DEFINITION OF BIBLE TERMS
BY: A. P. ADAMS
NATURAL, SPIRITUAL, AND CARNAL
HEAVEN AND EARTH
NATURAL, SPIRITUAL, CARNAL
A great deal oftentimes depends in a discussion on the definition of a term. Parties may dispute for a long time and finally discover that the only difference between them is, that they have been using the same term in different senses. Bible terms are often used in a very loose and careless way; if we wish to arrive at the truth we must be careful how we use Bible terms. The best way that I know of to get the true meaning of a word in Scripture is to trace it through the Book and notice in what sense the sacred writers used it. Collate all the passages where the word occurs; and then from these passages and the context, the meaning (or meanings, for some words are used in more than one sense) of the word may be very readily and surely gathered. In each number of the paper I shall endeavor to set forth the meaning of one or more important Bible terms in this way; and I invite others to send in any such terms that they wish to have explained. We will endeavor to do so to the best of our ability. In this way, after a while, we shall get quite a glossary of Scriptural words.
In this number we will first briefly discuss the correlative terms, Natural and Spiritual. A strict definition of these terms is needful in order to understand the important rule laid down in 1 Cor. 15:46, that God’s order is first: the natural and afterward the spiritual. A study of the New Testament in the manner indicated above will give us such a definition. But first I will give the meaning of the words in my own language and then notice the scriptural proof.
Natural means pertaining to this fallen state, earthly, fleshly, corrupt. Spiritual, being the opposite of natural means, pertaining to the restored (or resurrection) state, finished, perfect. Both words refer to human beings; they are never applied to spirit beings, to God, or angels, or demons. Now let us look at the Bible and we shall find these statements confirmed. On the word natural see Jas. 3:15 and Jude 19. In both of these passages the words rendered “sensual” are the same in the original as the word rendered “natural” in 1 Cor. 15:46. The context clearly shows that natural pertains to the fallen man as “earthly, sensual, devilish.” The spiritual being the opposite of the natural and coming after it according to God’s order, may now be readily identified; the natural. as we have seen, refers to the fallen, corruptible condition; the spiritual then must refer to the restored, incorruptible state; or in other words the natural refers to the process of creation, the spiritual to the finished result.
It should be understood by all that the great work that God has in hand is the creation of a race of beings in his own image and likeness. This work was begun in Eden, has been finished in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ as the pattern man of God’s creation, and will be finished in the race of man in the “ages to come.” All this will appear plainer after reading in this same number the article on the two accounts of the creation. Now we refer to it simply for the purpose of bringing out the meaning of this word spiritual. If we understand that the perfect or finished man is “God’s workmanship” (Eph. 2:10), and that the work is a process—made “perfect through suffering” (Heb. 2:10)—then we shall understand what is meant when it is said that the natural refers to the process and the spiritual to the finished result. The gospel dispensation might very properly be called the finishing off age of the first “order” (1 Cor. 15:23) of God’s creation. Previous to the gospel age no man was ever finished or perfected; unfallen Adam was not a finished man as we have shown in the article referred to above. Christ was the first, and thus far the only man finished, at the beginning of this gospel age, as the “Head” of this first “order,” the “first fruits,” or “the church of the first born;” and during this age the perfecting work, the “finishing touches,” so to speak, are being accomplished for those who belong to this first order. Hence the spiritual. i.e. the finished, begins to appear. The Old Testament gives us the letter; the New Testament brings out the spirit. (See for example, Rom. 2:28, 29). Hence in the New Testament this idea of the spiritual occurs for the first time, and we read about spiritual gifts, spiritual meat and drink, a spiritual body, spiritual blessings, spiritual songs, etc. There is nothing of this kind in the Old Testament; in that portion of the Bible. Man is presented in the rough as raw material, so to speak; crude and undeveloped, and no intimation is given of the finished, perfect, or spiritual state except in type and shadow. A portion of the race is being finished off during this gospel age hence the spiritual is in order, and the New Testament brings this out.
Now in the light of this explanation see 1 Cor. 2:6-16; especially verses 13-15. The last clause of verse 13 should read “comparing (or explaining) spiritual things [neuter plural] to spiritual men” [masculine plural]. Now the two following verses “But the natural man [man in the crude, rough state] receiveth not the things of the spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual [being finished off] discerneth [margin] all things, yet he himself is discerned of no man.”
From these considerations we can understand the meaning of the natural and the spiritual. The natural is the corruptible, crude, rough state of man. The spiritual is the finishing work. When that work is complete then are we fully spiritual, or perfect; this will be when we “awake in his likeness.”
Now look at the third chapter of first Corinthians for one more thought in this connection, namely, that indicated by the word “carnal.” We have been studying the significance and correlation of the spiritual and natural; here it is the spiritual and carnal; what is the import of this latter word?
We have seen that “the natural man” is man in the rough, the mere animal man, who has received no spiritual development whatever. The terms natural and spiritual are mutually exclusive; one cannot be natural and spiritual at the same time. But one may be spiritual and carnal at the same time. Many Christians have some spiritual development, and yet the carnal, the fleshly, still predominates; they are, as Paul says, “babes in Christ;” not mature and advanced, but mere infants. We know that after the spiritual begins to be developed we are still in the flesh, and more or less fleshly. Says Paul, “The life that I now live in the flesh, (still in the flesh, but living a higher life), I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Again we read, “The flesh lusteth against the spirit; and the spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary, the one to the other.” If in this conflict between the flesh and the spirit the flesh predominates, we are babes in Christ and carnal. If the spirit is paramount then we may be called spiritual, as in 1 Cor. 2:15 and Gal. 6:1.
Now read this third chapter of first Corinthians with this explanation in mind, and the carnal Christian will at once be apparent, a perfect type of many a Christian in these days. The sectarian spirit is perhaps the most hateful manifestation of this carnality. “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos.” So in these days we hear, “I am a Methodist to the back bone.” “I am a Baptist dyed in the wool.” “I am a Congregationalist true blue,” and thus these infantile disciples go on in their clannish professions, little thinking that thus they are demonstrating their own carnality and spiritual babyhood. O Lord, help us to “crucify the flesh with its affections and lust” and “press on unto full growth.” Heb. 6:1, N.V.*, margin; read also the last four verses of the preceding chapter from the New Version.
Still further on these words that we have been considering, see Rom. 7:14, and 15:27, 1 Cor.10:3,4, and 12:1, etc.; also 1 Cor. 15:44, 2 Cor. 1:12 and 10:4,. Eph. 6:12, Heb. 7:16, 1 Pet. 2:11.
There are several different words in the original New Testament that are translated in the common version by this one English word, WORLD; the two principal ones are æon and kosmos. Though both of these words are usually rendered world, yet they are really very distinct, and different in their meaning, and ought to have been rendered respectively age and world. We shall have space in this number for the consideration of only the former word, Aeon, i.e. Age.
Our knowledge of God’s “plan of the ages” depends upon a correct understanding of the meaning of this word; and without a knowledge of that plan we can understand but little of the truth. Hence we can see how very important is the study of this word.
