The Bible Truth Review
Issue No. 9 (December 10, 1990)
In This Issue
“As It Is Written #3” by B. Bagby in Bible Explorations, Vol. 2 No. 1, January 1988. The third in a series examining the quotations in Paul’s epistles prefaced by “as it is written.”
“Helps by the Way. No. 4. The Greek Prepositions.” by Charles H. Welch in The Berean Expositor, circa 1912-13.
“Right Division in Practice” by Oscar M. Baker in Truth For Today, Vol. 40 No. 9, October 1990. A suggested system to try on problem passages.
“The Parables. No. 4. The Mustard Tree.” by Charles H. Welch in The Berean Expositor, circa 1912-13. The parable of the mustard tree is examined in this third article of the series.
“The Wages of Sin. No. 7. Terms used in the book of Revelation” by Charles H. Welch in The Berean Expositor, circa 1914-15.
Subscription Information and Permission to Distribute by Leo Wierzbowski, editor of The Bible Truth Review.
“As It Is Written #3” by B. Bagby in Bible Explorations
“Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham saying, ‘In thee shall all nations be blessed.’ So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” (Gal 3:6-9)
Paul’s letter to the Galatians was written to believers in that locale, to those who had received the new nature. However, many had left some of the principals concerning the gospel of Christ which they received prior to this epistle. “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel, . . . Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit (new nature), are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal 1:6,3:3). It is in this context that Paul quotes the above verses from two places in Genesis. He was reminding the Galatians that a person is made right (justified) by the faith of Jesus Christ and not by the works of the law. (Gal 2:16) He also was reconfirming that the nations, according to Scripture, (not according to the mystery hidden in God before the ages) would be justified by faith. “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen (nations) through faith . . .” (vs 8). It was necessary at this time that everything which Paul spoke was according to Scripture. Israel was still God’s chosen nation and the kingdom was still being offered and would be for several years until the close of Acts. Although there were many mysteries which were revealed at this time and during the Lord’s ministry, they were mysteries which were hidden in Scripture. This we must compare closely with the mystery spoken of in Col 1:26 “. . . the mystery which hath been hidden from the ages”.
Paul states that the gospel was before preached unto Abraham. What was this gospel? “In thee shall all nations be blessed”. Many have assumed that the good news concerning Christ’s death and resurrection was revealed to Abraham at this time. However, the Scripture is clear as to what the good news was. It was the good news that the nations would be blessed in Abraham. It was revealed during the Acts period more specifically that that seed was Christ (Gal 3:16).
“So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” (vs 9). ‘Blessed with faithful Abraham’ is a phrase which is foreign to Paul’s last seven epistles. During the Acts period, the Gentiles’ relationship with God came about as the result of Israel’s unbelief. The promises concerning the future kingdom and the blessings which were to be part of it were to Israel first. After the Acts period, Paul was given the revelation of the mystery which contained truth that can not be found in any Scripture prior to that time. This truth has its hope and destination in the heavenlies and not on the earth. When it comes to reigning and carrying out God’s plans, there is no distinction between nations “. . . but Christ is all and in all” (Col 3:11). And more so it speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ in the fullest revelation to be found of Him in all of the word.
“Helps by the Way. No. 4. The Greek Prepositions.” by Charles H. Welch in The Berean Expositor
The readers of this page are reminded that we are not attempting to teach Greek. All that we can hope to do is to point out some of the more obvious things, leaving the deeper study for those who may feel inclined to take up this extremely valuable subject for themselves. Last time we touched upon the preposition anti. Another preposition which will repay careful study is apo.
Apo is followed by what is called the Genitive case, the case which speaks of origin, often represented in English by the insertion of the word “of” or “from.” Its Latin equivalent ab, abs forms a part of many English words. The first meaning, implying motion, is from, away from, down from. The second meaning, where motion is not so emphatic, far from, at a distance from.
