ALL IN ALL
BY: ADOLPH E. KNOCH
The Spirit of the Word “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” – Jesus
“The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.” – Paul
CHAPTERS 1 -10
TITLE and SUBTITLES
IS PUNISHMENT EVERLASTING?
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE REALLY TEACH ABOUT HELL?
Hades And Sheol
The Soul Returns
The “Authorized” Renderings Corrected
Christ In Hell
If Hades Is Hell
The First Occurrence
Hades Is Transient
Is Hades The Realm Of Disembodied Spirits?
WILL UNBELIEVERS BE ANNIHILATED
That Will By No Means Clear The Guilty
Like The Beast That Perish
They Shall Be As Though They Had Not Been
They Shall Not Live
THE MEANING OF DESTRUCTION
The Major Premise
The Minor Premise
The Root Elements Of Apollumi
THE SALVATION OF ALL MANKIND
For Or Instead
The Greek Word, Anti
The Salvation Of Judas
Salvation Of The Unbeliever
The Example Of Nineveh
The Day Of Salvation
THE JUSTIFICATION OF ALL MANKIND
The Inclusion Of All
Adam, A Type Of Christ
Son Of Mankind
The New Humanity
The Death Of The Cross
THE VIVIFICATION OF ALL MANKIND
The Three Classes
Those Who Are Christ’s
The Time Of Vivification
The Abdication Of Christ
THE SAVIOR’S EXALTATION
The Descent Of Christ
THE RECONCILIATION OF ALL
That In All He May Be Becoming First
The Entire Complement
What Are Things?
Peace Through The Cross
The Blood Of The Cross
ALL IN ALL
As stated by A.P. Adams, “The life of a Christian is faith; (GaI. 3:11) the foundation of faith is knowledge. (Rom. 10:17). Knowledge of God, as given through God’s secret [now revealed] Christ himself, is the only thing that will establish, advance, and keep steady, a disciple of Christ.” Our mission is to provide the writings of spiritually inspired and gifted servants of God to assist those in their spiritual search. In this portion of our web site we offer a brief view of A. P. Knoch’s writing from his book titled All in All. We have selected the book’s Preface, Introduction, and the chapter entitled, “THE RECONCILIATION OF ALL,” for review.
The blood of Christ is the basis of all blessing. The purpose of God determines human destiny. It does not depend on our deserts. The plan or process of God during the eons or ages must be distinguished from His purpose, which will not be fully accomplished until the eons are past. Herein lies the difference between the teaching of the Scriptures and the accepted creeds of Christendom. Sin and suffering, condemnation and death, endure for the eons, not “forever.”
The believer suffers in the current era because of sin, but be released in the resurrection at the presence of Christ. The unbeliever will have affliction and anguish and death for his sins, in the judgment, but he also becomes reconciled to God at the consummation, through the blood of Christ’s cross. (Col. 1:20)
The terms translated “forever” and “everlasting” and “never” are human perversions, which could never have deceived us if they had been consistently rendered. They denote definite divisions of time called ages or eons. All together they form a distinct portion of time called eonian times. Much in our common creeds is true if confined within the eons, but it is most malignant error when forced beyond the eons.
This makes it possible for us to believe all the Word of God. Those who cling to the creeds, and “eternal” torment must deny certain passages in Paul’s epistles, which clearly and unequivocally teach the salvation of all mankind (1Tim. 2:4; 4:9, 10) and the reconciliation of the universe. (Co1.1:20) They reject these portions of God’s holy Word because they cannot be true if torment is eternal. If, however, judgment is not eternal, but eonian, then we have the happy and exultant privilege of believing all the solemn threats of death and condemnation without the least reservation, and still accept God’s grand goal to which all His labors lead.
THE BIBLE is confidently appealed to support three entirely different views of God’s ultimate goal for the creatures of His hand and heart. Almost all agree in the main that the believer, who trusts alone in the blood of Christ, is certain of lasting bliss. But those who do not believe – what is their destiny? Many insist that they will be tormented forever, others say that they will cease to exist while and some believe that they, also will eventually be saved. All bring forward texts from the Bible. In each class are earnest, consecrated Christians who desire to know the truth and to live it out.
If it were to be decided by a majority vote, eternal torment would be true. But the Scriptures speak of the present as a time of apostasy, so that the majority are more likely to be wrong. If it were left to history, the early Greek fathers seem to have held mostly to annihilation of the wicked or the salvation of all, and they used the language of inspiration and were nearer to its source than we are. But the only satisfactory way is to base our faith directly on the inspired Word of God. We must test and see what support it gives to each of these teachings.
Teachers of eternal torment find quite a few strong texts in the Bible. Perhaps the principal one is the phrase “everlasting punishment” in Matthew 25:46, because it occurs in contrast to “eternal life. As everlasting and eternal are the same word in the Greek, these teachers rightly infer that the punishment must have the same duration as the life. As this same phrase “eternal life” is often used of the believer, there seems no doubt that the punishment is endless.
Another passage which seems equally strong is “tormented day and night forever and ever,” (Rev. 20:10) connected with “God, Who liveth forever and ever.” (Rev. 15:7) Here again, they reason, God’s life is endless, hence the torment can have no time limit. Admitting the translations to be correct, and leaving other passages out of consideration, this is enough to prove clearly that the Adversary (the devil) and the wild beast and the false prophet (who are the only ones in view) will suffer eternal torment.
Those who hold to annihilation do not dispute the endlessness of the sinner’s doom, but point out that it is not everlasting punishing, but punishment, that is, it does not consist in tormenting, but in death, in which there is no sensation. They rightly claim that man is mortal, and that there is no immortality outside of Christ. For them the second death is the practical extinction of those who are cast into the lake of fire.
The Universalists, apparently, do not rely much on scriptural evidence, so we will not consider them here, but rather those who base their belief in universal reconciliation on the Scriptures. These claim that “everlasting punishment” is a mistranslation, and should read “eonian [or age long] chastening,” that it applies to only a few at a particular time, and does not deal with their final fate at all, that they will be judged for their acts, and after that suffer the second death, and only thereafter will they be made alive and reconciled. They say that, by leaving every passage in its place, and interpreting it as of the time and persons to which it refers, it is possible to believe all the Scriptures, for the conflict vanishes when the process is kept distinct from the result, the way from the goal.
The principal passages they produce to prove that all will be saved and justified and made alive and reconciled are: “our Savior God, Who wills that all mankind be saved and come into a realization of the truth” (1 Tim. 2: 3, 4); “We rely on the living God, Who is the Savior of all mankind, especially of believers” (1 Tim. 4:10); ” . . . as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just award for all mankind, for life’s justifying” (Rom. 5:18); “Even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified,” (1 Cor. 15:22) “... through Him to reconcile all to Him (making peace through the blood of His cross), through Him, whether those on earth or those in the heavens;” (Col. 1:20) and the statement which supplies the title to this book, “… that God may be All in All.” (1 Corth. 15:28)
These passages, it is claimed, really deal with the final state, while the other passages, such as “everlasting punishment,” and “torment for ever and ever,” are concerned with intermediate matters. It will be seen from this that both eternal torment and annihilation fail to explain all the passages, especially those last quoted, but that the believer in universal reconciliation claims to do so. This is based mainly on his contention that the words eternal, everlasting, forever, forever and ever, etc., are limited time periods and should be so translated.
Upon the pages of current translations of God’s Word there is an irreconcilable conflict between eternal sin and universal righteousness, eternal death and universal vivification, eternal punishment and universal reconciliation. If sin and death and judgment are eternal, then righteousness and resurrection and reconciliation cannot be universal. The translations must be wrong and a study of the doctrine of the eons shows that the eternity of evil is unfounded and fatuous and false. As the following pages seek to show, God is not ground under the heels of Fate but serenely guides the universe with a strong and steady hand to it grand and glorious goal.
The subject is considered from two sides, God’s assertions and human asseverations, and, as always, God is true and man is found a liar.
Let it be clear that we are not seeking to displace the Word of God or any portion of it by a new “system” or theology. We know that no present system will stand the test of all the Word of God. The difficulty lies deeper – it is in faulty translations of that Word itself. By correcting these misleading renderings the discrepancies vanish as well as the difficulties, which they occasion.
Let everyone face the issue squarely. Current versions clearly teach different outcomes of God’s connection with evil. Let us put the case thus:
1 Cor. 15:22
There is no escaping the conviction that both views cannot be true. The usual method has been to minimize the universality of the reconciliation. But this cannot be done without violating the context. The real discrepancy lies in the words “everlasting,” “endless,” and “eternal,” which have no equivalents in the original.
The key to the cause, the character and consequences of sin lies in its temporary term. If evil is eternal and death indestructible and estrangement irreconcilable, their origin and object can never be grasped. Their gloomy shadow stretches its interminable length upon the character of the God Who prepared their entrance and existence, yet provided no exit for them when they had played their part.
Faith will fall back upon God in spite of a faulty version and trust Him to explain all in His own time; but this very same faith will force aside all human interference when once it discovers that God Himself has already given a sufficient and most satisfactory explanation. Faith will exult that the bitterness of human theology has been banished and its doubts not only dissolved, but that the God it worships is greater and grander and more glorious that it had dared to dream.
Let no one imagine that these pages teach a mere “restitution” to a former state. A creation restored to its primeval condition cannot account for the presence of evil. Sin leads to estrangement. It brings in the breach between God and His creatures. It makes them His enemies. God’s answer to this is reconciliation, not a mere restoration to a former condition. It is far more that. It is God’s display, by means of the dark shadows of sin, of His immanent love for His creatures, and His way of engaging their affection.
Nor let any dream that aught of this is brought about apart from the work of Christ. Rather let them acknowledge that it owns Him not only as the Alpha, but also as the Omega, not only as the Origin but also as the Consummation. The truth here set forth is based upon the blood of Christ, it depends upon the death of God’s Son, and it crowns His cross with a conquest, which adequately accords with the suffering and shame of Him Who was forsaken for our sakes upon the accursed tree.
It is the, particular purpose of this book to examine the scriptural teaching on the eons: hence much space (the whole of Appendix A) is devoted to an investigation of the eonian times, and another appendix is added to show how eon and eonian have been translated in seven selected versions.
The subject of the eonian times is one of the most vital and interesting which could engage the minds and hearts of those who wish to know God’s Word and His ways. Until this is thoroughly understood we are not really ready to consider what God has to say in regard to the final outcome of His purpose. We therefore urge everyone to study the eons carefully, their number and character and relation to each other.
The chapters, which follow are taken from UNSEARCHABLE RICHES, a magazine devoted to original research in the Word of God.
“THE RECONCILIATION OF ALL”
THE HIGHEST GLORIES of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, are revealed to us in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians. In the beginning He was “the Image of the Invisible God, Firstborn of every creature, for in Him is all created, that in the heavens and that on the earth, the visible, and the invisible, whether thrones or lordships, or sovereignties or authorities, all is created through Him and for Him, and He is before all, and all has its cohesion in Him.” (Col.1:15-17) Negatively, this is confirmed in John’s account of the Word, that apart from it not even one thing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:3) Can the universality of Christ’s creation be more forcibly expressed? In every case the word all is used without any limitation whatever. The divisions noted make up the whole. The heavens and the earth include all creation.
The next paragraph continues to express the universality of His glories in the present and the future. “And He is Head of the body, the ecclesia, Who is Sovereign, Firstborn from among the dead, that in all He may be becoming first, for in Him the entire complement delights to dwell, and through Him to reconcile all to Him (making peace through the blood of His cross), through Him, whether those on earth or those in the heavens.” (Col.1:18-20) This predicts the reconciliation of all. A companion passage deals with the subjection of all (1 Cor.15:27): “He subjects all under His feet… Now, whenever all may be subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also shall be subjected to Him Who subjects all to Him, that God may be All in all.”
The supremacy of Gods’ Son depends on the universality or totality of His may dignities. How extraordinary is the emphasis laid on this vital fact in this short passage! Within the compass of five verses we read no less than eight times that the given glory is all-inclusive. He is the Firstborn of every creature. All is created in Him, and all is created through and for Him. He is before all. All has its cohesion in Him. In all He is becoming first. The entire complement dwells in Him. He reconciles all through the blood of His cross. (Col. 1:15-20) And on two occasions this is amplified and defined as all that is in the heavens or on the earth. It is said to include both visible and invisible. What more could be said to impress us with the universal scope of the Son’s activities?
IS PUNISHMENT EVERLASTING?
THE grand truth concerning the eonian times, now recovered from the Scriptures, will relieve the minds of many noble men. So said a trained theologian, after having spent seventy years of his life without ever hearing it mentioned. No normal human being desires to believe in everlasting torment, even for his worst enemy. Some of its strongest and noblest advocates have expressed their profound sorrow that they were compelled to teach it, and declared that God Himself would have it otherwise, were it in His power. Those who gloat in it and enjoy preaching it, expose the baseness of their own hearts. The fact that the Bible teaches it may demand acquiescence, but it cannot command heartfelt accord.
The fact that everlasting torment is contrary to God’s revealed character and clashes with every human instinct does not disprove it. If God’s Word teaches it, it is true. But the fact that it is repugnant, not merely to the nature we have by creation, but especially to the spirit we receive as a seal of God’s salvation, should lead us to investigate the grounds on which it rests. The original Scriptures are infallible, but the Bible we have is only a translation, into which a measure of human fallibility is mixed. Does the Original teach endless punishment?
A thorough investigation of the terms translated eternal, everlasting, forever, for ever and ever, etc., show that the usual versions have entirely missed their import. The eonian times comprise a definite period, with a beginning and an end. It consists of five distinct eons or ages [evers]. All revelation, except a few statements of the apostle Paul, finds its place within these limits. “Forever” is eonian, age-lasting. It reaches up to the last eon. “For ever and ever” includes the last eon. In no case are they endless. This completely revolutionizes the future outlook in God’s Word.
Perceive that “forever” ceases at the new heavens and new earth, and “for ever and ever” lasts only one eon longer, and closes at the consummation, and we have a new Bible. Almost all our dark, despairing, unreasonable, deranging difficulties vanish. In their place we find a righteous God Who brings His creation through awful judgments to its glorious goal by means of the Mediator He has appointed, Christ Jesus. Instead of being defeated, He is triumphant. Instead of a failure, He is a success. Instead of being a heartless fiend, He becomes an affectionate Father. In a word, He is a real God!
Nevertheless many oppose this glorious truth and even invoke the Scriptures themselves to support their position. In this chapter we want to consider the principal passages usually employed in a refutation of our teaching on this subject of punishment together with our reply. The crucial question is, What does God’s Word teach regarding the judgment of the wicked?
We begin with Psalms 9:17 as translated in the Authorized Version, a passage often used to support the orthodox doctrine of “Hell.”
The wicked shall be turned into hell,
and all the nations that forget God.
“Hell” is a most confusing and misleading theological term. It is used of Hades (Sheol in the Old Testament), which means the imperceptible, the unseen. It is used, in Scripture, not merely of the realm of the dead, but of all that cannot be perceived by the human senses, including the powers of darkness. All go there at death, saint and sinner alike. Our Lord went there after He had finished His sacrificial sufferings. Surely He did not suffer in “hell!” The parable of the rich man and Lazarus must be interpreted by the other Scriptures, not contrary to them. Gehenna is the vale of Hinnom, near Jerusalem, which was used as an incinerator of the city refuse even in this century. Its fires will burn during the coming Kingdom. Comparatively few criminals will be cast into it. It is not imperceptible. It is as unlike Hades as can be.
The lake of fire is still another concept. It is never called “hell” in the Bible, for those who come out of Hades are cast into it. It should never be confounded with Gehenna, or with the unseen. The word “hell” has become so corrupted by human error that it no longer has any claim to a place in the divine vocabulary. Perhaps no more striking example can be given of its misuse and of the constant effort of our translators to hide the real meaning of the words sheol and hades than the quotation above. The word turned is shub in Hebrew, and always means return, as in Genesis 3:19, “till thou return to the ground.” Hundreds of passages might be given to substantiate this. The AV mistranslates this turn. Rotherham‘s Version has return. The American Standard Version has turned back. The wicked came from the unseen. They will return thither came from “hell” and to that “hell,” where they were before, they return. This shows that the literal meaning, the imperceptible, gives the true significance of the term. Perhaps the most widely used passage on this subject is Matthew 25:46:
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment
but the righteous into life eternal.
It is possible to prove anything by the Bible if we may take texts out of their contexts. We are practically sure of the truth if we keep each passage in its proper place. In Matthew 25:46 the time is limited to the glorious advent of Christ. Have we any right to apply it to all time? That is one of the worst sins that can be committed against God’s revelation. It reduces it to inextricable confusion. Let us follow out this idea. We will wrongly suppose that this is “the final judgment of the wicked.” Then the Jews will not be judged at all! There are no Jews in this judgment. Only the nations are judged according to their treatment of His brethren. Then “the final judgment” does not deal with all the sins of men, but only with their treatment of the Jews! Then “the final judgment” will not include the dead at all! These nations are not raised from the dead. The context clearly shows that this cannot be the final judgment in any sense.
Preceding our Lord’s return in glory to the earth to establish the Kingdom, the Jews will be persecuted as never before. When He comes, Christ will judge the living nations, who survive the terrors of that time, to determine their place in the Kingdom. That will depend entirely on their treatment of His brethren, during the time of Jacob’s trouble not on their other sins. This judgment is not final. Matthew deals with the Kingdom. The chapter deals with the time of its establishment. Eonian chastening is here limited to the nations who will not succor the faithful of Israel in their time of sore distress. It has no bearing on the sins of individuals.
We protest against the translation of kolasis as “punishment.” Everywhere else in Greek this word denotes corrective chastisement, and is used of pruning. Some rightly reason that it cannot keep this meaning if it is to be translated everlasting. They therefore change the meaning to suit. “Everlasting” is itself wrong, so they change kolasis to correspond with the wrong translation everlasting, making both wrong. Instead, they should have reasoned that kolasis was corrective, therefore eonian cannot be endless. Those who do not succor the Jews are given agelong, or eonian chastening, not everlasting punishment. The proper Greek word for punishment is timooria. Kolasis occurs only twice in the Scriptures, and is never used of the final judgment. God speaks of the judgment, not the punishment of the wicked.
Yet it is claimed that since the life of the righteous, spoken of in Matthew 25:46 is everlasting, then the punishment must also be everlasting. This seems unanswerable. But however logical it seems on the surface, the conclusion is unscriptural. Whenever our reason leads us into direct contradiction to God’s Word we may be sure that our logic is at fault. We know that death will be abolished (1 Cor. 15:26). Not many believe this but God has said it. Death is the last enemy. This abolition will be accomplished by God making all alive (1 Cor. 15:22). This will be done at the end of the eons, or ages. The believer had eonian life. He lives until there is no death. Hence he practically has “everlasting” life. But such is not the statement of the Scriptures. They are concerned with the eons. They do not promise us life thereafter, because all receive it then. The believer receives the life of the ages, not eternal life.
The unbeliever receives eonian, or age-abiding, judgment, ending in the second death, until death is abolished. Then both believer and unbeliever receive “everlasting” life. The Greek words aioon (age or eon) and aioonios (age-abiding or eonian) are never used of endlessness. Scripture speaks of the “eonian times” (2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 1:2). All intelligent Bible scholars know that “the end of the aioon” is not the end of the world, but of this age. Each eon has a beginning and an end. Eonian life is limited to the eons. The “everlasting punishment” of Matthew 25:46 lasts for that eon, little over a thousand years. The eonian life of the believer lasts for two eons. How can anyone have eonian life after the eons are past? All then have life for death is also past.
What saint, whose mind has been sanctified by contact with the Word of God, will rest satisfied with the judgment foisted upon the Bible by its translators in this passage? Faith is good. Let us always believe God, even if we cannot understand Him. But let us not allow it to degenerate into credulity. Let us make sure that God has indeed spoken when He seems to sanction what is contrary to truth and righteousness. In their hearts all will agree that there is something wrong with the sentence of everlasting punishment for failure to help the Jews, while entirely ignoring all the other sins and crimes committed by each individual in the chastened nations. Make it eonian, age-lasting, and all is clear even if it seems severe. Then each one will later stand before the great white throne to answer for his other delinquencies. We stand for more judgment, not less, but always scriptural and just, not unscriptural and irrational.
O, the sordid selfishness of soulish saints! We would sink untold billions into endless woe just to be sure that we will be happy, when the basis of blessedness is blessing others! Yet this passage does not assure us eternal life! It is not written concerning us at all! When did we succor the Jews in their distress? When did we feed and clothe and visit them? As this “eternal” life is only for those who have done this, the passage, if applied to the majority of the saints today, actually proves that we are destined to everlasting punishment! How can a sentence passed on nations in the coming eon, or age, be applied to us without violating every principle of justice and intelligence?
The time is always vital to any interpretation. Apply this passage to the present and it probably will prove that a believer who has not visited the Jews in jail, is threatened with “everlasting punishment!” Personally, though I have often helped those in jail, I do not remember that one of them was a Jew. Does that doom me to everlasting punishment? It is not a question of faith in Christ here. It is works and then only such works as affect the saints of the coming Kingdom.
Many have pointed out the fallacy of interpreting all the good things in the Old Testament as for the church, and all the bad for Israel. Yet these same teachers seek to fasten on all unbelievers what is spoken of a very few, and apply to all the righteous what is written of a small class. They commit a double felony. They rob the righteous for their own happiness, and pervert the judgment of the ungodly to bolster up their own lack of faith in God. If the possession of “eternal” life depends on this it is precarious indeed. We do not need to rob others. Our life is hid with Christ in God. (Col. 3:3) We will be roused incorruptible and immortal. (1 Cor. 15:54)
We now turn to two passages in Revelation (as given in the King James Version) said to describe the endlessness of hell.
The smoke of their torment ascendeth up For ever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. (14:11)
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 forever and ever. (20:10)
Let us be intelligent in discussing these awful themes. It may mean little to us whether billions upon billions of human beings suffer for eternity, but it means much to them and far more to God. One illogical “explanation” of these passages is “Those who enter the lake of fire shall suffer unto the ages of the ages, or, in other words, for a countless succession of ages … ” Clearly this shows irrational prejudice, which ought not to be present in the discussion of so solemn a matter.
If “the ages of the ages” meant a countless succession of ages, there should be some evidence for it in the languages of inspiration. Even in English we have no parallel. We might seek to express such a thought by “ages upon ages,” “ages after ages,” but never by the genitive, “ages of ages.” There is no ground for giving it such a meaning in English. In the inspired Originals we have exact parallels. These determine its force for us. It surely is not blind prejudice to intelligently compare this phrase with others of the same kind rather than force upon it a meaning which is dictated only by human desires. Show us a single parallel in Hebrew or Greek in which the genitive plural follows the plural in order to denote infinity in any sense, and we will consider it.
Readers of the Bible are familiar with a similar phrase in connection with the tabernacle of Israel. Everyone knows of the holy of holies, and the preceding holy place. These are called “the holies of holies” in Hebrews 9:25, in the best manuscript (corrected Sinaiticus). It gives us an exact parallel in space corresponding to “the eons of the eons” in time. In fact the whole tabernacle system has a remarkable correspondence with the eonian times, as shown on the diagram below. There are five divisions in each. The two inner holy places are related to the court, the camp and the world without, just as the last two eons are related to the previous eons. Both show the way to God one in space, the other in time.