There are only two places in the common version where the word aeon is rendered, as it should be in every case, age; but these two instances are significant, because they show of themselves the meaning of the word. In Col. 1:26 we read of “the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations but now is made manifest to his saints.” In Eph. 2:7 we read that “in the ages to come God will show the exceeding riches of his grace,” etc. Now these passages plainly indicate two things in regard to this word. 1. The ages are limited periods of time; several of them have run their course and come to an end in the past, and there are yet more to come. 2. The “ages to come” are to be richer in the manifestation of the grace of God than the present or past ages; in other words it appears that God’s grace broadens and his plan develops as the ages roll, mysteries that have been hid in past ages are made known, and the future ages are to witness the “riches of his grace” to an extent “exceeding” that of any previous age. These points are clear from these passages but we could not determine from these whether the ages are definite periods of time, or not; whether Paul refers to the centuries, or whether he uses the word in a loose, indefinite sense as it is sometimes used at the present time, or whether he refers to specific and definite periods in the past and the future. To determine this point let us look at other Scripture.
Heb. 9:26. “Now once at the end of the ages (N.V.*) hath Christ been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” It plainly appears from this passage that when Christ came to suffer and die it was at the end of a series of ages; this is positive. 1 Cor. 10:11, N.V.* “These things were written for our admonition upon whom the ends of ages are come.” This peculiar expression, “ends of the ages,” is clear when we understand that the apostle, and they, to whom he wrote, lived during the transition period between two ages. The Jewish age was closing and passing away, the Gospel age was beginning, hence the “ends of the ages had come upon them. That this is the meaning here is still further confirmed when we understand that the word here rendered “are come,” literally means, are met, thus bringing out the idea of the meeting of the two ends of the ages. Furthermore it is apparent from many Scriptures that the time from the first to the second advent is called an age; for example see Gal.1:4, “this present evil age;” Tit. 2:12, “this present age;” also, 1 Cor. 2:6,7,8; 3:18; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 6:12; 1 Tim. 6:17; and many other passages; look these out in the new version*, both text and margin. Now, to still further confirm this point, see Matt. 24:3. “What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age.” From this passage it is evident that the end of “this present evil age” is synchronous with the second coming of Christ; the gospel age extends from the first to the second advent of Christ; and then what? Then comes eternity, most Christians think; this is a mistake, however; then comes another age, and beyond that are more ages, even “ages of ages.” In proof of this see Luke 20:34-36. “The children of this age marry and are given in marriage; but they, which shall be counted worthy to obtain that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage,” This passage plainly teaches three important points: 1. At the close of this age the resurrection takes place. 2. Then comes another age. 3. Some will obtain “that age” who will not obtain the resurrection.
Jesus is plainly talking here of two ages, “this age” and “that age;” and at the “meeting” of these two ages he locates the resurrection; (if I err not, “the first resurrection”) then comes, not eternity, but another age, “that age.” Some will obtain “that age and the resurrection from the dead;” some who do not obtain the latter will obtain the former and will be living here on the earth in “that age,” after one “order” have experienced a resurrection. I cannot now go into a full explanation of the passage; I only briefly notice it in order to show how it establishes the three points mentioned above, which I think it does very clearly.
Very many more passages might be noticed to still further explain this word had I space, but lacking this, I will refer to only one more point. This word æon occurs in the New Testament in so many peculiar and varying forms as to make it certain, that it expresses some deep and important meaning, well worth searching out. First we have the simple word many times repeated, both in the singular and plural; then we have the word in combination with several prepositions; from the age, Lu. 1:70; and from the ages, Eph. 3:9; out of the age, John 9:32; before the ages, 1 Cor. 2:7; before times of ages, or before age-times, Tit. 1:2; the purpose of the ages, Eph. 3:11, (N.V.*, margin); the age to come, Heb. 6:5; the ages to come, Eph. 2:7; the end of the age; Matt. 24:3; the end of the ages, Heb. 9:26; the end of the ages, 1 Cor. 10:11; furthermore in connection with the preposition unto we find the following remarkable changes.
1. Unto the age, Mark 3:29.
2. Unto the age, Luke 1:33.
3. Unto all the age, Jude 25.
4. Unto the age of the age, Heb. 1:8.
5. Unto all the generations of the age of ages, Eph. 3:21.
6. Unto the age of the ages, Rev. 1:6.
7. Unto the day of an age, 2 Pet. 3:18.
Can any one suppose that these peculiar forms have no special meaning? Is all this a mere play upon words? Simply purposeless repetition? Remember, God by his spirit is the real author of the inspired word. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Is it not certain then, as I have said that these varying forms, so peculiar and striking, hide some spiritual mystery? and would it not have been more respectful to the Word if the translators of the common version, and of the new version too, had rendered these expressions literally, even though they did not know what they meant, rather than to obscure the sense altogether by false and capricious renderings? These translators have handled this word apparently without any respect whatever to its real meaning; they have rendered its various combinations in thirteen different ways, viz., age, course, world, eternal, since the world began, from the beginning of the world, ever, for ever, forever and ever, for evermore, while the world standeth, world without end, and, with a negative, never. These are not translations but paraphrases, and look to me like “handling the word of God deceitfully,” although it may have been unintentional. We might expect that this unaccountable capriciousness of rendering would be corrected in the new version, but such correction would have endangered the creed; it would have set some Christians (those who read their Bibles) to thinking, and there is nothing that the upholders of shaky creeds dread so much as to have the people think for themselves. It seems as though these creed bound revisers thought “We must not open this subject, we must not disturb the ‘traditions of the elders, by translating these expressions correctly; better leave them just as they are and then the people will not be unsettled, and the creed will remain intact.” Whether they thought this or not, they certainly did not correct this glaring fault of the common version (although, according to their own representation, to correct such faults as this was the very purpose for which the New Testament was revised), but perpetuated it; and hence we have the same confusion in this respect in the new version as in the old, and thus God’s wonderful “counsel” is “darkened by words without knowledge.” To my mind it is positive that this word must be connected with some great truth; and it seems to me that we may be sure of this even though we may not be able to tell what that truth is, but the scriptures reveal something of this mystery to those who “search.” God’s “plan of the ages,” as we have noticed in several articles in this and the preceding paper, makes this truth apparent. God, through ages past, present and to come, is working out a glorious “purpose.” The accomplishment of this purpose progresses through these ages, as is prophetically typified in the first account of the creation, grandly and majestically, until it shall be complete, and man shall be made in the image of God.
I must stop at this point for the present. In the next paper I think I shall be able to make the subject still clearer, in the consideration of the related word, Kosmos.
WORLD, ÆON, KOSMOS*
We wish to present one or two more thoughts on æon, age, to complete the article in No. 2, and then to consider the word Kosmos.