A meaning yet more remote passes from the primary idea of movement to that of time, and then is represented by from, after or since. Let us see something of its meaning by turning to the writings of the New Testament. Literal removal is plainly seen in Matt. xxviii.2 and Luke xxiv.2, “rolled away”; Matt. vii.23, ” depart from Me.” In these passages it will be observed that the preposition apo occurs in combination with the verb, as well as being used by itself. This usage lends emphasis to the teaching of Col. ii.20, where the verb “to die” is not thnesko, but apothnesko, and so makes the complete separation from the old order of things the more marked.
It will be remembered that there is an important distinction to be observed between the doctrine of the “peace of God,” and “peace with God.” In Rom. i.7 we have yet another aspect of peace, namely, “peace from (apo) God.” Here apo indicates the origin from which this blessing flows. Peace comes from God, He is its efficient Cause. The familiar word “apostle” is taken straight from the Greek. It means “one sent from another.” Christ Himself is spoken of as “the Apostle,” the sent One, in Heb. iii.1, and this claim is emphasized in the Gospel of John. No apostle was ever made by man, his title declared that he had been sent by the Lord Himself. So called “apostolic succession” is fittingly connected with the “imposition of hands.”
Turning again to the usage of apo we find the transition from the idea of place to that of time in such an expression as “from a child,” that is, “ever since” you were a child (2 Tim. iii.15). This note of time occurs in that important passage, Eph. iii., where the apostle claims the exclusive stewardship of the present dispensation. In verse 9 he refers to that remote period “before the age times,” using apo with the meaning of “since.” “And to enlighten all (as to) what (is) the dispensation of the mystery, which hath been hidden away (apokrupto) since the ages (apo ton aionion) by the God Who created all things.” J. N. Darby says, “‘from the ages,’ but in the sense of ‘the period lapsed’ not ‘hidden from them.'” The preposition here tells us that since the ages the mystery had been hidden away by God, and was not made known until revealed to the apostle of the Gentiles. Col. i.26 is a parallel passage. The hiding away since the ages and since the generations being placed in contrast with the words, “but now made manifest.”
Turning briefly to a few examples of the use of apo in combination, we notice:Ä
Apekduomai and apekdusis.– “Having stript off the old man” (Col. iii.9). This “stripping off” is no work of man, it looks back to the sacrifice of Calvary, for the very same word is used in Col. ii.15, translated “spoiled.” Nor is this all, not only is the glorious truth of the new creation connected with the triumphant putting off of principalities and powers, but Col. ii.11 declares that in the death of Christ we are circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands “in the stripping off of the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ.”
Apokalupto and apokalupsis.– This word, which gives us the title of the last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse, indicates the removal of a veil. The early occurrences of apokalupto (Matt. x.26, xi.25, 27 and xvi.17) testify to the fact that revelation is not a process of reasoning, study or foresight, but, as the contexts of such passages as I Cor. ii.10 Gal. i.16 and Phil. iii.15 declare, it is entirely the work of God. The first clause of the first recorded prayer of the Lord’s prisoner was for “a spirit of wisdom and unveiling” (Eph. i.17). The “revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ” was the hope during that period covered by the “Acts” (I Cor. i.7), and of the dispersion (I Pet. i.7) “the appearing.” This deferred hope of Israel will take place as indicated and described in the book of the Revelation “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance.” The word is never used of the hope of the church in the prison epistles.
Further, unless the book of the Revelation has been sadly misnamed, the orthodox interpretation must give place to something more worthy of the title. No book seems to have been so enveloped in mystery by tradition as this book, which purports to be an “unveiling.”
Aphiemi.– This word means to send away or dismiss, Matt. xiii.36; to give up the life, Matt. xxvii.50; to put away, as in divorce, I Cor. vii.11. How striking is the force of this complete dismissal and divorcement when we remember that this word is translated in the A.V. 47 times by the word “forgive,” e.g., Rom. iv.7, 1 John i.9; ii.12.
Aphesis.– This related word is rendered in the A.V. by “deliverance,” once, “forgiveness,” six times, “liberty,” once, and “remission,” nine times. Thanks be to God for the complete separation from our sin, its defilement and its curse taught by the little word apo.
