The Bible Truth Review (previously named, The Bible Review)
Issue No. 6 (September 10, 1990)
In This Issue:
“The Prepared Heart” by B. Bagby from Bible Explorations, vol. 1 no. 6, June 1987. Three principles of Ezra’s faithfulness applied to our walk today.
“Help by the Way #1 — The Greek article” by Charles H. Welch from The Berean Expositor, circa 1912-13. A small article on the Greek “the”.
“The Parables #1” by Charles H. Welch from The Berean Expositor circa 1911-12. The meaning of “parables” and their dispensational setting. An introduction to the parables of Matthew 13.
“The Sovereignty of God” by Oscar M. Baker from Truth For Today, vol. 40 No. 7, 6/1/90. Third in the series dealing with the limits of His sovereignty. This article features a discussion of a particular blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
“Victory Over Death” by K.Bagby from Bible Explorations, vol. 1 no. 6, 6/87. An approach to explaining death to an inquiring child.
“The Wages of Sin #4” by Charles H. Welch from The Berean Expositor circa 1912-13. Fourth in this series. This article explores “hell” in the Old Testament.
Subscription Information and Permission to Distribute by Leo Wierzbowski, editor of The Bible Truth Review.
“The Prepared Heart” by B. Bagby from Bible Explorations, vol. 1 no. 6, June 1987
Ezra was a skillful scribe in the law of Moses (Ezra 7:6). He was a direct descendent of Aaron the high priest. He lived at a time when the walls and city of Jerusalem and the Temple were rebuilt after their destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. In his prayer in Ezra 9:5-15, he was concerned about how the people had forgotten God’s grace and extended mercy in delivering them from captivity, allowing them to rebuild their city and temple, and how they had forsaken the commandments. It was not long thereafter that we see a dramatic change in their attitude. They separated themselves from the strangers and ‘mixed multitude’, and they began to worship the Lord in the manner described in the law. This was a result of Ezra’s faithfulness to the Word and the hand of the Lord guiding him. “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” (Ezra 7:10)
Can we too, as members of the church Which is His body, apply these simple principles in our lives to walk pleasing to the One who has delivered us? Note the order in which Ezra was able to be used of the Lord:
(1) He prepared his heart to seek the law or Word of the Lord. The preparation of the heart is closely related to seeking after truth. There is nothing we can do from a human standpoint to prepare our hearts to do things pleasing to the Lord. The Scriptures plainly teach us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…” (Jer 17:9). We must first ‘open the book’ and “seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Col 3:1). It is important to seek Him in His fullness. This includes searching after Him in His present position as Head of the church Which is His body.
(2) He prepared his heart to do the law or Word of the Lord. It is one thing to study the Scriptures, but the real proof is whether or not we do or walk in the things written therein. Paul exhorted the Philippians to, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God Which worketh in you both to will and to do, of His good pleasure.” (Phil 2:12,13). True works come from Him. They are a result of reading the Scriptures and revering the Author of them. There is not one thing we can accomplish spiritually of ourselves. When we truly acknowledge the Word and what we have in Christ, it is only natural to ‘walk worthy of our calling’.
(3) He prepared his heart to teach in Israel statutes and judgments. Perhaps the most difficult way for us to teach others is with our walk. As parents, it is essential to set an example before our children. As fellow members of His body it is just as important to let others see not only Christ in our lives, but recognize Christ as Head, for we are members of His body. It is also important to speak the truth when the time is appropriate. Paul encouraged Timothy in this: “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (IITim 2:2). “The things” pertain to the truth concerning the secret revealed to the Apostle Paul. It was a truth that was already being corrupted and forsaken at that time, similar to what was taking place in the day of Ezra.
The Old Testament is full of truth applicable to our walk but must be rightly divided. All Scripture is “God breathed” so “That the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” We see how the Lord used His Word in Ezra’s life to accomplish His purposes. May we be attentive to His Word today to be part of His purposes with His church.
“Help by the Way #1 — The Greek article” by Charles H. Welch from The Berean Expositor, circa 1912-13
The nature of this magazine, and its limited size, precludes the idea of attempting to teach Greek. Many of our readers have, however, commenced this interesting study and so we intend, as occasion offers, to insert a page which, while being of interest to all, will be particularly useful for those commencing N.T. Greek.
The article ” the.”
Some, through not realizing the accuracy and delicacy of the Greek language, are apt to pass over with scant attention the little word ” the.” The A.V. on numerous occasions omits the article where it should be inserted, and inserts it where it should be omitted.