Are “the holies of holies” in the tabernacle a countless succession of holies? The idea is so incongruous that it needs no refutation. This form of speech does not multiply the holy places. It relates them to the others. The holy of holies brings before us one holy place as the outcome of and superior to other holy places. The holies of holies are confined to the two holy places in the tabernacle as related to the court and the camp. This is the usage of the Hebrew followed by the Greek and by English as well. None of these languages will tolerate the thought of infinity. Not a single genuine example can be given without changing of to a different connective.
No one who will intelligently consider the correspondences between the tabernacle arrangement and the eons, will fail to be convinced that the likeness is essential rather than accidental. The five zones, from the great world without, through the camp, the court, the holy place, to the holiest of all, have many features in common with the five eons. The great central fact of all, the cross of Christ, is represented by the brazen altar, in the third space and eon. The holy place is an apt figure of the coming eon, and the holiest of all, with its Shekinah Glory, finds its counterpart in the new earth, where the glory of God displaces the light of the sun.
No explanation of “the ages of the ages” is satisfactory which does not also explain the difference between it and “the age of the age” and “the age of the ages.” A countless succession of ages absolutely obliterates any possible distinction. On the other hand, the exposition we offer fully accounts for all the facts. The last eon is “the eon of the eon,” and “the eon of the eons” in the same sense as the most holy place is the holy of the holy and “the holy of holies.” Every explanation, which ignores these three distinct phrases thereby, proclaims its own inadequacy. These expressions are inspired by God, and are true tests of that which conforms to His revelation.
A most subtle argument is often made at this point to appeal to a passage such as Revelation 15:7. If “the ages of the ages” spoken of there are not eternal, does this suggest that God could not be eternal?
Such a question as this shows the careless, hardhearted indifference with which good men corrupt the Word of God in order to consign all His enemies to eternal torment. What are the facts? Torment for the eons of the eons, in the Scriptures, is limited to the wild beast, the false prophet and the Adversary. (Rev. 20:10)
“The fumes... ascending for the eons of the eons” (Rev. 14:11) is a figure of speech similar to the one used in Jude 7, “a specimen… the justice of fire eonian.” When sulphur and fire rained from the heavens on Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them, the inhabitants were killed and the fumes ascended from the land. (Gen. 19:28) This event is well remembered. The Israelitish worshippers of the wild beast are the supreme sinners of mankind. They have no rest day and night while they are worshipping the wild beast and its image and shall be tormented until they die (Rev. 14:9-12; 16:2,8,9; 18:8) some of them by the blade. (Rev.19:21) Their fate will be remembered through the eons of the eons.
Let us appeal to the illustration we have already used and apply it to the tabernacle. The high priest is in the holies of holies. Does this prove that he is confined there? It states a very pregnant fact, full of significance. It does not hinder him from going into the court or the camp or even the world around. It is neither logic nor reason which makes negative inferences from positive statements. God says He lives for the eons of the eons. The three in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10) are tormented that long. We thoroughly believe that the length of time is the same. Thereafter death is abolished, as God has said. (1 Cor. 15:26) If God lives until there is no death, is it reasonable to infer that He will be annihilated? It would be silly for God to insist that He will live when death has been abrogated.
When God asserts that He lives for the eons of the eons (not to the ages of the ages), it is the height of absurdity to infer that He lives at no other time. There was a time before the eons. (1 Cor. 2:7) Was He living then? During the Lord’s day and succeeding day of God, He will be in vital contact with the earth in a sense which is impossible at present. His life will be evident everywhere, in power, not hidden as now. In this way He will live for the eons of the eons. Compare the phrase “resurrection of life.” (John 5:29) The resurrection of judgment also restores to temporary life. Life is used in an intensive sense.
Applying what we have read in Revelation 14:11 and 20:10 to all those who are cast into the lake of fire has led many to believe that all unbelievers will suffer continuous conscious torment. We quote from Revelation 20:13-15 (AV):
And the sea gave up the dead, which were in it;
and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them
and they were judged every man according to their works.
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.
This is the second death.
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
Indeed the fate of nearly all unbelievers is the second death. We are told that for them, “physical death is forever past. The death which they are suffering – is a condition of fiery torment…” The proof is, “and they will be tormented day and night for the eons of the eons.” Of whom is this written? The Adversary, the wild beast, and the false prophet, just these three. What right has anyone to alter this so that it includes all others?
The lake of fire is called the second death only in connection with those who have been previously raised from the dead. It is never so called in relation to those three, for they have not died before, and are not dead in it. They are not like the bulk of mankind. The Adversary is not human. The wild beast has been given a superhuman life. The false prophet had power to give spirit to his image. To these the lake of fire is not the second death, and Scripture is careful to guard against any such inference. I know of no greater corruption of God’s Word than to take their penalty and apply it to the billions upon billions of beings, men, women, children, infants, most of whom never heard of Christ or His salvation. Very, very few of these have committed any act which so fearfully affects God’s character as this perversion of His Word, or is worthy of such a severe penalty.
The lake of fire is called the second death in order to distinguish the fate of those who stand before the great white throne, who have been judged, from those three who suffer in it, who sinned so publicly and atrociously that no trial was necessary. Those who go into the second death are those who came out of the first, to be judged. They return to the same state as that from which resurrection brought them. (The beast and false prophet are living in the lake of fire.) These are dead. Their resurrection was physical. Their death will be physical, for resurrection refers primarily to the body, as rousing does to the soul, and vivification to the spirit.
It is a marvelous thing to receive life for the eons, to be enjoyed in congenial surroundings. It would be a much greater miracle to give life to unbelievers to be preserved in the midst of the most deadly environment it is possible to conceive. No normal human being can live in a fiery lake. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged this in his day. But the miracle that preserved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego kept them alive and safe and unharmed. We are asked to believe that for those who have been judged and have suffered in accord with their deeds before the great white throne, the lake is a lake of life, in which they will be miraculously preserved in order to suffer infinitely. This in the face of God’s plain declaration that, for them, it is the second death, a temporary place of oblivion until death is abolished and all are made alive in Christ, at the close of the eons.
Some have inferred that resurrection always leads into an eternal conscious state and quote a passage such as John 5:28, 29 to support their doctrine of eternal torment.
Marvel not at this for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, into the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
The “everlasting punishment” of the twenty-fifth of Matthew is notable for the fact that it applies to living nations who have not been raised from the dead. Yet here we are asked to believe that this punishment is eternal because they are “resurrected beings!” If there really is force to the argument, it proves the opposite. We could retort that, since those to whom everlasting punishment applies are not “resurrected beings,” therefore it is not endless. Both arguments are fallacious, for they have no scriptural premises. There is no passage to prove that a “resurrected being” must live endlessly. On the contrary, God speaks of a second death, not an endless life, for those “resurrected beings” who stand before the great white throne, whose names are not written in the book of life.
Note the phrasing of the passage quoted. There is a “resurrection of life” and a “resurrection of judgment.” Why seek to prove that the resurrection of judgment is also a resurrection of life? The logical inference is the opposite. Those in the “resurrection of damnation” are not raised to life in the sense here used, but to the second death. Resurrected beings are not immortal or incorruptible. All of those who were raised from the dead in the past have died again, except the Firstfruit, Christ. The argument applies only to those made alive, or vivified, in the resurrection of life, not to those in the resurrection of “damnation.” These cannot die. The others must die. They return to death, and, unless resurrected again, cannot be punished everlastingly. They are raised in order to be judged because there is no “punishment” possible in death.
In all of the passages dealing with the future the word life is used in a special, exalted sense. Those in the resurrection of judgment must have life in a subordinate sense, or they would not be resurrected at all. Those in the resurrection of life must have life in a superior sense. It will be incorruptible, beyond the reach of death.
The lake of fire is called the second death. In it only the wild beast, the false prophet and Satan suffer torment. A hasty inference would make the second death the suffering of torment. But it is notable that the lake of fire is not called the second death until after those raised for judgment enter it. Those who are tormented in it, the wild beast, the false prophet and Satan have not died before. It cannot be the second death for them. Let us always keep separate what God has sundered. It is only to those who emerge from the first death that the lake of fire becomes the second. To them there is no more torment in the second death than there was in the first.
The monstrous, unscriptural idea that men are tormented in death, before they are brought to judgment, is so revolting to every sense of justice that its absence from the Word of God is one evidence of divine inspiration. Even among civilized men a prisoner is not punished before he is judged. If the men of Adam’s day have been tormented ever since and will suffer until the Day of Judgment, when they will be tried, then God’s judgment is a farce and there is no reason for a resurrection. There can be no “punishment” in death. That is why men are roused to be judged. They are “punished” while raised. Their “punishment” ceases when they enter the second death.
It is claimed that such passages as Luke 16:23-26 and Mark 9:43-48 describe the eternal punishment of the wicked, even though one passage speaks of Hades, the other of Gehenna, and neither refer to the lake of fire.
I am tormented in this flame. (Luke 16:24)
We must be consistent in our interpretations. In Luke 15-16 we have a five-fold parable, in which that of the Prodigal Son corresponds with that of the Rich Man and Lazarus. No one takes the Prodigal Son literally. “He spake this parable unto them” (Luke 15:3), includes all of the stories of Luke 15-16. “This my son was dead” refers to the time when he was in a far country yearning to fill his belly with swine’s food. It is a picture of Israel at the present time, away from God, defiled among the nations. Just so also the rich man portrays Israel as descendants of the Pharisees, enduring persecutions, while the poor publicans, who once were glad to get a little of their spiritual wealth, are comforted by faith—in Abraham’s bosom. The death is figurative. Here we have the flames of anti Semitism, not the so- called “hell” or the lake of fire. It is impossible to take such figures as Abraham’s bosom literally. How unwise to use a misunderstood parable to contradict all that God had previously said concerning the death state! Even if taken literally, this has no bearing on the final state, for Hades is cast into the lake of fire long before the consummation. (Rev. 20:14)
…their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:44).
The miracle of a fire-proof worm with eternal life has puzzled even those who wish to have one to torture the damned in the flames of a mythical hell. The word die is not the usual one. The root means FINISH. The sense is simply that there will be no end of worms in Gehenna, to feed on the corpses of the criminals cast into it. The point is not the torment of the victim, but the loathsome disgrace, which attends his death.
Once more the Scriptures are wrenched. “Hell” is said to be a place where “their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” This is said of the vale of Hinnom, below Jerusalem, during the Kingdom. Worms will devour the city offal and the bodies of unburied criminals. Fires will be kept burning to dispose of this refuse. Why confuse this with the lake of fire? No worms could live in a fiery lake. And why confuse the life of the worm with that of its victims? Why take passages which are definitely limited by their contexts to a comparatively few criminals in the Kingdom and apply them to all mankind? Will this not bring the Word of God into contempt and ridicule? When God says Gehenna He means Gehenna and not the lake of fire. He has made a distinction with a difference. Who has a right to ignore it or obliterate it?
David was right when he preferred to fall into the hands of God rather than men. Should not we, though beyond the reach of condemnation in Christ Jesus, be very tender and considerate in judging those who deserve no sorer fate than we ourselves? We cannot take credit for believing, for salvation is wholly of grace. Instead of that we see Christendom, and those who are teachers and who suffer for God’s truth, wresting passage after passage in order to pervert God’s judgment of unbelievers. If this were done in order to mitigate their fate, it might be understandable. God’s just judgments are severe. I do not plead for any mitigation. But I do protest against threatening the whole world with the fate He has reserved for His three greatest enemies.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE REALLY TEACH ABOUT HELL?
THE word “hell” has been defined as “the abode of disembodied spirits; the infernal regions, especially as a place of eternal punishment for lost spirits; the state of eternal punishment.” Whatever may have been its meaning in the old Saxon it is now almost universally applied to the state and place of endless punishment -said to be the final state of wicked men. The mere mention of it quickens in the mind an image of some vast fiery furnace, in which myriads of wicked men are tormented in the burning agonies of a flame that will never be extinguished; or a vast cesspool of immoral and degraded beings, continually existing in opposition to God, eternally sinful, vile, and morally hideous.
The truth is there is no Hebrew or Greek word, which at all answers to this theological conception. In our current versions the word “hell” is used to render three Greek words, Hades (Sheol in the Hebrew), Gehenna, Tartarus ; and since it is axiomatic that the meaning of words is established by their usage, we will examine the occurrences of each word in turn.
HADES AND SHEOL
Concerning the literal meaning of Hades there can be no doubt. It comes from the Greek a(i)dês. The a is a prefix which is equivalent to our un – and the stem -id means perceive. Thus we have UN-PERCEIVE or imperceptible; the unseen. In our inquiry into the force of sheol we will need to bear this in mind.
The ancient Hebrew, like the ancient Greek, was a much simpler language than its modern representatives. Repeated editing has injected much of faulty human learning. Briefly, this editing followed variations in pronunciation. Such, for example, as shohl, or over to the popular sheol. However, the vital Hebrew letters of the text remain for us, that is, shaul. Thus, there is little doubt whatsoever that this word belongs to the Hebrew word family of the stem (“root “) shal, ASK, which is regularly used in that sense. Thus the very idiom of the Hebrew language shows us that they, too, knowing the nature of the soul, entertained the same question as to its condition after death, which confronts us. We ask: What becomes of the soul after death? And the Hebrew answers with the equivalent of a question mark (?). There is nothing in the English or Greek languages to correspond to this, but much the same indefinite misty impression is conveyed to us by the Greek equivalent, “the unseen.” It is as if you asked a Hebrew where the soul goes at death and he should shrug his shoulders or if you asked a Greek the same question, he should close his eyes and shake his head.
Most inspired words have suffered from lack of definiteness and exactitude, but hades and sheol have suffered from the opposite tendency. They both defy definition. They suggest dimness and distance. This coincides perfectly with our previous conclusion that the soul has no separate, conscious existence apart from the body and spirit, for sheol and hades are terms most happily appropriate to give expression to that fact.
Since the Greek word is the equivalent of the Hebrew and can be translated into English we shall use the term “unseen” as the rendering of both the Hebrew and Greek terms.
A point, which seems to have been entirely overlooked, and which will help us much at this juncture, is the fact that only the soul is coupled with the unseen. The spirit must never be associated with sheol or hades. The body is never connected with the unseen, except in such extraordinary cases as the sons of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, who went down alive into sheol, or Jonah, who found his sheol in the fish’s belly. The account of the rich man and Lazarus forms part of a parable and cannot be taken literally. In contrast to this, the soul is definitely spoken of as in sheol in at least six passages (Psa. 16:10; 30:3; 49:15; 86:13; 89:48; Prov. 23:14); in hades in two (Acts 2:27, 31). Besides this, the thought latent in the context of these two words is always concerned with sensation when the reference is to humanity. If we wish to be clear on this subject let us distinguish the origin, components, and dissolution of man as follows:
Origin Component Manifestation Returns to
SOIL MAN BODY SOIL
GOD BREATH SPIRIT GOD
UNSEEN BREATH & BODY SOUL, SENSATION UNSEEN
To begin with, sheol and Hades are equivalent in meaning, for Hades was almost always used to translate sheol in the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures which was current in the days of our Lord. This is confirmed in Acts 2:27 by the quotation of Psalm 16:10, where the one is used as the equivalent of the other.
THE SOUL “RETURNS”
Now, while the soul is said to go to sheol at death, let us not suppose that the usage of sheol is confined to those who are dead. The soul came from the unseen, since it is not an entity in itself, and at death it returns to the unseen. The lawless (Psa. 9:17) shall be returned to the unseen, hence in some sense, they have been there before, but not in the death state: Our explanation that the soul is a phenomenon should make clear how appropriate is the meaning which is now emerging for sheol and Hades – that is, the unseen, the imperceptible.
THE “AUTHORIZED” RENDERINGS CORRECTED
The translators have always rendered hades by “hell,” but sheol is now “hell” and now “grave,” or “pit.” If the student will change “hell” to “Gehenna” in the dozen cases where this word occurs (Matt. 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6), all the remaining ten occurrences of “hell” in the Greek Scriptures (Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27,31; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13,14) may be changed to “unseen.”
In the Hebrew Scriptures “hell” should always be unseen, but “grave” is the AV translation of sheol in Genesis 37:35; 42:29,31; 1 Samuel 22:6; 1 Kings 2:6,9; Job 7:9; 14:13; 17:13; 21:13; 24:19; Psalm 6:5; 30:3; 31:17; 49:14,14,15; 88:3; 89:48; 141:7; Proverbs 1:12; 30:16; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Song of Solomon 8:6; Isaiah 14:11; 38:10,18; Ezekiel 31:15; Hosea 13:14,14. “Pit,” like “grave” represents a variety of Hebrew words; but should be rendered “unseen” in Numbers 16: 30,33 and Job 17:16. With these corrections the student will have all the occurrences before him consistently rendered “unseen.” “unseen.”
One reason, perhaps, why there has been such a confusion in our versions on the subject of the grave is that in Biblical times, there were no graves as we know them. The dead were buried in tombs. We would be inclined to speak of going down into the grave, whereas the tombs were often up. The word for burial, or entombment, in Hebrew is qbr and the name of the place or tomb is the same. But sheol has no such connection with burial. The Hebrew idiom which speaks of going down into sheol must not connect itself in our minds with the form of burial to which we are accustomed.
CHRIST IN “HELL”
The classic occurrences of both sheol and hades concern our Lord Himself during the period between His death and resurrection. (Psa. 16:10; Acts 2:27) His soul, we read, was not left in “hell.” This single instance ought to blot out of our hearts the terrible travesty, which the word “hell” calls to our minds. It is true that Jacob spoke of going to “hell” (Gen. 37:35 [grave]), and the psalmist also, (Psa. 49:15 [grave]), but here we have our Lord Himself, His work of propitiation perfected, worthy of naught but the highest pinnacle of glory spending the time until His resurrection in “hell” ! How inconsistent Christendom is! Its Bible says He was in hell. Its theologians say He was in heaven! He expressly declares that He had not ascended to His Father before His resurrection (John 20: 17). He was decidedly not in “hell,” and He was not in heaven. As Individuality or personality, or whatever we wish to call it – that which is represented by the pronoun – is connected with the body; He was in the tomb, for He says, “Neither wilt Thou be giving Thy Benign One to be acquainted with decay.” His spirit He had committed to His Father (Luke 23:46), so that it had returned to God. (Ecc. 12:7) That this was not a conscious session in the presence of the Father is put beyond question by His words to Mary Magdalene in the garden after His resurrection (John 20:17). He did not ascend to God until after He had been roused from among the dead. His soul had been in the unseen.
Now, still, my flesh also shall be tenting in expectation, For Thou wilt not be Forsaking my soul in the unseen, Nor wilt Thou be giving Thy Benign One to be acquainted with decay. Thou makest known to me the paths of life: Thou wilt be filling me with gladness with Thy face. (Acts 2:26-28)
A careful and reverent study of our Lord’s death and resurrection, as set before us in the passages we have considered, ought to establish us in the position we have already taken. We are not left in doubt as to where His body was. We know that, while He did not ascend to His Father, His spirit had. And while spirit and body are separated we are told that His soul was in the unseen. In resurrection He was made alive by the return of His spirit (1 Pet. 3:18) and as a consequence His soul was not left in the unseen. The return of His spirit made known to Him the path of life. The return of the soul made Him full of gladness.
IF HADES IS “HELL”
Let us then, take our choice if Hades is “hell,” then God’s answer to the shame and agony of Golgotha was the further pains and penalties of hell. Then we are mistaken as to the power of His blood, for, after He had cried, “It is accomplished” and we had dared to hope the great work had been wrought which saves us from God’s wrath, after He had borne all our sin’s accursed load, then God begins afresh to torment His Beloved’s soul! We had fondly hoped that when the dread hour had passed, when He had drained the cup of indignation to the dregs that God’s curse no longer rested on His Sacrifice. We had dared to dream that the costly burial in the rich man’s tomb was a step beyond the dreadful depths to which He had descended. We had rejoiced that God was already preparing to give Him the place preeminent. But no; He goes to “hell” – the place of agony and anguish. And why does He suffer there? Is it for Himself? Begone with such rank blasphemy! It was not for us, for Christ died for the ungodly. No after-sufferings are needed to repair His finished work. You who believe that Hades means “hell” – ask yourself this question, “Why should He descend to the tortures of the fiery flame, when His work had saved His people from it?” But it is traitorous to parley on this point. Christ never went to the “hell” of orthodox or traditional theology! His soul was in Hades, the unseen. This is not a place of torment. It is a place of oblivion.
THE FIRST OCCURRENCE
The first occurrence of the word hades in the Greek Scriptures is full of instruction. (Matt. 11:23) The Lord is comparing Capernaum with Sodom. Sodom, it will be remembered, is now, and was in our Lord’s day, in the blasted region of the Dead Sea. It was literally in the unseen. That He is speaking of the city as such, in connection with hades, is evident, for had Sodom seen the mighty works God had done in Capernaum it would have remained unto His day. This could hardly be said of the people of Sodom. Of the city of Capernaum He then says:
And you, Capernaum! Not to heaven shall you be exalted! To the unseen shall you subside, For, if the powerful deeds which are occurring in you had occurred in Sodom, if might remain unto today. (Matt. 11:23)
What did He mean by saying that Capernaum was not to be exalted to heaven? It is important that we fix the thought here, for it will decide the sense in which we must understand the next expression: “subside to the unseen.” While the city of Capernaum was not literally as high as heaven, but such were its blessings and its prosperity that this figure most aptly impresses its beauty and felicity on our minds. Its very name meant Pleasant-Shelter. And what is the opposite of this? The very thing, which has happened o Capernaum. “Where is it now”” we ask. The Hebrew responds, sheol – and the Greek tells us it is Hades – the unseen. The very site is a matter of conjecture. So that, if we want a concrete example and illustration of Hades, let us wander along the shore of Galilee. Nothing is to be seen of what was once the most beautiful city of the land. It is actually so covered by its own ruin and desolation that it has been brought down to Hades – the unseen.
HADES IS TRANSIENT
Hades is but a transient, like the sea. When, at the great white throne (Rev. 20:13,14) the sea yields up its dead, we bid it adieu, nevermore to meet again. The new earth knows no sea. So, too, with Hades. It gives up its dead and is confined to the lake of fire, which is the second death. And is not this the reason for the Spirit’s substitution of death for Hades (1 Cor. 15:55) in the quotation from Hosea? We, indeed, will inaugurate the fulfillment of this grand prophecy but we will need to wait until the lake of fire itself disgorges its prey before we see the fulfillment of that triumph of triumphs. Yet so sure are we that our God is able to do all His pleasure, through the arm of His Christ, that even now we drag Death in the dust; we defy it; we dare to shout:
Swallowed up was Death by Victory
Where, O Death, is your victory?
Where, O Death, is your sting? (1 Cor. 15:55)
Yet we must acknowledge that Death has the victory now. Its sting has not yet been extracted. Taunt Death at any time before the consummation, when all are rescued from its domain, and it will point to captives more numerous than the redeemed of Christ. It would taunt Him with a counter fling and say: “Where, O Christ, is your victory? I hold more of mankind than you have vivified!” But, thanks to God, when we are made alive this exultant challenge will begin to be fulfilled.
