their organization as a typical Kingdom of God invested that people with royalty, as represented by the rich man’s “purple.” The typical sacrifices of the Law constituted them, in a typical sense, a holy (righteous) nation represented by the rich man’s “fine linen” — symbolic of righteousness. — Rev. 19:8.
Lazarus represented the outcasts from divine favor under the Law, who, sin-sick, hungered and thirsted after righteousness. “Publicans and sinners” (Matt. 9:10) of Israel, seeking a better life, and truth-hungry Gentiles who were feeling after God (Acts 17:27) constituted the Lazarus class. These, at the time of the utterance of this parable, were entirely destitute of those special divine blessings which Israel enjoyed. They lay at the gate of the rich man. No rich promises of royalty were theirs; not even typically were they cleansed; but, in moral sickness, pollution and sin, they were companions of “dogs.” Dogs were regarded as detestable creatures in those days, and the typically clean Jew called the outsiders “heathen” and “dogs,” and would never eat with them, nor marry, nor have any dealings with them. — John 4:9.
As to how these ate of the “crumbs” of divine favor which fell from Israel’s table of bounties, the Lord’s words to the Syro-Phenician woman give us a key. He said to this Gentile woman — “It is not meet [proper] to take the children’s [Israelites’] bread, and to cast it to dogs [Gentiles]”; and she answered, “Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” (Matt. 15:22,26,27) Jesus healed her daughter, thus giving the desired crumb 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 give to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof — the Gospel Church, “an holy nation, a peculiar people.” (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:7,9; Matt. 21:43) Thus the “rich man” died to all these special advantages, and soon he (the Jewish nation ) found himself in a cast-off condition — in tribulation and affliction. In such condition that nation has suffered from that day to this.
Lazarus also died: The condition of the humble Gentiles and the God-seeking “outcasts” of Israel underwent a great change, being carried by the angels (messengers — apostles, etc.) to Abraham’s bosom. Abraham is represented as the father of the faithful, and receives all the children of faith, who are thus recognized as the heirs of all the promises made to Abraham; for the children of the flesh are not the children of God, “but the children of the promise are counted for the seed” (Rom. 9:8) (children of Abraham); “thy seed which is Christ” — and “if ye be Christ’s, then are ye [believers] Abraham’s seed [children], and heirs according to the [Abrahamic] promise.” — Gal. 3:16,29.
Yes, the termination of the condition of things then existing was well illustrated by the figure, death — the dissolution of the Jewish polity and the withdrawal of the favors which Israel had so long enjoyed. There they were cast off and have since been shown “no favor,” while the poor Gentiles, who before had been “aliens from the commonwealth [the polity] of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of promise [up to this time given to Israel only], having no hope, and without God in the world,” were then “made nigh by the blood of Christ,” and reconciled to God. — Eph. 2:12,13.
To the symbolisms of death and burial used to illustrate the dissolution of Israel and their burial or hiding among the other nations, our Lord added a further figure — “In hell [hades, the grave] he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off,” etc. The dead cannot lift up their eyes, nor see either near or far, nor converse; for it is distinctly stated, “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave”; and the dead are described as those who “go down into silence.” (Ecc. 9:10; Psalms 115:17) But the Lord wished to show that great sufferings or “torments” would be added to the Jews as a nation after the national dissolution and burial amongst the other peoples dead in trespasses and sins; and that they would plead in vain for release and comfort at the hand of the formerly despised Lazarus class. — Deut. 28:15-68.
And history has borne out this parabolic prophecy. For nineteen hundred years the Jews have not only been in distress of mind over their casting out from the favor of God and the loss of their temple and other necessaries to the offering of their sacrifices, but they have been relentlessly persecuted by all classes, including professed Christians. It was from the latter that the Jews have expected mercy, as expressed in the parable — “Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue”; but the great gulf fixed between them hinders that. Nevertheless, God still recognizes the relationship established in his covenant with them and addresses them as children of the covenant. (Verse 25) These “torments” have been the penalties attached to the violation of their covenant, and were as certain to be visited upon them as the blessings promised for obedience. — See Leviticus 26; Zech. 9:11.
The “great gulf fixed” represents the wide difference between the Gospel Church and the Jew — the former enjoying free grace, joy, comfort and peace, as true sons of God, and the latter holding to the Law, which condemns and torments. Prejudice, pride and error from the Jewish side form the bulwarks of this gulf which hinder the Jew from coming into the condition of true sons of God by accepting Christ and the gospel of his grace. The bulwark of this gulf which hinders true sons of God from going to the Jew — under the bondage of the Law — is their knowledge that by the deeds of the Law none can be justified before God, and that if any man keep the Law (put himself under it to try to commend himself to God by reason of obedience to it), Christ shall profit him nothing. (Gal. 5:2-4) So, then, we who are of the Lazarus class should not attempt to mix the Law and the Gospel, knowing that they cannot be mixed, and that we can do no good to those who still cling to the Law and reject the sacrifice for sins given by our Lord. And they, not seeing the change of dispensation which took place, argue that to deny the Law as the power to save would be to deny all the past history of their race, and to deny all of God’s special dealings with the “fathers,” (promises and dealings which through pride and selfishness they failed rightly to apprehend and use); hence they cannot come over to the bosom of Abraham, into the true rest and peace — the portion of all the true children of faith. — John 8:30; Rom. 4:16; 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, the rich man represented the orthodox Jews, and not the “outcasts of Israel” (Isa. 56:8), so down to the close of the parable he continues to represent a similar class, and hence does not represent such Jews as have renounced the Law Covenant and embraced Christianity, or such as have become infidels.
The plea of the “rich man” for the sending of “Lazarus” to his five brethren we interpret as follows:
The people of Judea, at the time of our Lord’s utterance of this parable, were repeatedly referred to as “Israel,” “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” “cities of Israel” (Matt. 8:10; 10:6,23), because all of the tribes were represented there; but actually the majority of the people were of the two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, but few of the ten tribes having returned from Babylon under Cyrus’ general permission. (Gen. 47:2) If the nation of the Jews (chiefly two tribes) were represented in the one “rich man,” it would be a harmony of numbers to understand the “five brethren” to represent the ten tribes chiefly scattered abroad. The request relative to them was doubtless introduced to show that all special favor of God ceased to all Israel (the ten tribes, as well as to the two more directly addressed). It seems to us evident that Israel only was meant, for no other nation than Israel had “Moses and the prophets” as instructors (verse 29). The majority of the ten tribes had so far disregarded Moses and the prophets that they did not return to the land of promise, but preferred to dwell among idolaters; and hence it would be useless to attempt further communication with them, even by one from the dead — the figuratively dead, but now figuratively risen, Lazarus class. — Eph. 2:5
Though the parable mentions no bridging of this “great gulf,” other portions of Scripture indicate that it was to be “fixed” only throughout the Gospel age, and that at its close the “rich man,” having received the measurement of punishment for his sins, will walk out of his fiery troubles over the bridge of God’s promises yet unfulfilled to that nation.
Though for centuries the Jews have been bitterly persecuted by pagans, Mohammedans and professed Christians, they are now gradually rising to political freedom and influence; and although much of “Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7) is just at hand, yet as a people they will be very prominent among the nations in the beginning of the Millennium. The “vail” (2 Cor. 3:13-16) of prejudice still exists, but it will be gradually taken away as the light of the Millennial morning dawns; nor should we be surprised to hear of great awakenings among the Jews, and many coming to acknowledge Christ. They will thus leave their hadean state (national death) and torment, and come, the first of the nations, to be blessed by the true seed of Abraham, which is Christ, Head and Body. Their bulwark of race prejudice and pride is falling in some places, and the humble, the poor in spirit, are beginning already to look upon him whom they have pierced, and to inquire, Is not this the Christ? And as they look the Lord pours upon them the spirit of favor and supplication (Zech. 12:10). Therefore, “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her appointed time is accomplished” — Isa. 40:1,2, margin.