The view of the meaning of æon already presented explains why God is called “the King of the ages.” (Rev. 15:3, N.V.**, and the “æonial God,” Rom. 16:26. Some have argued that because this adjective, æonial (derived from æon), is applied to God, therefore it must mean endless; but such reasoning only manifests the ignorance of the reasoner. Such an expression as the endless God is absurd and utterly incongruous, and entirely foreign to the idea the apostle intended to convey. God is said to be “the King of the Ages” because it is through these “age-times” that he is working out his gracious “purpose;” and the epithet æonial is applied to him for the same reason. The ages are God’s “days” of creation; they are the different departments through which God’s work (Eph. 2:10) must pass, stage after stage, “from faith to faith,” (Rom. 1:17) “from glory to glory,” (2 Cor. 3:18) until it reaches perfection.
I have no doubt, moreover, but that these “age-times” are foreshadowed in the law by the equally peculiar Sabbatic and Jubilee times; see Lev. 23. and 25, and other passages in the law. The “seven days,” “seven weeks,” “seven months,” “seven years” or the Sabbatic cycle, and the “seven times seven years” or Jubilee cycle,—all these are, I doubt not, types and shadows of the “ages,” “age of ages,” and “ages of ages” of the New Testament. The purpose of these Sabbatic and Jubilee times is also typical of the “purpose of the ages.” In and through the former were wrought out certain cleansing, releases, redemptions, and restorations on the natural plane, under the law. So in and through the age-times are wrought out the same things, on the spiritual plane, for beggared, enslaved, and lost man, under God’s grace. I cannot now go into this subject fully; but I think that the mere suggestion of it will carry conviction to all the “spiritually minded.” “The law has a shadow of good things to come.” (Heb. 10:1.) The “good things to come” are in the “ages to come,” when “God will show the exceeding riches of his grace,” and the law above referred to contains the “shadow” of these “ages” and of the “good things.”
There can be no doubt in any thoughtful, unprejudiced mind that this word age, is an important word in the Bible; and that it is used by the Saviour and the apostles in a definite, specific sense. I have already indicated this sense, but I shall be able more thoroughly to explain it after considering the related word, Kosmos.
The definition given of the word kosmos is as follows: “order, a set form, the mode or fashion of a thing, the world or universe arrangement, mankind.” Every one can see at once from this definition that kosmos is an altogether different word from æon; the latter is a period of time, the former is as above; and yet we find this broad distinction practically obliterated in the common version by the fact that both words are rendered by the one English word, world. The two principal meanings of Kosmos as used in the New Testament will appear from the consideration of certain passages of scripture.
1. We find that it means Mankind, the inhabitants of the earth; as, for example, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” Here the word Kosmos plainly means mankind; so in the following: “The bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world;” “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself;” “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world;” and many other passages of like import. It is plain that in these passages Kosmos means the human race, mankind.
2. The other meaning of Kosmos is the order, or arrangement of things; a mode, fashion, form or system of things; as illustrating this use, see John 6:23; Christ says to the Jews, “ye are of this world; I am not of this world;” that is to say, “ye are of this order or arrangement of things, wrong, iniquitous, and corrupt; I am of another order or system; so of his disciples he says, “ye are not of the world even as I am not of the world.” This the apostle explains in Rom. 13:11-14 and 1 Thess. 5:4-8. Now a dark and wicked order of things obtains, as the apostle says, it is “night,” but “ye brethren, are not of the night nor of the darkness; ye are all the children of light and the children of the day;” i.e. the coming “perfect day,” when Christ shall be the prince of the world, a new world, a new order of things, “wherein dwelleth righteousness.” 2 Pet. 3:13. So again in the following passages; “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out;” the present order or system of things is, on the whole, unrighteous and wicked, hence Satan is styled the prince of this world or system; and hence Christ says, “My kingdom is not of this world,” not of this order of things; So Paul tells us that “the fashion of this “world passeth away;” he also speaks of the “course of this world,” the “elements” and “rudiments” of the world, etc., in all of which he is doubtless referring to the order of things, the iniquitous and unrighteous system, with its “beggarly elements” that now obtains, in contradistinction to the just and equitable arrangement that will prevail when “the kingdom (dominion) of this world (kosmos) shall become the kingdom of our Lord, and God’s anointed” (Rev. 11:15, N.V.), and “all shall know Him from the least to the greatest.”
Many more passages might be cited to the same effect, but these are sufficient to show this important meaning of kosmos. Now look at 2 Pet. 3. Three worlds are spoken of in this chapter, each world composed of a distinct heavens and earth. The heavens and earth which were “of old, standing out of the water and in the water,” constituting “the world (kosmos) that then was, being overflowed with water, perished;” that order of things passed away, and a new order was established, “the heavens and the earth which are now,” constituting “this world,” that Christ and the apostles speak of, as we have noticed above. “This world,” this present iniquitous system of things will be destroyed by fire (compare Zeph. 3:8, 9), at the “Day of Judgment” and will thus “pass away,” and be succeeded by “a new heavens and new earth,” constituting a new world, or order of things, “wherein dwelleth righteousness.” These are the three worlds of Scripture; the three worlds of the orthodox catechism are heaven, earth and hell; but none of these are ever called a world in the Bible. The above are the only worlds spoken of, and these come in the order named, no two of them exist simultaneously, and each of them, as we have seen, is made up of a distinct “heavens and earth.” In the next number of the paper I intend to consider the significance of these last two terms, heaven and earth an understanding of which is necessary in order to thoroughly comprehend the meaning of æon and kosmos. I will only add now that from the foregoing can be seen the relation between the worlds and the ages. The worlds are the different orders or arrangements of heavenly and earthly things that obtain for long periods of time and then “pass away,” to be succeeded by other worlds, orders or systems. As we have seen there are three such worlds.
The first one extended from the creation to the flood, a period of 1656 years. The second one extends from the flood to the “day of judgment,” or the second coming of Christ, since he comes to inaugurate the judgment day. “He will judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;” (2 Tim. 4:1) This world has already covered a period of more than four thousand years; but we have good reason to believe that it is very near its end and that the “new heaven and new earth” are close at hand. The third world extends on from the second coming of Christ to “the dispensation of the fullness of times, when all things in heaven and earth shall be gathered together in Christ;” “for he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet, all rule and all authority and power,” and destroyed the last enemy, death, and then God shall be all in all; “Then cometh the end,” the end of the “times of the restitution of all things,” because then “all things” will be restored. We know not how long a time this third world will cover; it is not revealed; but enough is revealed to make us sure that it will continue for an immense period, even “the ages of ages;” as the second world is very much longer than the first, so doubtless the third will be far beyond the second in duration, But, thanks be to God; although we do not know the length of that mighty cycle we know the glorious outcome, even “all things made new,” and “God all in all;” for, “as truly as Jehovah lives, to Him every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” (Isa. 45:22, 23; Phil. 2:10, 11; compare Rom. 14:11, N.V. margin)
Now we will notice the relation of the ages to the worlds. We have seen that there have been three worlds; but these worlds embrace several ages. Of the first world we know but little; the whole account of it we have is contained in a few verses in the sixth chapter of Genesis; we know not what sub-divisions that world may have been divided into. Of the second world we have a full record, and it plainly appears that it has been divided into three ages. 1. The Patriarchal age, from the flood to the death of Jacob in Egypt. 2. The Jewish age, from the death of Jacob to the first advent. 3. The Christian, or Gospel age, from the first to the Second Advent, which event we have already seen closes this world, as well as the gospel age. In the third world we know there will be many ages, even “ages of ages,” as we have already noticed, but of their number and duration we are not informed; the first age in that world, it appears, is what we call the Millennium, and beyond that there are other ages, “the times of the Restitution of all things,” until the “dispensation of the fullness of times.” The great difference between an æon and a kosmos is that the former is a period during which God is dealing, according to a certain method with his people; the latter is the period of the duration of a certain order of things as it relates to the whole world; a change from one æon to another involves a change in the mode of God’s dealings with his special people, but does not affect the world as a whole; a change from one kosmos to another involves a change affecting all mankind; as we further examine the worlds and ages we shall see this distinction illustrated.