“The (one) pinnacle of the temple” becomes “a pinnacle” (as though there were many). Instead of “the teacher of Israel,” we read of Nicodemus that he was but “a teacher.” “The virgin,” namely, the one foretold by Isaiah, is translated in Matt. i. 23, “a virgin,” thereby losing all the emphasis of fulfilled prophecy. The unwarranted insertion of the article in John iv. 27, “the woman,” instead of “a woman,” changes the ground of the disciples’ wonder. They knew nothing of the woman’s history. Their surprise was that the Lord (a Jew and a man), should thus freely be speaking to any woman.
Many of us have realized the importance of the article or its omission in such expressions, “The Spirit ” — the Giver, and “spirit ” — His gifts. The following summary may be useful:
(1) Definite. The, that, this. “The virgin.” “This persuasion” (Gal. v. 8).
(2) Explanative. “The adoption, that is to say, the redemption of our body” (Rom. viii. 23).
(3) It denotes a class or kind. “The poor, the man” (mankind, as we say).
(4) It indicates the subject of a sentence, “The Word was God.”
(5) When the article is present it demonstrates, “That (Gk. the) good thing” (2 Tim. i. I4).
When the article is absent it describes the essence or character.
John i. 14. “The Word (demonstrative — one particular person) was made flesh” (i.e. partook of flesh and its characteristics, sin excepted).
We could not say, “The Word was made A flesh,” for that would be absurd, yet many, for their own purposes, translate a similar construction, “The Word was A God,” because the absurdity is not so apparent.
The article is continually used before abstract nouns, such as “repentance,” “righteousness.” The idea is that the abstract word is present before the mind’s eye. The article also shows when words are used in apposition. “The church which is the body of Him” (Eph. i. 22, 23). The church and the body are here mutually inclusive.
In the construction of phrases the article is continually employed. There is no word “son,” or “things,” in the phrases, “The (son) of Zebedee,” or “The (things) of Gesar,” “son” and “things” being represented simply by “the” (masc. sing.), and ” the ” (neuter plur.).
“The Parables #1” by Charles H. Welch from The Berean Expositor circa 1911-12.
The word, its meaning and dispensational setting.
As the student of Scripture grows in grace and knowledge of the truth, things which once seemed trivial appear of great importance; passages which once he thought he “knew all about ” are approached with deepening humility, to be reread and learned afresh. Among our earliest recollections, either as scholars in Sunday Schools or as members of Churches, will be those passages of Scripture known as “The Parables.” The time-worn definition, “An earthly story with a heavenly meaning, “is doubtless familiar to us all. Do we not begin to realize, however, that these parables contain teaching which our teachers never saw, and that the dispensational key, which has turned the lock of so many difficulties and opened doors into such treasuries, may be profitably applied to these “dark sayings”?
The first thing to do is to be sure of the meaning of the word. The word “parable” has been taken over into the English tongue from the Greek word parabole. Para means “near” or beside,” and bole is from ballo, “I cast” or “throw.” Literally it signifies something “cast beside” another, and as applied to discourse it means a method of teaching which demands the use of similitude or comparison.
All the parables of Scripture are weighty and wise sayings. This may be gathered from the words of the proverb, “The legs of a lame man are not equal, so is a parable in the mouth of fools” (Prov. xxvi. 7). The Companion Bible gives the meaning, “The clothes of a lame man being lifted up expose his lameness, so a fool exposes his folly in expounding a parable” (See also Prov. xxvi. 9). An American writer has given a very helpful translation of Proverbs. Chapter i. 2-6 reads thus:
“To know wisdom and admonition; to put a distinct meaning into discriminated speeches: to accept clear sighted admonition is righteousness and judgment and right behaviour.
In order to give subtlety to the simple; to the child knowledge and thorough thought. The wise man will hear and increasingly acquire, and a man already become discerning will gain in capability to guide.
For putting a distinct meaning into a proverb or an enigma; into the words of the wise and their intricate sayings:
The fear of the Lord is the main knowledge, a wisdom and a discipline that fools despise.”
It is in this frame of mind that we approach these “dark sayings,” in the fear of God to learn their “secrets.”