In a word, this parable seems to teach precisely what Paul explained in Romans 11:19-32. Because of unbelief the natural branches were broken off and the wild branches grafted into the Abrahamic root-promise. The parable leaves the Jews in their trouble, and does not refer to their final restoration to favor — doubtless because it was not pertinent to the feature of the subject treated; but Paul assures us that when the fulness of the Gentiles — the full number from among the Gentiles necessary to make up the Bride of Christ — is come in, they [natural Israel] shall obtain mercy through your [the Church’s] mercy. (Rom. 11:31) He assures us that this is God’s covenant with fleshly Israel (who lost the higher spiritual promises, but are still the possessors of certain earthly promises), to become the chief nation of earth. In proof of this statement, he quotes from the prophets, saying: The deliverer shall come out of Zion [the glorified Church], and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob [the fleshly seed]. As concerning the Gospel [high calling], they are enemies [cast off] for your sakes; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! — Rom. 11:26,28,32,33.
Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt. 25:31-46)
“These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
While the scriptures, as we have shown, do not teach the blasphemous doctrine of everlasting torment, they do most emphatically teach the everlasting punishment of the wicked, the class represented in the parable as “goats.” Let us examine the parable, and then the sentence pronounced at its close.
It has been truly said that “Order is heaven’s first law”; yet few, we think, have realized how emphatically this is true. In glancing back over the plan of the ages, there is nothing which gives such conclusive evidence of a Divine Director as the order observed in all its parts.
God has had definite and stated times and seasons for every part of his work; and in the end of each of these seasons there has been a finishing up of its work and a clearing off of the rubbish, preparatory to the beginning of the new work of the dispensation to follow. Thus in the end of the Jewish age order is observed — a harvesting and complete separation of the “wheat” class from the “chaff” (Matt. 3:12), and an entire rejection of the latter class from God’s favor. With the few judged worthy in the end of that age, a new age — the Gospel age — began. And now we find ourselves amidst the closing scenes, the “harvest,” of this age: the “wheat” and the “tares” (Matt. 13:25), which have grown together during this age, are being separated. With the former class, of which our Lord Jesus is the Head, a new age is about to be inaugurated, and these “wheat” are to reign as kings and priests in that new dispensation, while the “tare” element is judged as utterly unworthy of that favor.
While observing this order with reference to the Jewish age and the one just closing, our Lord informs us through the parable under consideration that the same order will be observed with reference to the age to follow this Gospel age.
The harvest of the Jewish age was likened to the separation of wheat from chaff; the harvest of this age to the separation of wheat from tares; and the harvest of the Millennial age to the separation of sheep from the goats. (Matt. 25:32)
That the parable of the sheep and the goats refers to the Millennial age is clearly indicated in verses 31 and 32 — “When the son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.” As in the present age every act of those on trial (the Church) goes to make a part of that character which, in due time, will determine the final decision of the Judge in our case, so will it be with the world (the “nations”) in the age to come. As in the present age the trial of the majority of the individual members of the Church ends, and the decision of their case is reached, long before the end of the age (2 Tim. 4:7,8), so under the Millennial reign the decision of some individual cases will be reached long before the end of the age (Isa. 65:20); but in each age there is a “harvest” or general separating time in the end of the age.
In the dawn of the Millennial age, after the “time of trouble” (Dan. 12:1), there will be a gathering of the living nations before Christ, and, in their appointed time and order, the dead of all nations shall be called to appear before the judgment seat of Christ — not to receive an immediate sentence, but to receive a fair and impartial individual trial (Ezek. 18:2-4,19,20) under the most favorable circumstances, the result of which trial will be a final sentence, as worthy or unworthy of everlasting life.
The scene of this parable, therefore, is laid after the time of trouble, when the nations shall have been subdued, Satan bound (Rev. 20:1,2) and the authority of Christ’s kingdom established. Ere this, the Bride of Christ (the overcoming Church) will have been seated with him in his throne of spiritual power and will have taken part in executing the judgments of the great day of wrath. Then the Son of man and his Bride, the glorified Church, will be revealed and be seen by men, with the eyes of their understanding and shall “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” — Matt. 13:43.
Here is the new Jerusalem as John saw it (Revelation 21), “the holy city [symbol of government] . . . coming down from God out of heaven.” During the time of trouble it will be coming down, and before the end of it, it will have touched the earth. This is the stone cut out of the mountain without hands (but by the power of God), and it will then have become a great mountain (kingdom), filling the whole earth (Dan. 2:35), its coming having broken to pieces the evil kingdoms of the prince of darkness. — Dan. 2:34,35.
Here is that glorious city (government), prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2), and early in the dawn of the Millennium the nations will begin to walk in the light of it. (Verse 24) These may bring their glory and honor into it, but “there shall in no wise enter into it [or become a part of it] anything that defileth,” etc. (Verse 27) Here, from the midst of the throne, proceeds a pure river of water of life (truth unmixed with error), and the Spirit and the Bride say, Come, and take it freely. (Rev. 22:17) Here begins the world’s probation, the world’s great judgment day — a thousand years.
But even in this favored time of blessing and healing of the nations, when Satan is bound, evil restrained, mankind in process of release from the grasp of death, and when the knowledge of the Lord fills the earth, two classes will be developed, which our Lord here likens to sheep and goats. These, he tells us, he will separate. The sheep class — those who are meek, teachable and willing to be led, shall, during the Millennial age, be gathered at the Judge’s right hand — symbol of his approval and favor; but the goat class, self-willed and stubborn, always climbing on the rocks — seeking prominence and approval among men — and feeding on miserable refuse, while the sheep graze in the right pastures of the Truth furnished by the Good Shepherd — these are gathered to the Judge’s left hand, the opposite of the position of favor — as subjects of his disfavor and condemnation.
This work of separating sheep and goats will require all of the Millennial age for its accomplishment. During that age, each individual, as he comes gradually to a knowledge of God and his will, takes his place at the right hand of favor or the left hand of disfavor, according as he improves or misimproves the opportunities of that golden age. By the end of that age, all the world of mankind will have arranged themselves, as shown in the parable, into two classes.
The end of that age will be the end of the world’s trial or judgment, and then final disposition will be made of the two classes. The reward of this “sheep” class will be granted them because, during the age of trial and discipline, they cultivated and manifested the beautiful character of love, which Paul describes as the fulfilling of the Law of God. (Rom. 13:10) They will have manifested it to each other in their times of sorest need; and what they will have done for one another the Lord will count as done unto him, counting them all as his brethren — children of God, though they will be of the human nature, while he is of the divine.
The condemnation of the “goat” class is shown to be for the lack of this spirit of love. Under the same favorable circumstances as the “sheep,” they willfully resist the molding influence of the Lord’s discipline, and harden their hearts. The goodness of God does not lead them to true repentance but, like Pharaoh, they take advantage of His goodness and do evil. The “goats” who will not have developed the element of love, the Law of God’s being and Kingdom, will be counted unworthy of everlasting life, and will be destroyed; while the “sheep,” who will have developed God-likeness (love) and who will have exhibited it in their characters, are to be installed as the subordinate rulers of earth for future ages.