The first illustration is in the change from the world before the flood to the present world; the transition period was marked by the flood, which affected every member of the race. In the Patriarchal age God’s people were represented by one man at a time. Noah, and the patriarchs following him down to Abraham; then successively by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, one at a time, until we come down to the death of Jacob. when for the first time “the twelve tribes of Israel” (Gen. 49:48) are recognized as God’s people and the Jewish age begins; this continues until the first advent when the Christian era is introduced, which has continued down to the present time. Let the reader notice that these ages are not characterized in themselves, nor distinguished one from another, by anything affecting the world as a whole. God’s people alone have been affected by these changes, the world has gone on through these ages, and from one to another without being affected thereby. The great epochs and transition periods in the history of the world by no means correspond with the changes in these ages.
For instance the kingdom of Judah continued down to 606, B.C., when a great change took place, the crown was taken from the last Judaean king, (Ezek. 21:25-27) and universal dominion given to the Gentiles; but there was no change in the dispensation, i.e. in God’s method with his people, they still continued under the same law down to the time of Christ. On the other hand at the first advent there was a great change in the dispensation, from Judaism to Christianity, from law to grace, from works to faith, but there was no change in the world of mankind, they continued right on under the Roman yoke for centuries afterward. Thus the distinction between these two significant words plainly appears. A Kosmos is an order, arrangement or system of things, ordained of God for a long period of time, related to, and affecting the entire race. An æon is a shorter period of time, included in the Kosmos, during which rules and methods obtain for the special guidance and training of God’s people without any immediate reference to the world at large. During the Jewish age, for instance, God dealt with a certain class of people, a single nation, and on one line or principle, namely that of the law. The world of mankind was left to themselves; God’s rule is, “every man in his own order;” (band or class) most who have lived in past ages have had no spiritual (i.e. perfecting, finishing) training as yet; their probation or trial will be in the next kosmos, and in future ages. As it was in the Jewish age so has it been in the Gospel age, i.e. God has not been dealing with the world in this age, but with a class; a people taken out from among the Gentiles for his name. (Acts 15:14) And this class will constitute the promised “Seed,” (Gal. 3:16,29) “the Sons of God,” (Rom. 8:19) in whom in future ages other bands and classes will be blessed and saved, by being “turned away from their iniquities,” and “brought to a knowledge of the truth,” until the whole creation shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption. We will now notice a few passages that still further show the relation between these two words.
See Matt. 13:36-43; Jesus here explains the parable of the tares and the wheat; he says, “the field is the world, the harvest is the end of the world.” reading this from the common version anyone would suppose that the word world was used in the same sense in both places, but is not so; the first word rendered world is kosmos, the second is æon. (See New Version). How misleading to render these very different Greek words by the same English word! “The field is the world,” kosmos, the world of mankind, where the good seed, “the children of the kingdom,” or “the word,” (Mark 4:14) was sown, “the harvest is the end of the æon, age,” or “consummation of the age;” (see N.V.) not the end of the race of mankind, or the end of this planet on which we live, or the end of time, but the end of the age, the Gospel age, when there will be a harvest, as there was at the end of the Jewish age (Luke 10:2) preparatory to the introduction of a new age and a new order of things.
Again, see Heb. 9:26. The apostle says that Christ did not need to offer himself often, as did the Jewish high priest every year, “for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Here again the two different words, kosmos and æon, are translated by the same word world, thus misleading the English reader. The sense of the passage is as follows: “for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world,” i.e. kosmos, this present order or system of things “but now once in the end of the age,” etc., at the end of the Jewish age, Jesus “appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
Now see Heb. 1:2. “By whom also he made the worlds.” Most readers of this passage would get the idea that by the worlds here is meant the material worlds, i.e. the planets, the heavenly bodies of the Solar system, and they would understand that Jesus made, created, the material universe. But this idea is overthrown at once when we learn that the word here, properly rendered is ages, and not worlds. (See N.V.). “By whom also he made the ages;” this certainly does not mean the material worlds, the planets: what does it mean? Jesus Christ is the one central figure of all the ages. Before he came he was pointed to in a hundred ways in types, allegories, shadows and prophecies; when he came he began to fulfill all these; and in all future time he will still be “Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, today, and for the ages.” (Heb.13:8; N.V. margin) until “every knee shall bow and every tongue shall give praise to Him.”
An ever increasing, broadening and deepening revelation of God in Christ has characterized all the ages past. From the first promise in Eden, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head, Jesus was more and more revealed, age after age, and God in him until he himself came that we might behold “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6) Jesus is the great revelation of God to man, hence God made the ages by (through, or with reference to) him; that is, each succeeding age has taken its distinctive character from that measure of light, progressively revealed, in regard to this Image of God, the Divine Word, Jesus Christ. How simple, and yet how grand and true is the declaration, “By whom also he made the ages.” Take out Christ from the ages and what would be left? An empty shell, a husk, a shadow without a substance, nothing. Jesus makes them what they are, and without him they would not be. This progressive revelation of God to man through Jesus Christ, which has given character to all the ages, is far more glorious and important than the creation of the material universe, the planetary system; but this important truth is entirely obscured by the misleading translation of the common version.
There is another passage, similar to the one just examined, in Heb. 11:3; “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” This passage is supposed by most Christians to teach the creation of the material universe out of nothing, but it teaches nothing of the kind; the word rendered worlds is ages, again, and this fact of itself ought to satisfy us at once that the apostle is not talking about material worlds, but of the ages, which are not material things, but periods of time. I will give one or two different translations of the passage, and then, what I understand to be the true meaning. Young renders it, “By faith we understand the ages to have been prepared by a saying of God, in regard to the things seen not having come out of things appearing.” Rotherham renders it, “By faith we understand the ages to have been adjusted by declaration of God, to the end that not out of appearances, should that which is seen come into existence;” these translations are confirmed by the New Version, q. v. Now, if I err not, the meaning is as follows: if it were not for faith, appearances would deceive us; according to appearances, we might say that everything in this world had thus far been allowed to take its own course, and come out as it chanced; and that it had chanced to come out very bad so far, and was seemingly growing worse and worse; this is the appearance of things from the standpoint of the natural man; but now faith, founded on knowledge, comes in to modify and correct these appearances. We learn of God’s all-pervading, all-controlling providence; we learn of his supremacy, his Fatherhood and his wisdom; such knowledge gives rise to faith, confidence, trust in Him; and from such faith, founded upon such knowledge, we come to understand that it is not safe to trust to appearances, but that we must look at things from the standpoint of God’s plan, his ultimate purpose, if we would rightly comprehend his ways. Paul says that the mystery of God’s purposes of grace are hid for ages and generations, but at last revealed to God’s saints. Thus we may know that unseen causes are at work bringing about results unlooked for and least expected. These results are according to a pre-arranged plan, a perfect adjustment of the ages to the end that the finally seen things, i.e. the results shall not be according to previous appearances, but according to God’s design when the ages were adjusted. Thus faith is that which gives substance (see N. V., margin), to things hoped for, the proving of things “not seen as yet;” (N.V., and compare verse 7) this definition of faith, and declaration of God’s perfect adjustment of the ages to the end of carrying out his own plan, is fully amplified and illustrated as the chapter proceeds.