In Matt. xiii. 35 the Lord quotes from Psalm lxxviii. 2 in relation to His speaking in parables, and therefore we may expect to find some help in that Psalm to guide us to the right understanding of the purpose of a parable. The heading of the Psalm is “Maschil of Asaph.” The Hebrew word Maschil is from the word Sakal, which means, “to look at,” “to scrutinize,” and the term Maschil means, “an understanding arising from a deep consideration” (Neh. viii. 8). The title of the Psalm prepares us for deep instruction:
“Give ear, O My people, to My law, Incline your ear to the words of My mouth. I will open My mouth in a PARABLE,
I will utter DARK SAYINGS of old.”
The remaining portion of the Psalm is a rehearsal of the history of Israel from Moses to David, showing the inner reasons of their failures. Take for example verses 9 and 10:
“The children of Ephraim, armed, carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.”
“They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in His law.”
From this we may infer that a parable urges us to consider deeply the ways of God with His people, and to look for the hidden causes and workings which are veiled from the eyes of the uninstructed.
That a parable has some connection with a secret, a reference to Matt. xiii. will prove. There for the first time in the New Testament do we read the word “mystery ” or “secret,” and there for the first time occurs the word “parable.” Further, the Lord Jesus translates the words, “I will utter dark sayings of old,” by the words, “I will utter things which have been kept secret since the overthrow (katabole) of the world” (Matt. xiii. 35).
The first parable of the Bible is one which concerns the people of Israel in relation to their separate calling as a distinct nation and peculiar people:
“And he took up his parable and said, “Balak king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the East, saying, Come curse me Jacob, and, come, defy Israel. How hall I curse whom God hath not cursed? And how shall I defy whom the Lord hath not defied?” (Num. xxiii.7; so also xxiii. 18; xxiv. 3, 15).
In Hebrews ix. 9 and xi. 19 we find the word translated, “a figure.” A parable and a proverb are much alike. The parable of Matt. xv. 13-I5 might be termed a proverb. Indeed the word translated “proverb ” in Luke iv. 23 is really “parable.” The words, “Physician, heal thyself,” are called in the original a “parable.” That a “proverb ” carried the same hidden teaching as did the “parable and dark sayings” can be seen by referring to John xvi. 25 and 29:
These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs, the hour cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I will shew you PLAINLY of the Father.
In the Old Testament we have “type,” in the Gospels we have “parable,” and in the Epistles we have “doctrine,” as the more prominent features. The parables lead us to contemplate the hidden causes of the failure of Israel in relation to the kingdom, and look forward to the time when all will be put right.
The first occurrence of a word very often decides its fundamental meaning. The first occurrence of the word parable in the New Testament is Matt. xiii. 3. It follows that chapter wherein culminated the rejection of the Messiah by the people in the land. He had been heralded as their Messiah and King. He had vindicated His claims by the fulfillment of numerous prophecies, both with regard to His Person and His works and in chapter xii. 6, 41 and 42, although greater than the temple, greater than the prophet Jonah, and greater than king Solomon, He yet is “despised and rejected”:
The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side . . . and He spake many things unto them in parables . . . and the disciples came and said unto Him, Why speakest Thou in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens therefore speak I unto them in parables, because they seeing see not and hearing they hear not neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which saith, By hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand: and seeing ye shall see and shall not perceive: for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them (Matt. xiii. 1-17).
Such is the setting of the first occurrence of the word parable in the New Testament. The parables were used when Israel manifested that the prophecy of Isaiah vi. 10 was fulfilled in them. The parables were not used to make the teaching plainer, but to veil the teaching from the majority. The parables relate to the secrets of the kingdom. They teach things hitherto “kept secret since the overthrow of the world” (Matt. xiii. 35). Prophets desired to see and hear these things, as Matt. xiii. 17 and 1 Pet. i. 10-12 tell us:
“Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow.”
Here, as in the majority of Old Testament prophecies, no break is made between the sufferings and the glories. No interval is allowed between “the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God” (Isa. Ixi. 2, cf. Luke iv. 19). The rejection of God’s king was only partly seen, the abeyance of the kingdom was a secret. Thus we may place the two passages together:
“I will open my mouth in parables. I will utter things which have been kept secret since the overthrow of the world” (Matt. xiii. 35).
“Why speakest Thou in parables? Because it is given unto you to know the secrets of the kingdom of the heavens, but to them it is not given” (Matt. xiii. 10, 11).
Everything leads us to expect that just as in Psa. lxxviii. we shall find in these parables some of the inner workings of God’s counsels relative to His purposes in Israel, and that to introduce the doctrinal teaching of the gospel of the grace of God, or the dispensational teaching of the mystery which is not a subject of revelation until over 30 years later (Eph. iii. 1-10), will be to confound things which differ, and signally to fail rightly to divide the Word of truth.