The reader should examine such words as apostasia, apoluo, apokeima, apokathistemi, apostello, etc. The epistles particularly should be studied, and the bearing of apo upon doctrine, practice and hope carefully noted.
“The Parables. No. 4. The Mustard Tree.” by Charles H. Welch in The Berean Expositor
A great deal of controversy has taken place concerning the true meaning of the mustard plant mentioned in this parable. Some maintain that it does not refer to the plant known to us as the mustard plant, but to another which is, strictly speaking, a tree. We are quite unable to enter into this argument where learned men and botanists disagree. For us, all that we need will be found in the Word itself, and to that we turn.
The statement of verse 31 of Matt. xiii., “The kingdom of the heavens is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field,” seems to indicate that we have brought before us a plant which would be naturally sown in fields, and disposes of the idea that it refers to a tree and not to the mustard plant — a herb. The difficulty which some have in the statement of verse 32, “which indeed is the least of all seeds,” is easily removed by supplying the ellipsis from verse 31. The seed is the least of all seeds which men sow in their fields.
Before considering the bearing of this parable upon the subject of the “mysteries of the kingdom,” we must refer to parallel uses of the figures here employed, in order to be “thoroughly furnished.” The word sinapi (mustard) occurs but five times in the N.T. Matt. xiii.31, Mark iv.31, and Luke xiii.19 are the passages wherein the parable of the mustard seed is found; the two other references are Matt. xvii.20 and Luke xvii.6, where the reference is to “faith like unto a grain of mustard seed.” It would appear that this was a proverbial saying. When, to-day, we speak of a very nominal rent, we sometimes say, “it is a mere peppercorn,” and in like manner the mustard seed was used to denote any thing very small. Let us then fix the first point. The smallness of the seed must be remembered when considering the interpretation of the parable. The next thing that we must do is to see whether the Lord alluded to any O.T. prophecies, parables, or statements, for if He did the consideration of such passages must help greatly in the elucidation of the parable:-
“There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon” (Psa. lxxii.16).
“Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image . . . . and became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (Dan. ii.34,35).
These two passages have reference to the smallness of the kingdom in its beginnings, and the greatness of the kingdom at its close. The first refers to Israel in the Millennium, the second to the kingdom in relation to the Gentile and Satanic monarchies, which commence with Nebuchadnezzar and end with Antichrist:-
“I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth. The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed by it” (Dan. iv.10-12).
Daniel interprets the tree thus, “It is thou, O king,” referring to Nebuchadnezzar. There is close parallel here to the statement of the Lord, “The birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.” Ezek. xxxi.2-18 contains somewhat similar references to Pharaoh:-
“Behold the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon . . . . all the fowls of heaven made their nests in his boughs . . . .”
The expression, “the fowls of the air,” in the parable, would be better translated “the fowls of the heaven”; this establishes more closely the connection between the parable of the Mustard Tree and Daniel iv. and Ezek. xxxi. “The fowls of the heaven” are mentioned in Matt. vi.26; viii.20; xiii.32; Mark iv.4, 32; Luke viii.5; ix.58; and xiii.19.
In the parable of the Sower as recorded by Matthew and Mark, we simply read “the fowls” came and devoured the seed. In Luke viii.5, however, we read, “the fowls of the heavens devoured it.” This helps us to see that those who devoured the seed which fell on the wayside are those who found a lodging place in the branches of the tree. Now the interpretation of the Sower is given by the Lord, and He declares that the action of the fowls is to illustrate the work of Satan; consequently we are driven to the conclusion that whatever aspect of the kingdom may be represented by the Mustard Tree, we must find place therein for Satan and his agents. It will be of service if we now compare the three records of this parable as given by Matthew, Mark and Luke:-
“Another parable put He before them saying, The kingdom of the heavens is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is less than all seeds, but when grown is greater than the herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the heaven come and lodge among its branches.”
“And He was saying, How shall we liken the kingdom of God, or in what parable shall we compare it? As a grain of mustard seed, which when it is sown springeth up and becometh greater than all herbs, and produceth large branches so that under the shade thereof the birds of the heaven may lodge.”