God be praised that “things are not what they seem;” no matter how they appear, we shall yet see the final result, not according to present appearances, but according to God’s pre-adjustment; like a wonderful and complicated machine which, notwithstanding the apparent confusion of levers, pulleys, belts, cranks and wheels, and the distracting sound of its ponderous working, is yet perfectly adjusted to the accomplishment of a given result, upon which we gaze with wonder and admiration, so the intricate mechanism of God’s marvelous “plan of the ages.” though the various parts appear inharmonious and self-conflicting, wheels within wheels, with rings high and dreadful and full of eyes round about, (Ezek. 1:16-18) though there seems to be nothing but the harsh din of discord and strife ever sounding in our ears from the “conflict of the ages,” just as Ezekiel saw his “visions of God” in the midst of whirlwinds, clouds and fire (1:1,4) yet is the mighty fabric perfectly adjusted, and absolutely controlled by the omnipotent Master, so that steadily and continually the work goes on, drawing nearer and nearer to completion, just as in Ezekiel’s visions. Again, the “living creatures” always “went every one straight forward, and turned out when they went,” (1:9,12,17; 10:11, etc.) until at last the blessed end shall be seen (Jas. 5:11), the fair, spotless, finished product of God’s great loom, a race of beings in his own image and likeness; from the spirit of life (Jesus, John 6:33) is in the wheels,” (ages) (Ezek.1:20, mar.) “By whom also he made the ages.” O what wonderful “treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hid in the written word, as in the Word incarnate! Truly “it is the glory of God to conceal a thing.” (Prov. 25:2) But how blessedly does he reveal his secrets unto them that fear (reverence) him! (Psa. 25:14)
In the next number, in the consideration of the terms heaven and earth, the subject will be still further explained.
*I spell the word, Kosmos, after the analogy of the Greek original, instead of according to the anglicized orthography, Cosmos.
HEAVEN AND EARTH
The Bible subjects that we have been considering, the Worlds and Ages will be still plainer if we comprehend how the apostle uses the terms, Heaven and Earth. In 2 Pet. 3 for instance, each of the three worlds are referred to as three distinct heavens and earths. There are the “Old World,” (2 Pet. 2:5) the Present World, and the New World, embracing respectively the heavens and earth which “were of old,” “the heavens and earth which are now,” and “the new heavens and new earth.” Now what is meant by a Heavens and Earth? It appears very plain that these terms are used symbolically, in some spiritual sense, and not in a material; for no change in the material heavens and earth was affected by the flood. Furthermore Peter tells us in the last part of this chapter, that Paul, speaking on this subject, utters “things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrestled, as they do also the other scriptures to their own destruction.” We must have a care then that we do not stumble here over the letter, but that we find the true spirit of the Word. Looking through the Bible we find the terms heaven and earth used symbolically for Power, Authority, Rule, or to represent the Class that has the power or authority in their hands, the ruling class. Thus the word is used with reference to God; “Sing unto God ye kingdoms of the earth; to Him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens, which were of old; lo, he doth send out his voice and that a mighty voice;” i.e. to Him who is high above all other authority, who is supreme; as when we read of Christ, “He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all heavens, that he might fill all things;” i.e. far above all other power and authority; as again we read of “the exceeding greatness of God’s power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the coming one.” Again God says, “The Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool;” i.e. heaven represents the ruling element, the throne; earth represents the element ruled over, under subjection, the footstool. As it is written again of Christ, that “after he had offered one enduring sacrifice for sins he sat down on the right hand of God [place of supreme power], from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool,” (i.e. put in subjection under him). All this very clearly indicates the symbolical use of the words heaven and earth; to the same effect see Dan. 4:11,22,26, and Heb. 7:26; still further on earth see Mic. 1:2 and Psa. 96, and many other passages, showing that this term symbolizes the masses of the people ruled over and governed by the heavens; the ruling class; or the word refers sometimes to the general condition of affairs pertaining to the masses under any particular rule, for an example see Isa. 24:1-12; read this passage and see what a wretched condition the earth (the masses) may get into under misrule and bad government, an evil heavens. From all the foregoing we readily gather the meaning of these two terms, heaven and earth; the former refers to the government, the latter to the governed.