The parables are particularly dispensational in character. Their object is not to provide a moral lesson or a text for a gospel address. How many have gone astray by reason of this mischievous practice. The parable of the Prodigal Son serves those who have no desire for the retention of the atonement with a “proof” text for the universal Fatherhood of God, and of the reception by Him of all who come, irrespective of the one way of acceptance — the sacrifice of Christ. The parable of the Unforgiving Servant is made to teach, in direct opposition to the doctrine of the epistles, that sins once forgiven may be re-imputed, or that a sinner once saved by grace can fall away again.
Let us remember the Scriptural settings of these parables, the reasons which drew them from the Lord Jesus, the dispensation in which they were uttered, and the people and kingdom about which they speak; we shall then have no need to be ashamed of our testimony.
Thus far we have sought to clear the way for the study of these parables. We shall next endeavour to present to the reader the arrangement of the parables of Matthew xiii. and to enter into the teaching of these parables of the secrets of the kingdom of the heavens.
The Parables of Matthew xiii.
To understand any passage or verse in the Bible we must take note of the context, otherwise, being ignorant of much that God has written for our guidance, we shall offer “a vision out of our own heart” as the interpretation. In the first place, Matt. xiii. comes in that section which is entirely taken up with the “kingdom” before the Lord had uttered one word of the foundations of the gospel as we know it, namely, His death and resurrection. This fact should deter us from too hastily assuming that in Matt. xiii. we have an elaborate discourse concerning “the gospel.”
In order to show that these parables come (1) in the kingdom section proper, and (2) before the Lord’s revelation of His death and resurrection, we shall have to give the arrangement of subjects, which is as follows:
- Matt i. 1 – iii. 12. Preparation.
- Matt. iii. 16, 17. Voice from heaven — “My beloved Son.”
- Matt xvi. 16. Peter’s confession — “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.”
- Matt. xvii. 5. Voice out of the cloud — “My beloved Son.”
- Matt. xxvii. 5. Centurion’s confession — “Truly this was the Son of God.”
- Matt. xxviii. Conclusion.
The ” time ” divisions of Matthew are two-fold, agreeing with the two-fold message from heaven, and confession on earth:
(1) “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (iv. 17).
(2) “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples how that He must go unto Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (xvi. 21).
We can now see clearly that the parables of Matt. xiii. come within the first section of Matthew’s Gospel, which has for its subject exclusively “the kingdom.”
In examining the book still further, we find that it reveals three main discourses, and a due appreciation of their place and teaching is of the utmost importance. They are as follows:
- Matt v.-vii. / On a mountain. (Past) / Precept. / The kingdom explained.
- Matt. xiii. / Out of the house. (Past and future) / Parable. / The kingdom rejected.
- Matt. xxiv., xxv. / On mountain. (Future) / Prophecy / The kingdom set up.
In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus, as King, sat upon the mountain, and gave His law and described the character of the subjects of His kingdom. In the prophetic chapters of Matt. xxiv. and xxv. the Lord Jesus looks forward to the day when His kingdom shall be set up with power and great glory. The interval between the two “mountain” discourses is filled in by the rejection of the Lord by Israel, and the parables of the secrets of the kingdom. We may expect, therefore, to find something to teach us the character and course of the “kingdom of the heavens” during the period of the rejection of the King. One thing we must be quite clear about, and that is, we shall not find depicted a history of events which were to take place after the kingdom of the heavens became in abeyance.
These parables trace the progress of the gospel of the kingdom along its course through the period while the Lord was on the earth, and during the Acts of the Apostles. The present interval of the dispensation of the mystery must of necessity be omitted, and the history of the kingdom be resumed again when God once more takes up His ancient people, for the interpretation of some of these parables takes us to the “end of the age.”
Before we examine the parables in detail, we must examine them together. Some of our readers may be surprised to find us speaking of the eight parables of Matt. xiii. It has become almost sacred to prophetic students to speak of the seven parables of Matt. xiii., so that we shall have to set out the complete arrangement in order to demonstrate the fact that the Lord gave eight parabolic or figurative utterances in connection with the “mysteries (or secrets) of the kingdom.”
Structure of Matthew xiii.
- 1-9. The Sower. / The sowing of the seed into four kinds of ground. They (Israel) did not understand.