In the end of the Millennial age, in the final adjustment of human affairs, Christ thus addresses his sheep: “Come, ye blessed . . . inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
It is manifest the “sheep” here addressed, at the close of the Millennium, are not the sheep of the Gospel age, the Gospel Church, but those “other sheep” to whom the Lord referred in John 10:16. And the Kingdom prepared for them in the divine plan from the foundation of the world is not the Kingdom prepared for the Gospel Church. The Church will receive her Kingdom at the beginning of the Millennium; but this is the Kingdom prepared for the “sheep” of the Millennial age. Their Kingdom will be the dominion of earth which was originally given to Adam, but which was lost through sin, and which is again to be restored when man is brought to perfection, and so made fit to receive and enjoy it. That dominion will not be a dominion of some of the race over others, but a joint dominion, in which every man will be a king, and all will have equal rights and privileges in appropriating and enjoying every earthly good. It will be a sovereign people — a great and grand republic on a basis of perfect righteousness, wherein the rights of every man will be conserved; because the golden rule will be inscribed on every heart, and every man will love his neighbor as himself. The dominion of all will be over the whole earth, and all its rich and bountiful stores of blessing. (Gen. 1:28; Psalms 8:5-8) The Kingdom of the world, to be given to the perfected and worthy ones of the redeemed race at the close of the Millennium, is clearly distinguished from all others by being called the Kingdom prepared for them “from the foundation of the world,” the earth having been made to be the everlasting home and Kingdom of perfect men. But the Kingdom bestowed upon Christ, of which the Church, his “Bride,” becomes joint-heir, is a spiritual kingdom, “far above angels, principalities and powers,” and it also shall “have no end” — Christ’s Millennial Kingdom, which will end, being merely a beginning of Christ’s power and rule. (1 Cor. 15:25-28) This endless heavenly, spiritual Kingdom was prepared long before the earth was founded — its inception being recognized in Christ, “the beginning of the creation of God.” It was intended for Christ Jesus, the First Begotten; but even the Church, his Bride and joint-heir, was chosen or designed also, in him before the foundation of the world. — Eph. 1:4.
The Kingdom or rule of earth, is the Kingdom that has been in preparation for mankind from the foundation of the world. It was expedient that man should suffer six thousand years under the dominion of evil, to learn its inevitable results of misery and death, in order by contrast to prove the justice, wisdom and goodness of God’s law of love. Then it will require the seventh thousand-year, under the reign of Christ, to restore him from ruin and death, to the perfect condition, thereby fitting him to “inherit the kingdom prepared for [him] from the foundation of the 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 henceforth will rule his dominion in harmony with the law of heaven — delighting continually to do His will in whose favor is life, and at whose “right hand [condition of favor] there are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalms 16:11) Oh, who would not say, “Haste ye along, ages of glory!” and give glory and honor to Him whose loving plans are blossoming into such fullness of blessing?
Let us now examine the message to those on the left — “Depart from me, ye cursed” (condemned) — condemned as unfit vessels for the glory and honor of life, who would not yield to the molding and shaping influences of divine love. When these “brethren” were hungry and thirsty, or naked, sick, and in prison, ye ministered not to their necessities, thus continually proving yourselves out of harmony with the heavenly city (Kingdom); for “there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth” (Rev. 21:27). The decision or sentence regarding this class is — “Depart from me . . . into everlasting fire [symbol of destruction], prepared for the devil and his angels.” Elsewhere we read without symbol that Christ will “destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14)
“And these [the ‘goats’] shall go away into everlasting [Greek aionios — lasting] punishment: but the righteous into life eternal [Greek aionios — lasting].” The punishment will be as lasting as the reward. Both will be 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 willful sinners who despise and reject all His blessed provisions for them through Christ. What do you find? Does God there say
— All sinners shall live in torture forever? No; we find not a single text where life in any condition is promised to that class.
God’s declarations assure us that ultimately He will have a clean universe, free from the blight of sin and sinners — because “All the wicked will he destroy.” — Psalms 145:20.
But while we do not find one verse of the Bible saying that this class can have life in torment, or in any other condition, we do find numerous passages teaching the reverse. Of these we give a few merely as samples — “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4,20). “The wicked shall perish” (Psalms 37:20). “Yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be” (Psalms 37:10). Thus God has told us plainly the nature of the everlasting punishment of the wicked — that it will be death, destruction.
The false ideas of God’s plan of dealing with the incorrigible, taught ever since the great “falling away” (2 Thes. 2:3), which culminated in Papacy, and instilled into our minds from childhood, are alone responsible for the view generally held, that the everlasting punishment provided for willful sinners is a life of torment. This view is held, notwithstanding the many clear statements of God’s Word that their punishment is to be death. Here Paul states very explicitly what the punishment is to be. Speaking of the same Millennial day, and of the same class, who, despite all the favorable opportunities and the fullness of knowledge then, will not come into harmony with Christ, and hence will “know not God” (2 Thes. 1:8) in the true sense and “obey not,” he says — “Who shall be punished.” Ah, yes, but how punished? He tells us how: They “shall be punished with everlasting destruction [a destruction from which there shall be no recovery, no redemption or resurrection — Heb. 10:26-29] from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” (2 Thes. 1:9) This destruction is represented in the parable as the everlasting “fire” prepared for the devil and his angels; it is the lake of fire and brimstone, which is the Second death (Rev. 20:14), into which the “goat” class of this parable are sent. — Matt. 25:41.
Thus the meaning and reasonableness of this statement concerning everlasting punishment are readily seen when looked at from the correct standpoint. The fire of the parable, by which the punishment (destruction) is to be accomplished, will not be literal fire, for the “fire” is as much a symbol as the “sheep” and “goats” are symbols. Fire here, as elsewhere, symbolizes destruction, and not in any sense preservation.
We might well leave this subject here, and consider that we have fully shown that the everlasting punishment of the “goat” class will be destruction; but we direct attention to one other point which clinches the truth upon this subject. We refer to the Greek work kolasin, translated “punishment,” in verse 46. This word has not in it the remotest idea of torment. Its primary signification is to cut off, or prune, or lop off, as in the pruning of trees; and a secondary meaning is to restrain. The wicked will be everlastingly restrained, cut off from life in the Second death. Illustrations of the use of kolasin can easily be had from Greek classical writings. The Greek word for “torment” is basanos, a word totally unrelated to the word kolasin.
Kolasin, the word used in Matthew 25:46, occurs in but one other place in the Bible, viz., 1 John 4:18, where it is improperly rendered “torment” in the common version, whereas it should read, “Fear hath restraint.” Those who possess a copy of Young’s Analytical Concordance will see from it (page 995) that the definition of the word kolasin is “pruning, restraining, restraint.” The author of the Emphatic Diaglott, after translating kolasin in Matthew 25:46 by the words “cutting off,” says in a footnote:
The Common Version, and many modern ones, render kolasin aionioon, everlasting punishment, conveying the idea, as generally interpreted, of basinos, torment. Kolasin in its various forms only occurs in three other places in the New Testament: Acts 4:21; 2 Peter 2:9; 1 John 4:18. It is derived from kolazoo, which signifies, 1. To cut off; as lopping off branches of trees, to prune. 2. To restrain, to repress. The Greeks write — ‘The charioteer restrains [kolazei] his fiery steeds.’ 3. To chastize, to punish. To cut off an individual from life, or society, or even to restrain, is esteemed as punishment; — hence has arisen this third metaphorical use of the word. The primary signification has been adopted [in the Diaglott], because it agrees better with the second member of the sentence, thus preserving the force and beauty of the antithesis. The righteous go to life, the wicked to the cutting off from life, or death. See 2 Thes. 1:9.”
Now consider carefully the text, and note the antithesis, the contrast, shown between the reward of the “sheep” and the reward of the “goats,” which the correct idea of kolasin gives — the one class goes into everlasting life, while the other is everlastingly cut off from life — forever restrained in death. And this exactly agrees with what the scriptures everywhere else declare concerning the wages or penalty of willful sin.
Consider for a moment the words of verse 41: “Depart from me, ye cursed [once redeemed by Christ from the Adamic curse or condemnation to death, but now condemned or cursed, as worthy of the Second death, by the One who redeemed them from the first curse], into everlasting fire [symbol of everlasting destruction], prepared for the devil and his messengers [servants].”