Now with this meaning in mind we can understand why each World is spoken of as comprising a heavens and earth. Each Kosmos exhibits some particular form of rule (the heavens) and the effects of that rule on the masses (the earth). In the “Old World,” before the flood, “the sons of God” were the ruling class, the heavens of that Kosmos, and under their sway, “the earth, became corrupt before God; and the earth was filled with violence; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth;” (Gen. 6:1-13) the earth and all flesh mean one and the same thing, the masses; that World being overflowed with water, perished.” In the present World, from the flood to the second advent, we still have an evil heavens and earth; Satan is the Prince of this Kosmos;” (John 14:30) under him are the “wicked spirits in the heavenlies,” (Eph. 6:12, margin) i.e. in the place of authority and power; (see also Eph. 2:2; 1 Pet. 5:8) under these “rulers of darkness” are the corrupt, wicked, and godless governments of the world; so oppressive, tyrannical and cruel that they are represented in the Bible by savage beasts. (Dan. 7:1-7). This is the present heavens. What is the present earth? What else could it be under such a heavens but just what it is, a scene of discord, strife, misery, corruption and death?—a chaos of disorder and ruin? “The earth mourneth and fadeth away; the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant; therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate.” (Isa. 24:4-6) How fitly does this language express the state of affairs in this earth! Now notice how Micah describes the present heavens, the corrupt, godless, tyrannical governments of this world. “Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grape gleaners of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the first ripe fruit. The good man is perished out of the earth, and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net; [how true] they do evil with both hands earnestly; the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man he uttereth his mischievous desire, so they wrap [hush] it up. The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge. The DAY of thy watchman and thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity.” Does not this language exactly describe the condition of things in this world? Especially with reference to those in authority, the “prince,” the “judge,” and the “great man” and is it not true that the day of God’s watchman and his visitation cometh? And already the “perplexity” foretold is racking the brains of thoughtful men, especially of those who hold the reigns of government. Who cannot see that, looking at it from a human standpoint, the entire fabric of human society is wrong? A colossal blunder? Already tottering to its fall, and destined soon to come tumbling about the ears of those who in their pride and variety have reared it; a second Babel with bricks [man made] for stone, and slime [a make shift substitute] for mortar. (Gen. 11:3). This “great Babylon” (Dan. 4:30) must fall. The “City of Confusion” (Isa. 24:10; Babylon means confusion) shall be “thrown down and shall be found no more at all.” (Rev. 18:21) The trouble with the present heavens and earth is that it is all wrong. Many vainly think that society can be mended, reformed, patched up, and so cured; and they have remedies to this effect; cooperation, communism, international congresses, civil service reform, anti-monopoly movements, etc. But every remedy will fail. “For thus saith the Lord, thy bruise is incurable; and thy wound is grievous. There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up, thou hast no healing medicines.” (Jer. 30:12, 13) If things were tolerably correct generally, and wrong only in certain particulars, then there might be some hope of correcting those particular wrongs: But what will you do when, “They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course” “If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do?” (Psa. 82:5; 11:3) Nothing, but to tear down, and build again. Hence it is written, “thou [the Son] shalt break them [the nations] with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” If a person is deceased in some particular member, but has vigor and vitality in other respects, the physician undertakes his case with a good hope that he can affect a cure. But what will he do if “the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint? If from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrifying sores”? Death in such a case would be a desirable and happy release, and every one would feel that the sooner the loathsome carcass was hid away under ground the better. Such is the condition of the body politic today; “the heavens and the earth which are now” are corrupt and wicked, hence they “are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the Day of Judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” Therefore the heavens and earth are being shaken. God is shaking them, as it is written, “Speak to Zerubbabel, [those “scattered at Babylon”] governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth, and I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them, and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother.” And this shaking and destruction is in connection with the coming of “the Desire of all nations.” (Hag. 2. See also Heb. 12:25-29.). God’s voice (compare Psa. 29) shall “yet once more” shake, not the earth only as at Sinai, but also heaven; “and this word, Yet once more, signifyeth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” I believe that we are living in God’s great shaking time; I am sure that we are living in a shaking time, for certainly everything is being shaken, unsettled, and stirred up in these days as never before; and I have no doubt but that this is the very time referred to in the above prophecies; and the result will be “the removing of those things that are shaken” that only the things that cannot be shaken may remain. We have seen and are seeing the “signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars,” and there certainly is “upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and the waves [the restless masses of the people] roaring,” and moreover “men’s hearts are failing them for fear, and for looking after those things that are coming on the earth;” and “the powers of heaven,” the governments, are being shaken. (Luke 21:25, 26) And what is the remedy for all this trouble, and the hope of the world in the terrible pass to which things have come? I answer, nothing short of the advent of Christ to destroy the present evil heavens and earth, and to establish the “New heavens and new earth where in dwelleth righteousness.” Let no one deceive himself by supposing that something else will heal the festering sores of the body-politic. Read the fifth chapter of the epistle of James, and see the present times described, and the remedy indicated. Notice the various counts in that awful indictment against society in these “last days.” The useless hoarding up of gold and silver; “and the RUST of them shall be a witness against the rich, and shall eat their flesh as it were.” It is not the gold and silver that shall be a witness against the rich, but the rust of them, i.e. the disuse of them; hoarding money simply for accumulation and not to use for God’s glory and the good of others. Think of the millions of dollars that are lying idle in the banks today while millions of human being suffer for the necessities of life: Another count is the keeping back of “the hire of the laborers by fraud;” labor troubles are among the most serious characteristics of these troublous times. Other counts are the wanton living in pleasure, excess in every direction, injustice and oppression; and now the apostle comes to the remedy. Thank God there is a remedy! What is it? “Be patient, therefore brethren unto,” What? Unto the time when education, art and science shall civilize and elevate the world, and cure these evils? is that what we are to wait for? Not so speaks the apostle. Does he tell us to be patient unto the time when the nations shall reform themselves, when the relation between labor and capital shall be amicably and righteously settled by governments, legislatures, co-operative societies, or political parties? Does he tell us to wait until the church wakes up from her sleep of religious ease and worldly comfort and in the strength of God puts down these crying evils, and establishes peace on the earth? Thank God! The apostle tells us to wait for none of these, if he did we should wait forever, for all of these are but parts of the corrupt whole, and each of them just as corrupt as any other part. Once more we would ask (prompted by a desire to warn the “little flock” against the “lying wonders” of these degenerate times) does the apostle tell us to be patient unto the time when the world shall learn that matter is but a modification of mind, that sighs, and tears, and groans, are not the product of disease, and sin, and crime, but merely the indications of a distempered mind, a misdirected imagination? When the much vaunted “mental philosophy” shall impart to every one the power to will himself an archangel if he please and “metaphysical healing shall drive sickness from the planet”? Have we found at last in the “Mind-Cure” system the philosopher’s stone that is to transform all the dull dross of this sin stricken world into the pure gold of the kingdom? Alas, alas, this boastful “science, falsely so called, is but another Babel tower, built with brick and slime, whereby to climb to heaven without the help of the ladder that Jacob saw, (Gen. 28:12) which is Jesus Christ (see John 1:51), and is destined to end like all such human schemes in confounding and scattering more and more.. “Vain man would be wise, though he be born like a wild ass’s colt.” But the wisdom of such wise ones shall perish, and be brought to nothing. (1 Cor. 1:19) “The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord, and what wisdom is in them.” (Jer. 8:9). How pitiful is the pride-puffed blustering of puny man during his little brief span of life, with schemes great and mighty wherewith to accomplish, nothing. Loud is his bruit while he lives, but soon he “lieth down, and riseth not until the [present] heavens be no more.” (Job 14:12) “Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning.” (Psa. 49:14) Thank God there is to be a MORNING. But again we ask, how shall it be ushered in? Surely not by the fitful, fleeting flashing up of man’s rush-light luminaries; but by the rising of the “Sun of Righteousness.” Hear the apostle, “Be patient therefore, brethren, UNTO THE COMING OF THE LORD.” This, THIS is the great event that constitutes not only “The Blessed Hope” of those who “look for Him” (Heb. 9:28), but also the only hope of the groaning creation. Therefore, brethren, “Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned; behold the judge standeth before the door.” God be praised for this bright promise, streaking the darkness of the eastern sky, blessed harbinger of the coming “perfect day.” My soul goes out in most earnest longing as I pray, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus, not only for the deliverance of thine elect, but also, and more if anything, for the deliverance of the whole creation.” “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, [There’s leveling by Christian communism] and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain, and the GLORY of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isa. 40:4, 5) Let the present heavens and earth go then; the sooner the better. Let the Heavens (wicked governments) pass away with a great noise, and the Elements (Gal. 4:9) melt with fervent heat, and the earth, and the works that are therein be discovered, (2 Pet. 3:10, N.V.*, margin; compare Luke 12:2) and burned up with the “fierce fire of God’s jealousy: [a cleansing fire for purification] ( Zeph. 1:14-18; 3:8,9) “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness;” and here is the promise, “Behold I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind.” (Isa. 65:17) Let us notice some of the things that the Bible reveals about this new heavens and new earth. First, in regard to the new Heavens, i.e. the new government of this new world, the new ruling class. At the head of this government will be Christ, and associated with him as kings, priests, judges and saviors, are the Saints. Satan and his wicked crew are bound and shut up in the abyss, “that he should deceive the nations no more.” (Rev. 20:1-3) Hence “the whole earth is at rest and is quiet; they break forth into singing.” (Isa. 14:7) Under these chief rulers, Christ and the Saints, will be subordinate rulers of every grade, righteous, just and incorruptible. Read Isa. 11 and 12, for a description of that new order of things. Of the King we read that, “the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked; and Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and Faithfulness the girdle of his reins.” Both Isaiah and John speak of the new heavens and new earth and give descriptions, the difference between them being that Isaiah describes the new earth and John describes the new heaven. That is, John describes the ruling element of the new order of things, while Isaiah describes the condition of the people under that rule.