“He went on to say therefore, Whereunto is the kingdom of God like? And whereunto shall I liken it? It is like unto a grain of mustard seed which a man took and cast into his garden, and it grew and became a (great) tree and the birds of the heaven lodged among its branches.”
The words “How shall we liken?” “Whereunto is the kingdom of God like?” in Mark and Luke suggest that, humanly speaking, the analogy was difficult to frame. The kingdom history had taken such a strange turn that it needed great skill and choice of figures to illustrate the teaching. The first thing we notice is the smallness of the grain of mustard seed. The kingdom purpose of God commenced with the call of one man, Abram, and his descendants. God definitely told Israel that the people cast out of Canaan were “seven nations greater and mightier than thou” (Deut. vii.1). It is further said:-
“The Lord did not set His love upon you nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people, for ye were the fewest of all people” (Deut. vii.7).
“Thy fathers went down into Egypt three score and ten persons: and now the Lord thy God hath made thee as the stars, of heaven for multitude” (Deut. x.22).
Here we have the teaching of the words, “less than all the seeds.” Let us now consider the growth of this small company of people. Deut. x.22 has already told us that the seventy sons became as the stars of heaven for multitude. This, however, was not permanent. In between the promise of the unconditional covenant made by God in Gen. xii. came the covenant of law and works of Sinai — “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.” Thus in Deut. xxvii. and xxviii. we have blessings and cursings uttered with reference to the law. The curses are terrible, and tell us of the removal of all the privileges and blessings attaching to the chosen people. Among the judgments we note the following:-
“And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the Lord thy God” (Deut. xxviii.62).
Those who are acquainted with the history of Israel know how all these things came to pass. First the ten tribes, and then the two, were removed from their land, and the dominion given to Nebuchadnezzar. With this man commenced the “times of the Gentiles” — “it became a tree.” These times must run their destined course before “all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. xi.25,26). This the apostle declares to be a “mystery,” and indeed it is related to the “mystery of the kingdom of the heavens” as recorded in Matt. xiii.
The dominion handed over to Nebuchadnezzar went the same way as it did with Adam and with Israel. From the head of gold it degenerated by stages from silver to brass, from brass to iron, and from iron to clay. We know that Babylon was succeeded by MedoPersia, which in its turn was succeeded by Greece. This we know not merely from history, but from Scripture (Dan. viii.18Ä27). The question as to whether Rome succeeded Greece may form a profitable consideration at some future time; what we know is that when the Lord Jesus was on earth,
“Satan showed Him the kingdoms of the world (hoikoumene) in a moment of time; and the devil said unto Him, All this will I give Thee and the glory of them (note ‘Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory), for unto me hath it been delivered, and to whomsoever I will I give it” (Luke iv. 5,6).
This brings us to the words of the parable again, “The birds of the heavens lodged in its branches.” The parable of the Sower has settled the meaning of the birds — Satan and his agents. Dan. x.13 and 20 show us that Satan had an emissary at the courts of Persia and Greece, a principality or power conducting affairs for the “prince of this world.” Inasmuch as idolatry is allied to demons, it seems probable that the dominion given by God to the Gentiles was given up to Satan, who is seen in full possession in the days when the Lord Jesus was on earth.
The normal, or true kingdom growth, and the abnormal, or GentileSatanic development, may be better seen by viewing the parable as follows:-
A1 | “The seed sown.” SOWING.
B1 | “Least of all.” Its beginning — small.
A2 | “When it is grown.” GROWING.
B2 | “Greatest of herbs.” Its real end — great herb.
A3 | “Becometh a tree.” BECOMING.
B3 | “Fowls . . . in branches.” Its end under Gentiles.
[Members numbered 1 and 2 are the kingdom viewed as from Abraham to its final establishment. Members numbered 3 are the kingdom as it became during the “times of the Gentiles.”]