Remember that this is the final sentence at the close of the final trial — at the close of the Millennium; and that none will then be servants of Satan ignorantly or unwillingly, as so many now are; for the great Deliverer, Christ, will remove outside temptations, and provide assistance toward self-improvement, which will enable all who will to overcome inherent weaknesses and to attain perfection. These “goats,” who love evil and serve Satan, are the messengers (“angels”) of Satan. For these and Satan and for no others, God has prepared Second death — the everlasting destruction. Fire will come from God out of heaven and consume them. Consuming fire and devouring fire all can appreciate, unless their eyes are holden by false doctrine and prejudice. No one ever knew of a preserving fire; and as fire never preserves, but always consumes, God uses it as a symbol of utter destruction. — Rev. 20:9.
“The Lake of Fire and Brimstone which Is the Second
Death” (Rev. 19:20; 20:10,14,15; 21:8)
“The lake of fire and brimstone” is several times mentioned in the book of Revelation, which all Christians admit to be a book of symbols. However, they generally think and speak of this particular symbol as a literal statement giving strong support to the torment doctrine, notwithstanding the fact that the symbol is clearly defined as meaning the Second death: “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the Second death,” etc. (Rev.20:14) It is sometimes spoken of as “a lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Rev. 19:20), the element brimstone being mentioned to intensify the symbol of destruction, the Second death; burning brimstone being one of the most deadly elements known. It is destructive to all forms of life.
The symbolism of this lake of fire is further shown by the fact that the symbolic “beast” and the symbolic “false prophet,” and death and hell [hades], as well as the devil and his followers, are destroyed in it. — Rev. 19:20; 20:10,14,15; 21:8.
This destruction or death is called the Second death in contradistinction to the first or Adamic death, and not to signify that everything which goes into it dies a second time. For instance, death (the first or Adamic death), and hades, the grave, are to be cast into it — this work will require the entire Millennium to accomplish it; and in no sense will they ever have been destroyed before. So also “the devil,” “the beast,” and the “false prophet,” (Rev. 20:10) will never have been destroyed before.
From the first, or Adamic death, a resurrection has been provided. All that are in their graves shall therefore come forth. The Revelator prophetically declares: “The sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [hades, the grave] delivered up the dead which were in them. . . . And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened.” (Rev. 20:13,12) It was in view of God’s plan for redeeming the race from Adamic death that in both the Old and New Testaments it is called a “sleep” (Psalms 13:3; John 11:12-14). In Israel’s history of the good and the wicked it is repeatedly stated that they “slept with their fathers.” The apostles used the same symbol, and our Lord also. But no such symbol is used in reference to the Second death. On the contrary, the strongest figures of total and utter destruction are used to symbolize it; viz., “fire and brimstone” (Rev. 20:10); because that will be a destruction from which there will be no recovery.
Blessed thought! The Adamic death (which claimed the whole race for the sin of their progenitor) shall be forever swallowed up, and shall cease in this Second death into which it is to be cast by the great Redeemer who bought the whole world with the sacrifice of himself. Thus God tells us through the prophet, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave [sheol]; I will redeem them from death. . . . O grave [sheol], I will be thy destruction.” (Hosea 13:14) The first or Adamic death shall no longer have liberty or power over men, as it has had for the past six thousand years; no longer shall any die for Adam’s sin. (Rom. 5:12; Jer. 31:29,30; Ezek. 18:2) Thenceforth the New Covenant, sealed with the precious blood, shall be in force, and only willful transgressions will be counted as sin and punished with the wages of sin — death — the Second death. Thus will the Adamic death be cast into and swallowed up by the Second death.
And hades and sheol — the dark, secret condition, the grave, which in the present time speaks to us of a hope of future life by God’s resurrection power in Christ — shall be no more; for the Second death will devour no being fit for life — none for whom there remains a shadow of hope, but such only as, by the unerring Judge, have been fully, impartially and individually found worthy of destruction. And Satan, that lying tempter who deceived and ruined the race, and who, with persistent energy and cunning, has sought continually to thwart the purpose of God for our salvation through Christ, and with him all who are of his spirit, “his angels” (Rev. 12:9), shall be destroyed, and shall never awake from death to trouble the world again. Here he is said to be cast into “the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:10) — the Second death; and Paul in Hebrews 2:14, referring to the same thing, calls it destruction — that he might destroy death, and “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” And “the beast and the false prophet,” the great false systems which have long oppressed and misled nominal Christendom, shall never escape from it. These systems are said to be cast “alive” (that is, while they are still organized and operative) into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. — Rev. 19:20; 20:10.
The great time of trouble, the Lord’s judgment, which will utterly destroy these systems, will undoubtedly cause great social, financial and religious difficulty and pain to all those identified with these deceived and deceiving systems, before they are utterly destroyed. These systems will be cast in, destroyed, at the beginning of the Millennium, while Satan’s destruction is reserved until its close, when all the “goats” shall have been separated from the “sheep,” and they shall perish with Satan in the Second death, as “his angels” (Rev. 12:9), messengers or servants. None of those abominable characters among men, who, knowing the truth, yet love unrighteousness — none of “the fearful, and unbelieving” (Rev. 21:8) — those who will not trust God after all the manifestations of his grace afforded during the Millennial reign of Christ; nor the abominable, who, at heart are murderers and whore-mongers and sorcerers and idolaters and liars; none of these shall escape from the Second death, to defile the earth again. All such, after a full and abundant opportunity for reformation, will be judged unworthy of life, and will be forever cut off in the Second death, symbolized by the lake of fire and brimstone.
Several prophetic pen pictures of the Millennial age and its work, in chapter 20 and 21 of Revelation, clearly show the object and result of that age of trial in harmony with the remainder of the scriptures already noted.
Chapter 20, verse 2, 4 and 11, with verses 1, 2, 10, and 11 of chapter 21, show the beginning of that Age of Judgment, and the restraining of blinding errors and misleading systems. The “beast” and the “false prophet” are the chief symbols, and represent the organizations or systems of error which, together, constitute “Babylon.” This judgment against the “thrones” of the present time, and against “the beast and the false prophet” systems follows speedily upon the introduction of the Millennial judgment reign. The thrones of the present dominion of earth will be “cast down,” and the dominion transferred to the great Prophet, Priest, King and Judge, “whose right it is.” (Compare Dan. 7:14,22; Ezek. 21:27) Then the systems of error will be speedily judged worthy of destruction, “the lake of fire,” “the Second death.” — Rev. 19:20.
Thus the second destruction (or death) begins quite early in the new judgment; it begins with the false systems, symbolized by the beast, the false prophet, etc., but it will not reach the world of mankind, as individuals, until they have first had full trial, with full opportunity to choose life and live forever. Chapters 20:12,13 and 21:3-7 indicate the blessed favorable trial in which all both dead and living (except the Church, who, with Jesus Christ, are kings, priests, joint-heirs and judges) will be brought to a full knowledge of the truth, relieved from sorrow and pain and freed from every blinding error and prejudice, and tried “according to their works.” (Rev. 20:12,13)
The grand outcome of that trial will be a clean universe. As the Revelator expresses it, “Every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth . . . heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever.” (Rev. 5:13) But this result will be accomplished in harmony with all God’s dealings past and present, which have always recognized man’s freedom of will to choose good or evil, life or death.
We cannot doubt then that in the close of the Millennial age, God will again for a “little season” (Rev. 20:3) permit evil to triumph, in order thereby to test His creatures (who will by that time have become thoroughly acquainted with both good and evil, and the consequence of each, and will have had His justice and love fully demonstrated to them), that those who finally prefer and choose evil may be cut off — destroyed. Thus God will for all eternity remove all who do not love righteousness and hate iniquity.