In the last two chapters of the Revelation, John describes the new heavens under the symbol of a magnificent city, the New Jerusalem; this wonderful city we are told is “The Bride, the Lamb’s Wife,” (Rev. 21:2, 9-11) and the description that follows, sets forth to the utmost extent of human language the grandeur and beauty of the glorified Bride, represented by this great city. The Bride is made up of the Overcomers, who are also the kings and priests with Christ, the King of kings, and Great High Priest. (Heb. 8:1). The glowing description of this city indicates the excellency and perfection of that new heavens. Its jasper walls, and pearly gates, its foundations of precious stones, and golden streets are only representations faintly symbolizing the transcendent majesty of that new and perfect government. Every blessing for mankind is represented as flowing out of this grand city. The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the Temple and the Light of it; “and the nations of them that are saved shall walk in the light of it; and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it; and the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.” This is no selfish orthodox heaven, with narrow gates all fast upon a handful of saved, and myriads of the lost eternally wailing round its outer walls; this is a great city with twelve gates, each one wide enough for a regiment to march in abreast, and never shut, thank God! The River of the Water of Life has its source in this city and flows through it, and out of it to give health and life wherever it flows, (compare Ezek. 47:1-12) and on either side of the River was there the Tree of Life, with its monthly fruitage for meat, and its abundant leafage for the “healing” of the “bruises and sores” of the nations. (Ezek. 47:12, margin)
All this describes the goodness and benevolence of the new heavens, the government of the new Kosmos; and now what will be the condition of the people, the new earth under such a government? What else could it be but blessed and glorious? Just so sure as the present evil heavens produces a sin and sorrow cursed earth, so that future righteous heavens shall produce an earth filled with the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” (Heb. 12:11)
Isaiah describes this new earth [the people], (65:17-25) when there shall be no more sorrow, wrong, or injustice, but “all shall know the Lord,” and “all shall be righteous.” (Isa. 60:21) “The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea;” war shall be no more; crime shall cease; “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all God’s holy mountain (kingdom).” Joy and beauty shall bud and blossom on every hand; “the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carrnel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.” “Instead of the thorn, shall come up the fir tree; and instead of the brier, shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb; and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” Everything animate and inanimate is represented as being in harmony and rejoicing in this state of things. The Psalmist exclaims “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; fear before him all the earth. Say among the heathen that the Lord reigneth.; the world [the new Kosmos] shall be established that it shall not be moved; he shall judge the people righteously. Let the Heavens rejoice, and let the Earth be glad; let the sea roar and the fullness thereof; let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein; then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord, for he cometh he cometh to judge the earth; “He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.” If you wish to read other descriptions of this new order of things see Psalms 67, 72, 97, 98, and many other passages. I do not mean to be understood as saying that this perfect condition of the earth will be effected instantaneously, but this will be the ultimate result under the sway of that godlike heavens, Christ and his Saints. God speed the joyful day when “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:5) shall pass away, with all its sin, misery, corruption and death, and give place to that bright era of glory and blessedness; when, “Mercy and Truth shall meet together, and righteousness and peace shall kiss each other;” when “Truth shall spring out of the Earth and righteousness shall look down from Heaven, and the Lord shall give that which is good, and our land shall yield her increase, and Righteousness shall go before Him, and shall set us in the way of His steps.” (Psa. 85:9-13)
I have thus endeavored to set forth the meaning of these terms Heaven and earth; I think I have given the Bible teachings on this subject, and with the foregoing explanation in mind we can readily understand the apostle when he speaks of “the heavens and the earth which are now,” and the “new heavens and new earth.” With the previous articles on Age and World in mind, we shall have the whole subject in hand. We can understand that a World (kosmos) is a system, arrangement, or order of things, embracing a distinct heavens and earth; i.e., having a particular form of rule, or government, and exhibiting a certain condition of the people under that rule. We can also understand how that each world includes several Ages, during which that particular heavens and earth holds sway, and God’s plan as it pertains to his people, is being developed.. “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that we look for such things, let us be diligent that we may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”
In a preceding number of the paper I have explained the word Age, the original of which is æon. In this article I will try to explain the word rendered Eternal or Everlasting, the original of which, derived from æon, is æonios. It is very important to understand the meaning of this word, for, as it is commonly understood, it is the main pillar of the orthodox doctrine of endless torment that tremendous dogma stands or falls according to the meaning put upon this word. In my little pamphlet, “Endless torments not scriptural,” I have quite thoroughly considered this word, and for testimony additional to what is presented in this article I refer readers to that. For the present, I want to consider a few points not noticed in the pamphlet.
Some people are very suspicious if you present anything as scripture that they cannot find in the common English version. The original and other translations and versions they do not know anything about, and they are very unwilling to accept them as authority; an advent brother of considerable prominence in his church wrote to me once that he would not accept anything as Scripture that was not contained in the so called King James version, or common English Bible. Of course such a declaration only manifests the ignorance and bigotry of the person making it, and yet there are many who feel in the same way. In these days we have many helps to Bible study, and any Christian who does not, so far as is possible, avail himself of these helps to understand the “Wonderful Words of Life,” is “willingly ignorant.” (2 Pet. 3:5) Many of these helpful books on the Bible are so arranged that they can be used to great advantage by any intelligent person though they may have no knowledge whatever of the original language.* To refuse such helps is to turn your back on the light, and such a one deserves to be in darkness.
We will endeavor to determine the meaning of this word, æonios, according to its origin, and also according to the sense of the passages where it occurs.
