Mivel azt már tisztáztuk, hogy a Menny(ek)be lehetetlen bejutni, érdemes lenne megvizsgálni mit mond a Biblia a Pokolról. Hát nem?
Nos, először is egy bibliatrollal folytatott társalgásomból idéznék egy csöppet, amiből az derült ki, hogy szerinte a Pokol mint olyan egyszerűen nem létezik, nem lesz "Második Föld", se semmi:
What the Bible says about Hell?
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Ok, I just got curious what is the Hell by the canonical texts?
The Hell in tradition comes from Peter's apocalypse as far as I can remember, what is an apocryphal book, so I don't give a squat on that.
In the OT there is no Hell per se, just a kind os Netherworld, called Seol, where everyone goes after death, and they become mere shadows; something that half exist, half not (it comes from the hebrew tradition, that nothing of the Lord's work can really diminish, that's why there was darkness at the beggining: there was a 0th Earth, lol).
But what about the NT? How is Hell looks like? What is happening there? Or it is just an empty word?
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onlineDaystar.pathwaymachine #1 [url] [-]
There are three words typically translated hell in the Greek Scripture. Hades, which corresponds with the Hebrew sheol meaning the unseen resting place of the dead. The English word hell means covering. The common grave. The other two words which are mistranslated as Hell are Gehenna, which isn't hell in the sense of the Hebrew or English. It is a valley, in Hebrew the valley of the sons of hinnom. Tartarus is used only once and it means the lowest place, though figuratively, because it is applied only to the disobedient angels in heaven who caused the flood of Noah's day, the offspring being the Nephilim.
I tried to find the post I made on What The Bible Really Teaches About Hell here at the SAB but couldn't find it. Here is the same post at The Pathway Machine.
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Last Edited By: Daystar 07/03/09 20:40:32. Edited 1 time.
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onlinetwillight #2 [url] [-]
So let me summerise: there is no Hell. There is no bad place where unbeivers go. There won't be anything cast into the lake of fire too?
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onlineDaystar.pathwaymachine #3 [url] [-]
twillight wrote: So let me summerise: there is no Hell. There is no bad place where unbeivers go. There won't be anything cast into the lake of fire too?
Right. Hell is the common grave of man from which there is the possibility of resurrection. No consiousness, no moral distinction - everyone goes there, and the lake of fire is symbolic for everlasting destruction. Death and hell (the grave) are thrown into it along with Satan and all his followers. No more sin. No more death. The meek inherit the earth and live forever upon it etc.
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onlinetwillight #4 [url] [-]
Yes, and as Hell is a parabell, the everlasting life is too. So the "second earth" is only a wishful thinking, that only those who share the same belief as -inser cult's name here- will live, and everyone else shall be slaughtered.
Well, that's a nice story to believe in...
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onlineDaystar.pathwaymachine #5 [url] [-]
twillight wrote: Yes, and as Hell is a parabell, the everlasting life is too. So the "second earth" is only a wishful thinking, that only those who share the same belief as -inser cult's name here- will live, and everyone else shall be slaughtered.
Well, that's a nice story to believe in...
Well, that is your interpretation. Is hell a parable? To some religious people it is various things. A place for the damned, death, separation from God, spiritual cleansing, the grave, make believe . . . but according to the Bible it is real. The grave. Everlasting life to some is reincarnation, or heaven, or paradise . . . according to the Bible it is eternal life on paradise earth. These things ar not dependant upon the interpretation of the wishful thinker. They are either real or not real.
According to reality as you know it we are born, we die and that is it. If the God of the Bible is real he has told us that we live, we die, and we have the opportunity to live again forever in better circumstances. What have you lost? No matter what you believe you get exactly what you want.
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onlinetwillight #6 [url] [-]
I don't give a squat what it means to the people. I was only interrested in what the scripture says. Thx Daystar for so elegantly pushing all the Bible into the realm of myths.
A lényeg az, hogy bármit is tartson róla a hívő, eme fundamentalista hívő szerint az Írás szerint az egész csak allegória, másszóval: egy mese.
De ami még jobb íme egy átoknagy elemzés a Bibliában a Pokol minden említett helyéről. Sajna olyan átkozottul hosszú, hogy én ugyan le nem fordítom!
"Gehenna" is derived from, "Ge Hinnom," meaning, "Valley of Hinnom." "Ge Hinnom" is also called, "Gai ben-Hinnom," meaning, "valley of Hinnom's son."
The valley is outside the south wall of ancient Jerusalem and stretches from the foot of Mount Zion eastward to Kidron Valley. It is mentioned 13 times in 11 different verses in the Bible (King James Version) as, "valley of Hinnom," "valley of the son of Hinnom" or, "valley of the children of Hinnom."
It is not described as a spiritual hell but as a literal valley in Jerusalem (Joshua 15:8, Joshua 18:16, 2nd Kings 23:10, 2 Chronicles 28:3, 2nd Chronicles 33:6,Nehemiah 11:30, Jeremiah 7:31~32, Jeremiah 19:2, Jeremiah 19:6, Jeremiah 32:35). After 638 B.C., the valley of Hinnom and the valley of the son of Hinnom became the place for burning rubbish from Jerusalem.
"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.