We read, regarding that testing, that Satan will endeavor to lead astray all mankind, whose numbers will then be as the sand of the sea for multitude; but that many of them will follow Satan’s evil example and choose evil and disobedience, with past experience before them, and unhampered by present weaknesses and blinding influences, we need not suppose. However, when God does not tell us either the number or the proportion of those to be found worthy of life, and those to be judged worthy of death (the Second death), we may not dogmatize. Of one thing we may be confident: God willeth not the death of the wicked, but would that all should turn to him and live (Ezek. 18:32); and no one will be destroyed in that “lake of fire and brimstone” (figurative of utter destruction — Gehenna) who is worthy of life, whose living longer would be a blessing to himself or to others in harmony with righteousness.
Utter and hopeless destruction is intended only for willful evil doers, who, like Satan, in pride of heart and rebellion against God, will love and do evil notwithstanding the manifestations of God’s disapproval, and notwithstanding their experience with its penalties. Seemingly the goodness and love of God in the provision of a ransom, a restitution, and another opportunity of life for man, instead of leading all to an abhorrence of sin, will lead some to suppose that God is too loving to cut them off in the Second death, or that if he did so he would give them other, and yet other future opportunities. Building thus upon a supposed weakness in the divine character, these may be led to try to take advantage of the grace (favor) of God, as a license for willful sin. But they shall go no further, for their folly shall be made manifest. Their utter destruction will prove to the righteous the harmony and perfect balance of justice, wisdom, love and power in the Divine Ruler.
The true character of the goat class is portrayed: The fearful and unbelieving [who will not trust God], the abominable, murderers [brother-haters], whore-mongers, sorcerers, idolaters [such as misappropriate and misuse divine favors, who give to self or any other creature or thing that service and honor which belong to God], and all “liars — whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” [in a word, all who do not love the truth and seek it, and at any cost defend and hold it] “shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone [Gehenna, symbol of utter destruction], which is the Second death.” Such company would be repulsive to any honest, upright being. It is hard to tolerate them now, when we can sympathize with them, knowing that such dispositions are now in great measure the result of inherited weakness of the flesh. We are moved to a measure of sympathy by the remembrance that in our own cases, often, when we would do good, evil is present with us. But in the close of the Millennial judgment, when the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall have given every advantage and opportunity of knowledge and ability, this class will be an abhorrence and detestation to all who are in harmony with the King of Glory. And the righteous will be glad when, the trial being ended, the gift of life (Rom. 6:23) of which these shall have proved themselves unworthy, shall be taken from them, and when the corrupters of the earth, and all their work and influence, shall be destroyed.
The Devil, the Beast and the False Prophet Tormented
Revelation 20:9 tells of the destruction of those individuals who join with Satan in the last rebellion; and verse 15 tells of that same destruction in other words, using the symbol “lake of fire.” They are devoured or consumed in fire. This being the case, the torment of verse 10 cannot refer to these human beings who are consumed, destroyed. Hence the question narrows down to this, Will Satan and a false prophet and a beast be tortured forever? and does this verse so teach?
In God’s own words, “All the wicked will he destroy” (Psalms 145:20). Concerning Satan, the arch enemy of God and man, God expressly advises us that he will be destroyed, and not preserved in any sense or condition. — Heb. 2:14.
The beast and false prophet systems, which during the Gospel age have deceived and led astray, will be cast into a great, consuming trouble in the close of this Gospel age. The torment of those systems will be aionion, i.e., lasting. It will continue as long as they last, until they are utterly consumed. So also the system of error which will suddenly manifest itself at the end of the Millennial age and lead the “goats” to destruction, will be consumed. (Rev. 20:7-10) That deceiving system (not specified as to kind, but merely called Satan, after its instigator) will be cast into the same sort of trouble and destruction, in the end of the Millennial age, as the beast and false prophet systems are now being cast into it, in the end of the Gospel age.
Revelation 19:3, speaking of one of these systems, says: “Her smoke rose up for ever and ever.” That is to say, the remembrance (“smoke”) of the destruction of these systems of deception and error will be lasting, the lesson will never be forgotten — as smoke, which continues to ascend after a destructive fire, is testimony that the fire has done its work. — See also Isa. 34:8-10.
Of Revelation 14:9-11 we remark, incidentally, that all will at once concede that if a literal worshipping of a beast and image were meant in verse 9, then few, if any, in civilized lands are liable to the penalty of verse 11; and if the beast and his image and worship and wine and cup are symbols, so also are the torments and smoke and fire and brimstone.
The casting of death and the grave into utter destruction, the Second death, during the Millennial age, is a part of the utter destruction which will include every improper, injurious and useless thing. (Isa. 11:9; Psalms 101:5-8) The Second death, the sentence of that individual trial, will be final; it will never be destroyed. And let all the lovers of righteousness say, Amen; for to destroy the Second death, to remove the sentence of that just and impartial trial, would be to let loose again not only Satan, but all who love and practice wrong and deception, and who dishonor the Lord with their evil institutions — to oppose, offend and endeavor to overthrow those who love and desire to serve him and enjoy his favor. We rejoice that there is no danger of this, but that divine justice unites with divine wisdom, love and power, to bring in everlasting righteousness on a permanent basis.
Turned Into Hell
“The wicked shall be turned into hell, and the nations that forget God.” — Psalms 9:17.
This statement of the Lord recorded by the Psalmist we find without any qualification whatever, and we must accept it as a positive fact. If the claims of “Orthodoxy” respecting hell were true, this would be, indeed, a 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, willfully persist in sin.
As yet few — only consecrated believers — have come to a true knowledge of God. The world knows Him not, and the nations cannot forget God until they are first brought to a knowledge of Him. The consecrated have been enlightened, led of the Spirit through faith to understand the deep and hidden things of God, which reveal the glory of God’s character, but which, though expressed in His Word, appear only as foolishness to the world.
As we have hitherto seen, this will not be so in the age to come, for then “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa. 11:9) Much that we now receive by faith will then be demonstrated to the world. When he who has ransomed man from the power of the grave (Hosea 13:14) begins to gather his purchased possessions back from the prison-house of death (Isa. 61:1), when the sleepers are awakened under the genial rays of the Sun of Righteousness, they will not be slow to realize the truth of the hitherto seemingly idle talk, that Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man. (Heb. 2:9)
We have also seen that the gradual ascent of the King’s highway of holiness (Isa. 35:8) in that age will be possible to all, and comparatively easy, because all the stones — stumblingblocks, errors, etc. — will have been gathered out, and straight paths made for their feet. It is in that age that this text applies. Those who ignore the favoring circumstances of that age, and will not be obedient to the righteous Judge or Ruler — Christ — will truly be the wicked. And every loyal subject of the Kingdom of God will approve the righteous judgment which turns such an one again into sheol — the condition of death. Such an one would be unworthy of life; and, were he permitted to live, his life would be a curse to himself and to the rest of mankind, and a blemish on the work of God.
This will be the Second death from which there will be no resurrection. Having been ransomed from the grave (sheol) by the sacrifice of Christ, if they die again on account of their own sin, “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” (Heb. 10:26) “Christ . . . dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.” (Rom. 6:9) The Second death should be dreaded and shunned by all, since it is to be the end of existence to all those deemed unworthy of life. But in it there can be no suffering. Unlike Adamic death, it is the extinction of life.
It is because through sin mankind had become subject to death (sheol, hades) that Christ Jesus came to deliver us and save us from death. (1 John 3:8; Heb. 2:14) Death is a cessation of existence, the absence of life. There is no difference between the conditions in the Adamic and Second deaths, but there is hope of a release from the first, while from the second there will be no release, no return to life. The first death sentence passed upon all on account of Adam’s sin, while the Second death can be incurred only by willful, individual sin.