- 24-30. The Tares. / Good and bad together. Separated at the harvest (the end of the age); the bad are cast into a furnace of fire, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
- 31, 32. The Mustard Tree. / One Tree.
- 33. The Leaven. / Hid in three measures of meal.
- 44. The Treasure. / Hid in a field.
- 45, 46. Goodly Pearls. / One pearl.
- 47-50. The Drag Net. / Good and bad together. Separated at the end of the age; the bad are cast into a furnace of fire, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. They (disciples) did understand.
- 51, 52. The Scribe. / The treasure opened to those in the house.
The harmony that exists between the component parts of this structure is quite evident to all. If we can see the disposition of any passage of Scripture, we are in possession of a help to its interpretation. Sometimes a word may have more than one meaning, and the balance in favour of either rendering may be fairly equal. If we can find its place in the structure, we shall often, by so doing, find its meaning also.
Look at the central pair of parables. The Leaven “hidden” in three measures of meal finds its corresponding member in the Treasure “hidden” in the field. The parable of the Tares finds its complement in the parable of the Drag Net. The parable of the Sower is balanced by that of the Scribe, and the Mustard Seed by the Pearl.
We now have considered the parables in their meaning and signification, and have also looked at the contextual setting of these parables of the secrets of the kingdom, so far as their place in the Gospel of Matthew is concerned. We must now examine the immediate cause of their utterance, and we shall then be ready to consider each parable in detail.
Let us go back as far as the commencement of chapter xi. John the Baptist had said, “He that cometh after me is mightier than I.” He had seen the heavens open, he had heard the voice of God saying, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” But in course of time John, for his faithfulness, was cast into prison, there to suffer not only agony of body, but of mind. Had he made a mistake? Why was he not liberated if this one was the Messiah? Why was the kingdom not set up? So John sent two of his disciples, who said, “Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another? “For answer the Lord replied, “Go and show John again those things which ye do see and hear; the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them, and blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.”
If the reader will turn to Isa. xxix. 18, 19; xxxv. 5, 6; and xlii. 1-7 he will see how this answer would tend to confirm the languishing forerunner. Everything was being done by the Saviour according to the Word and will of God, but unbelief was bringing this witness of the kingdom to a close, for a little further on, in Matt. xi. 20, He began to “upbraid the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done, because they repented not.” It is evident that if the mighty works were rejected, the gospel or good news that the kingdom of the heavens had drawn nigh would be rejected also, and the cry, “Repent and believe,” would go unheeded.
The Lord Jesus, however, knew that this opposition was to be overruled to the accomplishment of God’s ultimate purpose, and with the words, “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight,” He awaited the end. It soon came, for in Matt. xii. we reach a climax. There the Lord Jesus is seen “greater than the Temple” (verse 6), “greater than the prophet Jonah” (verse 41), “greater than the king Solomon” (verse 42), and in all these capacities He is rejected. The reason for this rejection is given in verses 43-45.
The captivity of Babylon had cured the Jews of idolatry, but they were like a room “empty, swept and garnished,” inhabited by a spirit more evil than that which bound their idolatrous “fathers”; the last state is worse than the first, for rejecting Christ they reached the climax sin. This leads on to Matt. xiii. with its secrets or mysteries.
Up to this point nothing had been secret, but now the Saviour reveals to the hearing ear and seeing eye that the rejection of the King and His message was foreknown, that the efforts of the apostles themselves would meet with a similar fate, and that not until the end, when the Lord returns to take the kingdom and deliver Israel, will the sowing of the seed of the kingdom yield its bounteous harvest.
“The Sovereignty of God #3” by Oscar M. Baker from Truth For Today, vol. 40 No. 7, 6/1/90
In Matt. 12, Mark 3, and Luke 11 we find an account of the Pharisees (who were of their father, the devil) accusing Christ of being in cahoots with Satan and casting out devils by the power of Beelzebub. In two of these accounts you will find that the Lord went on to explain that his accusation was blasphemy against the Holy Ghost and was not to be forgiven in this age or in the ago to come. The very thought of our Lord and Creator having any part with Satan was certainly devil inspired, for depraved man at his worst would hardly dare to make such statements.
But if that were the zenith of blasphemy in that day, we find something far worse today. And again it is uttered by those who pose as Christians and friends of God. The supreme blasphemy of today among certain circles is that God created Satan, the devil, that old serpent, as he is, and turned him loose upon mankind to torment and torture them. That kind of reasoning makes God the author of sin. It also takes away from the Word of God, for those who believe this lie have to tear Ezekiel 28 out of their Bibles, not to mention many other such passages. And if man or devil could think of a greater blasphemy than this, I would like to know what it is.