Thus the small seed grew into a tree and became a lodging place of Satan and his angels. No wonder, then, that the preaching of the kingdom gospel was resisted and ended as it did. The Lord knew that the times of the Gentiles must run their course before the seed would be sown in good ground. Viewed in this light the parable was full of meaning to those anxious hearts who gathered around the Lord in the days of His rejection. Understanding this parable as a revelation of one of the “secrets of the kingdom,” they would be upheld in their, apparently, fruitless ministry.
In the next parable the Lord reveals the last factor in this sad history, but that we must leave for our next paper.
“Right Division in Practice” by Oscar M. Baker in Truth For Today
No doubt most of you have at some time or other read the words of Miles Coverdale on right division or interpretation of the Word. But how many have put it into actual practice?
If you have been having trouble with a particular verse or passage, suppose that you try this system and see how it works. Get a sheet of paper and write out the verse or passage at the top being careful that each word is copied correctly. Then put down the following nine headings with room to fill in after each:
- Of whom is it spoken? You may have to search a bit to find this, but patiently go back even to the beginning of the book, if need be. It may be concerning believers, unbelievers, Jews, Gentiles, church, Israel as a nation, Israel as a remnant, etc. But be sure of the subject.
- To whom is it written? Look for the address. You may find it at the beginning, or you may find it somewhere in the context. For example, chapters 10 and 11 of 1 Corinthians are to Jewish believers, but chapter 12 is to Gentile believers; but all of the same church. James is to the 12 tribes. This item is very important.
- What words were used? Use a concordance and find where the same words are used and with what meaning. Let the Word explain itself insofar as possible .
- At what time was it spoken or written? You may not be able to give the date, but you can give the time in relation to other happenings. For instance, Romans was written near the end of the time of Acts.
- Where was it written? This may have a great deal of weight upon what it may mean. Peter was in Babylon when he wrote his first epistle. John was on Patmos when he wrote The Revelation.
- What is the purpose of the writing? What is the message intended? Sum it up in a few words.
- Under what circumstances was it written? What is the historical setting or background? In what place and condition are the people who are addressed?
- What goes before? Be sure that it is connected in some way. You may have to go back a chapter or two to find all this.
- What follows? If the same subject is not discussed, what related one comes in? Do not be easily discouraged. The context may be more closely related than you think.
When you have finished, then look it over and see if new light has been shed on the difficult passage in question. You may need several of these work sheets for practice till you can do this automatically without having to write it all out. You may be surprised how some parts of the Scripture will be cleared up by this method of study. It is the only safe method if one really wants the truth.
You can see how that quoting verses of the Scriptures with no regard to context or other items mentioned can be very misleading. It can only end up in confusion. Those who have been relying on proof texts will do well to get them back into their contexts.
“The Wages of Sin. No. 7. Terms used in the book of Revelation” by Charles H. Welch in The Berean Expositor
Under this heading we have considered from time to time the various Hebrew and Greek words which are used in Scripture to teach the nature of the Wages of Sin, and without exception, whether considered etymologically, or whether considered in the light of its context and usage, every word demonstrated the fact that utter destruction and perishing was the wages of sin.
Before, however, we conclude this series and take up related subjects, we will consider the testimony of the book of the Revelation on this question, as some readers have a few difficulties, which it may be well for us to clear up. First let us notice the expression, “The book of life.” There are seven passages wherein this phrase occurs in the A.V., but the best Greek texts omit Rev. xxii.19. This leaves six passages for consideration, and they occur in the following order:-
The Book of Life.
A | iii.5. Overcomers.
B | a | xiii.8. Earth dwellers — worship.
b | xvii.8. Earth dwellers — wonder.
B | a | xx.12. Judgment.
b | xx.15. Judgment.
A | xxi.27. Those who enter the city.
We would point out that in xvii.8, xx.12, and xxi.27 the word translated book is biblion (a little book), whereas in iii.5, xiii.8, and xx.15 it is biblos (a book), although, at present, the exact bearing of this distinction is not evident to us. The first and last passages need not detain us in the present consideration, although they demand, and we hope will receive, careful exposition in the series of articles just commenced entitled, “Studies in the Book of the Revelation.” Let us notice the four passages which touch upon the question of the wages of sin. The first pair are used in connection with the “earth dwellers”:-
“And all who dwell upon the earth will worship him, (each one) whose name hath not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb slain” (xiii.8).