That the application of our text belongs to the coming age is evident, for both saints and sinners go into sheol or hades now. This scripture indicates that, in the time when it applies, only the wicked shall go there. And the nations that forgot God must be nations that have known him, else they could not forget him; and never yet have the nations been brought to that knowledge, nor will they be until the coming time, when the knowledge of the LORD shall fill the whole earth, and none shall need to say unto his neighbor, Know thou the LORD, for all shall know him, from the least to the greatest of them. — Isa. 11:9; Jer. 31:34.
The Hebrew word goi, rendered “nations” in this verse, is elsewhere used by Jeremiah and rendered “heathen,” “Gentiles,” and “people.” (Jer. 10:2,25; 16:19) The thought seems to be any who do not become God’s covenant people, even though they be not openly wicked. The nations (Gentiles, all who under that full knowledge do not become Israelites indeed) who are forgetful or negligent of God’s favors enjoyed, and of their duties and obligations to Him, shall share the fate of the willfully “wicked,” and be cast into the Second death.
In further proof of this, we find that the Hebrew word shub, which in our text is translated “turned,” signifies turned back, as to a previous place or condition. Those referred to in this text either have been in sheol or are liable to enter it, but being redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, will be brought out of sheol. If then they are wicked, they, and all who forget God, shall be turned back or returned to sheol.
Did the Jews Believe in Everlasting Torment?
Noting that we teach that the doctrine of everlasting torment was engrafted upon the doctrines of the Christian church during the period of the apostasy, the great falling away which culminated in Papacy, some have inquired whether it does not seem, according to the works of Josephus, that this doctrine was firmly held by the Jews; and, if so, they ask, does it not seem evident that the early Christians, being largely converts from Judaism, brought this doctrine with them, in the very outstart of Christianity?
No; the doctrine of everlasting torment sprang naturally from the doctrine of human immortality, which as a philosophic question was first promulgated in anything like the present form by the Platonic school of Grecian philosophy. These first affirmed that each man contained a fragment of deity, and that this would prevent him from ever dying. This foundation laid, it was as easy to describe a place for evil-doers as for well-doers. But to the credit of those heathen philosophers be it recorded that they failed to develop, or at least to manifest, that depth of degradation from benevolence and reason and pity necessary to paint, by word and pen and brush, such details of horrors and agonies as were soon incorporated into their doctrine, and a belief thereof declared “necessary to salvation” in the professed church of Christ.
To appreciate the case, it is necessary to remember that, when the Christian church was established, Greece stood at the head of intelligence and civilization. Alexander the Great had conquered the world, and had spread respect for Greece everywhere; and though, from a military point of view, Rome had taken her place, it was otherwise in literature. For centuries, Grecian philosophers and philosophies led the intellectual world, and impregnated and affected everything. It became customary for philosophers and teachers of other theories to claim that their systems and theories were nearly the same as those of the Grecians, and to endeavor to remove differences between their old theories and the popular Grecian views. And some sought to make capital by claiming that their system embraced all the good points of Platonism with others which Plato did not see.
Of this class were the teachers in the Christian church in the second, third and fourth centuries. Conceding the popularly accepted correctness of the philosophers, they claimed that the same good features of philosophy were found in Christ’s teachings, and that he was one of the greatest philosophers, etc. Thus a blending of Platonism and Christianity took place. This became the more pronounced as kings and emperors began to scrutinize religious teachings, and to favor those most likely to awe the people and make them law-abiding. While heathen teachers were truckling to such imperial scrutiny, and teaching an everlasting punishment for those who violated the laws of the emperors (who ruled as divinely appointed), we cannot suppose otherwise than that the ambitious characters in the church at that time, who were seeking to displace heathenism and to become the dominant religious power instead, would make prominent such doctrines as would in the eyes of the emperors seem to have an equal hold upon the fears and prejudices of the people. And what could be more to the purpose than the doctrine of the endless torment of the refractory?
The same motives evidently operated with Josephus when writing concerning the belief of the Jews. His works should be read as apologies for Judaism, and as efforts to exalt that nation in the eyes of Rome and the world. It should be remembered that the Jews had the reputation of being a very rebellious people, very unwilling to be ruled even by the Caesars. They were hoping, in harmony with God’s promises, to become the chief nation. Many rebellious outbreaks had occurred among them, and their peculiar religion, different from all others, came in for its share of blame for favoring too much the spirit of liberty.
Josephus had an object in writing his two principal works, “Antiquities” and “Wars of the Jews.” He wrote them in the Greek language while living at Rome, where he was the friend and guest successively of the Roman emperors Vespasian, Titus and Domitian, and where he was in constant contact with the Grecian philosophers. These books were written for the purpose of showing off the Jewish people, their courage, laws, ethics, etc., to the best advantage before the Grecian philosophers and Roman dignitaries. This object is covertly admitted in his preface to his “Antiquities,” in which he says:
“I have undertaken the present work as thinking it will appear to all the Greeks worthy of their study. . . . Those that read my book may wonder that my discourse of laws and historical facts contain so much of philosophy. . . . However, those that have a mind to know the reasons of everything may find here a very curious philosophical theory.”
In a word, as a shrewd man who himself had become imbued with the spirit of the Grecian philosophers then prevailing, Josephus drew from “the law and the prophets” (Acts 13:15), and from the traditions of the elders and the theories of the various sects of the Jews, all he could find that in the most remote degree would tend to show:
First, that the Jewish religion was not far behind popular Grecian philosophy; but that somewhat analogous theories had been drawn form Moses’ Law, and held by some Jews, long before the Grecian philosophers broached them.
Secondly, that it was not their religious ideas which made the Jews as a people hard to control or “rebellious,” as all liberty-lovers were esteemed by the Caesars. Hence he attempts to prove, at a time when virtue was esteemed to consist mainly in submission, that Moses’ Law “taught first of all that God is the Father and LORD of all things, and bestows a happy life upon those that follow him, but plunges such as do not walk in the paths of virtue into inevitable miseries.” And it is in support of this idea, and for such purposes, evidently, that Josephus, after saying: “There are three philosophical sects among the Jews; first, the Pharisees; second, the Sadducees; and third, the Essenes,” proceeds to give an account of their three theories; especially detailing any features which resembled Grecian philosophy. And because the last and least, the Essenes, most resembled the doctrines of the Stoics and leading Grecian theories, Josephus devotes nearly ten times as much space to their views as to the views of both Sadducees and Pharisees combined. And yet the Essenes were so insignificant a sect that the New Testament does not even mention them, while Josephus himself admits they were few. Whatever views they held, therefore, on any subject, cannot be claimed as having Jewish sanction, when the vast majority of Jews held contrary opinions. The very fact that our Lord and the apostles did not refer to them is good evidence that the Essenes’ philosophy by no means represented the Jewish ideas. This small sect probably grew up late and probably absorbed from Grecian philosophy its ideas concerning immortality and the everlasting torment of the nonvirtuous. It should be remembered that Josephus was not born until three years after our Lord’s crucifixion, and that he published his “Wars” A.D. 75, and “Antiquities” A.D. 93 — at a time when he and other Jews, like all the rest of the world, were eagerly swallowing Grecian philosophy and science, falsely so called, against which Paul warned the Church — Col. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:20.
Josephus directed special attention to the Essenes because it suited his object to do so. He admits that the Sadducees, next to the largest body of Jewish people, did not believe in human immortality. And of the Pharisees’ views he makes a blind statement calculated to mislead, as follows: “They also believe that souls have an immortal vigor in them [this might be understood to mean that the Pharisees did not believe as the Sadducees that death ended all existence, but believed in a vigor or life beyond the grave — by a resurrection of the dead], and that under the earth there will be rewards and punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and that the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison [death — not torture], but that the former [the virtuous] shall have power to revive and live again.”
Is it not apparent that Josephus has whittled and stretched the views of the Pharisees, as much as his elastic conscience would allow, to show a harmony between them and the philosophies of Greece? Paul, who had been a Pharisee, contradicts Josephus. While Josephus says they believed “that only the virtuous would revive and live again,” Paul, on the contrary, says: “[I] have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” — Acts 24:15.