The expression “brought to pass” must not be warped to give the sense of finished. It is so rendered once, in Hebrews 4:3, but the works there spoken of were not “finished” from the “foundation” of the world. They “finished” from the “foundation” of the world. They started from the world’s disruption. This word, ginomai, become, never has a telic force. It does not end anything. It always causes confusion when it is forced to convey any such conception. “Fulfilled,” in Luke 21:32, really refers to the inauguration of the fulfillment in that generation. So also in John 13:2, supper was served, not ended. We, then, have the unspeakable privilege of leading the rest in defeat of Death, and of fellowship with the Conqueror of all God’s enemies until the last has been undone.
IS HADES THE REALM OF DISEMBODIED SPIRITS?
Is there a single passage in God’s Word that teaches that, at death, the disembodied spirit goes to “hell”? If so, where is it? Let us test this definition in some of the occurrences of the word Hades. Did our Lord predict that Capernaum (Matt. 11:23; Luke 10:15) should subside into the abode of spirits? Those who take the story of the rich man and Lazarus literally, do they consider Abraham disembodied? He had a bosom. Lazarus had a finger. The rich man had a tongue. The flame gave him pain. He could not cross the gulf between them.
Our Lord actually went to “hell” and has left us a record of it. In the last dread hour of His sufferings did He say, Hell, into thy hands I commend My spirit? Such would have been His cry if the “disembodied spirit” goes to “hell” at death. Instead, He said, “Father, into Thy hands I am committing My spirit.” His spirit did not go to hell. His soul went to Hades. He said, “Thou wilt not abandon My soul in the unseen.” (Acts 2:27) His body was not allowed to decay. His soul was not left in “hell.” His spirit returned to God, His Father.
Is there a single passage in the Word of God which connects the human spirit with “hell?” Hades is always associated with the soul. This is basic. How can we know what the Bible really teaches on this subject if we confuse the soul and the spirit, and send the spirit to “hell,” when it really returns to God who gave it?
Is there any place in divine revelation where we read of the time “between death and resurrection?” Death, in the Scriptures, is a state, which continues until resurrection. The act of dying is not spoken of as death, but is referred to by a special term, apothnêskoo, literally FROM-DIE, die off. Men are dead until resurrection, rousing, or vivification restores them to life. It is the dead who are raised, as such, not those who died at some time in the past and who are not dead at the moment of resurrection. God raises the dead and makes them alive! The implication that the disembodied spirit is conscious during death is absolutely unwarranted. The spirit returns to God. God gave it. Was it conscious when it was with Him, before He imparted it to us? If it was not, neither is it conscious when it returns to Him. Consciousness is never associated with the human spirit in God’s Word. It is always associated with the soul, during life, not in death. In the death state between the act of dying and the resurrection, human spirits return to God, the soul returns to “hell,” whence it came, and the body returns to the soil, of which it was formed.
The teaching that Hades is never used of those who are saved after our Lord’s resurrection, but only to describe the punishment of the lost, does not seem to accord with the facts. Our Lord, speaking to the beloved disciple of Patmos, said, “I have the keys of death and of ‘hell.’” Anyone who will read the context will see how incongruous any idea of punishment is here. The fact that Christ has the keys of “hell” indicates that He would rouse John from the dead, not thrust him into torments. Nowhere, in God’s Word is Hades or sheol limited to the unsaved. It applies to all who die, saint and sinner alike. All go to the unseen at death and emerge when they are roused.
We are told that a careful examination of every passage where the words sheol and hades appear will show that the state of a spirit without a body is being set forth. What the Bible really teaches is seen in the following, which we take from the Authorized Version to avoid giving offense:
Psa. 16:10 thou wilt not leave my SOUL in hell
30:3 brought up my SOUL from the grave
49:15 redeem my SOUL from the power of the grave
86:13 deliver my SOUL From the lowest hell
89:48 his SOUL from the hand of the grave
Prov. 23:14 deliver his SOUL from hell
Normally, only the soul goes to sheol. It is only in a figurative sense that gray hairs (Gen. 42:38) and pomp (Isa. 14:11) go there. And it is an abnormal event, when live men, with their bodies, descend to the unseen (Num. 16:30). Does not the Bible really teach that the soul, not the disembodied spirit, goes to sheol? In contrast to this the spirit is spoken of as follows, showing that it goes to God, not to “hell.” I quote from the Authorized Version:
Job 34:14 If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; all flesh shall
perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust.
Psa. 104:29 Thou takest away their breath [spirit], they die, and return to their dust.
Ecc. 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.
Luke 23:46 into thy hands I commend my spirit.
The spirits of all flesh, as well as those of God‘s saints and that of our Savior go to God at death. Can any passage be found to the contrary?
At death the Scriptures return the body to the soil, the spirit to God. The soul is the sensation resulting from the combination of these two (Gen. 2:7). How then can there be any sensation, any perception, in hades? There is not, for God calls it the imperceptible, where perception is impossible. Without the organs of the body or the life of the spirit there is no sight, no hearing, no smelling, no feeling of any kind. This gives “hell” its real name – the UN-PERCEIVED.
WILL UNBELIEVERS BE ANNIHILATED?
THERE are a number of Scripture texts, which seem to support the theory of “conditional immortality” in its conclusion of the utter annihilation of the wicked. We will examine some of these passages, in this chapter.
The phrase “Conditional Immortality” contains some truth. We who believe in eventual universal salvation also believe that Christ is: the only Savior and that man is mortal. It is the false assumption and unfair implication that universal reconciliation denies what is true in “conditional immortality” which is used to prejudice the saints against it. We ourselves hold to the truth that man is mortal, apart from Christ. We do not differ here.
It is with the insistent repetition of the finality of the judgment of the unbeliever that we disagree. To teach that it was the purpose of God to destroy, and that irretrievably, those whose names will not be found in the scroll of life at the judgment of the great white throne, is to believe some one other than God, for He has never used these words to describe the fate of those who are cast into the lake of fire: But let us examine some of the passages commonly used in support of this teaching of annihilation, beginning with some texts from the Old Testament.
“THAT WILL BY NO MEANS CLEAR THE GUILTY”
This quotation has been the cause of much perplexity on the part of students of the Scriptures, for it seems to deny the fact that Jehovah has means of clearing the guilty, and it does not seem to harmonize with its context.
Those who will refer to the phrase in the AV (Ex. 34:7) will find that the guilty is in italics. The fact that Hebrew has a term for guilt (ashm) leads us to suspect its title to a place in the English translation. Current theology is entirely too free with the term. “I am a guilty sinner” seems a commendable confession, but it is contrary to the great truth of justification. Our translators introduced it into the argument of the Roman epistle at a most unfortunate juncture. After stopping the mouths of both Jews and Gentiles, Paul does not sentence them all as “guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19). The word is hupodikos, subject to the just verdict of God. What is the verdict? For us, who believe, it is “not guilty!” We are acquitted, vindicated, justified. We were sinners, but when brought to the bar of God, His grace in Christ made us guiltless sinners. This is real justification. This truth alone is worth all that we can do to make it known.
The Hebrew of “That will by no means clear” is nqe la inqe, literally, TO-make-INNOCENT NOT IS-making-INNOCENT. The same word is repeated in a different grammatical form, with the negative between. Our translators render this word “clear” only four times. If we include other forms of this root, they render it “innocent” about forty times. We have its legal meaning clearly established in the law. The owner of a goring ox is held innocent (quit Ex. 21:28). But if the owner had been warned that the ox was dangerous and had not kept him in, he was not innocent, but liable to be put to death. Again, if a man smites another with his fist or a stone so that he keeps his bed, but is not killed, and rises again, and walks with a staff, then the smiter was held innocent, though he had to pay for the loss of time. (Ex. 21:18,19)
It is usually taken for granted, among Hebrew scholars, that the repetition of the verb; as in this case, is merely for emphasis. In that case this passage should have the stress on “clear” or “made innocent.” Often our translators add “surely.” It should then be “not surely clear” or “not surely make innocent.” It certainly should not be on the negative – “by no means” – as our translators have it. But a prolonged and careful consideration of doubled verbs in Hebrew has led me to doubt that they merely give emphasis to the thought. Repetition is a method of imparting stress, but these verbs are not merely repeated. They are carefully varied to modify the idea, and their exact literal force is always the precise meaning according to the context.
We will take an example, which is familiar to all. Adam was warned that in the day he should eat of the forbidden fruit he would “surely die.” This phrase is a combination of the infinitive (“TO-DIE”) and the incomplete (YOU-ARE-DYING). Now this expresses exactly what actually occurred to Adam on that day. He did not “surely die.” But the process of dying was operating in him, which led to his death many years later. He was “dying, to [eventually] die.” This dying he transmitted to all his posterity, and this it is which makes mankind sinners. From birth we are dying until life is entirely gone. Is it not much better to take the Hebrew literally, than to ignore its force by making it merely emphatic? The latter contradicts the facts. The former confirms them and explains them.
As we do not give the usual literal rendering, a word of explanation is necessary as to the Hebrew “tenses,” so-called. There are only two: They are usually called “past” and “future.” These names are misleading, for the past often refers to the future and the future is often used for the past. It is evident that these forms do not refer to time. Hebrew has no tenses. The time must be inferred from the context. After numerous experiments and prolonged consideration we are practically convinced that the “past” expresses a fact, the “future” a process, or incompleted action, which is under way. Thus TO-DIE is a fact, apart from time, and YOU-ARE-DYING, is the process of dissolution, which is continually operating. So we translate TO-make-INNOCENT and IS-making-INNOCENT.
Perhaps we may grasp the thought in this difficult phrase more easily if we consider it without the negative. Let us suppose that Jehovah “to make innocent is making innocent.” We have the fact that the ultimate he has in view is “to make innocent.” How simple that would be! We know that eventually, He will justify all mankind. What about the process? Is He now engaged in making everybody righteous in order to accomplish this? Not at all. To make them righteous He is not making them righteous. That is not the process. First they are filled with unrighteousness. So in the earlier revelation of Jehovah’s dealings with His people. He will make them innocent through the great sacrifice, not through their own doings. Only thus can He reveal Himself to them.
The context bears out this line of thought. The passage is one of the highest and fullest statements concerning Jehovah that we have in the Hebrew scriptures. When Moses stood in a cloud on Mount Sinai, Jehovah is passing before him. And he is calling “Jehovah! Jehovah! The Deity compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and of much kindness and truth, preserving kindness to the thousandth [generation], Who bears with depravity and trespass and sin, Who is not making innocent to make innocent, visiting the depravity of the Fathers on the sons and on the son’s sons, on the third and on the fourth [generation].” The usual rendering, “that will by no means clear the guilty” is a direct denial of His compassion and grace. Combined with the following lines, it brands Him as an unjust, vindictive enemy, who forces depravity on each generation and refuses to provide any means for removing it.
That the depravity of a Father is visited on his descendants is evident to all. But no son is condemned for his father’s sins. Yet each one inherits the depravity of his ancestors. Adam’s depravity did not die with him. Each parent transmits his failings to several succeeding generations. This is in line with the previous statement, that Jehovah is not making them innocent. These are remarkable statements to be incorporated into “the name of Jehovah.” At first sight they seem in conflict with his compassion and kindness. Why does He not immediately make men innocent? Why does he shut them up to depravity? Because it is only in this condition that He can be gracious and compassionate and bear with their depravity and trespass and sin. If He is to be a Savior they must be sinners.
The point that has been lost in all this is its temporary term. This is definitely stated in the phrase we have been studying. If He is not making innocent it is in order to make innocent. He has a goal set before Him, which is the revelation of Himself, as here set forth. We have seen how necessary it is that there should be sinners to give exercise to His grace. But all this is of no avail unless the compassion is exercised and the sinners are saved. We have a hint that this condition of affairs is limited to “the thousandth [generation],” a time, which corresponds with the course of the eons. During the eonian times Jehovah will see that there are sinners to receive His grace, which super–abounds.
“LIKE THE BEASTS THAT PERISH”
We are reminded that the Psalmist says: “Man that is in honor, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish” (Psa. 49:20), and that therefore there can be no universal reconciliation. This is utterly illogical, yet it would show lack of logic for us to reason with anyone who would entertain such a proposition, for it lacks even the small amount of foundation, which it seems to have. The word translated “perish” in the Authorized Version is dme, BE-LIKE. They render it compare, devise, be like, liken, to mean, to think, use similitudes, and perish (twice), although a similar form, denoting silence is rendered cut off. “Perish” is utterly untenable. Those who wish to reason should have no difficulty in deducing from this that any doctrine, which has this phrase as one of its premises is false.
But even if the word, perish were there, that would not disprove God’s later, clearer, and absolutely unmistakable revelation that He will be All in all. God does not divide the all into categories at the consummation, much as He may differentiate between them now. It is purely a matter of believing God. The Psalmist knew nothing of the consummation; hence it is unwise to seek information where it is not to be found. Every attempt to deny that the “all” of “all in all,” is co-extensive with the “all” in Adam, in the same context, is proof enough that logic as well as faith have not yet been supplied by God for its comprehension. He alone can open the eyes of the blind, and melt the hard hearts of His creatures.
“THEY SHALL BE AS THOUGH THEY HAD NOT BEEN”
“They shall be as though they had not been” (Obadiah 16) is another one of the principal proof texts to show that the wicked shall be utterly destroyed or annihilated. At first sight, this seems to be the import of the words. But the figure as, or like, always is limited in its scope, and never denotes the same as if they had not been. The context should tell how far this likeness goes, and this is pointed out, to some extent, even in our Authorized Version.
The general context clearly shows that these words do not apply to all the wicked, but are confined to one nation, Edom, at a definite time, when the day of Jehovah comes. To use it of any others at another era changes it from truth to error. If it teaches annihilation, this must be applied only to Edom at the manifestation of Jehovah. Moreover, it is a national penalty, not an individual one. As all in Israel suffered in its national calamities, so will all those in its neighbor nations be involved in God’s judgments over them. The Edomite nation it is which shall be as if it had not been. This is in accord with other prophecies concerning that day, and with our Lord’s judgment of the living nations at His advent. Edom, with other nations that did not succor our Lord’s brethren, will go into eonian chastening, while those who aided Israel will enjoy eonian life for the millennium.
But there is much more light in the immediate context, once we dig down to the ancient Original. The words in our Authorized Version have little meaning: “For as ye have drunk upon My holy mountain so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been” (Obadiah 16). There seems to be no connection between the drinking and the result of it, unless the drink was some kind of poison. But this is unlikely, as it seems to be the same as Edom drank in the past. Moreover, if the nations are to drink in God’s holy mountain continually, how can they become as though they had not been? It could not continue long under such circumstances.
The Septuagint (LXX), the Greek version made by Hebrew rabbis, gives a clue to the ancient text of their day. Instead of continually, they say that the nations will drink wine. Enough wine would make them “dead to the world,” as we say. The Hebrew word here (thmid) is not at all like the regular Hebrew word for wine (iin), but there are eight other Hebrew words so rendered, and one of them (thmr) is very close to it in appearance. This undoubtedly was the word in the Hebrew text used by the ancient rabbis who translated the LXX. It denotes turbid, and was used for a very heavy, intoxicating wine for which we have no special name, but which the Concordant Version renders “turbid wine.”
But the LXX does not help us with the next line, which seems to be a parallel to the one we have restored. It was already corrupted when they made their version. In place of swallow down they have descend, which means much the same. But it seems rather trite to explain that their drink descends, and the thought is not parallel to the preceding line. In such circumstances we take the Hebrew letters (lou) and see if some other of similar appearance might have been mistaken for it. To our intense satisfaction we discover that the stem of abstinth, or wormwood (lon) looks almost exactly like it, for the u and n of the Hebrew are even more alike than in English. And absinth is an even more dulling drink than the turbid wine of the preceding line! Such a combination can be no accident. To find a perfect parallel that is almost the same as the Hebrew word seems overwhelming proof that we have actually discovered what was in the Hebrew before the LXX was translated!
For as you drink on My holy mountain,
So shall all the nations drink turbid wine,
And they shall drink and swallow absinth,
And they shall become as if not having become.
Now we know how the nation of Edom will become “as if it had not been.” They are compared to a heavy drinker who becomes sodden and sleeps off the effects of his debauchery during the whole of the Lord’s day. That they will have no part in it is clear from other passages. (Jer. 49:10, 17:18, Ezek. 25:12-14, Joel 3:19, Amos 1:11-12) But after the thousand years all the sinners of Edom as well as all other nations, whoever have not found salvation in Christ; will be roused from the dead and stand before the great white throne to answer for their individual sins, which are in an entirely different category from the sins committed by them as a nation against Israel. There they will be judged and cast into the lake of fire. They will not be vivified until the consummation, when death will be abolished, and nations disappear, for Christ will subject all to God that He may become All in all.
“THEY SHALL NOT LIVE”
The great truth of universal vivification (1 Cor. 15:22), and the abolition of death (1 Cor. 15:26; 2 Tim. 1:10) is so effulgent with the glory of the living God, that those who love Him should clasp it to their hearts, and pour out their praise and adoration to Him, Who, even now, gives life to all His animate creation. Life is the most wonderful exhibition of divine power. Resurrection, life from death, is the greatest of miracles. The vivification of all will be the supreme display of God’s deity. None of this needs to be reasoned from the Scriptures. It is inscribed there in terms too obvious to need explanation. “As, in Adam, all are dying, so, in Christ, shall all be vivified.” “The last enemy being abolished is death.” “…our Savior Jesus Christ, Who… abolishes death...” A child can believe this.
Perhaps the most effective method of keeping God’s saints from accepting His word on this or any other theme is to oppose it with a text which seems to contradict the truth. A favorite passage for this purpose is found in Isaiah 26:14. This is taken to prove conclusively that some of God’s creatures will not return to life. Hence death is not abolished, and all mankind will not be vivified.
We know that there is no contradiction in God’s Word. When there seems to be a clash it is found in the human elements, which intrude between us and the Original. Often a concordant study will eliminate all discord. Hence we will study the passage in the Hebrew before basing any interpretation upon it.
In the Authorized Version the passage is as follows:
They are the dead, they shall not live:
They are deceased, they shall not rise.
Concordantly it reads thus:
The death-doomed will fail to live,
And Healers will fail to rise.
It will be noted that the Concordant Version gives an entirely different sense by omitting the italicized words They are, which are not in the Hebrew, and by rendering the participle mthim “death-doomed” in place of “dead.” It is true that this word (muth) means DIE, and the participle is translated dead in some passages in a loose way. In the east the dead are buried very soon after death. While Sarah is dying (the incomplete or so-called future tense) Abraham made arrangements for burying his dying (participle) wife. Joseph did not say to his brethren “I am “I am dead,” but “I am dying.” If he were dead, he would not have spoken to them. In Genesis 2:17 Adam is told to die you are dying.
Many passages might be adduced in which the participle DYING is used of those who are still alive, but, for accuracy’s sake, we will give only those which are exactly the same in form as the word in Isaiah 26:14. We will give the Authorized Version renderings.
Ex 12:33 We (be) all dead (men)
2S 19:6 all we had died this day
2K 19:35 they were all dead corpses
Ps 106:28 and ate the sacrifice of the dead
Is 26:14 (They are) dead, they shall not live
Is 36:36 they (were) all dead corpses
Ez 24:17 make no mourning for the dead
In two cases men call themselves dead. It is evident that the Hebrew is more accurate. They were death-doomed. It is interesting to note, in this connection, that this plural participial form (mthim), is also construed as a noun in Hebrew concordances. In the following passages it is always used of living men. The Authorized Version rendering is added to the reference: Gen. 34:30; Deut. 4:27 few; Deut. 2:34; 3:6; 33:6 men; Deut. 26:5 with; Job 11:3,11; 19:19; 22:15; 24:12; 31:31 men; Psa. 17:14; 105:12 men; Psa. 26:4 persons; Isa. 3:25; 5:13; 41:14 men; Jer. 44:28 small; Deut. 28:62; 1 Chron. 16:19 untranslated. In every one of these passages mthim occurs, the same Hebrew letters as in Isaiah 26:14. It is evident that in every case the men, the persons, the few are alive, not dead. They were dying, death-doomed. It is the function of the participle to indicate the act of dying, not the state of death.
The expression “dead corpse” is tautological. The word dead adds nothing to the sense. However, dying corpses modifies the idea so as to justify the addition of this word. In every passage the participial form of the Hebrew is justified. It always applies to the process, which ends in death, not to the death state.
The word live is the usual word, and may refer to life at any time. Just to show that it does not necessarily refer to resurrection, we will give all of the occurrences of this exact form, ichiu, THEY-ARE-LIVING, or THEY-SHALL-LIVE.
Js 9:21 princes said unto him. Let them live.
Jb 21:7 Wherefore do the wicked live
Is 26:14 They are dead, they shall not live
Is 19 Thy dead (men) shall live
Is 38:16 O Lord, by these (things men) live
Ez 20:25 judgments whereby they should not live
Ze 1:5 the prophets, do they live for ever?
The second line of Isaiah 26:14, “they are deceased, they shall not rise,” reads “Healers will fail to rise.” The first word, “healers,” is exactly the same as in Genesis 50:2, 2, “Joseph commanded the physicians... and the physicians embalmed Israel.” One other occurrence is found in 2 Chronicles 16:12, “sought not to the Lord but to the physicians.” More than seventy times this verb, rpha, is used in the sense of HEAL. Why then should it be translated the opposite here?
Some make it a proper name, the Rephaim, and deduce that these shall never be resurrected. This is the word, which is also translated giants. In the feminine form it is rendered medicines. But none of these can compare with the simplest and most literal rendering, which alone is not only concordant with the vocabulary but in accord with the context. One of the fundamental truths of God’s Word is the subjection of all to Him. By His own life He swears (Rom. 14:11):
” …to Me shell bow every knee,
And every tongue shall be acclaiming God.”
As this cannot occur in this life, it depends upon another fundamental fact, that “all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice.“ (John 5:28) The denial of these two fundamentals is an assault on the very foundations of God’s throne. All of His vital attributes are called in question. It is not the part of wisdom or of power, to say nothing of love; to create a class of creatures, and not deal out to them the due deserts of their deeds. Annihilation after judgment would be a pitiable failure on the part of a God worthy of the name. Annihilation without judgment is utterly subversive of all divine government. Let us not charge God with such a fearful reversal of righteousness.
Let it be clear that the teaching that the Rephaim or the Nephilim have no resurrection is not only without warrant in Isaiah 26:14, and does not only deny universal vivification (1 Cor.15:22), but also gives the lie to the plainest declaration of our Lord Himself and His apostles when dealing with this subject. Isaiah is not concerned with resurrection at all in the passage on which this error is based, but our Lord deliberately uses the word all when He utters His statement, and follows it with the further fact that it includes the bad as well as the good.
Following out the mistranslation, the Authorized Version proceeds:
Therefore hast Thou visited and destroyed them,
And made all their memory to perish.
There is an atmosphere of finality about the perfect tense which helps to give a false color to this couplet. In Hebrew there are no tenses. Only two states are differentiated, the indefinite and the incomplete. The time must be gathered from the context. The nature of the incomplete, however, does not allow it to represent the past, or the perfect tenses. What is past or perfected cannot be incomplete. The incomplete may be used of action in the present YOU-ARE-ING, or of the future, YOU-WILL-. In this case, the passage records Jehovah’s work for a limited time in the future, and is not dealing with final destiny. The Concordant Version renders the couplet as follows:
Wherefore Thou wilt check over and exterminate them,
And destroy every remembrance of them.