These folks not only do not hesitate to make God responsible for things as they are in His creation today, but they say, “Everything is just exactly as God wanted it to be!” This statement is from a publication, was printed in capitals and has the exclamation point. Then why should folks in the tribulation pray that God’s will be done on the earth? Why did the Lord weep over Jerusalem and express His desire and will that they should come to Him when they did not? Why is it that God does not will that any should perish, when we know right well that they do perish? Why does God will that all should be saved, but we are blind if we cannot see that most folks are not saved?
As we said before, God’s power has never been diminished, but His sovereignty has been limited by circumstances. God does not save all simply because they will not. They will not because God gave them a choice. He made his choice because of self. And that is the reason mankind has been in rebellion against God all these ages. But a few have honored His name.
Only certain servants will ever hear the words, WELL DONE, THY GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT. Satan will never hear these words, for he is an enemy, not a servant. He does not belong to any household of God. There are some servants who are slothful and wicked, we grant that. God will deal with them as servants and not as enemies. They will receive their punishment. And if servants receive punishment for wrong doing, how much more those who have constituted themselves enemies?
This is a generation that is trying to outdo all others and there is some success, even in the realm of blasphemy.
“Victory Over Death” by K.Bagby from Bible Explorations, vol. 1 no. 6, 6/87
We have emphasized the necessity of a child’s inheritance of eternal life in the Lord Jesus Christ. Along with that, the subject of death must be carefully and honestly explained.
As the Lord prepares even adults in accepting more immediate deaths, perhaps with a grandparent passing away or an older acquaintance, we too, must gently prepare our children to understand death. “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die;…” (Eccl. 3:1,2). The death of a neighbor, a grandparent, or even the death of a pet may be a natural opening to talk about death.
“What happens to me when I die?” may be a good place to begin. The Lord says in Eccl. 3:19 & 20 that just like the animals, men have the same breath, or spirit, and that, “All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” God told Adam, “for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return” (Ge. 3:19). And so, we turn to dust in the grave; but, will we stay dust? A man named Job said, “For now I shall sleep in the dust; and Thou shalt seek me in the morning but I shall not be” (Job 7:21b). Why did Job say he was sleeping; and where was he going? He had good, good news! Job also said, “For I know that my Redeemer (the Lord) liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:” (Job 19:25,26). For those who know the Lord as their Saviour, death is called sleep because we will wake up again. Job was going to come out of the dust to see the Lord!
“Why must people die?” “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Rom. 5:12). Because Adam sinned in the garden, death and Adam’s sinful ways are passed on to every person born. Would it be a kind thing if God let us live forever in an unhappy or sinful body? No; but in His great love He tasted “death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). His death on the cross freed us. “Our Saviour Jesus Christ, he hath abolished death, and hath brought life…” (ITim. 1:10). Yes, He has gotten rid of the enemy, death. We still die but no longer stay as dust. Now we can have eternal life!
The victory over death is in a Person. Jesus said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” Resurrection means to come alive again after being dead. Will you be in the resurrection? Will you have victory over death? The Bible says, “Death is swallowed up in victory… But thanks be to God, Which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:55,57).
“The Wages of Sin #4” by Charles H. Welch from The Berean Expositor circa 1912-13
“Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Prov. xxx. 6).
We desire to draw attention in this paper to the word which in the Old Testament is translated “hell,” and to show its close connection with the word muth (death) which we considered in our last article. The word in its original is sheol. It is translated “grave” 31 times, “hell” 31 times, and “pit” three times. The word sheol is derived from the verb shaal, meaning “to ask” or “to enquire.”
Moses used the word sheol seven times. The first six occurrences the A.V. renders by the grave ” and “pit,” the last by the word “hell.” The passages are as follows:
“I will go down into sheol (A.V. the grave), unto my son mourning” (Gen. xxxvii. 35).
“Then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to sheol” (A.V. the grave) (Gen. xlii. 38).
“My gray hairs with sorrow to sheol” (A.V. the grave) (Gen. xliv. 29).
“His gray hairs to sheol” (A.V. the grave) (Gen. xliv. 31)
“If the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up . . . and they go down quick (alive) unto sheol” (A.V the pit) (Num. xvi. 30).
“They went down alive unto sheol” (A.V. the pit) (Num. xvi. 33).