“The beast which thou sawest was, and is not; and is about to ascend out of the abyss, and to go into perdition: and those who dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose name is not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast; because he was, and is not, and shall be present” (xvii.8).
Without entering into the extremely interesting exposition of the verses here, it will suffice for us to notice the fact that not one of those who worship the beast, or who wonder at his travesty of the resurrection, has his name written in the book of life. It must be also noticed that it does not say that upon worshipping the beast their names were blotted out, but rather that the worshippers of the beast are they who have not their names written in the book of life from the foundation of the world. Passing on for the moment to the second pair we are brought into the context of judgment:-
“And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life” (xx.12).
“And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (xx.15).
This passage has suffered somewhat at the hands of those who really believe the Word of God, and therefore we would call attention to one or two facts which are of importance:Ä
- There are two sets of books.
- There are two distinct sentences passed.
- There are two classes who stand before the great white throne.
First as to the two sets of books. The Scripture calls particular attention to the “books” which were opened, and “another book,” which is the book of life. The sentences passed differ, the one being connected with the books, and the other with the book of life. The first sentence to be passed is judgment according to works. “The dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” This judgment according to works gives the needed room for the “few stripes” and the “many stripes,” for the “more tolerable” judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrha than that to be inflicted upon Capernaum.
It is a most unwarranted assumption to teach that all who are thus judged are cast into the lake of fire and suffer the judgment of the second death, for this dread doom is not only kept quite distinct, but is reserved for one class only, as we shall see in the next reference. Note the change from the plural to the singular. Verses 12 and 13 bring before us with strong emphasis the great multitude who stand before the great white throne. Verse 15 by its sudden change to the singular calls for more careful attention, especially if we keep in mind the dreadful character of the subject: kai ei tis ouch eurethe en te biblo, &c.:-
“And if anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast (singular) into the lake of fire.”
The title “The book of life” must be noticed. It is not the book of the kingdom and its glories, for there might still be hope for those who had forfeited these blessings. It is not the book of rewards, it is life; and for those not found in that book, the lake of fire becomes, not a place of loss of privilege, loss of pleasure, loss of reward; not a place of custody until these periods of glory have passed away, but it becomes the reverse of life, namely, death. Revelation xx. passes immediately into xxi., with its new heaven and new earth. If resurrection from the second death were true, here is the place where such a tremendous subject would be mentioned.
Resuming our consideration of this passage we further ask, Where is the warrant for the teaching that “all who stand before the great white throne will be cast into the lake of fire”? The idea is a perversion. That which is so intensely particular has again been made exceedingly general. It is evident that none will be cast into that lake of fire, but those whose names are not found written in the book of life. Multitudes will have lost all share in the glories of the kingdom. They will have had none of the blessings of the first resurrection, but they will still be distinguished from those whose names are not found written in the book of life. As our subject here is the wages of sin, we reserve further comment upon this large, but neglected, class until dealing with the “reconciliation” aspect of the subject.
The lake of fire, as verse 14 declares, is the second death. This second death is not Adamic death. From this second death there has been offered no ransom. The death of Christ upon Calvary’s cross was endured with reference to the sin and punishment connected with Adam and his race. This second death is something peculiar and different. This may be noticed under the heading of the two classes here brought before us. During the antichristian ascendancy those who have not their names written in the book of life worship the beast. We have no record that one solitary soul whose name is in the book of life will ever do so. When we have examined the other references to punishment in the Revelation, we shall find that this special class are under notice practically the whole time, and that the judgments are special and peculiar, as also are those who endure them, namely, the beast, the false prophet, and the dragon. What careless exposition is that which applies the punishment reserved for such superhuman creatures as this infernal trinity to all sinners alike, regardless of age, clime, period or light.