Read in connection with the context (which is concerned with Babylon‘s destruction during the kingdom) all idea of a final and eternal annihilation is absent and incongruous. The doom of these enemies of Judah is certain and severe, but we have no right to apply what is said concerning Babylon to all unbelievers and what is said concerning the coming eons to all eternity.
THE MEANING OF DESTRUCTION
DESTRUCTION is one of the great key words of the Scriptures, and is a key term used in support of the teaching of “conditional immortality” or annihilation of the wicked. Hence no amount of investigation is excessive if it provides us with a clear comprehension of its meaning. There have been interminable discussions, resulting in divergent schools of interpretation, but, so far as we have observed, none of these gives a satisfactory answer to all of the evidence. The difficulty, it seems to us, has been in an appeal to reasonable inferences based on nature and revelation instead of a direct investigation of the facts of Scripture. As it is helpful to start any line of thought in some familiar field, we will commence by giving a typical attempt to define the meaning of this word from the standpoint of “conditional immortality.”
THE MAJOR PREMISE
DESTRUCTION. Some remarks having been made as to the primary meaning of “‘apollumi,’ we desire to point out that it is a sound principle to follow the meaning given to the first occurrence of a word in the Bible. This will be its primary meaning. If any will turn to the first three occurrences of this word, “we desire to point out that it is a sound principle to follow the meaning given to the first occurrence of a word in the Bible. This will be its primary meaning. If any will turn to the first three occurrences of this word, zviz, Matt. 2:13; 5:29,30, they can see for themselves that the deprivation of life, whether as to the whole person; or a member of the body, is its primary meaning. To destroy the child, to Herod, meant the putting him out of existence. To pluck out an eye, to cut off a hand, is to deprive them of living connection with the rest of the body. When in John 10:10 we have apollumi after the word kill, we can see its true force; and it is the same in Matt. 10:28 where, after dwelling upon what man can do according to his limited power, we have, “but rather fear Him Who is able to destroy (apollumi) both soul and body in Gehenna.”
Here we have a line of reasoning with a view to fixing the “primary” meaning of apollumi, destroy. The syllogism may be stated thus:
Major Premise : The first occurrence of a word fixes its primary meaning.
Minor Premise : In Matthew 2:13 apollumi means “deprivation of life.”
Conclusion : The primary meaning of apollumi is “deprivation of life.”
We have often pointed out that, unless the major and minor premises are absolutely true, the conclusion is false. Hence we should always insist that these be stated in full. We should always test them for their truthfulness. In this syllogism neither premise is reliable, hence the conclusion, though logical, is misleading.
The first occurrence of a word in the Scriptures is often instructive, but it is saying too much to suggest that this sets the primary meaning of a word. Was it necessary for early believers to wait until Matthew had written in order to know its meaning? In the early Hebrew Scriptures, which are arranged in approximately chronological order and which were in the hands of the people long before the subsequent revelations, such a rule may have some weight. But it is not at all sound logic to argue that the vocabulary of the Greek Scriptures was not defined until the so-called “Gospels” were written. It makes Matthew’s usage of a word dominate all the rest of the divine records.
Let us test its truth. Biblion is the diminutive form of SCROLL. In Matthew 19:7 (its “first” occurrence) it is a short legal instrument, which we call a “divorce paper.” This is not its primary or usual “meaning,” for it is used of the book of Isaiah and of the Unveiling (Revelation). Its essential meaning, in all of its forms, is SCROLL. This diminutive form is SCROLLET. In usage it is applied to any book even a large one: All scholars put this first in their definitions. It is useless to multiply instances. The major premise is absolutely false. The “first” occurrence of a word is not necessarily its “primary” meaning. That is a mere assumption brought in to furnish a false foundation for error, and to eliminate the passages, which prove it to be untrue.
The only sound system of determining the “primary” or essential meaning of any word is to canvass all of its occurrences, and inject nothing into its meaning which clashes with any of its contexts. This is more readily seen in determining the identity of definite objects, such as plants and animals. We have changed “eagle” to vulture because, in two passages, these creatures are said to congregate; “which is not the custom of eagles. Definition consist in limiting the sphere of a word to distinguish it from other words, not in adding to it all the implications of its contexts, so that it presents a blurred image to our minds.
In order that our readers may have all of this evidence before them in concordant contexts we present a complete list of the passages containing apollumi in the Greek Scriptures as they are translated in the Concordant Version. In each case the English word or words, which represent it are printed in italics, so that the student can perceive it usage at a glance. Read the whole list over carefully and note the contexts. Pay special attention to its synonyms and antonyms. Its meaning is similar to steal and kill. It is the opposite of find and save. The means of destruction are various. Some lead to the loss of life, but many do not.
apollumi, FROM-WHOLE-LOOSE, lose, destroy, perish
Mt 2:13 seeking the little Boy to destroy Him.”
5:29 that one of your members should perish
:30 that one of your members should perish
8:25 “Lord! Save us! we are perishing!”
9:17 the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are destroyed
10:6 yet rather be going to the lost sheep of the house
:28 able to destroy both the soul and the body in Gehenna
:39 who is finding his soul will be destroying it, and he who destroys his soul on My account
will be finding it.
:42 should by no means be losing his wages.”
12:14 so that they should be destroying Him.
15:24 for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
16:25 should be wanting to save his soul will be destroying it. Yet whoever should be
18:14 of these little ones should be perishing.
21:41 Evilly will he be destroying them.
22:7 destroys those murderers and
26:52 shall be destroyed by the sword.
27:20 yet should be destroying Jesus.
Mk 1:24 Did you come to destroy us?
2:22 wine skins will be destroyed—
3:6 that they should be destroying Him.
4:38 Carest Thou not that we are perishing?”
8:35 save his own soul, will be destroying it, yet whoever shall be destroying his soul
9:22 into waters, that it should be destroying him
:41 no means be losing his wages.
11:18 how they should be destroying Him.
12: 9 coming and destroying the farmers
Lu 4:34 Did you come to destroy us?
5:37 wine skins will be destroyed.
6:9 to save a soul or to destroy?”
8:24 “Doctor! Doctor! we are perishing!”
9:24 save his soul shall be destroying it, yet whoever should be destroying his soul
:25 yet destroying or forfeiting himself.
11:51 who perished between the altar and the house.
13:3 you will all be perishing likewise
:5 you will all be perishing similarly
:33 that a prophet be destroyed outside
15:4 sheep, and losing one of them
:4 after that which is lost,
:6 my sheep that was lost!”
:8 if she should be losing one drachma,
:9 I found the drachma which I lose!’
:17 yet I am perishing here of famine!
:24 he was lost and was found.’
:32 and was lost and was found.’ “
17:27 the deluge came and destroys them all.
:29 from heaven and destroys them all.
:33 preserve his soul will be destroying it.
:33 yet whoever should be destroying it
19:10 to save that which is lost.”
:47 people sought to destroy Him.
20:16 be coming and destroying these farmers.
21:18 your head should by no means perish.
Jn 3:15 Him should not be perishing
:16 into Him should not be perishing,
6:12 that nothing should be lost.”
:27 the food which is perishing,
:39 these I should be losing none,
10:10 should be standing and sacrificing and destroying.
:28 should by no means be destroyed for the eon,
11:50 nation should not be destroyed.”
12:25 fond of his soul is destroying it,
17:12 and not one of them was destroyed
18: 9 of them I lose not one.”
Ac 5:37 and he was destroyed,
Ro 2:12 shall be lost without law.
14:15 destroying that one for whose sake Christ died.
1C 1:18 to those who are being destroyed,
:19 be destroying the wisdom of the wise,
8:11 weak one is being destroyed
10:9 and were destroyed by serpents.
:10 and were destroyed by the exterminator,
15:18 reposing in Christ, were lost
2C 2:15 and in those who are being lost.
4:3 it is covered in those who are lost,
:9 cast down but not destroyed
2Th 2:10 injustice among those who are being destroyed.
Hb 1:11 They shall be destroyed, yet Thou art continuing,
Ja 1:11 the comeliness of its aspect was destroyed.
4:12 is able to save and to destroy.
1P 1:7 than gold which is perishing,
2P 3:6 being deluged by water, was destroyed.
:9 not intending any to be destroyed,
2J 8 should be destroying your work
Ju 5 secondly destroys those who believe not.
11 and they were destroyed in the contradiction of Korah.
THE MINOR PREMISE
The minor premise that destroy in Matthew 2:13 must mean “deprive of life,” is an unfounded inference. The dictionary uses precisely these words to define kill. It fits slay, despatch, slaughter, murder, assassinate, and massacre. It does not define destroy. “Deprive of life” would partially define the Greek words apokteinoo, KILL; sphazoo, SLAY; anaireoo, despatch, assassinate, massacre, or phoneuoo, MURDER, for every occurrence of each of these words actually means to “deprive of life.” How can a phrase so general that it fits every occurrence of four Greek words, define a word which often is applied to the opposite?
The way in which this method depraves men’s mental processes is seen in the reference to John 10:10: “The thief is not coming except that he should be stealing and sacrificing and destroying.” Sound and wholesome sense would say that such a series of synonyms demands that each be distinct from the other, though related in meaning. Stealing does not denote sacrificing (“killing”) or destroying, and destroying does not mean sacrificing or stealing. The presence of sacrifice in this series is against the idea that destroy necessarily means to deprive of life. It would be just as reasonable to argue that steal also means to deprive of life for the evidence is the same.
Apollumi is used of things which have no life. Skin bottles (Matt. 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37) do not die when they are destroyed. A reward (Matt. 10:42; Mark 9:41) is not mortal. Gold and money do not decease (1 Pet. 1:7; Luke 15:8). The words, which actually do mean to deprive of life, could not be used in these passages. Neither the primary nor the secondary nor the tertiary nor any other meaning of destroy demands that life be taken. That is entirely a matter of the context. It is not included in the significance of the word.
Apollumi is used of that which is alive. If the lost (destroyed) sheep (Luke 15:4) had been “deprived of life,” would the shepherd have rejoiced when he found its carcass? Our Lord directed His disciples to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 10:6). They were no more dead than the strayed sheep, which the shepherd sought. A word whose “primary” meaning is “to deprive of life” cannot have a ” secondary meaning of a state of life. Death cannot be modified into a form of life. White is not a secondary meaning of black. Life, in any form, is not expressed by a word, which means death.
Let us apply this definition to our Lord’s exhortation to His disciples. He said, “He who is finding his soul will be destroying it; and he who destroys his soul on My account will “be finding it.“ (Matt. 10:39, see Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; 17:33) Is He urging them to commit suicide? The destruction of the soul does not mean death. It means to forgo the pleasure of life and endure the sufferings due to faithfulness to Christ.
As we have often pointed out, the statement that the “Son of Mankind came to seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10) is the key to the meaning of apollumi. It refers specifically to Zaccheus. He was lost, destroyed. Because he was lost he was ready to be found and saved. The real object of most false definitions of apollumi is to prove that it means death from which there is no resurrection, practical annihilation; a state from which salvation is impossible. This passage directly destroys this idea. Instead of the lost being beyond salvation, they alone are eligible for salvation. You cannot rescue a man who is safe and sound. It is only when he is in the state denoted by apollumi that salvation can operate in his behalf.
Antithetic statements, such as this, are of great value in the study of words. The terms seek and save are accurate indications of the opposite of destroy. One who is destroyed must be lost, or no one would seek him. He must be in a state which calls for salvation or Christ would not have come for him. This passage proves beyond peradventure that destruction is a salvable condition, not a state beyond the reach of deliverance. Add to this the fact that only the lost are saved, and it reverses the usual idea of destruction. God seeks what He has lost.
THE ROOT ELEMENTS OF APOLLUMI
Apollumi is made up of three well-known Greek elements, FROM-WHOLE-LOOSE, and literally means to wholly loose from, to lose. This is its exact force in the complete tense, where it is translated lose. The sheep and the coin and the prodigal were lost, although none of them was necessarily injured or dead on that account. These are key passages, because they combine the etymological evidence with the usage.
Many words have, as their “secondary,” or derived meaning, the factitive sense of making what the verb signifies. This is regularly the case in Hebrew so that the Massorites have separated this sense from the simple form, and invented the so-called Piel, to make. The ancient Hebrew verb for PERISH means also to make-PERISH, or destroy. So the Greek verb to lose comes to mean to make lose, to perform any act, which will result in loss, relative to the loser. Herod wanted to lose the Boy, so he gave orders to destroy the minors. (Matt. 2:13) Relative to him, these innocents were lost.
Destruction is a relative term. The coin was lost in relation to the woman. The sheep was destroyed as regards the shepherd. The prodigal had perished in relation to his father. So with the destroyed sheep of the house of Israel. “They were not necessarily suffering or dead, but they were away from the Shepherd. The prodigals were far off from the Father. Does this prove that they were outside the sphere of salvation? It proves the opposite. The ninety and nine were not then found. The elder brother was not then saved. Destruction is the prelude to salvation. It never means annihilation, however closely it may seem to approach that idea in some cases.
The method of destruction, or losing, is not included in the meaning of the word. It is varied. Those who use the sword shall perish by the sword. (Matt. 26:52) Our Lord was destroyed by crucifixion. (Matt. 27:20) The disciples were afraid that they would perish by drowning. (Mark 4:38) The sheep was lost by straying. (Luke 15:4) The prodigal was lost for the same reason (Luke 15:24) The fragments of food would have been lost by neglect (John 6:12). Food perishes by decay. (John 6:27) We may destroy a brother by means of food. (Rom. 14:15) We may destroy a weak saint by our knowledge. (1 Cor. 8:11) Note the last two passages particularly. They apply to believers in Christ; According to the view of “conditional immortality” they prove that we can annihilate one of our brethren by means of food or by simply acting according to our knowledge, if we do not consider his ignorance! Saints, safe in Christ, may be lost or destroyed, in the sense of the context.
It is decidedly unlike either man or God to put out of existence those who are lost. There is not a line of encouragement for this idea in God’s Word. God commends His love to us in that He gave His Christ while we were still sinners. Our Lord spoke the parable of the lost sheep in order to assure His disciples that God was more concerned about one sheep that had strayed than ninety-nine that were in the fold. There is no line that the sinner crosses that brings him beyond the reach of God. Neither life nor death, neither a career of sin, nor a moldering corpse is any obstacle to divine love. Nay, they are challenges, which Omnipotence must meet or suffer defeat. No death, either first or second, can cope with our God, or frustrate His purpose.
Everyone who has ever lost anything will bear me witness that, the moment it is missing, it assumes an interest, an importance, which it never had before. Its value increases and we desire it more than ever. Its loss, instead of breaking our connection with it, forges a new link, which did not exist before. This becomes tragically true when we lose a loved one. Loss alone brings a realization of the preciousness of possession. So let us never imagine that God is not concerned about the lost, that He is insensible to their doom, or that He would sit complacently by and see them rush on to eternal oblivion if He could do anything to head them off. There are a million ways in which we could do this if we had but a tithe of His power. He is able.
God is love, and all of His creatures are dear to Him. Is it not striking that He does not even seem to try to express His affection until they are lost? Whom does God love? He undoubtedly loves all. Whom does He say that He loves? God loves the world, and sinners, and His enemies, and those who were lost. It takes destruction to open the sluice gates of the divine feelings. This it is which makes contact between God’s love and His creatures’ hearts. In His wisdom He has decreed that many shall be lost to Him until the end of the eonian times (for ever and ever). Men, who are often compelled to abandon an enterprise, which proved too much for their powers, imagine that He also is balked and unable to save the vast majority, or being able, He does not care. This basic error has so vitiated the minds of men that they have corrupted the Scriptures to uphold it.
In sheer helplessness we are sometimes compelled to kill an animal to put it out of pain. We would not do so if we could cure it. Is God like this? Is He impotent, powerless to cope with those who are destroyed? All that we can do is to kill. We cannot recall from death. Is He also limited as to life? Christ proclaimed Himself as the Resurrection and the Life. It is Godlike to deal with those who have no desire for God in such a way that they will respond to His love. It is most unlike a deity to give up and lose that upon which the heart is set. Theology has made a little man out of a great God. It reasons in the wrong direction. Where man is impotent it imagines that God is also. Were it truly wise, it would debar all inferences and implications and deductions, which are not based on the rock-ribbed fact that God is God.
We will now consider in detail certain passages, which are supposed to prove the practical annihilation of sinners by use of the word destroy. The first is in Matthew 10:28. “Yet be fearing Him rather Who is able to destroy both the soul and the body in Gehenna.” The Lord is speaking to His disciples regarding the suffering required for entrance into the kingdom. Men will hate them and kill them. Literally, death always affects body, soul, and spirit. But He is speaking of their experiences, what they will suffer for His sake. Men will slay them. James and Peter were killed. After they were killed they suffered no more. Their next conscious moment will be bliss in His presence. So that, in a very real sense, those who killed their bodies ushered their souls into the kingdom without further pain. Our Lord condenses all this in His striking figure. As to feeling, their enemies cannot touch their souls by killing their bodies.
On the other hand, those who persecute them will suffer the judgments of the kingdom. There is One Who is able to kill them in Gehenna, the place outside Jerusalem where criminals will be cremated during the millennium. The effort to make Gehenna mean the lake of fire or a final place of punishment is futile and confusing. It hinders rather than helps. What of the experience of such a case, in contrast to the martyr just mentioned? In both cases consciousness – the soul – is absent during the period of their death. But the martyr misses the sufferings, which precede the kingdom and his enemy wilt miss the bliss of the kingdom. The martyr wakes to blessing. The enemy is roused to judgment. The effects on their souls are opposite. One loses suffering and gains bliss. The other loses bliss and gains suffering. God does not lose the sinner by these intermediate processes. After Gehenna, after the judgment, he will be made alive at the consummation. It is the kingdom, not final destiny, which is in view in Matthew 10.
The statement that “as many as have sinned without law shall be lost also without law” (Rom. 2:12) occurs in the midst of an argument which demands that all the “lost” shall be roused from the dead to receive payment for their acts in the just judgment of God. All is definitely against the thought that the lost are beyond the reach of God’s payment. God will raise them for judgment in order that He may vivify them for reconciliation.
The passage usually produced to prove the utter destruction of all sinners is found in Second Thessalonians (2:10, 11). Perhaps no stronger one can be found. Yet it refers to a special crisis, when the lawless one is on the scene. They receive the falsehood because the love of the truth is not in them. Their destruction is preliminary to their judgment. This precludes the idea of utter extinction and points to the fact that God will adjust all the differences between Him and them. Why do this, if it is of no consequence to either? It is that a righteous basis may be laid for God to seek and find those whom He has lost. The fact that they have strayed far from Him does not disprove the great truth that they came out of Him and will be for Him at the consummation.
It is quite astonishing to find how few passages even appear to speak of the “final destruction” of the wicked. Not one really does this. They all deal with that phase of God’s operations which is covered by the phrase “all is through Him.” Again we insist that sound, wholesome reason, based on the deity of God, recognizes that destruction is a divine process. Superficially, it may be of Satan, or of man, but absolutely and actually it is the work of Him Who is operating the universe in accord with the counsel of His will. (Eph. 1:11)
Every one who receives eonian salvation was once lost, destroyed. Not only was this no hindrance to their deliverance, but it was absolutely essential to it. God had lost them. Through Christ He found and saved them. The same is true of those who do not receive eonian salvation. God has definitely declared that He is the Saviour of all mankind. (1 Tim. 2:4; 4:10) Since they do not believe, eonian salvation is not theirs. But, since God has lost them and He has said He will save them, they will be restored to Him at the consummation, after the close of the eons, on the basis of sight.
Let us, in conclusion, press the point that, like so many other words, this is a relative term. It usually carries the sense of loss by some one. God is the great Loser in most of its occurrences. The coin was lost by the woman. The sheep was lost by the shepherd. The prodigal was lost by the father. Israel was lost by Jehovah. Men are lost by God. Who was it that created them? Are they not His work? Will He not be the Loser if they are not saved? Let us remember what Israel was taught to say concerning their forefathers: “A perishing Syrian was my father.” (There is nothing about “ready to perish” in the Hebrew.) As a lost man Jehovah saved him. Though the sinner be lost a thousand times, he is not beyond the reach of the great Seeker. They may be lost for the eons of the eons [for ever and ever!], but He will seek the lost until He finds.
Here we come back to the great truth with which we started. Almost all of the reasoning about the word destruction fails to recognize the deity of God. We are asked to consider the fate of the wine skins, which were destroyed. We are told that, as wine skins, they pass out of existence. Therefore, say they, men pass out of existence as such when they are destroyed. The fact that this word is never used of the second death, in which this “final” destruction is supposed to take place, should show the fallacy of this reasoning. The fact that all who are destroyed, or lost, are raised to be judged, absolutely refutes the idea of any “final” destruction.
God is left out of it. We should not reason from wine skins to men. We should ask, Who lost the wine skins? Who lost the men? Suppose we are not able to recover what we lose? Is that any proof that God cannot do so? Are we the equals of the Creator? Did anything originate with us? Why, then, reason about God as though He were unable to find and save what He has lost? Is it not true that this very thing is His greatest glory? He can recall His creatures from the tomb. Can we? All mankind is lost, destroyed. And all mankind will be justified and vivified by Him. (Rom. 5:18; 1 Cor. 15:22) Shall we who know God fail to glorify Him as God and become vain in our reasonings (Rom. 1:21)?
There is no reasoning so utterly vain as that which uses one passage of Scripture in order to destroy our faith in another. Concordantly rendered, there is no conflict in the Word of God. In the last analysis it will usually be found that the major premise in such false reasonings depends upon disbelief of the plain statements of God’s Word regarding His deity. Once our subconscious mind is saturated with the great truth that all is out of God, and through God and for God, our reasoning will no longer hurl us off at a tangent, out of touch with Him and His Word, but will always be God-centered and prove what he has elsewhere expressed. Down with human reason! Up with faith in God!
Destruction, like salvation, is eonian. It is not the end or aim of God. That would be sheer insanity. Imagine a God, Whose very essence is love, desiring to lose a single creature with an endless capacity for loving and glorifying Him! Imagine a man so berserk as to smash a machine which could bring him an unlimited income! We would put such a creature under restraint, where he could not harm others, as well as himself. We have not such a God. He destroys nothing that He cannot restore. He loses nothing that will not return to Him laden with praise and glory for Himself. Destruction is a passing process, not a finished goal. Through God it will work out the welfare of His creatures, and the glory of our Savior and His Father.
THE SALVATION OF ALL MANKIND
THE GLORIOUS GOAL that God may become All in all is achieved by way of the cross. The why of salvation may be answered by a single word – love. God saves because He loves. The how may also be explained by one word – sacrifice. In this and the following chapters we wish to examine the vital relationship between the sacrifice of Christ and the destiny of the creatures of God’s hand. We do not teach universal salvation in order to gather a following for ourselves but rather because it reflects God’s heart and is upheld in His Word. We do not defend universal reconciliation out of pride for perceiving “the truth,” but because it brings glory to Him Who was obedient to death, and is the fruit of His travail, Who makes peace through the blood of His cross.