We have no hesitancy about accepting the testimony of the inspired Apostle Paul, not only in regard to what the Jews believed, but also as to what he and the early Church believed; and we repeat, that the theory of the everlasting torment of the wicked, based upon the theory that the human soul cannot die, is contrary to both the Old and the New Testament teachings, and was introduced among Jews and Christians by Grecian philosophers. Thank God for the purer philosophy of the scriptures, which teaches that the death of the soul (being) is the penalty of sin (Ezek. 18:20); that all souls condemned through Adam’s sin were redeemed by Christ’s soul (Isa. 53:10), and that only for willful, individual sin will any die the Second death — an everlasting punishment, but not an everlasting torment.
Choose Life That Ye May Live
“I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil. I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” — Deut. 30:15,19.
We come now to the consideration of other Scripture statements in harmony with the conclusion set forth in the preceding articles.
The words here quoted are from Moses to Israel. To appreciate them we must remember that Israel as a people, and all their covenants, sacrifices, etc., had a typical significance.
God knew that they could not obtain life by keeping the Law, no matter how much they would choose to do so, because they, like all others of the fallen race, were weak, depraved through the effect of the “sour grape” of sin which Adam had eaten, and which his children had continued to eat. (Jer. 31:29) Thus, as Paul declares, the law given to Israel could not give them life because of the weakness or depravity of their fallen nature — Rom. 8:3; Heb. 7:19; 10:1-10.
Nevertheless, God foresaw a benefit to them from even an unsuccessful attempt to live perfectly: namely, that it would develop them, as well as show them the need of the better sacrifice (the ransom which our Lord Jesus gave) and a greater deliverer than Moses. And with all this their trial furnished a pattern or shadow of the individual trial insured to the whole world (which Israel typified) and secured by the better sacrifices for sin, which were there prefigured, to be accomplished by the great prophet of whom Moses was but a type.
Thus seeing that the trial for life or death presented to Israel was but typical of the individual trial of the whole world, and its issues of life and death (of eternal life or the Second death), may help some to see that the great thousand-year-day of trial, of which our Lord Jesus has been appointed the Judge, contains the two issues, life and death. All will then be called upon to decide, under that most favorable opportunity, for righteousness and life or sin and death, and a choice must be made. And, although there will be rewards and “stripes” according to the deeds of the present life, as well as according to their conduct under that trial (John 3:19; Matt. 10:42; 11:20-24), the verdict in the end will be in harmony with the choice expressed by the conduct of each during that age of trial.
The second trial, its sentence and its result, are also shown in the words of Moses quoted by Peter (Acts 3:22,23): “A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul [being], which will not hear [obey] that Prophet [and thus choose life] shall be destroyed from among the people.” In few words this calls attention to the world’s great trial, yet future. It shows the great Prophet or Teacher raised up by God to give a new judgment or trial to the condemned race which he has redeemed from the condemnation which came upon it through its progenitor, Adam. It shows, too, the conditions of eternal life to be righteous obedience, and that with the close of that trial some will be judged worthy of that life and some worthy of destruction — the Second death.
Our Lord Jesus, having redeemed all by his perfect and precious sacrifice, is the Head of this great Prophet; and during the Gospel age God has been selecting the members of this Body, who, with Christ Jesus, shall be God’s agents in judging the world. Together they will be that Great Prophet or Teacher promised. “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” — 1 Cor. 6:2
The first trial of mankind only, and hence its penalty or curse, the first death, was only upon man. But the second trial is to be much more comprehensive. It will not only be the trial of fallen and imperfect mankind, but it will include every other thing and principle and being out of harmony with Jehovah. “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing.” (Ecc. 12:14)
The “judgment to come” (Acts 24:25) will include the judgment to condemnation of all false systems — civil, social and religious. These will be judged, condemned and banished early in the Millennial day, with the light of truth causing them to come into disrepute and therefore to pass away. This judgment comes first, in order that the trial of man may proceed unhindered by error, prejudice, etc. It will also include the trial of “the angels that sinned” (2 Peter 2:4) — those angels “which kept not their first estate” (Jude 6) of purity and obedience to God. Thus it is written by the apostle of the members of the Body of the great Prophet and High Priest, who is to be Judge of all — “Know ye not that we [the saints] shall judge angels?” — 1 Cor. 6:3.
This being the case, the condemnation of the Millennial trial (destruction, Second death) will cover a wider range of offenders than the penalty or curse for the sin of Adam, which “passed upon all men” (Rom. 5:12). In a word, the destruction at the close of the trial will be the utter destruction of every being and every thing which will not glorify God and be of use and blessing to His general creation.
Forgivable and Unpardonable Sins
In the preceding pages we briefly show the extreme penalty for willful sin. Adam’s penalty, which involved his entire race, was of this sort; and only as the result of Christ’s death as our ransom from that penalty of that willful sin, is any forgiveness of it subsequent sins possible.
Forgivable sins are those which result from weaknesses incurred through that one Adamic sin which Christ settled once for all. They are such as are not willful, but are committed through ignorance or weaknesses of the flesh. God stands pledged to forgive all such sins upon our repentance in the name and merit of Christ’s sacrifice.
Unpardonable sins, sins which cannot be forgiven, are such as are willfully done. As the penalty of the first willful sin was death — extinction of being — so death is the penalty of every willful sin against full knowledge and ability to choose and to do the right. This is called Second death, in distinction from the first or Adamic penalty, from which Christ’s ransom sacrifice will release all mankind.
The “sin unto [Second] death,” for the forgiveness of which the apostle declares it is useless to pray (1 John 5:16), is not only a willful sin but a sin against clear knowledge; a sin for which no adequate excuse can be found. Because it is a sin against clear knowledge or enlightenment in holiness, it is called the “sin against the holy Spirit” (Matt. 12:31,32), for which there is no forgiveness.
But there are other partly-willful sins, which are, therefore, partially unpardonable. In such the temptations within and without (all of which are directly or indirectly results of the fall) have a share — the will consenting under the pressure of the temptation or because of the weakness. The Lord alone knows how to properly estimate our responsibilities and guilt in such cases. But to the true child of God there is but one proper course to take — repentance and an appeal for mercy in the name and merit of Christ, the great sacrifice for sin. The Lord will forgive such a penitent, in the sense of restoring him to his favor; but he will be made to suffer “stripes” (Luke 12:47,48) for the sin, in proportion as God sees it to have been willfully committed.
Not infrequently a conscientious person realizes that he has committed sin, and that it had some willfulness in it. He properly feels condemned, guilty before God; realizing his own guilt and forgetting the fountain for sin and uncleanness, opened by God for our weak, fallen race, he falls into a state of sadness, believing that he has committed the sin unto death. Such wander in deserts drear, until they find the cleansing fountain. Let such remember, however, that the very facts of their sorrow for sin and their desire to return to divine favor are proofs that they have not committed the sin unto death; for the apostle declares that those who commit sin of this sort cannot be renewed unto repentance. (Heb. 6:6) Penitents, then, may always feel confident that their sins were in part, at least, results of the fall, and hence not only death, but requiring forgiveness and stripes.
Such is the wonderful provision of God, through Christ, for the acceptance of every soul which, forsaking sin and the love of it, seeks righteousness and life through him who is “the way,” as well as “the truth and the life.” Thus all, whether naturally stronger or weaker, have an equal opportunity to gain everlasting life as well as to gain the great prize of joint-heirship with Christ. (Rom. 8:17)
While the scriptures teach that the present Gospel age is the Church’s Judgment-day or period of trial, and that the world’s Judgment-day or time of trial will be the Millennial age, it is, nevertheless, a reasonable question to ask, To what extent will those who are not of the consecrated Church be held responsible, in the Millennial age, for their misdeeds, of cruelty, dishonesty and immorality, of the present time? And to what extent will those of the same class then be rewarded for present efforts to live moral and benevolent lives?