Before turning to other passages let us ask, What is this lake of fire? Scripture supplies the answer. It is “the second death.” Its purpose can be ascertained by noticing verse 14, “And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire; this is the second death,” even the lake of fire. Why were death and hades cast in? To perpetuate them? To revive them again at some later period? No, for Revelation xx.1-4 says, “There shall be no more death . . . for the former things have passed away.” Death and the grave are among the “former things” of this present creation which are to pass away at the advent of the new creation. Death is never converted. Death is an enemy to the last. For those whose names are found in the book of life the first death will have been swallowed up of life. Those whose names are not thus found will, together with death, be consigned to the second death, which brings them all to an end.
If the lake of fire was intended to be purgatorial in character, if ever “the victims of its rule” should emerge the redeemed of the Lord, then the casting in of death and hades would not denote their entire extinction, but rather their preservation and possible resuscitation. This emphatic destructive agency, this second death, is the fulfillment of the Scriptures which speak of the destruction, and total annihilation of the ungodly. Just as we find two classes indicated in Rev. xx., so in other parts of the book we find the same distinction observed. The locusts who arise out of the abyss are commanded not to hurt anything “but those men which have not the seal of God on their foreheads” (Rev. ix.4, note also ix.20,21). In xiv.9-11 we read:-
“If anyone worship the beast and his image and receiveth his mark on his forehead, or on his hand, even he shall drink of the wine of God’s fury, which is mingled undiluted in the cup of His wrath; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the angels and in the presence of the Lamb; and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up unto ages of ages: and they have no rest day nor night who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receiveth the mark of his name.”
Care must be observed in the rendering of some of these solemn words. For example, in the clause “they have no rest day nor night who worship,” &c., we must note that hoi proskunountes is the present participle denoting that they have no rest day nor night while they are worshipping. “Receiveth” also is the present tense. “Day and night” is associated with time, not with eternity. The torment here threatened must indeed be terrible; how long it will last before it ends in destruction we cannot tell. The smoke ascends unto (eis, unto, no hint of throughout) ages of ages, but the torment itself, and the tormented, cannot enter the new creation (xxii.3). In Rev. xvi. the seven plagues are poured out upon the worshippers of the beast:-
“The men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image” (verse 2).
“They have shed the blood of saints and prophets” (verse 6).
“The throne of the beast”; “blasphemed and repented not” (verses 10 and 11).
The fate of the “eighth” who is “of the seven” is that he “goeth into perdition” (xvii.11). In xix.19 we read:-
“And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet . . . . these both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with fire and brimstone.”
That these super-human beings continue to live in this lake of fire seems evident by reading xx.10:-
“The Devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet (are), and shall be tormented day and night unto the ages of the ages.”
Whilst it is true that the word “are” is not in the original, and could just as well read “were,” yet the next word “tormented” is plural, and must be translated, “they shall be tormented,” which seems to imply that the beast and the false prophet are referred to. Torment is spoken of in relation to this lake of fire with reference to these three, but when, as we have seen, the passage relates to those who have not their names in the book of life, then the statement is added, “which is the second death.”
We have brought these several passages from the book of Revelation together in order that the reader may observe that in the majority of cases, and in connection with the passage which uses the strongest terms, the special class of antichristians are intended, and that these particular terms must not be interpreted in a general way of sinners of all times. No countenance is given even in these passages to the idea of eternal conscious suffering. This is the one idea which we set before us at the commencement of the series. Does the Scripture teach the eternal conscious suffering of sinners as the wages of sin, and if not, what does it teach? We believe that we have demonstrated that the traditional Hell is a lie, a libel against God, and a slur upon a simple faith in God’s written Word. Death, perishing, destruction is everywhere taught as the judgment of sin, and the analysis of Hebrew and Greek terms have yielded much information of a positive character.
The enquiry, however, is not exhausted. Having completely settled the question of eternal conscious suffering we must not too hastily conclude that we have settled the far wider subject of human destiny. We need to revise our findings and view them in the light of other Scriptures. May grace be given in the study, and may the Lord be glorified in the result.
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