“God … wills that all mankind be saved and come into a realization of the truth.“ (1 Tim. 2:4) “Faithful is the saying and worthy of all welcome (for this are we toiling and being reproached), that we rely on the living God, Who is the Savior of all mankind, especially of believers. These things be charging and teaching.“ (1 Tim. 4:9-11) We may confidently rest on one grand and glorious foundation truth – that all salvation is of God. On the one hand this assures us of the possibility of saving all men, for God alone is able, and on the other, it bars all human schemes for their restoration, whether by works, or suffering, by giving them a second chance, or by any cause whatever which originates in man.
FOR OR INSTEAD
It is a striking fact that God never speaks of Christ as dying “in our room and stead,” or that He endured the cross as our “substitute.” There is a great difference between acting for or instead of another. Instead implies two parties on the same level and of similar qualifications. A mother does many things for her child, which the infant cannot do for itself. When it advances in years and has duties of its own the mother may, at times, take one of its tasks and do it in its place. Yet even then the very fact of her relationship involves the thought of favor shown by the greater to the lesser.
To reverse the situation, we may all speak on behalf of God and His word, but woe be to us if we speak instead of it! Job’s friends displaced the divine philosophy by their own, but Elihu spoke on His behalf. Only God’s prophets, like Moses, may speak in His stead for he was made a god to Pharaoh.
The following are most of the passages in which the precious preposition for (huper) is used of the work of Christ on our behalf. It will be readily seen that it is used far more freely than any other connective to indicate the relation of His work to us. It is of prime importance that we appreciate the full import of this preposition. We use hyper freely in English in its literal meaning of over (in the genitive) and above (in the accusative). Morally, it means in behalf of, for the sake of, for. Read over the list and see that it never means instead of.
huper, OVER, above, for the sake of, for
Ro. 5: 6 For Christ … for the sake of the irreverent, died.
: 7 For hardly for the sake of a just man will any one be dying: for, for the sake of a good man,
perhaps, someone may even be daring to die
: 8 while we are still sinners, Christ died for our sakes.
8:32 He Who spares not His own Son, but gives Him for us all
14:16 Do not, by your food, destroy that one for whose sake Christ died.
1C 5:7 our Passover, also, Christ, was sacrificed for our sakes
11:24 This is My body, broken for your sakes.
15: 3 Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures
2C 5:14 if One died for the sake of all, consequently all died
:15 And He died for the sake of all
:15 to the One dying and being roused for their sakes
:21 For the One not knowing sin, He makes to be a sin offering for our sakes
Ga 1: 4 Who gives Himself for our sins
2:20 the Son of God, Who loves me, and gives Himself up for me.
3:13 Christ reclaims us From the curse of the law, becoming a curse for our sakes
Ep 5: 2 Christ also loves you, and gives Himself up for us
:25 Christ also loves the ecclesia, and gives Himself up for its sake
1Th 5:10 Who died for our sakes, that, whether we may be watching or drowsing, we should be living
at the same time together with Him
1Ti 2: 6 Who gives Himself a correspondent Ransom for all
Ti 2:14 Who gives Himself for us, that He should be redeeming us
Hb 2: 9 so that. . .He should be tasting death for the sake of everyone
1P 2:21 Christ also suffered for your sakes
4: 1 Christ, than, having suffered for our sakes
On two occasions translators have rendered it in one’s stead. Both are glaringly faulty, even on the surface. In Philemon (13) Paul recognizes the inferior station of Onesimus. Philemon never would have served Paul as a slave. Onesimus did not take his place, but acted on his behalf. We do not pray in Christ’s stead, “Be conciliated to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20) We are not taking His place, but speaking on His behalf. We are not equals. We cannot do His work We are His slaves. He is our Lord. The very thought of doing aught in His stead is abhorrent to all who know themselves and a little of His supremacy.
Should we be unable to fix the meaning of huper there are a few passages in which we could lower the sense to instead of and not detect our error. But there are many instances where such a meaning is absolutely impossible. Christ did not give Himself instead of our sins (Gal. 1:4). How could we claim to suffer in Christ’s stead? (Phil. 1:29)
THE GREEK WORD, ANTI
It is well known that the word anti INSTEAD, has gradually changed so that it now means against in English. Even in the Scriptures, it does not cling to the literal instead at all times, but broadens into secondary meanings, just as huper OVER, is used for in behalf of, for the sake of.
As a limited number of connectives must do duty for the whole field of thought and link all kinds of relations, it is obvious that, in some cases, where there is no exact link available, the one nearest in sense must be used. So that the connectives expand their meaning to include adjacent spheres of thought. They also have the tendency to become fixed to certain ideas, so that, in English, the connective is practically determined by the word with which it stands, even when another seems more logical.
Literally, the law said “an eye instead of an eye.“ (Matt. 5:38) But this suggests that the aggressor’s eye was substituted for his victim’s, so that the eye of the victim was spared, and only the aggressor’s eye was destroyed. This was not true. Both eyes perished. One eye did not replace the other. The law demanded an equivalent, not a substitute.
The sense of substitution clings to anti in some of its usages, as “instead of a fish will he be handing him a serpent?” (Luke 11:11), but far more frequently it loses the idea of replacing or replanting. From the fact that which substitutes for another is usually of the same kind or measure or value, it is used of any equivalent or corresponding entity, that which will tip the opposite side of the scales.
The common phrase “evil for (anti) evil” (Rom. 12:17; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Pet. 3:9) cannot be rendered evil instead of evil,” in the sense of substitution. An evil return is the same in kind. It corresponds to the original evil, but does not take its place. So also “grace for grace” (John 1:16). The grace, which the disciples received, was of like quality and measure as that bestowed on Christ, but it was, in no sense a substitute for it.
Anti is usually used in denoting the price of a thing, the money equivalent. If we should pay ten dollars for a Bible we do not give the money because we should give the Bible, but because it is its equivalent in value. The same is true of a ransom. When our Lord and Peter paid the half shekel as a ransom for (anti) them (Matt. 17:27), it was not a substitute for their souls. The Septuagint denotes the relationship by the genitive case (Ex. 30:12) and by the preposition peri, which means about, concerning. (Ex. 30:16)
The Lord gave His soul as a ransom for (anti) many. (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45) Peter, speaking to the Circumcision, tells them that they were ransomed, not with corruptible silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ. (1 Pet. 1:18, 19) It is evident that the soul of Christ (His humiliation and suffering during His life—not His death) takes the place of the half shekel ransom, for many. It has no direct reference to the nations.
It is not Christ Who is the supposed substitute. It is not His death. It is His soul. This refers to His experience as serving His people, for that is the subject in view. He was seeking to engage them in service and slavery for others and gave this as His example. The expression includes His sufferings on the cross, but is not limited to that. The ransom for the saints in Israel is the whole of His humiliation.
We can understand that this is equivalent to the divine demands for their ransom, when weighed in the balance of the sanctuary. But we cannot formulate any distinct idea how it could be instead of, or as a substitute for, the saints of the Circumcision. Let us put it concretely. Peter was ransomed. Both typically and actually the Lord paid his half shekel. Was that piece of money sent to the temple at Jerusalem in place of Peter? Or was it an equivalent sent for Peter?
The most striking passage of all (in which, significantly, both anti and huper are used) is the one which declares that in order for God’s will for the salvation of all to be achieved Christ gives Himself for all. The Man, Christ Jesus is giving Himself a correspondent ransom (antilutron) for (huper) all. (1 Tim. 2:6) The price paid for all is much greater than for many. His soul was given for many. He gives Himself for all. The figure is taken from the atonement money. What He was to the saints in Israel He will become to all mankind.
The force of anti in connection with a ransom is fixed for us by the compound word antilutron INSTEAD-LOOSener, correspondent ransom. A study of all the compounds with anti will convince us that it seldom keeps its literal sense of substitution. For instance, antilegoo, INSTEAD – say, does not mean to say something in place of another, but to contradict him; antimisthia, INSTEAD – HIRE, is not what is given in place of wages, but the equivalent, the recompense. So antilutron is not what is given in place of a ransom, but an equivalent or correspondent ransom.
THE SALVATION OF JUDAS
Those whose hearts have been enlarged and whose affections overflow because of the matchless grace revealed by God’s will for all mankind will seek to engage others with this marvelous truth. In this joyful endeavor they will meet a rebuff from others who sincerely desire to cleave to the Word of God and who bring up passages which, in many versions, and apart from their context, certainly seem to deny the possibility of God becoming the Savior of all. (1 Tim. 4:10)
One of the commonest objections is the case of Judas. The following extract, which is intended to show that Christ contradicted the doctrine, is characteristic of this opposition.
Christ says of Judas – “Good were it for that man if he had not been born.“ (Mark. 14:21)
The Restorationist says it would have been an incalculable misfortune for him; for however long and heavily his miseries hereafter might lie upon him, the endlessness of bliss in which they are ultimately to terminate would immeasurably outweigh them all; and the blessedness of his existence in the condition to which he is to be finally introduced would be infinitely in favor of the fact that he had been born.
Let us concede at once that this seems to be a formidable objection to the truth so definitely taught elsewhere. If it were better for Judas never to have been born (as the verse is generally quoted) it is hard to see how all men can be saved and come to a realization of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:4)
The first question, which must be settled is, Did Christ utter these words? Is the Authorized Version reliable in this passage?
The method, if such it may be called, which was employed by the translators, or, rather, revisers (for the so-called Authorized was also a revision) made their work a reflex of current theology rather than of the inspired text. Could we expect them to translate except in line with their own conception of “truth”? Would we have them make the bible teach “error”? To the credit of a minority of the later revisers it must be admitted, however, that they insisted on a marginal record which is founded on sound principles. Both the English and American revisions note in their margin that the Greek reads, “for him if that man…”
In order that each one may have the evidence clearly before him, we reproduce the original text of this passage with a literal, consistent interlinear.
IDEAL it-was to-Him IF NOT WAS-generatED THE human that
There is no real reason why this should not be rendered “it were ideal for Him if that man was not born.” This leaves nothing out and does not unite the “ideal (well)” with “that man” instead of “Him.”
The question arises, Who is the Him? The versions say he is “that man.” But just as soon as they introduce the pronoun “Him” it is in contrast to “that man,” rather than the same. That man suggests a different one from the subject of the sentence, which is the Son of Mankind.
A most simple solution is offered us in the preceding clause of this sentence. There we have the pronoun “Him” and “that man” both referred to in such a way that we cannot mistake them. “The Son of Man indeed goeth, as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!” “Him” is the Son of Man; “that man” is Judas. And how can it be otherwise in the balance of the sentence? It is simply out if the question for Him to refer to Judas. We must read on “ideal were it for Him [the Son of Mankind] if that man [Judas] were not born.”
That there need be no hesitancy in speaking of things being “not ideal” or “ideal” for the Son of Mankind is made clear by the act of the woman with the alabaster box of ointment in the very same chapter. The same word is used of her act as of Judas’. He said “she hath wrought a good work on Me” (14:6 A.V.). It is not the usual word for “good” or for “well.” It denotes the ideal, that which is fitting and agreeable. Her act was one which became His exalted station; Judas’ act was one altogether out of keeping with His kindness and favor.
Christ said many serious things concerning the son of perdition, but not one of them conflicts with His purpose of power to save him eventually together with all mankind. He never said it were good, or better, if he had not been born.
This case is a good illustration of the kind of difficulties, which confront those who seek for truth beyond what the translators knew. Time and again have they modified or colored passages so as to conform with their idea of orthodoxy. Another argument is as follows: Christ says “None of them is lost, but the son of perdition.“ (John 17:12; Rom. 2:5-11; Rev. 22:11)
The Restorationist affirms that the son of perdition is not so hopelessly lost as Christ would have us believe – an affirmation which amounts to this, that, if Christ’s word is not final in the one case, neither is it in the other. If I am to believe that the son of perdition is not finally lost what security have I for believing that the rest of whom Christ speaks are finally saved?
First let us affirm our full belief in what our Lord said. Judas, the son of perdition, perished. But we refuse to add to His words and say that he is finally lost. We will not be wise above what is written. What then of the rest? Were they not “finally” saved? The question rests on a mistaken assumption. It is based on a deliberate refusal to believe what God says is to be the “final” condition of all humanity. Salvation, like perdition (destruction), is eonian. They both come to an end. But both issue into a state of perfect bliss, characterized by the eloquent statement that God will be All in all.
If those who use the word “final” so freely would inquire as to God’s “final” achievement their difficulties and objections would vanish. When we insist that salvation as well as judgment is eonian, and not endless or final, we do not in the least detract from the salvation nor do we give any license to the thought that those who are saved will be lost. On the contrary, after the eons have rolled sin and death away, no one will be lost, but all will enjoy His salvation – not eonian salvation which follows faith, but a later exhibition of His grace which will work out His sovereign will that all mankind shall be saved and come to a realization of the truth.
SALVATION OF THE UNBELIEVER
Those who believe are saved by His grace (Rom. 4:16), those who do not believe are saved through His judgments, but in both it is He alone Who is Savior. Faith is but the channel of grace; it plays no efficient part in salvation. Judgment is but a means which God uses. It does not remove man’s guilt or cleanse a single sin. That is done wholly and solely by the blood of Christ. Every effort to bring about the ultimate salvation of all through the purgatorial or penitential sufferings of the sinner is a denial of this great truth. Judgments do not save, but the God Who judges is also the Savior, and all His dealings with mankind are governed by the grand goal which He has set before Him – to become All in all His creatures.
In setting forth the process by means of which God brings the unbeliever back to Himself we must remember that few believers are able to analyze the method used in their own salvation. Now, if we are not able to explain our own experience, how shall we understand His method with others? Yet, strange as it may seem, God’s dealings with the unbeliever are much more easily apprehended than His way with us. The very simplicity of faith baffles us. Most theological systems seek to base belief on evidence, and speak of “Christian evidences” as the foundation of the believer’s salvation. This is, rather, the method He uses in the deliverance of the unbeliever.
When we reflect how few of those who actually heard our Lord and His apostles; who saw Him and perceived the signs and miracles and powers which He performed, and had ample opportunity to test their genuineness, how few of those actually believed, we are tempted to lose confidence in the efficacy of “Christian evidences,” Yet they had their place and were used in the proclamation of the kingdom. They produced a hybrid sort of faith, generated partly by tangible evidence, and partly by confidence in those who wrought them.
The case of Thomas is an example of the overpowering force of evidence where faith is wanting. No man can long withstand the testimony of his senses, even when his interests are opposed. But today the doubting Thomases are offered no proof to correct their credulous questions. It is either sheer unfounded faith or fatal unbelief.
The tangible proofs given to support the proclamation of the kingdom affords a rich field for the study of the effect of evidence on the human heart. The unbeliever will be saved by sight. He will yield to the force of facts. He will be convinced by logic. What evidence is most suited for this purpose? In our. Lord’s ministry we can see both the helps and the hindrances offered by the senses. The consideration of a few cases will reveal what moves men most and what makes them obstinate.
The rich young man was hindered by his possessions: The Samaritans were helped by the Lord’s words. The resurrection of Lazarus led many Jews to rely on His acts. These illustrate God’s method in the judgment of the unbeliever. He removes hindrances – no earthly acquisitions interfere with the decisions of the heart, for both heaven and earth flee from the face of Him Who sits on the throne. He works the greatest possible miracle, by raising them from the dead. He reads the inmost secret of their hearts. He appears in their very presence in soul dismaying splendor. They cannot doubt His power or His perfections, and no motive remains to lead them to deceive themselves.
The judgment of unbelievers takes place in the interval between the passing of this present earth and the creation of the new. Every tie, which bound them to earth, has been burned up. They are the subjects of the most astounding miracle ever wrought, having been raised from the dead. They are in the presence of the Divine Majesty. Their secrets are bared to His awful gaze. The character of their judgment, being adjusted to their acts, not simply as to severity but so as to correct them, will reveal God’s purpose to save and reconcile them to Himself. This, followed by their death in the lake of fire and subsequent vivification at the consummation, becomes a means for their acceptance of Christ.
First, we will consider the hindrances, which have held many from becoming followers of Christ. The rich young ruler (Matt. 19:16; Luke 18:18) desired eonian life but was kept from it by his acquisitions. Will this hinder him in the judgment? No. For then all his riches will have vanished; not only through his own death, but by the fires which have engulfed the world.
Examples abound. The excuses offered by those who were bidden to the great supper (Luke. 14:18) are all removed before the great white throne. No fields or oxen or wives will intrude between the spirit and the great Judge.
In the judgment day God will judge the hidden things of humanity (Rom. 2:16). We are prone to consider this a mere exhibition of His omniscience, to facilitate the trial of the sinner and to insure his condemnation. But more than this, it cannot but have a most powerful effect on the unbeliever’s attitude toward Christ. What was it that impressed the woman of Samaria? It was His knowledge of her hidden secrets. When she left her water and went into the city she bore witness: “Come hither! Lo there is a Man Who told me all that I do. Is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29). As a result we read that many of the Samaritans of that city believe in Him because of the woman’s word that He told her all that she did. (John 4:39)
But more believe on Him through His own word. The Lord bared only a few facts in the woman’s life. In the judgment all of men’s secrets will be exposed. If men could be moved to believe through the word of a dissolute woman, how much more readily will they bow when all their own secrets are brought to view! And not only so, but when the lives of all their fellow creatures are subjected to the same superhuman scrutiny, the overwhelming evidence will banish all doubt of the identity of the One before Whom they stand.
The blessed results achieved by His exposure of the woman at Sychar’s spring will be multiplied by many millions at the great white throne. There is nothing hidden that shall not be manifested. (Matt. 10:26) As in Corinth, the hidden things of the unbeliever’s heart become apparent, and, falling on his face, he will worship. God (1 Cor. 14:25)
Perhaps no miracle wrought by our Lord and His apostles created a stronger conviction than that of raising the dead. When Lazarus was raised many of the rulers believed, and the chief priests were concerned lest all should believe on Him because of the sign. (John 11:45, 48) When Peter raised Dorcas it also was used to convince many who believed on the Lord. Can we imagine what conviction it must have brought to Lazarus and to Dorcas themselves, if they should have had the slightest tendency to doubt? Could there have been any stronger proof of divine power than that their very life had come back to them at the bidding of One Who is stronger than death? In the process of winning the unbeliever, we judge their resurrection and final vivification to be ample to account for their salvation and reconciliation.
The salvation of the unbeliever will be by sight, not by faith. Otherwise it is affected in the same way as that of the believer, by the word and power and presence of God. The means, which proved most effective in the past are repeated, but accompanied with unparalleled power and under circumstances infinitely more impressive.
The apostle Paul’s case is of surpassing significance in its bearing on the salvation of unbelievers. He was the foremost of sinners, and it cannot be denied that, among men, there was no case quite as desperate as his. All question as to God’s ability to save vanishes in the light of his call on the Damascus road. The miraculous means employed in his case surely would suffice for every one of God’s enemies. And who will deny, on sober reflection, that the appalling power and glory of the august judgment session into which the unbeliever is ushered by his resurrection will be unutterably more impressive?
The apostle’s vision passed. He came back to a scene where all was as before. He alone had changed. But the unbeliever sees the power and presence of God not only in his own deliverance from death, but in all around him. The vision does not vanish. The Divine Presence abides.
One of the leading lights on eternal torment crystallizes the prevailing insensibility to the mighty dealings of God with the unbeliever in the following question and answer. “Is there going to be any tremendous power in the moral sense in eternity to change a character that it could not change here?“ There is no hint in the Bible of a change of character beyond this world.”
These very leaders would shudder if we should suggest that salvation is based on character. Yet they do not hesitate to damn mankind for lack of it! But we will let that pass. Unbelief in the saint is just as irrational as in the infidel.
The appalling nature of the blindness, which lies on Christendom with reference to God’s great ultimate, can hardly find a better illustration than in the question and answer we have quoted. So far as they read their Bible, the unbeliever is not raised from the dead at the judgment, nor vivified at the consummation. They contend for the genuineness of miracles, yet ignore the most tremendous and stupendous of all miracles – the resurrection of all mankind. They are making a firm stand for a whole Bible, yet practically expunge the great truth that “all who are in the grave shall hear His voice, and shall come forth.” All the significance and power of the resurrection of the unbeliever is totally ignored and denied by many who consider themselves defenders of the faith and supporters of the Bible.
We consider, and rightly too, that our resurrection and vivification will be an essential part of our salvation. It will be the crowning glory of our deliverance. Yet when the same mighty power of God acts on behalf of the unbeliever, resurrection becomes damnation and vivification death! These, we are told, will have no effect on the character of the unbeliever at all! Since that is so, it logically follows that character is not affected by resurrection or vivification, and, as a result, the saints will have just the same character in glory, which they have today. The transformation will be entirely physical, not moral or spiritual. Our likeness to Christ will be limited to the brilliancy of our appearance. All the heartbreaking defects in our characters will be with us still, only unutterably more apparent and painful in His presence.
But enough! It is not true! Every experience through which we pass affects our characters, even in the present life. And we may rest assured that our character (how I hate to use a non-scriptural term!) will accord with the presence of His glory.
Our resurrection and vivification are simultaneous, but the unbeliever will be raised long before he is vivified. The change, which eventuates in the ultimate salvation of the unbeliever is wrought, not only by his resurrection, but by the august judgment session, when he stands in the presence of Christ, with all his unbelief swept away by the awful realization of His power and the justice of His throne. We are asked, Is it possible for them to repent? Rather, we would like to know, Is it possible for them not to repent, or change their minds? We cannot conceive an unrepentant sinner before the great white throne.
God’s thoughts and man’s imaginations are nowhere more at variance than on the subject of judgment, or punishment. God is love: man is hate. David was wise when he was given the choice of fleeing before his enemies or falling before the hand of Jehovah. He uttered a great truth when he exclaimed “Let us fall now into the hand of Jehovah, for His mercies are many: and let me not fall into the hand of man!” And surely his choice was vindicated, for, when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, Jehovah repented Him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people: “It is enough! Stay now thine hand.“ (2 Sam. 24:16)
THE EXAMPLE OF NINEVEH
Jonah went through the streets of Nineveh, crying, “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” “But God saw their works that they turned from their evil way; and God repented concerning the evil that He said He would do unto them. And He did it not.“ (Jonah 3) And what did Jonah do? Was he not pleased at the success of his mission? Did he not glory in the character of his God? Alas! He was like the majority of the Lord’s people today. Like Jonah, they imagine that God has a streak of hate in His character and that He wanted to destroy Nineveh to give it exercise. But He had an object in threatening its destruction. Now that they repented and the object was attained, why should He belie His character and destroy them from sheer vindictiveness? Jonah thought He ought, and so think those today whose prototype he was.
Is it not too bad that Jonah’s God was a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenting of the evil which He had threatened? (Jonah 4:2) What did Jonah care for Nineveh? What pains had it cost him? What comfort did it bring to him? But God looked at it from His standpoint. In it there were sixty thousand souls more in tune with Him than sulky Jonah. He was their Creator, and He had not created them for naught.
This is God’s way with the unbeliever. We are fond of recalling God’s dealings with us to bring us to Himself. Some have been driven to Him through the loss of earthly possessions. Others found Him in the midst of trials. His written word alone has led myriads to see themselves and the loveliness of His Christ. But no believer today has passed through any experience, which even approaches the stupendous realities which await the unbeliever. With the very earth swept from beneath his feet, with his sins staring at him and open to every eye, with the awesome Presence on the great white throne, all superimposed on a personal experience of the greatest of all miracles – what more could possibly be done to turn him back to God? Who ever doubts that Lazarus or the widow of Nain’s sun was saved? Others believed who merely heard and saw, but had none of the personal knowledge they possessed. So, who can doubt that such an awesome scene and such a stupendous experience will turn the hearts of all unbelievers toward the God of their salvation?