These are important questions, especially to the world; and well would it be for them if they could realize their importance and profit thereby. They are important also to the Church, because of our interest in the world, and because of our desire to understand and teach correctly our Father’s plans.
We have learned that the sacrifice of Christ secures for all mankind, however vile, an awakening from death, and the privilege of thereafter coming to perfection, and, if they will, of living forever. “There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” (Acts 24:15) The object of their being again brought into existence will be to give them a favorable opportunity to secure everlasting life, on the conditions which God requires — obedience to His righteous will. We have no intimation whatsoever in the scriptures that, when awakened, the moral condition of men will have changed, but we have much, in both reason and revelation, to show that as they went into death weak and depraved so they will come out of it. As there is “no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave” (Ecc. 9:10), they will have learned nothing; and since they were sinners and unworthy of life and divine favor when they died, they will still be unworthy; and as they have received neither full rewards nor full punishments for the deeds of the present life, it is evident that just such a time of awakening as God has promised during the Millennium is necessary — for rewarding, and punishing, and giving to all mankind the opportunity for eternal life secured by Christ’s great ransom-sacrifice.
While, strictly speaking, the world is not now on trial; that is, the present is not the time for its full and complete trial, yet men are not now, nor have they ever been, entirely without light and ability, for the use of which they are accountable. In the darkest days of the world’s history, and in the deepest degradation of savage life, there has always been at least a measure of the light of conscience pointing more or less directly to righteousness and virtue. That the deeds of the present life have much to do with the future, Paul taught very clearly when, before Felix, he reasoned of justice and self-government, in view of the judgment to come, so that Felix trembled. — Acts 24:25, Diaglott.
At the first advent of our Lord, an increased measure of light came to men, and to that extent increased their responsibility, as he said: “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19) For those evil deeds committed against the light possessed, whether of conscience or of revelation, men will have to give an account, and will receive, in their day of judgment, a just recompense of reward. (Heb. 2:2) And, likewise, to the extent of their effort to live righteously, they will receive their reward in the day of trial. — Matt. 10:42
If men would consider what even reason discerns, that a time of reckoning, of judgment, is coming, that God will not forever permit evil to triumph, and that in some way He will punish evil-doers, it would undoubtedly save them many sorrows and chastisements in the age to come. Said the prophet, “Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?” (Isa. 29:15) Behold, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3); and “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecc. 12:14) He “will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts.” — 1 Cor. 4:5.
The age of Christ’s reign will be a time of just judgment; and though it will be an age of golden opportunities to all, it will be a time of severe discipline, trial and punishment to many. That the judgment will be fair and impartial, and with due consideration for the circumstances and the opportunities of each individual, is also assured — by the character of the Judge (the Christ — John 5:22; 1 Cor. 6:2), by his perfect knowledge, by his unwavering justice and goodness, by his divine power and by his great love as shown in his sacrifice to redeem men from death, that they might enjoy the privilege of this favorable, individual trial.
The varied circumstances and opportunities of men, in this and past ages, indicate that a just judgment will recognize differences in the degree of individual responsibility, which will also necessitate differences in the Lord’s future dealings with them. And this reasonable deduction we find clearly confirmed by the scriptures. The Judge has been, and still is, taking minute cognizance of men’s actions and words (Prov. 5:21), although they have been entirely unaware of it; and he declares that “Every idle [pernicious, injurious or malicious] word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36); and that even a cup of cold water, given to one of his little ones, because he is Christ’s, shall in nowise lose its reward. (Matt. 10:42) The context shows that the “pernicious” words to which Jesus referred were words of willful and malicious opposition spoken against manifest light. (Matt. 12:24,31,32) He also affirmed that it would be more tolerable for Tyre, Sidon and Sodom in the day of judgment than for Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, which had much greater advantages of light and opportunity. — Matt. 11:20-24.
In the very nature of things, we can see that the punishments of that age will be in proportion to past guilt. Every sin indulged, and every evil propensity cultivated, hardens the heart and makes the way back to purity and virtue more difficult. Consequently, sins willfully indulged now, will require punishment and discipline in the age to come; and the more deeply the soul is dyed in willing sin, the more severe will be the measures required to correct it. As a wise parent would punish a wayward child, so Christ will punish the wicked for their good.
His punishments will always be administered in justice, tempered with mercy, and relieved by his approval and reward to those who are rightly exercised thereby. And it will only be when punishments, instructions and encouragements fail, in short, when love and mercy have done all that wisdom can approve (which is all that could be asked), that any will meet the final punishment which his case demands — the Second 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 you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou are rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” — Heb. 12:4-13.
How just and equal are God’s ways! Read carefully the rules of the coming age — Jer. 31:29-34 and Ezek. 18:20-32. They prove to us, beyond the possibility of a doubt, the sincerity and reality of all His professions of love to men: “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” — Ezek. 33:11.
All who in this life repent of sin, and, as the term repentance implies, begin and continue the work of reformation to the best of their ability, will form character which will be a benefit to them in the age to come; when awakened in the resurrection age, they will be to that extent advanced towards perfection, and their progress will be more rapid and easy; while with others it will be more slow, tedious and difficult. This is implied in the word of our Lord (John 5:28,29): “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life [those whose trial is past, and who were judged worthy of life, will be raised perfect — the faithful of past ages to perfect human life, the overcomers of the Gospel age to perfect life as divine beings]; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment (Diaglott).” These are awakened to judgment — to receive a course of discipline and correction — as the necessary means for their perfecting, or, otherwise, their condemnation to the Second 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 that some shall awake to shame and age-lasting contempt. (Dan. 12:2) And who can doubt that, when every secret thing is brought into judgment (Ecc. 12:14), and the dark side of many a character that now stands measurably approved among men is then made known, many a face will blush and hide itself in confusion? When the man who steals is required to refund the stolen property to its rightful owner, with the addition of twenty percent interest, and the man who deceives, falsely accuses or otherwise wrongs his neighbor, is required to acknowledge his crimes and so far as possible to repair damages, on peril of eternal loss of life, will not this be retributive justice? Note the clear statement of this in God’s typical dealings with Israel, whom he made to represent the world — 1 Cor. 10:11; Lev. 6:1-7. See also Tabernacle Shadows, page 99.
As we are thus permitted to look into the perfect plan of God, how forcibly we are reminded of His word through the prophet Isaiah, “Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet.” (Isa. 28:17) We also see the wholesome influence of such discipline. Parents, in disciplining their children, realize the imperative necessity of making their punishments proportionate to the character of the offenses; and so in God’s government: great punishments following great offenses are not greater than is necessary to establish justice and to effect great moral reforms.
Seeing that the Lord will thus equitably adjust human affairs in his own due time, we can afford to endure hardness for the present, and resist evil with good, even at the cost of present disadvantages. Therefore, “Recompense to no man evil for evil.” “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” — Rom. 12:17-19; Phil. 2:5.
The present order of things will not always continue: a time of reckoning is coming. The just Judge of all the earth says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Rom. 12:19), and the Apostle Peter adds, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” (2 Peter 2:9) And, as we have seen, those punishments will be adapted to the nature of the offenses, and the benevolent object in view — man’s permanent establishment in righteousness.
Other scriptures corroborative of this view of future rewards and punishments are as follows: 2 Samuel 3:39; Matt. 16:27; 1 Peter 3:12; Psalms 19:11; Psalms 91:8; Prov. 11:18; Isa. 40:10; 49:4; Matt. 5:12; 10:41,42; Luke 6:35; Rev. 22:12; Rom. 14:11,12.
Let Honesty and Truth Prevail
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.
Hartford Bible Students * P.O. Box 493 * Manchester, CT 06045