“For a fire is kindled in Mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest sheol (A.V. hell), and shall Consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains” (Deut. xxxii . 22).
Let the reader try the word “hell” in place of “grave,” as used by Jacob and his sons, and then let him ask whether Deut. xxxii. 22 has been translated fairly.
The bias that lies behind this selection of words may be discerned by comparing such passages as Job xiv. 13 with Psa. ix. 17. The former reads, “Oh that Thou wouldst hide me in the GRAVE,” whereas the latter reads, “The wicked shall be turned into HELL.” Let the reader put the word “hell” into the prayer of Job, and its utter absurdity will be evident. The word translated “turned” (Psa. ix. 17) is really “returned” (see Lange), and the meaning is that the second death is the final doom of the “wicked” and the “nations” who forget God. Or again, compare the following:
“Thou hast brought up my soul from the GRAVE” (Psa. xxx. 3).
“For Thou wilt not leave my soul in HELL” (Psa. xvi. 10).
The context of these passages confirms the Scriptural meaning (“the grave”), and refutes the traditional error (“hell”). Psa. xxx. 3 reads:
“Oh Lord, Thou hast brought up my soul from the GRAVE, Thou hast kept me ALIVE, that I should not go down into the pit,”
while Psa. xvi. 9, 10 says:
“My FLESH also shall rest in hope, for Thou wilt not leave my soul in the GRAVE (A.V. hell): neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see CORRUPTION.”
The Hebrew parallel in both cases proves to all that sheol means the grave, and not the orthodox hell. Eccles. ix. 10 declares that “there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave (sheol) whither thou goest.” Why did not the translators render this, “hell”? It certainly would have opened the eyes of many to see that the agony, torment and gnawing of conscience of the orthodox “hell” were false; so in this place we have “grave” as the rendering of sheol.
I Sam. ii. 6 bears ample testimony that sheol is to be read as antithetical to life:
“The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.”
Again in 2 Sam. xxii. 6 the Hebrew parallelism is strongly marked:
“The CORDS of the grave (A.V. hell), compassed me about, the SNARES of death prevented me.”
The cords of the grave and the snares of death are a beautiful example of parallelism in Hebrew poetry, and at the same time confirm the meaning of the words sheol and muth (death). Sheol is spoken of as a place of darkness and silence; the Psalmist speaks of “making his bed” there (Psa. cxxxix. 8). The A.V. reads, “If I make my bed in hell” — a monstrous distortion, the bed speaking of the sleep of death until resurrection. This the A.V. itself admits by rendering the parallel passage in Job xvii. 13-16 thus:
“If I wait, the grave (sheol) is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness. I have said to CORRUPTION, Thou art my father; to the WORM, Thou art my mother, and my sister. And where is now my hope, who shall see it? They shall go down to the bars of the pit (sheol), when our rest (cf. made my bed) together is in the dust .”
No one can deny that sheol here means the grave; so also it means the same in Psa. cxxxix. 8. Once again notice Isa. xxviii. 15 and Prov. vii. 27:
“We have made a covenant with DEATH, and with the GRAVE (A.V. hell) are we at agreement.”
“Her house is the way to the GRAVE (A.V. hell), going down to the chambers of DEATH” (Prov. vii. 27).
Look at Ezek. xxxi. 14, 15:
“They are all delivered unto DEATH, to the nether parts of the earth, in the midst of the children of men, with them that go down to the pit . . . . in the day that he went down to sheol (A.V. grave).”
Now notice the utter disregard for adherence to the letter of Scripture in the verses which follow (16 and 17):
“When I cast him down to sheol (A.V hell) with them that descend into the pit . . . . they also went down into sheol (A.V. hell) with him.”
In Hosea xiii. 14 we read, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave (sheol); I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave (sheol), I will be thy destruction “:
- Sheol . . . ransomed from.
- Death . . . redeemed from.
- Death . . . plagued.
- Sheol . . . . destroyed.
Here we read of the destruction of sheol — the grave. Orthodoxy would not permit “hell” here for obvious reasons — the orthodox hell will never be destroyed.
Sufficient, we trust, has been brought forward to warrant the statement that sheol means the grave. We must not confound it, however, with keber, a grave (Gen. xxiii. 4), or bor, a pit, rock hewn (Gen. xxxvii. 20-29), for sheol means THE GRAVE, or Gravedom, rather than a specific burying place.