Some have questioned whether punishment will reform the sinner, and have pointed out the hardening effects of judgment. But this rests on a notion of punishment apart from resurrection. Others make judgment the end and an end in itself, little heeding the effect of this on God. This judgment scene is not the end nor an end. When we see a sinner, convicted of sin, burdened with fear, we rejoice, knowing that it is but the beginning of God’s operations. So the great white throne judgment is but the preliminary to God’s greater work at the consummation.
THE DAY OF SALVATION
Before we conclude this chapter, one other objection to the salvation of all mankind should be considered, and that is that the present era is the only time for salvation. “Now,” we are told, “is the day of salvation,” (2 Cor. 6:2) and there is no other day of salvation. But a reference to this scripture will show that its original intent is not for the present at all, but refers to Israel‘s future deliverance. (Isa. 49:8) So that (to follow out this reasoning) this is not the day of salvation at all! There is only one and that is for Israel! A mere glance at the inspired Original will show that this is not the day, but only a day of salvation. In such a day God ” helps.” But this does not preclude another day of salvation for His people Israel, nor still another for all mankind, to fulfill what is written that God is the Savior of all mankind. (1 Tim. 4:10)
The crowning and conclusive exhibition of God’s power and love toward the unbeliever awaits the consummation. The eons are past. All sin is banished. Evil is no more. The Son of God has nearly completed His mediatorial work. All the living are in perfect accord with God. Nothing remains but the conquest of death and the reconciliation of its denizens. It is the only enemy left in all God’s universe. Then, and not till then will the vast concourse of mankind emerge from the domain of death never to enter it again. Then that voice for which we wait, that will call His own from the graves, and that once before had called them back to life, will speak with power, and death will be dispoiled, the last enemy laid low. Then shall all awake to live in the light and love of Him Who will have become in truth the Savior of all mankind.
THE JUSTIFICATION OF ALL MANKIND
SIN and suffering and death came through the single offense of one man because all humanity was generated by him; so salvation comes through the solitary sacrifice of our Savior since all were created in Him. As we have seen, God’s method of salvation (including the work of justification) is inclusion, not substitution. Christ does not take the place of each sinner of the race, as though He were a mere man. He displaces Adam, and His work affects all, even as Adam’s has done. He is the second Man, as though none had intervened between Him and the first. He is the last Adam, in Whom there is a new humanity, which will be blessed by His one sacrifice, even as the old humanity was doomed by Adam’s single transgression.
“Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just award for all mankind for life’s justifying.“ (Rom. 5:18) The parallel here is perfect. Adam’s one offense is counteracted by Christ’s one just award. The act of Adam actually affects all mankind. So Christ’s work, eventually, must also actually justify all mankind. This cannot be during the eons, hence will not be fully accomplished until after the eons are past, when all are made alive in Christ. (1 Cor. 15:22) If Adam’s offense only gave each one an opportunity to sin, so that some become sinners and others not, then we might say that Christ’s work brings justification to all subject to their acceptance. But we must acknowledge that man has no choice in becoming a sinner; thus also will it be through the work of Christ. Both are actual and universal.
THE INCLUSION OF ALL
The method of salvation has proved a standing puzzle to expositors as well as to the inquiring student of the Scriptures. Why did Christ die, and how can that sacrifice effect the justification of all? The solution lies in a closer acquaintance with Christ and His relations to God and to creation before He undertook the work of redemption and deliverance. As the Son of God’s love, all was created in Him and through Him and for Him. Hence He is closely related to creation apart from and prior to His sufferings for sin.
It seems difficult for us to associate Christ with aught else than redemption. The great truth that He is the Firstborn of creation seems to have vanished from the consciousness of Christendom. Yet it is vital to an understanding of redemption. It corrects all those false ideas that He was an unwilling Sufferer, a third party upon Whom the role of scapegoat was forced, which led rationalists to the conclusion that the cross was an exhibition of injustice to One and partiality to others.
The relation of the Son to creation is expressed by the title Firstborn. This is elaborated by a series of prepositions, in, through, into or for, and before. (Col. 1:16-17) These express the various aspects of His connection with creation, apart from sin or sacrifice. We are accustomed to think of this as God’s universe. We should include Christ, for it is created in, through, and for Him. This is the basic truth which explains the manner of its deliverance. Its method cannot be understood unless first we see that the Savior is not a distant, disinterested Victim, but as close of kin as could possibly be, apart from sin. A father toils and suffers for his family with no thought of injustice. Relationship calls for more than justice demands.
It is desirable to have a name for Christ as the One in Whom all was created. English has two words for progenitor, seeing that procreator has the same sense. We suggest that progenitor be applied to Adam as the generator of the race, and Procreator be reserved for God’s Son as the One in and through Whom creation was effected. Then we can state our case clearly and succinctly thus: As Adam, the progenitor of humanity, by one selfish act, involved it in unutterable woe, so God’s Son, the Procreator of all, by one sacrifice, involves all in ineffable blessing.
During the eons this is reserved for an election, who are redeemed through faith. All are not made alive in Christ until death is abolished at the consummation. (1 Cor. 15:26)
ADAM A TYPE OF CHRIST
The truth that all creatures were in the Son of God’s love is difficult to entertain or explain. It is much easier if we bring it down to our level, and see it illustrated in humanity. When Adam sinned we were in him. All that we are has come to us from him, so it must have been at least latent in him first. The investigations prompted by the theory of evolution have shown that no living thing transmits anything permanent from its environment or experiences. All comes to it through heredity, so that all we see is the development of potentialities which were given to the first member of each species at its beginning. The whole human race was created in the first Adam. In a very real sense all mankind sinned in him. It is impossible to be of his race and not partake of the penalty of his act. In Adam all are dying. Not through, but in.
In order to realize and appreciate what Christ is to creation, we will use Adam as an illustration. The weakness of this parallel lies in Adam’s failure. To strengthen it we propose to relieve Adam temporarily of the disabilities brought about by sin, so that we can see more clearly what Christ would be, in his place, and what Christ is, in His higher and earlier position.
Let us suppose that sin had not come in and that Adam were alive today, the firstborn of humanity, the head of the human race. The fact that he was not born, but created, would not bar him from the title “firstborn,” for that is a faded figure, indicating rank and dignity, even when literally untrue. He would not only be the one in whom the race had its rise, the one through whom it came into being, but, in a very real sense, the one for whom it exists. All humanity would belong to Adam. All would be members of his family. His honors as head of the race would depend on them. If there were no race he would have no headship. There would be a vital relation between him and his progeny.
Furthermore, let us suppose that in our day, some spirit being from without our world should entice a pair to sin and disobedience and death. What would be Adam’s attitude toward this incursion into his race? Could he refrain from exerting all his power to recover his lost progeny, even at the risk of suffering to himself? If he were sinless and powerful (as Christ), would he not take upon himself some of the consequences if he could recover his sons? Even if he found it necessary to judge the culprits, had he the power, would he not bring them back from death?
Now let us change our supposition slightly, so as to more fully accord with the facts. Leaving Adam alone untouched, let us suppose that sin is contagious, that it spreads from one to another until all humanity is inoculated with its deadly virus. What then would be Adam’s proper reaction? Immune himself, would it not be torment for him to behold the plight of his progeny? Could he be inhuman enough to stand aside in his holiness and allow his race to go to wreck and ruin? If he were the least bit like Christ he would go far beyond the bounds of justice in his efforts to serve and to succor. Christ is not some cynical spirit from another sphere, unmoved by the plight of humanity. They are His. They are for Him.
Long before humanity was in Adam, all creation was in Christ. He is vitally related to every creature in God’s universe. He included creation in a higher sense than Adam incorporated humanity. There is a unity among the genus Homo who declares their relationship to Adam. There is a oneness in all creation which proclaims its connection with Christ. Its cohesion is in Him. The scientific theory that the unity of creation points to a single origin finds its answer, not in a primordial germ, but in Christ. All its potentialities were in Him before they became manifest in the creatures of His hand.
SON OF MANKIND
Our Lord continually insisted on His close relation to mankind, as such, apart from redemption. This is concentrated in His title Son of Man, or, better, Son of Mankind, or humanity. That this name means far more than the fact that He was a human being is evident wherever it is used. Neither is it limited to His disciples. In Hebrew it would be rendered Son of Adam. This gives the key to its significance. He inherits the headship of the race. All that belonged to Adam, apart from sin, is His. Indeed, seeing that He is sinless and superior to Adam, He claims more authority than we would accord to Adam. Since Adam cannot fulfill his functions in regard to the race it devolves on the Son of Mankind to shoulder them.
It is because the Sabbath was made for mankind, that the Son of Mankind claims lordship over the Sabbath. (Matt. 12:8) He has authority on earth to pardon sins (Matt. 9:6). He came to seek and to save that which Adam lost. (Luke 19:10) It is as the Son of Mankind that He suffered and died and rose and will come again in glory to rule the earth. As such all judgment is committed to Him (John 5:27). Every member of the race must stand before Him to give an account of himself. None of this is based on His redemptive work. It is His by creation. Adam, the subordinate source, had failed. Now Adam’s Source descends to undo the work that Adam did, and do the work that Adam should have done.
THE NEW HUMANITY
The mode of application of the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice are evident from the fact that He heads a new humanity. (Eph. 2:15; 4:24) He does not start, as Adam did, by wrecking His race. Nor does He commence by preserving a negative innocence. He transmits to each one of the new humanity the positive benefits and infinite values of His great sacrifice. Adam transmitted death, and through death sin. The channel is flesh. Christ transmits life, and through life righteousness and holiness. The channel is spirit.
The true formula of God’s method of salvation and the justification of life is given us in the fifth chapter of Romans. It may be arranged in a variety of ways, thus:
Adam’s act is to Christ’s act as Adam’s effects are to Christ’s effects.
Adam’s act’s is to Adam’s effects as Christ’s act is to Christ’s effects.
Christ’s effects are to Christ’s act as Adam’s effects are to Adam’s act.
This formula, for it is really only one, is worthy of our most earnest meditation. Our minds are unable to compute the staggering total of human woe. The fruit of Christ’s travail is the unknown quantity which we wish to apprehend. How shall we attain a true estimate of the effects of the sufferings of Christ? By comparing them with the pleasure of Adam. The eating of the forbidden fruit gave Adam a micrometric measure of agreeable sensations. Compare this with the sufferings of the cross, physical torment for three long hours, spiritual agony due to God’s withdrawal all raised to the highest degree by the exquisite sensibilities of the Victim and His previous experience of divine glory and pleasure.
As much more as Christ’s sacrifice surpasses Adam’s act in its quantitative values, so much more will be the measure of its effects over those of Adam’s sin. As a result human sin dwindles down into a trivial affair compared to the blessings, which are due from the cross of Christ. Let no one misunderstand me. I have suffered agonies in the last few years. As I write I am in pain. I do not minimize human sin or the suffering, which it entails. But I do magnify the work of our Savior. There is not much danger that my readers would believe me if I should say that, in the absolute sense, sin’s effects are trivial. Not many are really deluded as to that. But great as sin’s havoc is, the happiness to come will dwarf it into insignificance.
This is best realized when we try to expatiate on the delight which came to Adam while he ate the offending fruit. Hardly anyone has ever thought of that. It seems of so little consequence. Yet it is the only pleasure, which came to him in introducing sin. It is the only act, which we can logically compare with the sufferings of Christ. It must sustain the same relation to it as the sufferings of humanity sustain to the bliss brought by His sacrifice. The quantitative difference between Adam’s act and that of Christ is enormous. One is almost the least of pleasures, the other the greatest of agonies. So the ravages of sin will appear to us in the future bliss. They will be but light afflictions compared with the tremendous weight of blessedness, which will come from the accursed cross.
Ultimate reconciliation was first in the heart of God. There never would have been any estrangement without it. Therefore enmity was introduced in a manner closely corresponding with the way it is overcome. Because salvation was planned to be the great achievement of the Son of God’s love, the One to Whom creation first came into being, therefore sin was planned to reach the race through the failure of the one in whom it was created. Adam’s offense is an inverted silhouette, a shadowgraph reversed, of the sacrifice of Christ. In their main outlines, their outstanding features, they are alike, though as far apart as the poles in moral values.
We may suppose that sin could have been introduced in a different way. It might have been limited to Adam, and each of his progeny might have been tested as he was, so that it would have been an individual failure. Adam might have had a considerable progeny before his transgression, who would have been free from the effects of his offense. So the race might have been broken up into groups or units. But God did not arrange it so. Sin must enter through one man because it was to be settled through One. The relation between Adam and his descendants must correspond to that which existed between God’s Son and creation. Both could act on behalf of all who had been in them.
THE DEATH OF THE CROSS
Christ emptied Himself of the form of God for the express purpose of becoming the Sacrifice for sin. Sin involves suffering and death; hence He took a mortal form, in which alone these could be endured. During His life and ministry He suffered from contact with the sins of others. But it is evident that men could not make Him to be sin without the aid and consent of God. In all their hatred He retained the smile and confidence of His Father, until He deliberately allowed Himself to be placed under the curse of the cross.
The key to the sacrifice of Christ lies in the manner of His death. Had He been stoned, according to Jewish custom, He would not have borne the sin of the world. God could not have made Him to be sin. But, because He was gibbeted, in Roman style, He came under the curse of Deity. “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” is God’s own mandate, made to fit this very case. This is what changes the whole scene from a martyrdom, to a Sacrifice. It is God’s act in forsaking Him on the cross, which constitutes the basis of our salvation.
In conclusion, let us look at God’s provision for the gift of righteousness from the divine standpoint, ere sin had entered the scene. Since He is Supreme, sin could not insinuate itself apart from His purpose. Since sin is to be introduced to form a background for the revelation of His grace and love, He would surely provide for its control and conquest before it is allowed to play its part. This was done when all was created in the Son of His love. If men were logical, this statement alone would absolutely guarantee a universal reconciliation. Given a Cod worthy of the name, and a creation conceived in His love, then eternal torment is a noxious nightmare. Even annihilation is utterly subversive of His deity or a direct denial of His love.
God’s method of justification was inaugurated long before men became sinners. In effect God provided the manner and means of salvation before there was any need for a Savior. He operated through only two, His Son and the head of the human race. First He created all in the Beloved – which assures their ultimate weal – and later He puts all mankind in Adam – which involves their temporary woe. Their inclusion in Adam made them partakers of the effects of his offense. Their earlier inclusion in the Son involves them in the benefits of His sacrifice. The details of the application of His salvation during the eons should not obscure the universal ultimate, when the eons are over. All were in Adam, and are lost. All were in the Son of His love and shall receive the gift of salvation and justification.
The key word is in or inclusion. If anyone was not in Adam he is not a sinner and does not need righteousness. If anyone was not in the Son of His love he will not be saved. But, since all were created in the Beloved, so long as my mind retains its sanity I shall assert that God Himself will lose His deity if He cannot satisfy His own affections by delivering those on whom His heart has been fixed since the very dawn of creation. May God Himself saturate our very being with the triumphant truth that He is love, in creation as welt as in redemption. Creation was not the act of a neutral, insensible Power, without aim or object, but the achievement of a heart-hungry Father, seeking to satisfy the longings of latent love, Who first assures the salvation of His creatures ere He lost them for a time, that they might discern the depths of His affection and learn the lesson of His love.
THE VIVIFICATION OF ALL MANKIND
“ALL IN ALL” – such is the august goal of our God! He will yet be everything to everyone of His creatures, as it is fitting that He should be. Nothing less will satisfy His heart or the heart of our Saviour. Nothing less will vindicate His love or form a fit conclusion for the tragedy of the eons. Let us with joy believe it! Let us exult as we receive it! May these three simple syllables, that an infant’s lips can lisp, become the very basis of our being, the background of every act, the key to every occurrence, a light in every darkness, a balm for every wound. They are the pole star of all true philosophy, the consummation of all wisdom. They are the heart of that compend of divine revelation, “All is out of Him and through Him and for Him” (Rom. 11:36), and reflect back upon the dismal story of sin and suffering the bright and beneficent beams of the immanent love of God, for which the darkness and death we now endure is but a fleeting foil.
Well do I recall the days when this part of first Corinthians (15:20-28) was utterly incomprehensible to me. The “truth” which held me in its thrall turned it into a dark riddle, which I had no hope of solving, at least in this life. Its beams were too bright, and, in place of illuminating my whole being, as it does today, it blinded my eyes, as Saul was blinded by the brightness of our Lord’s presence on the way to Damascus. But gradually the scales fell away, and now that which was the most obscure has become a light for illuminating all the rest. This experience has taught me to bear with much patience the blindness of others, and to wait until God graciously restores their sight so that they may gaze upon these universal glories. Let us pray that God may open many eyes to discern that far future infinitude of bliss – God All in all.
The paragraph, which closes with these wondrous words must be illumined by their light, or it will prove an insoluble enigma. The vivification of all, the abolition of death, and the abdication of the Son – these truths are too much for the mortal whose heart is still confined in the confessions of human theology. In fact this part of God’s revelation is far too magnificent in its scope to be cramped into the creeds of men. Hence we urge all who read these lines to remember at all times, when studying this superlative section of divine revelation that the object of all which the apostle brings before us is a twofold universality in regard to God. Every creature of His will find in Him its all. Keeping this constantly before us we will be able to examine the steps, which lead up to it, beginning with Him in Whom it has already found a fulfillment, the Firstfruit, Christ.
Christ has been roused from among the dead, and not only so, but He is the Firstfruit of those who are reposing. Just as, year after year, a sheaf of grain (Lev. 23:10) was waved before Jehovah as a token and promise of the coming crop, so Christ, in His recall from death, was but the beginning, to be followed, in due course, by the whole harvest. All is reckoned as being in the Firstfruit, so that, in another place, the apostle says, “If the firstfruit is holy, the kneading is also.“ (Rom. 11:16) What is true of one is germinally true of all the rest. So that we need only look at Christ to see what God’s heart has in store for all the creatures, which His hands have made. His vivification is the sample and gives certainty to all the rest.
In his epistle to the Romans, the apostle shows how Christ’s work parallels and far more than corrects the one act of Adam, to which is traced the entrance of sin and death. His conclusion was that, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just award for all mankind, for life’s justifying. (Rom. 5:18) In fullest accord with this he now develops the same thought in connection with life. In this also, Christ is far more than the equivalent of Adam. Death, as well as sin, came in through the first man. So life, as well as righteousness, comes in through the Second, our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, this goes far deeper, for it is death working in us, which is the cause of our sin. Remove death, and sin will cease of itself.
Far more than our decease was brought in by Adam, and something which affects our souls much more than the sleep which closes our career. God did not say to Adam, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.“ (Gen. 2:17) If He had, Adam would have died the very day in which he was judged. He might then have had no progeny of sinners. In the precise language of the Hebrew, He said, “to die, you shall be dying.” That is, there would be dying as well as death. As we now know, there is a long process of disintegration, with which we are all acquainted, even though we are accustomed to calling it life. Ever since Adam sinned, he and his descendants have been dying. Like ripe fruit plucked from the tree, our bloom soon passes away, and we show a slow process of decay. In Adam, all are dying, even while they are still alive. That is the “life” that we inherited from our disobedient parent, which not one of his descendants has ever evaded.
Thus, we read, shall all be vivified. The contrast is not between the crisis of actual death and the resurrection, but between the dying process and life process, beyond the touch of death. Indeed, it is not strictly true that all in Adam are doomed to die. Many have longed to be among the favored few who will not expire, but be vivified at the coming of our Lord. We who survive to the presence of Christ are slowly dying, but we will not complete the process when we hear the shout that will wake the dead and infuse immortal life into our dying frames. Not all of Adam’s descendants will die, but all begin to tread the path that leads down to the grave as soon as they are born.
The contrast in this glorious promise is between mortality and immortality, between our present mode of existence and the glory before us. That vivification is far more than resurrection is abundantly evident, for it is for those who have not died as well as for those who repose. Our Lord is not only the Resurrection but the Life. (John 11:25) Not only could He call back Lazarus from the tomb to a life like that he had before, and thus be his Resurrection, but, in the days to come, He will call Lazarus once again, to a life indissoluble and incorruptible, and thus become his Life. That is why, especially in relation to Lazarus our Lord calls Himself by this double title. Lazarus has already experienced His power in resurrection, but he waits in death until His future presence before he makes His acquaintance as his Life. His resurrection was a passing occurrence, but the life that he will receive will be enduring, constant, incorruptible, eonian.
For death the cure is resurrection, but for dying we need life. The crisis of death is a single act and so is has resurrection. Each may occur in an instant of time. This is not before us in this parallel. The words “are dying” and “shall be vivified” are in the incomplete tense in the original, which denotes an action in progress. The long drawn out activity of death in dragging men down to the grave is put in contrast with the endless activity of life in imparting incorruption, power, and glory. All who endured the first shall enjoy the second. Here is a message for mankind which should lift it above its misery! Knowing this, we can even enjoy the weakness and humiliation of our present state in anticipation of the glory for which it is the necessary prelude.
THE THREE CLASSES
Perhaps all of us are like the prophet, and our hearts cry out, “Till when?” We are like children, intent only on the immediate sensations of our souls. God uses wisdom and waits until the proper preparation has been made. He does not wish to lavish His gifts on thankless, unresponsive hearts, so must reserve His bounty until sin and death have prepared them to appreciate His boons. Only thus can He become everything to them. So the longed for glory cannot come at once. Moreover, some will be ready before the rest. The great Firstfruit is already glorified. Not only has He been roused from sleep as to His soul, and raised as to His incorruptible frame, but He has been vivified, as to His spirit, and possesses a life indissoluble (Heb. 7:16), beyond the reach of death.
Of His soul we read that it was not abandoned in the unseen, or, more literally, the imperceptible (Acts 2:27). That is, in death all perception had ceased. His eye did not see, His ear did not hear, nor had He any sensation whatsoever. As to His soul, death affected it just as it does the souls of all humans. But it was not abandoned in that condition. He was roused, and sensation was restored, and every perceptive faculty returned. This is what constitutes consciousness. The return of His spirit to His body was the means of recalling His soul, for sensation is not an entity like the body or spirit, but an effect, which appears and disappears with the combination, which causes it in mankind.
Of His body we read, “nor was His flesh acquainted with decay.“ (Acts 2:31) In this He was unique. His frame saw no corruption, notwithstanding it was dead. Decay is not an essential feature of death, merely a possible aftereffect, dependent on the environment. If it should be very cold, decay may be prevented for thousands of years, as has been the case with mammoths encased in ice. By artificial refrigeration, flesh may be preserved for many months. In the hot climate of Palestine, however, dissolution commences almost at once so that the dead are hurried away and buried on the day of death. But in His case God would not suffer it. (Acts 2:27) Indeed, from the time when His work was finished His humiliation ceased. His body was not flung away and dishonored, but was entombed in a costly memorial. His honors began in the tomb, even before His resurrection. His corpse saw no corruption, and He was with the rich in His death. (Isa. 53:9) Though crucified with robbers and malefactors, He made His grave with the honorable of the earth.
His spirit He had entrusted to God. When He expired He cried, “Father, into Thy hands I am committing My spirit.“ (Luke 23:46) David, in the Psalms, whom Peter quotes on the day of Pentecost, not only foretold the whereabouts of His soul, and condition of His body in death, but goes on to deal with His spirit, not indeed, by name, but by its manifestation, which is life. Not a word is said of the spirit in death, for there is nothing to say. After its committal to God when He expired, the next we hear of it is in vivification, for the spirit makes alive. It returned to the lifeless frame. In the words of David, “Thou makest known to Me the paths of life.“ (Acts 2:28) This is more than the rousing of the soul, or the raising of the body. This is vivification, expressed in the fine figurative fashion of the ancient Hebrew. Although His spirit was in the Father’s keeping, He did not ascend to the Father until after His resurrection. (John 20:17)
The Firstfruit, Christ! To be sure, all men will be raised for judgment. All shall be roused to give an account of their acts to God. But that is not what these words convey. He was not the first to be raised from the dead. Even before He came some received their dead by resurrection. (Heb. 11:35) He Himself raised more. Others were roused from among the dead before Him. He was not the Firstfruit of resurrection or rousing, but of those who are vivified. No one before Him entered the portals of eonian life. No one was clothed with incorruption and immortality. Only as such is He the Firstfruit. We look for all who are in the tombs to hear His voice and come forth, some to life, and some to judgment. (John 5:28, 29) But only the first group finds Him their Firstfruit. The second must find Him this, as we learn elsewhere, at a later time, and in another class.
THOSE WHO ARE CHRIST’S
The three classes of the vivified are distinguished from each other in character and time. Christ is a class by Himself. Then there is the group of faith, those who are His. Thereafter, to complete the “all”, come the remainder, who have no special designation, except that, at present, they may not be called His, hence do not believe. This agrees with the classification elsewhere given, where God is called the Savior of all mankind, especially of believers. (1 Tim. 4:10) And it harmonizes also with the gift of eonian life, which is not the portion of unbelievers. Hence the apostle, instead of describing the third class, gives the fact, rather, of the consummation, and this fixes the time of their vivification after the eons. Hence the third class is not promised eonian life here, for vivification is not theirs until the eons end.
THE TIME OF VIVIFICATION
The time of vivification varies with each class. Christ, as we know, has been beyond the dominion of death ever since His resurrection. “Those who are Christ’s” will be vivified at His presence. This seems to be at the crisis of the eons, between the three evil and the two good ones. As the great object of the apostle here is to show that all will be made alive, he does not give details concerning this second class, or tell us when this presence takes place. The term he uses, the parousia, the BESIDE-BEING, is broad enough in scope to include all that is written elsewhere concerning the coming of Christ to Israel or, before that, to the nations. The main point of this part of Paul’s presentation lies in the last word: the consummation. This is fully described as to both character and time, in the words that follow.
Before going on to consider the consummation, let us note the consistency which has carefully kept from even mentioning the resurrection of condemnation, which takes place at the great white throne. The moment we seek to insert it we find ourselves in conflict with the line of thought. “Those who are Christ’s” certainly will not appear in that judgment. And those who are not will certainly not be vivified with Christ as Firstfruit when they are called to stand before Him as Judge. This is more abundantly evident from the fact that they enter death once again. This section does not deal with such resurrections, for they do not introduce any to God as their All. In them Christ is the Resurrection, but not the Life. And only this latter character of His comes into play in “making alive.”
In place of naming the third class to be vivified the apostle simply tells us that after the vivification of the second class there will be the consummation. He names an event, not the dead who are left. The fate of the third class is so involved in this event, that we need only to understand it in order to be informed of their future. This grand truth seems to be almost unknown in Christendom. Although the very climax and fulfillment of all revelation, it has been eclipsed by human perversions. As a result the God of Christendom has lost the essential attributes of Deity. He is like the foolish man who started to build but could not finish. Theology brings nothing to a conclusion. It attains no definite goal. Sin, suffering, and in subjection are never conquered. God is compelled to work an eternal miracle in order to maintain a never-ending eyesore in His creation, once so subject, so sinless, and so good.
Knowing as I do, the power of this great truth I urge everyone to make its acquaintance. To know the end from the beginning is no longer a divine prerogative, for in this passage God reveals to us the goal He has in view, and the manner in which it will be attained. Few, even of the saints, have any clear idea of the object of all creation and revelation. They have no key to nature and to history. They are riding in an automobile without a steering wheel and have no idea whither it is bound. Most of the perplexities and many of the pains we are called upon to endure are ameliorated if not removed, when we see the great goal which God has set before the universe, to which all things tend, for which all are but the preparation. I am heartily sorry for all His saints who have never had their eyes opened to see the end of the Lord for all creation.
The consummation consists in subjection. Christ Himself will be subject when He has subjected all. Here we have a key to all the evil in the world. It is due to in subjection to God. This is seen clearly in the character of the eons. The evil eons are either anarchistic or under human government. The good are under the scepter of Christ. The very name, the kingdom, speaks of subordination. Adam’s in subjection brought in sin. Christ’s obedience and reign will restore all to its proper place beneath the rule of God. This is not an endless, hopeless task which never comes to fruition. It will be accomplished. It will find its finish at the close of the eons. It is the consummation of the eonian times. Intelligent and loving subjection on the part of all His creatures brings us to the goal, God All in all.
Christ will give up the kingdom to God as Father. These two names reveal to us the object of the eonian times. They show us their root and their fruit. From being creatures of the great Disposer, who have rebelled against His rule, mankind is brought to loving obedience, as children of the Father. If that time could be described as a day, we might call it the day of the Father. Now we have man’s day, for man is ruling. Soon will come Jehovah’s day – to be followed by the day of God. Then will come the final, the finishing time, the “day” of the Father, in which God becomes the loving Ruler of His own household, and all creation will be one vast family, knowing no subjection except to Him, no laws but filial obedience. The kingdom will be handed over to God, yet this will transform it into a universal family.
It is the office of Christ, God’s Anointed, to bring this about. It is astonishing to note how this is to be done. The method is entirely negative and consists in making certain things inoperative. The word used to express this is most important, and it is both interesting and suggestive to consider the parts of which it is composed, for the idiomatic meaning is quite in accord with its elements. Its chief root is erg, which occurs frequently in the family denoting action. To this is prefixed the Greek letter a, denoting UN-, a-erg, which combines, the a swallowing the e, making arg, which is the root for UN-ACT, idle (2 Pet. 2:3). To this is further prefixed the connective kata, DOWN (dropping the last a), kat-a-rg, DOWN-UN-ACT, DOWN-idle, make inactive, or inoperative. Idiomatically it is most difficult to translate this word, and we must use several terms to denote this where Greek uses but one. In this passage the C.V. uses nullify with sovereignty and abolish with death. But in our present meditation we shall prefer make inoperative.
It is usually supposed that the universe is so essentially wrong that it requires positive corrective acts to set it right. From this basic revelation it appears that what is needed is the negative abolition of activity in two distinct directions, the cessation of all subjecting powers over and outside of man, and the stopping in man of the force which subjects him to sin. In other words, man is now subject to other men and to the operation of death within him. Make these activities inoperative and he will be subject to God. Man was made by his Creator for subjection to the Deity. This is his normal condition, to which he returns as soon as alien restraining influences have been removed. Add to this negative removal the positive experiences which were his while insubordinate, and we have all that is necessary to make the creatures of God not only obedient, but adoring children of the Father, to whom He is Everything.
Death is the last enemy to be made inoperative. To many the inclusion of death in a discussion of subjection seems strange and misplaced. This arises from the mistaken idea of death which prevails. Not only do men make the death state one of life, but they fail to grasp the fact which appears at the very forefront of revelation, that death is operating in every descendant of Adam during this life. He is dying. Moreover, that great truth, that death is transmitted (not sin), so that we sin because we are dying, has been obscured by translators and is unknown to theology. (Rom. 5:12) But once we understand that all of our insubordination is due to the immanence of death in our members and that we cannot be normally subject so long as it operates in us, then we are prepared to give death the place accorded to it in this discussion.
If we stop the activity of death in humanity it cannot be insubordinate of itself, for it was not only created out of God but for Him. I once wondered why death was the last enemy. Now I know that it must be so, for its abolition by itself would remove all the rest, were they not already abolished. If death (and, as a consequence, sin, which is its fruit) should be made inoperative at the beginning of the thousand years, there could be no reign and no rebellion, for insubjection would be absent. Where all are subject to God all other forms of subjection must vanish. Subjection to anyone but God is abnormal. That is what brought in sin. Its gradual abolition in the eons to come will lead mankind up to the consummation. Make death inoperative and the last vestige of insubjection vanishes. It must be the last enemy because its abolition completely subjects all to God.
The consummation, then, does not follow immediately after the vivification of those who are Christ’s. The second class are made alive in order to have a part in the reign of Christ. The end cannot come so long as there is such a thing as reigning. The interval between the second and the third class consists largely in Christ, with His saints, taking over the government of the universe. No rule, however, can exist where there is no insubjection, for no one who is subject to God needs any intermediary sovereignty or authority or power. These, taking the place which belongs to God, are in their very nature abnormal, opposed to God’s ultimate, unless they are temporary and retiring, having their own withdrawal as their aim, being merely scaffolding to be removed when its purpose is accomplished. Such is the nature of the rule of Christ. It is not the object but the means. It aims at its own recall.
This passage, because it goes to the very bottom of things, bares to our gaze the true nature of rule. How much disturbance and distress have come to mankind through the operation of human government! From the days of Noah till the present, oppression and tyranny have been the order of the day, wars of aggression and succession have bathed the world in blood, and even the best of governments has left much to be desired. Human government is certainly abnormal. And will the reign of Christ with the saints restore ideal conditions? Is not the rebellion at the end of the thousand years an emphatic denial? The reign will be righteous and good, and will bring much blessing because God will be back of Christ, so that it will approximate the ideal. But evil is not banished from the universe by intermediate rule, but by the gradual and final withdrawal of all rule.
Almost all other rule tends to draw men away from subjection to God. Christ’s rule will be devoted to restoring them to the normal. It will continue until all rule is concentrated in His hands. All enemies will be put under His feet. All of this will be done with the cooperation of the saints, in whom death no longer operates, for they have been vivified. But all the rest are still hindered from yielding spontaneous subjection by the operation of death within them, unless they are not actually in the second death. What is needed to restore all to more than normal perfection is to stop the activity of death. This is done, at the last, by the vivification of all. The dead and the living, all who are still within the clutches of death in any of its manifestations, are made alive. This is the point of this passage. It puts universal life in place of universal death.
This passage affords a splendid lesson in intelligent interpretation. The apostle insists that Christ subjects all under His feet. He proceeds, “Now whenever He may be saying that all has been subjected, it is evident that it is outside of Him Who is subjecting the universe to Him.” That which is self-evident and altogether contrary to the object of the whole, need not be stated. Paul need not say, “He subjects all except God.” But a most important point arises, which is also self-evident, and that is that there are no other exceptions. And if the word “all” has no other exceptions here, why should it have them in similar connections elsewhere? Nor is it a sign of superior acumen to insist that stones and sticks are not included. Such an objection is only a sign that the objector is not yet fully subject in his mental operations. It suffices to know that, as a result of Christ’s reigning, there will be no insubjection left in all the universe, so that He may hand it over to the Father.
THE ABDICATION OF CHRIST
The time of the consummation is given us, not in chronological fashion, but in relation to the vital events of the universe. When Christ has succeeded in subjecting the universe to Himself, “then the Son Himself also shall be subject to Him Who subjects the universe to Him, that God may be All in all.” What an utter contradiction of all our thoughts about empires is contained in these marvelous words! When the great conquerors of earth had gained universal control they made every possible provision for retaining it. We see what becomes of such an empire in the case of Alexander. When death tore the scepter from his hands, his vast kingdom fell to pieces. What is gained by force must be held by power. But Christ’s reign brought all to God, not Himself, except as He was the Mediator of the Deity. Hence His abdication will cause no great change in government. It will merely be the public acknowledgment of a patent fact. Christ brings men to God.
Great are the mediatorial glories of God’s Christ! No prophet ever spoke His words more faithfully. No other priest is in His class. No king can compare with Him. But what distinguishes His word above all others is the fact that He carries it on to a conclusion. He is Priest to a finality in the day of Jehovah. Hence there is no temple and no priesthood in the day of God. Then He still continues to reign, but it is to such purpose, that He finally rules rule out. This is the greatest of all His glories, the sum of the surpassing excellence of all the rest.
A temple, even with all the golden glories of Solomon’s majestic pile, is the symbol of a distant God. In Jehovah’s day one will be reared once again in the holy oblation. It will far surpass even the splendors of Solomon’s. But how much greater, to the anointed eye, is the glory of the day of God, where He dwells with mankind without any barrier between! Nothing would so dim the luster of Christ’s priestly glory, as to shut God up once again, in the day of God, and bid men approach Him as of old, through mediatorial means. The fact that it is not needed in the last eon, is the highest praise that can be brought to the Melchizedek priesthood. In a thousand years it accomplished its mission, and finished the task God intended it to do. All other priesthood retires because of its weakness and inability to bring aught to perfection. His retires with honors, having accomplished its glorious mission.
A throne, even in the day of God, is the symbol of enmity and of insubjection. We are accustomed to associate it with majesty and splendor, and do not readily perceive that it rests upon resistance to the will of God on the part of those who come under its control. Perhaps our imaginations can conceive of a beneficent governor of some island realm whose subjects had so profited by his rule that, when he left them for a year, he could suspend all government until his return. That would order on the miraculous. The ideal government is that which brings God into the hearts of its subjects to such effect that He alone is needed at the helm, and all intermediaries are idle and superfluous.
At the consummation, as Christ, our Lord’s work is finally finished. His anointing made Him a Prophet, a Priest, and a King. No one of these functions is needed when the consummation comes. Hence it is not as Christ that He subjects Himself to God, but as the Son. In His official glories He was always subordinate to Him, yet, at the same time, He subjects others. Then He lays these glories by, and in the unofficial relationship of Son, He is subjected to the Father. His mediatorial glories will take on the added luster of success, the splendor of achievement, the sublimity of consummation. Oh, how it drags His highest honors in the dust to distort God’s Word so that His priesthood is eternal and His reign everlasting! May God forgive the ignorant zeal, which seeks to gild the glory of His crowns with the tarnished tinsel of man’s imagination! What He starts He will finish, and what He commences He will consummate.
The purpose of all of this, as, indeed, of all of God’s eonian dealings with mankind, is that God may take the place in every heart which His love deserves, so that each member of the human race becomes, at last, no longer a lost creature but a fondled child no longer a distant enemy but a delighted son. Death brought in the breach, and a life will much more than remove it. Death nearly made God nothing to anyone. Life will make Him All to everyone. In Adam all are dying through no choice of theirs, and so, in Christ, this same all will be made alive. All were created in the Son of His love (Col. 1:15–16), and all will be reconciled by the blood of His cross. (Col. 1:20) Death, in all its manifestations, will be discarded. Life will be universal, for only so can God be All in all.
THE SAVIOR’S EXALTATION
THE HUMILIATION and kenosis (or emptying) of Christ becomes the basis of His highest honors. This is outlined for us in the clearest of expressions in Philippians 2:5-11. “For let this disposition be in you, which is in Christ Jesus also, Who, being inherently in the form of God, deems it not pillaging to be equal with God, nevertheless empties Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming to be in the likeness of humanity, and being found in fashion as a human, He humbles Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
“Wherefore, also, God highly exalts Him, and graces Him with the name that is above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee should be bowing, celestial and terrestrial and subterranean, and every tongue should be acclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord, for the glory of God, the Father.”
He went from the place supreme to the deepest depth, and God has made Him Lord of all. Leaving the form of God He took that of a slave. Becoming like a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Apart from being God Himself, nothing can be higher than having the form of God. God Himself is invisible. (1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 11:27) To bring Him within the range of human comprehension He must be depicted by an Image, having a Form. The living God cannot be made known by lifeless representations. Hence He has chosen One, His creative Original, in Whom all was created, to represent Him, to be the visible Image of invisible Deity. His shape or form must be that which is suggestive of God, especially of the character, which He assumes on any occasion, in order to reveal Himself to His creatures. Christ Jesus was that Form. In Him God was seen in such a theophany as suited the weakness of the human frame. Yet in visions He appeared in soul-dismaying splendor, as when Isaiah beheld His glory. This passage, as all else in this epistle, deals with service, not essential being.
As the subject of this passage (Phil. 2:5-8) is the height from which Christ descended. It does not treat of His relationship to God in other respects. The equality here spoken of does not arise from intrinsic identity but extrinsic form. Outwardly, to human gaze He was God, Elohim and Jehovah. This it was which He did not deem pillaging. The fact that He could take the place of God without taking anything from Him is here introduced to show His supreme position in the universe. He was the Effulgence of God’s glory, the most magnificent and sublime Percept to be found. As there was no higher height, He could not be exalted without a previous descent.
THE DESCENT OF CHRIST
That, despite His supernal dignities, the disposition of Christ was one of love and compassion, and utterly lacking in selfishness and pride, is shown by His self-abasement. He empties Himself. What this means is clearly indicated by the change in form. He was not God and He did not become a slave. But He had God’s form, yet He took a slave’s form. He did not carry with Him any of the former into the latter. This is clearly shown by the word empties. Only when He was transformed, as on the holy mount (Matt. 17:2), did His face shine as the sun and His garments become white as the light. In this vision He anticipates the form, which He will have in the Kingdom, after His exaltation. But it was not a permanent form, only a vision. When He descended the glory was gone.
We must not think that all this was independent of the will and heart of God… Quite the opposite. It was a path of obedience to God. And it was a revelation of the Deity quite as much as His previous condition. Indeed, the highest service lies in the lowest sphere. His humiliation revealed God’s heart as His more glorious condition never could have done. Becoming like a man is only a step in His humiliation. He must stoop lower still, and become like the very worst of men, like the outcast of society, like the very vilest criminal.
It is disgraceful to die, but we do not discern the dire dishonor of it because we all share the shame. But it is far more humiliating to be executed as a criminal to be deemed unworthy to live even among such sinners as mankind. Even here there are degrees of disgrace. But an agonizing and lingering death, exposed to public scorn, and in the special form on which the curse of God had been pronounced, with every token of human and divine displeasure such a death is the deepest depth of degradation, which can be imagined. Christ did not merely descend to share our common fate of dying and death, but to suffer so as to bring upon Himself the utmost humiliation from man and the deepest abhorrence from the Deity.
The cross of Christ! How little do we realize the abyss to which He sank! As men cover the grave of a corrupting corpse with flowers, so Christendom has sought to obliterate the offense of the cross by giving the rude stake itself an artistic form. No cross-piece gave the crude pole on which He was gibbeted picturesque proportions. It was never intended to beautify the architecture of our churches or to be fabricated of precious metal and costly gems to adorn the vain worship of the flesh. How terribly has this so-called symbol been altered, both in form and in intent! It should be a symbol of shame, to be shunned with shuddering. In its popular form it has become a symbol of man’s utter failure to grasp the deep and dire significance of the manner in which God’s Christ was done to death by human hands.
O that the saints could grasp the vast distinction between the death of Christ and the manner of it! Too often, when we speak of the cross, we merely mean His death. Had He died a common death, it would not have revealed the heart of man or the indignation of God. That human beings have brought upon themselves the blood of God’s Anointed tells the tale of their alienation as no other act could do. That this was done by those in closest official touch with God, the priests of Israel, is the best evidence of human depravity. Not only was Christ humiliated at the cross, but men were shown to be so low and vile, that naught but divine grace and love could ever give them the right to exist. Indeed, Justice demands that they be crucified for this deed. Not only Christ, in fact, but the world, in truth, was on the shameful tree of Golgotha. Golgotha.
“Wherefore, also, God highly exalts Him…” (Phil. 2:9) There are seven salient statements in this passage which prohibit our supporting the exaltation of the Savior upon a heartless subjugation of His enemies.
God graces Him with the highest name.
All bow the knee. In the name.
The name itself signifies Savior.
It is acclaimed.
All both bow and acclaim.
It is to the glory of the Father.
First, then, the word “graces” introduces us into an atmosphere of grace, ill suited to the thought of judgment. It is used once before in this letter. “To you,” says the apostle, “it is graciously granted, for Christ’s sake, not only to be believing on Him, but to be suffering for His sake also.“ (Phil. 1:29) The saints have the privilege of suffering at the hands of His enemies; the Savior has the higher privilege of effecting their salvation. All, we are told, will bow the knee. This is a sign of fealty and worship. In one of the darkest days of Israel‘s defection God reserved seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal. (Rom. 11:4) It is clear from this that this is no mere perfunctory performance, but that it involves a hearty homage. If He spared those who did not bow the knee to Baal, how much more will He save those who bow the knee to the Savior of His selection? And this is vastly strengthened by the preposition here employed. It is not merely “at,” but “in.” The Revisers were forced to make this correction. Its meaning is manifest in the opening of the chapter: “If there is any consolation in Christ.” And again in vv. 19, 24, 29. “In the name,” has the force of “by virtue of the name,” “in the power of the name,” as is evident from its other occurrences, (see Matt. 7:22; 10:41; 18:5-20; 21:9; 24:5-9; John 2:23; 5:43; 16:24-26; Eph. 5:20; Col. 3:17). This gives us the key to the passage, which is the divine declaration (Rom. 14:11; Isa. 45:23):
“Living am I, . . .
For to Me shall be bowing every knee,
And every tongue shall be acclaiming God.”
When this august oath is fulfilled it will be found that it was only by virtue of the name of a Saviour that every knee shall bow and tongue acclaim.
Yet this will not be until every heart will have been subdued at the consummation. Until then God is engaged in His exaltation. When this is achieved Christ will hold the place supreme, and He Who once was the lowest shall then become the highest.
The name “Jesus” signifies “Jehovah the Savior.” Hoshea, the Son of Nun, has his name changed to Jehovah-Hoshea, Joshua, as a token that salvation was not in man, but in God. The Christ was given this ineffable name because “He shall be saving His people from their sins.“ (Matt. 1:21) Never is it used alone in connection with judgment, but always in relation to salvation. To bow in this name can indicate but one thing, the acceptance of Him as their Savior and all the benefits which that involves.
A concordance will show that a simpler form of the word acclaim, to avow, is always used in a voluntary avowal without the least suggestion of constraint. Those who avow Him before men He will avow before His Father. (Matt. 10:32) The Jews had agreed to put out of the synagogue anyone who should avow Christ (John 9:22). Even some of the rulers believed, but did not avow Him. (John 12:42) But a most conclusive passage is that where we are assured that if Jesus is avowed as Lord, salvation results. (Rom. 10:9) The word in Philippians, however, is the strengthened form, which occurs when we read of the confession of sin. (Matt. 3:6; Mark 1:5; Acts 19:18; Jas. 5:16) And yet it comes so close to worship that twice it has been rendered “thank” (Matt. 11:25; Luke 10:21), while the Revisers suggest “praise.” That it is by consent, not constraint, is notably conceded when the Revisers render (Luke 22:6) “he consented.” It never denotes a forced confession in the Scriptures. And this is confirmed and clinched by the fact that every knee and every tongue are included in these acts of adoration. It must include saints as well as others. They, at least, have already bowed the knee and confessed to God in His name. How unlikely that they should ever need compulsion! But this is inevitable if these words have any such force. There is no distinction between believer and unbeliever in this passage at all. How beautiful to see that His exaltation detracts nothing from the glory of the Father, but rather is the means of its display! But how can God’s Fatherhood be revealed in crushing God’s creatures beneath His heel? Would a Father be glorified in grinding his enemies into subjection? God, as Father, has no relation to retribution or wrath. As Father He may chide His children, but the exaltation of Jesus here enforced must be established on grace and its gifts, for it leads to God’s recognition as a Father and glorifies that phase of His effulgence.