The word “hell” is an old English word derived from the Saxon hillan or helan, “to hide,” or “to cover.” The word occurs in Old English literature with this meaning; helling a house meant thatching or covering a house. This is the idea in the word “helmet,” which is a covering for the head. The word “heal” also is derived from the same word, the broken flesh of a wound being healed or covered over. In Cornwall and Somerset a thatcher or slater is called a “healer” or “hellier,” while in Berkshire and Wiltshire the words “yelming” or “helming” are used for thatching. If this be the meaning of “hell” in modern English, we may let it stand as a translation in our Bibles of the word sheol, but we all know that this is by no means the case; “hell” stands for endless and unutterable torment, and we hesitate not to brand the rendering as a lie.
Some readers complain of our “dogmatism” and of “rudeness.” Much as we would desire to consider the susceptibilities of all believers, much as we would ever remember how insignificant we are in comparison with the teachers whose doctrines we deny, yet we would rather be liable to the charge of rudeness than of unfaithfulness. Paul treated those who were his fellow-labourers with courtesy and respect, yet in his defense of the “truth of the gospel” he did not hesitate to speak of the “Somewhats” at the the Conference at Jerusalem, when he championed, by grace, the cause of Christian liberty (Gal. ii.). “We use great plainness of speech,” he wrote upon another occasion; so would we also. Greek philosophy rather than the written Word of God permeates and dominates the theology concerning the soul, death, the intermediate state and hell.
Sheol is never described except under the imagery of terror, and is always regarded as an evil. Never do we find it likened to the portal of heaven, or the passport to immediate bliss. It is described as an awful abyss and a land of darkness and forgetfulness. The parallels used in relation to sheol (such as destruction, corruption, &c.) confirm the teaching that has already been advanced in the previous papers, that the wages of sin is death (destruction – – perishing) and that the dogma of eternal conscious suffering is a libel and a lie.
While dealing with sheol we would draw attention to another word, Tophet. The derivation of this word is somewhat doubtful. It is a name given to a part of the valley of the children of Hinnom which was outside the city of Jerusalem. The idolatrous worship of Molech had been practiced in this place and had rendered it odious. When Josiah was raised up to stamp out, for the time, the idolatry of Israel, we read:
“He defiled Topheth, which the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech” (2 Kings xxiii. 10).
This fearful practice is mentioned and prohibited in Lev. xviii. 21:
“Thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech.”
The disgusting idolatry seems to have had a powerful hold over the people, for in Jer. vii. 31 we read:
“And they have built the high places of TOPHET, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I commanded them not, NEITHER CAME IT INTO MY HEART.”
The diabolical institution that inflicted the agonies of the fire for a few moments is repudiated in a manner worthy of our attention. Not only does the Lord say that He did not command such practices, but that they never came into His heart. If this be the case, and analogy be allowed any place, what shall the Lord say of that doctrine so tenaciously held by thousands, of not merely temporary suffering as in the worship of Molech, but an eternal Tophet where the victims writhe and groan in never-ending agonies? The Lord overturns the worship of Molech and says that He will use Tophet as a burying place (Jer. vii. 32), speaking of it as a place of defilement (Jer. xix. 13).
Antichrist, under the figure of the Assyrian, is consigned to Tophet (Isa. xxx. 33), where the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone,” is parallel to the passage in 2 Thess. ii. 8. It is this valley of the son of Hinnom (used as the place for the worship of Molech, afterwards defiled and used as the place for the destruction of offal, refuse, and the dead bodies of criminals), which supplies the word Gehenna, twelve times translated “hell,” in the New Testament.
The witness of every passage in the Old Testament is unanimous; it says with one voice that,
“The wages of sin is DEATH ” (Rom. vi. 23).
“The candle of the wicked shall be PUT OUT” (Prov. xxiv. 20).
“The wicked is reserved unto the day of DESTRUCTION” (Job xxi. 30)
“As wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked PERISH at the presence of God” (Psalm lxviii. 2).
“For yet a little while and the wicked SHALL NOT BE” (Psalm xxxvii. 10).
“He is like the beasts that PERISH” (Psalm xlix. 12).
“Let the sinners be consumed out of the land, and let the wicked BE NO MORE” (Psalm civ. 35).
“They shall be AS THOUGH THEY HAD NOT BEEN” (Obadiah 16).
“They shall be AS NOTHING” (Isa. xli. 11).
“To the law and the testimony, if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.”
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concerning the soul, death, the intermediate state and hell.
Sheol is never described except under t