This is not the final state, or consummation, but precedes it, during the course of the eons. The saint now owns Him Lord, and the unbeliever will do so at His judgment, so that, long before Christ abdicates and Himself becomes subject, He will have subjected the entire universe to God. (1 Cor. 15:27)
To appreciate these points at their best, the words we have emphasized should be carefully considered by means of a concordance. These seven statements, which culminate in the glory of the FATHER, conspire with all other Scripture to crown the work of Christ with consummate kindness in the consummation, when comes surcease of eonian sorrows and the Fatherhood of God becomes the heritage of all His creatures.
THE RECONCILIATION OF ALL
THE HIGHEST GLORIES of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, are revealed to us in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians. In the beginning He was “the Image of the Invisible God, Firstborn of every creature, for in Him is all created, that in the heavens and that on the earth, the visible, and the invisible, whether thrones or lordships, or sovereignties or authorities, all is created through Him and for Him, and He is before all, and all has its cohesion in Him.“ (Col. 1:15-17) Negatively, this is confirmed in John’s account of the Word, that apart from it not even one thing came into being, that has come into being. (John 1:3) Can the universality of Christ’s creation be more forcibly expressed? In every case the word all is used without any limitation whatever. The divisions noted make up the whole. The heavens and the earth include all creation.
The next paragraph continues to express the universality of His glories in the present and the future. “And He is Head of the body, the ecclesia, Who is Sovereign, Firstborn from among the dead, that in all He may be becoming first, for in Him the entire complement delights to dwell, and through Him to reconcile all to Him (making peace through the blood of His cross), through Him, whether those on earth or those in the heavens” (Col. 1:18-20) This predicts the reconciliation of all. A companion passage deals with the subjection of all (1 Cor. 15:27): “He subjects all under His feet… Now, whenever all may be subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also shall be subjected to Him Who subjects all to Him, that God may be All in all.”
The supremacy of God’s Son depends on the universality or totality of His many dignities. How extraordinary is the emphasis laid on this vital fact in this short passage! Within the compass of five verses we read no less than eight times that the given glory is all-inclusive. He is the Firstborn of every creature. All is created in Him, and all is created through and for Him. He is before all. All has its cohesion in Him. In all He is becoming first. The entire complement dwells in Him. He reconciles all through the blood of His cross. (Col. 1:15-20) And on two occasions this is amplified and defined as all that is in the heavens or on the earth. It is said to include both visible and invisible. What more could be said to impress us with the universal scope of the Son’s activities?
THAT IN ALL HE MAY BE BECOMING FIRST
These precious words, as shown herewith, in large blue letters in a golden frame, are the chief ornament of the room in which I write: Long years ago I chose them as my motto, and decided to display them in a prominent place in my abode. When erecting a new house I evolved a plan so that they would become a permanent part of the building. Above the broad entrance into the drawing room was a board with a beautiful grain. On this I outlined these words in old English lettering and varnished them before the wood was stained, so that they stood out plainly when all was done. But, alas! When the home was sold, almost the first act of the new owner was to remove all traces of my cherished motto!
Here we have a gem of purest ray serene, fit for the diadem of universal majesty! He was first in time and He must become first in all else. How many of mankind have striven for supremacy! Some have drenched the ground with blood in order to attain the highest place for themselves among the rulers of the earth. Many more in other walks of life have sought to reach the top above their less fortunate fellows. These all exalted themselves, finding a futile and fleeting eminence. How marvelous the contrast! He Who never sought His own advancement but only God’s glory, Who abased Himself beneath all, He will become first in all.
Let us be very jealous for His glory, and allow no one else to filch it from Him. Let us be very zealous for His supremacy, and accord it to no other name but His. And let us guard each glory as we would a treasure trove. And, since His crowning glories as Complement of the Deity and Reconciler of all are so often denied to Him, let us make these the special theme of our meditation, and, if need be, let us maintain them and defend them to the last. In Him, the Firstborn from the dead, through the blood of His cross, God is completely equipped to consummate the purpose of love, and bring every enemy back to His bosom, not only saved, but reconciled.
THE ENTIRE COMPLEMENT
It is quite possible to imagine that God would delegate the honor of creation to one mediator and that of reconciliation to another. God needs both to carry out His purpose; so that each, in his measure, would contribute to the fulfillment of His plans. Then the honor of being God’s complement would be shared by them. To put it figuratively, one would receive a place at His right hand, the other at His left. Indeed, some have taught that God’s complement consisted of a whole series of beings, independent of His Son, to whom He delegated creation. Not so! The entire complement, all that is needed by God in order to fulfill His will in connection with His creatures, finds its fit residence in His Son.
In Him the complement delights to dwell. It is not alone that He has the ability, the fitness, the competence to cope with all that is involved in this most marvelous function in the universe. All this He has, and far more. At His baptism, when the heavens were opened to Him, the voice declared, “This is My Son, the Beloved, in Whom I delight.“ (Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 8:22) So again, when He was transformed on the high mountain, a voice came out of the cloud and testified to the delight of the Father in His Beloved (Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7). Peter reminds us of this in his epistle, and tells us that it brought Him honor and glory from God the Father. (2 Pet. 1:17) Long before, Isaiah records the same fact (Matt. 12:18; Isa. 42:1): “My Beloved, in Whom My soul delights.”
Is it not striking that this recognition of the Son is one of the very few statements directly spoken by the Deity in the later Scriptures? This should give it the prominence, which is its due in our hearts. What a contrast to His testimony concerning the rest of mankind! When the Lord stooped down to see how they are, He found nothing in which to delight. Not one was even just or kind. (Rom. 3:10-18; LXX Psa. 14:2, 3) Certainly there has never been one among Adam’s descendants, apart from His grace, in whom He could find pleasure. In none of them could the complement find any place whatever.
The complement (plêrooma) is here personified. (Col. 1:19) It is represented as seeking a suitable dwelling place from which to carry out the purposes of God. In Him it has found a delightful abode; for He is not merely a means of bringing back creation to what it was, but of bringing it on to fulfill its purpose. All too many of us imagine that we would be satisfied with a universe brought back to its pristine perfection, a world without sin, a sorrow-free existence. No such result would satisfy the heart of God. That would never justify the travail of the eons. That would never win the admiring approval of the universe. That would be vanity, a feeding on wind, a reaping of less than was sown, a losing venture.
And such would creation be, had it not been begun in the Son of His love; and should it not be finished by the same One through the blood of His cross. Love cannot be revealed without a background. Every blessing imaginable poured into the lap of a sinless creature is merely a matter of course, which evokes no thankful feelings, and provokes no response of love. I feel certain that Adam never thought of thanking his Maker for his superb health and strength. Yet I am profoundly grateful for the very little vigor needed to pen these lines. And when we, who have suffered much from illness and weakness, once attain our body of glory, how deep and lasting will be our thankful love to Him for all His superabundant grace!
In this passage nothing is said directly of the entrance and course of evil and sin, because this is no part of the work of the Son. But the introduction of estrangement is clearly implied by His death and His cross and the necessity of the reconciliation of all. It is no glory or honor to destroy God’s work. This must, indeed, be done, but woe to him who does it! His course must be down and not up. The glory of the Son lies in this, that He undoes the work of the Adversary. Great as were His glories in creation, now that all have been estranged by sin He gains far greater glory by His suffering for all, so that all will be saved and reconciled, and so attain the original object of their creation.
God pity us if we see our salvation from our own side only! The object of all is God, rather than His creatures. And the glory of God demands the exaltation of His Son. These are the chief considerations in the reconciliation of all. If a single one of those whom He created in love should fail to find the final goal, which His love has set, then it is His wisdom and power which are brought into question, and His love which is open to doubt. Likewise, if one who was created in the Son of God’s love should fail to be reconciled by the blood of His cross, would that not drag the Son down from the high place which God has given Him? Let us not darken the splendor of His achievement by our own dismal unbelief.
WHAT ARE “THINGS”?
The neuter gender, in English, is used only for things as a rule, not for persons. In Greek, however, the so-called “neuter” seems to be much wider in its scope, and to include; rather than to exclude, the genders, so we have sometimes called it “indefinite.” In this passage (Col. 1:16-20) it is of considerable importance to be clear on this point. The Revised Version introduces the word “things” ten times, not because it is in the Greek, but to show that the gender is neuter. They speak of all things created, things visible and things invisible, things created, before all things, all things consist, that in all things He might have preeminence, reconcile all things, things on earth, things in the heavens.
I feel sure that anyone who reads the passage with this in view, and especially if the word things is emphasized, will feel that something is amiss. The more the passage is studied the more it seems evident that not things, but persons are intended. These “things” are in the heavens and on the earth, hence they cannot refer to the material creation as a whole. They are detailed as thrones or dominions or sovereignties or authorities, which, indeed, are forms of government, and so “things,” but very evidently stand for those who are subject to them. And how can things be reconciled? Were the Colossians (1:21) among these things? The introduction of this word, it seems to us though warranted by the grammars, has thrown a veil over the whole passage and made it unintelligible to some extent.
One cannot help but admire the consistency of the Revisers in this particular, when in Galatians 3:22, they translate: “Howbeit the scripture hath shut up all things under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” In John 6:37 they yielded to the context. Instead of following their usual rule and translating, “Everything (pan) …” they compromise with, “All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” These two passages should suffice to show that things is an unfortunate rendering of this Greek form in some cases and that it may be used of both genders, or without reference to any gender.
PEACE THROUGH THE CROSS
Enmity has come in through the entrance of death and sin. All of mankind, without exception, are estranged from God. It is more than likely that this discord has affected the whole creation, in varying degrees. To make peace between God and His unfriendly creatures is the greatest of all achievements. In this world of strife and contention the role of peacemaker is a difficult and discouraging one. For the most trivial causes enmity arises between man and man, section and section, country and country. Not long since a large part of the world was involved in a bloody war, and no stable peace has resulted from all of the strenuous endeavors to put an end to war. We talk of peace, yet there is much unrest and misunderstanding, and the din of arms has never fully ceased.
By pride comes contention. Notwithstanding the shameful record of mankind since the dawn of history, men are proud of what they are and what they have accomplished and what they possess. Evil has been given them to humble them, they fail often and suffer much, the world is getting worse in almost every way, except material comfort, man’s inhumanity to man cries to high heaven for redress, and man’s offensive attitude to the Deity is unpardonable, and yet man is haughty and stubborn and implacable. He refuses the overtures of peace, which come to him in the evangel and is hastening on to the era of God’s indignation, when his doings will be destroyed, his power broken, and his pride leveled with the dust.
But even after a thousand years of peace his heart remains the same. Satan, loosed out of his jail, will find the same enmity, the same readiness to rise against God and His people as before. The experience of good does not bring permanent peace. It is through evil that peace must come. Though Christ Himself, the Prince of Peace, has ruled man for a millennium that has not tuned his heart in unison with God. He does not make peace by His power or by His glorious government. Peace comes to the nations in this way in the eons of the eons, but heart peace with God comes only through His sufferings and shameful, ignominious death.
The cross, the inglorious, the disgraceful, the infamous, the opprobrious, the outrageous stake, the most disreputable death that man can devise, where weakness and shame combine to dishonor the High and Holy Son of God – here is where peace was made for all who are estranged, where the world was conciliated to God. With this as a basis, the Son will reconcile all God’s enemies with Him when the eons have run their course. In the cross we see the utter worthlessness of man as well as the supreme exhibition of the love of God. Reconciliation is effected by the revelation of God’s love in the deepest display of human hate.
The cross, like a lightning flash, reveals the heart of man. He Who hung upon it was the Touchstone by which all things may be tested. When He appeared among His people humanity manifested itself as it really is. He should have been welcomed and honored and adored. By the condemnation of the only One Who deserved to live, mankind has condemned itself, and sealed its own death warrant. By the shameful crucifixion of the Lord of glory men made it manifest that they, not He, deserve the death detestable. O that we all may learn what we really are in the light of the cross! This will burn out all our pride and prepare the way for peace. And thus it is that reconciliation comes. The cross with abase all into the dust, and humble their hearts before the Deity, and prepare them for the revelation of His love.
But if the cross only revealed what is in man it could not reconcile the race but would rather destroy it. Thanks be to God that it also reveals what is in God! It is the fullest revelation of His love. In it He seemed to side with man. Instead of rescuing His Beloved from their hate, He sends fire from above into His bones. He makes Him to be sin, Who knew no sin. He forsakes Him instead of the ones who deserved His displeasure.
The divine alchemy, which transformed the Victim of human hate into the Sacrifice for their sins, is almost too wonderful for human apprehension.
THE BLOOD OF THE CROSS
The cross was the supreme crisis in universal history, an event unique, unparalleled in the annals of time. Nothing has ever occurred which has such a profound effect on the world. It will transform an alienated universe into adoring worshipers. It is a permanent, an abiding power which will never lose its potency. Today the cross avails to conciliate the world, and to reconcile those who receive the conciliation. But this will by no means exhaust its power. It will be the basis of all blessing in the eons to come, and will bring immortality and peace to all at the consummation. Death cannot stop its course, for Christ arose, the Firstborn, and all for whom He died (and He died for all!) will share His life when death is finally abolished.
The blood of Christ is a most expressive figure of the permanent power of His sufferings. The soul, sensation, feeling (not the life) of the flesh is in the blood. In the days of old this was sprinkled in the holy of holies once a year on the day of propitiation, and for twelve months preserved the potency of the sacrifice. So it is with the suffering of Christ. Thank God it is past, but its potency is permanent. It avails today, and will never lose its power. The blood remains, as it were, within the holiest in heaven, to witness to His offering.
But the blood of this cross – this goes far deeper still. Only here do we have this notable expression. It is not a mere literary variant, but a deliberate endeavor to distinguish between the death of God’s Son and the manner of it. This is done because here we have not merely the salvation or the justification of all, but the reconciliation of the universe. It is not a question of sin so much as of offense and enmity. In fact this passage is concerned with salvation only insofar as it is included in reconciliation. Peace is made by the blood of His cross. The blood is a reminder of its permanence.
This phrase, “the blood of His cross,” does not only remind us of His death and suffering, but of the shame, the enmity of man, the darkness, and the distance from God endured by Him because of the crucifixion. Stoning would have brought death, but would have avoided much of the suffering and the curse of the Deity which rested upon the One Who was hanged upon a tree. The marvelous truth that all will be reconciled to God is based, not only on the suffering and death of Christ, but especially on the abject abasement involved in the manner of His death, coupled with the curse which it drew down from above.
The cry of the august Sufferer, “My God, My God, why didst Thou forsake Me?” finds its answer in the cross. With any other form of death God would not have forsaken Him. He would rather have turned against His murderers. It would have increased the distance and estrangement between God and His creatures. It would have made enmity, not peace. But because He voluntarily placed Himself beneath the curse of God for the sake of His enemies, the result was reconciliation.
But let us note that the cross is brought in here parenthetically. It is the basis of reconciliation, indeed, but by no means includes all that He will do in order to bring back the universe to God. On this basis He will carry on all of His future work of ruling and judging, of rousing and vivifying the dead. All of His coming acts will have this grand goal in view, and we will have our share in His work of reconciling God’s creatures among the celestials, for we are His complement. As living exemplifications of the power of the cross, we will have our part in the final and effectual peace propaganda. For this reason we read here of the blood of the cross, for its abiding power will be the means at our disposal in bringing about perpetual peace.
One of the most helpful contrasts between Ephesians and Colossians is on the subject of peace. In Colossians, as we have seen, it is universal in its scope, including not only earth’s sinners, but His enemies in the heavens as well. But in Ephesians it is limited to believers, and has to do with the enmity between the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision. (Eph. 2:11-18) This estrangement inhered in their flesh, and in the physical relation of Christ to the Circumcision. It found expression in the central wall in the sanctuary, which kept the Uncircumcision at a distance from God’s dwelling place, and in the decrees issued by the apostles from Jerusalem. That fruit of peace was a new humanity, so that both the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision have access, in one spirit, to the Father. Though based upon the cross, there is nothing there for those outside the household of faith.
The peace of Ephesians, in accord with the secret of the epistle, will continue during this administration of grace, but will retire in the following economies when Israel once more comes to the front on the basis of physical preeminence. But the peace in Colossians, in accord with the secret of Christ, will not only continue throughout the eons, but will embrace all at the consummation. In Ephesians it is limited in both time and scope. It applies only to the Circumcision and Uncircumcision in this present era. But in Colossians it is extended to include those in the heavens as well as those on the earth. All are embraced by it, so that no enmity remains in God’s universe.
To even list all of the passages which have been brought forward to blot out the great truth of the reconciliation of all would lead us too far afield at this time. They have been fully considered and discussed in previous chapters. Correct concordant renderings automatically dispose of them, and at the same time confirm the great truth that God will become All in all at the consummation. (1 Cor. 15:28)
May God graciously give us faith to believe it! May our love for His Beloved constrain us to receive it! May mistaken translations of other passages not bar our way into this holy of holies, beyond the veil of His eonian dealings with His creatures! May not the false philosophical terms “everlasting” and “eternal,” or “eternity,” blind our eyes to the eons, the scene of the Son’s glories, their commencement in love, and their consummation in reconciliation! Here we stand on the summit of divine revelation. Here we can see all else below us, and see its place in God’s purpose. May we not take some lower stand and deny this glorious consummation because it is hid from our gaze by the fogs of lower levels!
ALL IN ALL
Picture to yourself a perfect universe! Not a trace of sin or of transgression to eclipse the effulgence of God’s love! Not an impulse of His affection but receives an instant and thrilling response from every heart. What a marvelous harvest of the eons that will be! How potent the cross through which it comes! How glorious the God Who purposed and perfected such a reconciliation!
The travail of sin may well be borne exultingly if such a birth impends. Even the eons of suffering and anguish which now dim our eyes will then prove to be the dark background upon which the glory of that perfect day shines brightest.
To us, a dreary day may drag its length so slowly to a close; toilsome years wear wearily away; but what are days or years, yes, what are even eons compared with an endless and unceasing eternity? All of the eons from the beginning to the consummation are but a brief moment, a passing cloud, compared with that which lies beyond.
But alas! If this is but a mirage, a dream which is denied by the Word of the God upon Whom its fulfillment depends, why mock ourselves with it now or embitter the bliss that surely will be the portion of all who are His favorites? For, if an eternity of happiness will blot out the sorrows of the ages, it is no less true that an eternity of suffering would infinitely transcend all the anguish, which pales us now. Why even the tiniest tinge of sin, so rigidly confined that it cannot spread, would at length amount to more than all the sins of all the eons. It would work a worse woe from the mere immensity of its duration.
But if, instead of a slight trace of sin and its consequent suffering, we imagine the sinner suffering the torment of the orthodox “hell” with its unbearable bodily anguish, the pangs of conscience, the taunts of fiends, one hour of which is more than all his earthly sorrows rolled in one – lengthen this out to endlessness and season it with hopeless despair – and its horrors will be absolutely inconceivable.
But this is far from all. Multiply this single case by the vast majority of humanity, who, age after age, have been huddled into this horrid “hell” – and each, one tortured and tormented white the ages roll, and roll, and roll… without respite and without remedy, and then imagine – but no, we will imagine no more, for the heart grows sick even at the very thought.
Though our lips may be afraid to frame the words, our hearts will whisper “Can such be the fruit of God’s adventure?” Would such sorrow serve as one of the jewels that He sought for His eternal diadem? Is that the response for which He hungered when He allowed – nay, when He purposed – that sin should estrange His creatures from Himself?
Christ came to “destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3: 8, A.V.) But, if orthodoxy is true, then Satan has not only the vast majority on his side, but his work is not destroyed at all. Its results would never cease to mar the universe.
David was right when he preferred to fall into the hands of God, for His very judgments show none of the cruelty which so often mars man’s mercy. But let us awake from the sickening nightmare of man’s imaginings and let us wing our spirits to God’s glorious consummation. Here is a vision worthy of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sin, sorrow, suffering, estrangement – all these are but memories which in the divine alchemy of that blessed era, will illumine love itself. Not sin triumphant, with its bitter fangs buried even in that blessedness. Ah, no. Sin will be absent, though the memory of it remains – the chiefest condiment of sinless bliss.
Once all was perfect; and all shall be perfect once again. Man has been God’s enemy; yet through this very enmity He will draw mankind far closer to Himself than otherwise could have been.
And the zenith of that sublime perfection will be – not innocence or friendship’s chain unbroken – but reconciliation, perfect and complete. A universe in harmony with God!
This, this is our goal.
This, this is His grandest glory.
Before the beginning God was All in Himself. Now He is All in Christ and the saints. In the consummation He will be All in all. All in all – what an epitome is this of God’s purpose! What a compendium of universal history! What a pledge of His perfection and the perfection of all His work!
That God was All in Himself none will deny, for there was no creature to be insubordinate. That He is not All in all at the present is quite apparent, for only a fraction have faintly felt that God was indeed All to them. Some have seen Him as their Savior, some have acknowledged Him their Lord, some have found Him their All. Happy they who know Him thus! They have tasted of the cup ineffable, which quenches every thirst and brims with every blessing.
But our God has foretold the blessed era when He shall be All in all. How can that be? Are there not some too calloused to bend to His omnipotence? Let each one who knows Him as their All give answer thus: “He Who has broken my stubborn will and brought me to His feet can lead the most obstinate to Himself.” His will is more than a match for any man’s. Were it His decree to become their Doom, they could not stop Him. But as it is His will to become their All (which is a far nobler, greater goal) their All He shall become. His indignation may destroy for the eons, but His love will last endlessly.
He will be All in all. As each class is delivered from the domains of Death, God’s great purpose becomes more and more apparent. When Christ arose from among the dead, the great Firstfruit, He was the Herald of a universal harvest. For in His future presence, all who are His will be “conformed to His body of glory,” to reign with Him. But so long as He rules there must be insubjection, there must be those who do not find in God their All. Yet so perfect does the rule of God’s Son become, so potent are His judgments, that at the consummation all are in perfect subjection. Death, the last enemy, is abolished, all are “made alive” and the last flicker of opposition has been snuffed out. Christ has accomplished the work His God had given Him to do. The Son of God has effaced all disaffection from the universe. And still God is not fully satisfied. He is not All in all.
His Son has brought the universe to His feet. His Son rules until sovereignty itself has become obsolete. Is not His Son eternally entitled to the dignities He has won? He would never have it so! For when He has attained the zenith of universal glory and dominion He lays it all at His Father s feet! The humble One He ever was, as witness Bethlehem and Calvary. And humility will be the brightest halo on His blessed head for all eternity. For He steps down from His high place and prestige to present His God with the prize for which His love had longed and labored. He presents Him with a universe subject to His will, satisfied with His wisdom, thrilled with His love, and takes His place at His Father’s feet. Thus only can His God be.
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ALL IN ALL, Chapters 1-10 [Adolph E. Knoch] ~ BOOK 1