The word as I have already intimated is an adjective derived from the noun, æon, age; just as we form the adjective hourly from the noun hour; or yearly from year; or eternal from eternity. I have already explained æon in a former issue, whence the meaning of this derivative may be gathered; a derivative word cannot properly mean any more than the word from which it is derived; if æon means eternity, then æonios might mean eternal and not otherwise; but we have seen (in 1-2-44) that æon as used in the Bible does not, and cannot mean eternity; the strongest upholders of the doctrine of endless woe make no claim that æon means eternity, hence æonios does not mean eternal. There are several passages wherein everyone can see that æonios does not mean eternal; in Phil. 15; the word rendered “forever ” is from æonios; and it is very plain, from the context that it does not mean endless; so apparent is this, that in the New Version, although everywhere else this word is rendered eternal, yet in this passage, as a single exception, they were compelled to render it forever, as in the Old Version. This passage shows conclusively that æonios does not of itself mean endless. Another passage is in Heb. 6:2, where we have the phrase “eternal judgment.” No one could think that the word means endless in this connection unless they believed the judgment is to be endless. It is clear then from these passages that the word does not of itself mean endless; if it is ever to be taken in that sense, it must be because of the connection; and this is really the argument of those who defend the orthodox position; it is not claimed that æonios of itself means absolutely endless; but it is claimed that the connection in which the word occurs indicates endlessness; for instance the word is used of God whom we know is eternal; hence it is argued that the word must mean eternal when so applied; again in Matt. 25:46, the phrase “æonial** punishment,” is set over against that of “æonial life;” the latter is supposed of course to mean endless life; hence the former must mean endless punishment.
In a former issue of the paper I have noticed briefly the true meaning of the word when applied to God (See 1-4-88). I will now add in the same line that an understanding of God’s “plan of the ages” will make the meaning of the phrase, æonial God, clear to us. As I have shown in previous papers, the ages are periods of time during which God is working out his great plan of creating man in His won image; the ages are God’s “times” (Acts 3:21; 1 Tim. 6:15; Eph. 1:10), during which he does his “work” (See John 5:17; Eph. 2:10; Psa. 74:12), hence God is called the God of the ages, the “King of the ages” or the “æonial God” (1 Tim. 1:17, N.V., margin; Rev. 15:3, N.V.***); the adjective æonial has no more reference to duration, either long or short, than it has to color; it denotes a quality, a characteristic, not a quantify; it is not a time-word like eternal, annual, daily, etc., but is a descriptive word, like autumnal, vernal, or dispensational. God is absolutely eternal; “From everlasting to everlasting he is God;” but this is not: the meaning of the word æonial; this is not a word expressing God’s duration, but simply expressing a characteristic of him, as I have explained above. That this is the true explanation of the meaning of this word, will still further appear, as we consider the next point.
Matt. 25:46 reads, “These shall go away into æonial punishment but the righteous into life æonial.” It is argued that æonial life is endless life, hence æonial punishment is endless punishment; and it is further urged that if the punishment is limited, the life must be limited, the duration of each being expressed by the same word, and thus a disbelief in an endless hell, destroys the doctrine of an endless heaven, the two stand or fall together; all this seems very conclusive to the majority of Christians; in fact it seems to them absolutely unanswerable, and hence they feel compelled to believe in an endless hell in order to preserve their belief in an endless heaven; and yet this whole argument is flimsy, shallow, in conclusive, unscriptural and false. I will attempt to shed the light of God’s truth upon it, so that some may see that it is not born of the light but of darkness, and that the pillars of heaven do not rest upon the pavements of hell.
In the first place the conclusion is not correct even if the premises were true; it can be clearly shown from Scripture that though it were true that æonial life meant endless life, it would not necessarily follow that æonial in the other phrase meant endless. We have another passage in the New Testament where the word æonial occurs twice, and where, from the orthodox standpoint, it would certainly mean endless in one case, and from a common sense standpoint just as certainly not mean endless in the other. ‘The passage is Rom. 16:25,26; in the Old Version the words “since the world began,” and in the New Version, “times eternal,” are translated from original words that literally mean simply æonial times, or the times of the ages. Thus it is rendered in the “Emphatic Diaglot,” “Young’s Bible Translation,” and Rotherham’s translation. The rendering of the New Version noticed above also indicates the same meaning. In the same passage we read also of “the æonial God.” Now from the orthodox standpoint this latter phrase must mean the eternal God, the God without beginning or end. I have already shown that æonial in this connection does not have the meaning of endless, but supposing it had, it could not mean endless in the former phrase, for everyone must see that to talk about endless times is as flat a contradiction of terms as it would be to talk about a full vacuum or a something nothing. I do not hesitate to say that the rendering in the New Version is utterly meaningless; the definition of time is duration having beginning and end, i.e. limited duration; the definition of eternal is, without end, never ending, i.e. unlimited duration. Now let the reader tell me what is the meaning of “eternal times;” an unending end! an unlimited limit! an infinite finite! nonsense! Common sense is better than learning or man made theology, and more likely to lead us to the truth than the ipse dixit of creed-bound “Divines.” We have however a still more senseless rendering in the New Version in 2 Tim. 1:9 and Tit. 1:2. If the phrase, “times eternal” is meaningless what does “before times eternal” mean? Before a limited period of eternity! It is marvelous how blind and stupid, bigotry and prejudice will make the wisest and most learned men! Here are passages surely where it is certain that æonial does not mean endless. If you insist that “the æonial God” means the Being who is without beginning or end, then to be consistent you ought to hold that “æonial times” is time without beginning or end! but that is too foolish for anyone but an idiot to urge, hence you are compelled to admit that the same word used twice in this passage has two different meanings; hence it may have a different meaning in any other passage where it occurs twice; thus the argument drawn from Matt. 25:46, in favor of endless torment is shown to be faulty, even from the orthodox standpoint. But the orthodox standpoint is not the true one; hence the view from that standpoint is not true, this view is shallow, let us look deeper for the truth.
There is no doubt in my mind that the word æonial wherever it is used in the New Testament has a uniform meaning; it does not mean endless in some connection and something else in others; God’s Word is not thus self contradictory and confusing. The word has one, general meaning; what is it? I have already answered this question. I have explained what I understand to be the meaning of the word when applied to God. He is “the æonial God,” or “the King of the ages,” i.e. the Being who through “the æonial times” is working out his wonderful plan. The word æonial has the force of belonging to, or in connection with the ages; anything that is peculiar to these age times, and stands in connection with them, is said to be æonial; as for example, “æonial salvation,” “æonial redemption,” “æonial inheritance,” “æonial fire,” etc., (see Heb. 5:9; 9:12,15;Jude 7).
In regard to the last verse of Matt. 25, I would say that I have given a full explanation of that passage in the pamphlet already referred to. I will only add, now, that the whole difficulty with this passage lies in the fact that Christians are ignorant of what æonial life is. It is not mere endless existence; the adjective æonial has no such meaning as endless, it never has that meaning in any scripture; it describes the kind of life, not its duration. Jesus gives us a definition of æonial life; John 17.3; “This is life æonial to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Does not this satisfy you? Christ’s own words? As plain and direct as can be? Knowledge of God and Christ is life æonial; that is to say the life of the ages, God’s work-days; in its final result will be a universal knowledge of God; “all shall know him from the least to the greatest.” It has not been so in past ages to be sure, but it will be so as the ages roll on. The “age times” have scarcely begun; there are yet “ages of ages” in the future; and as their cycles roll, God will come to be known more and more until “The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” This is the life that shall yet characterize God’s “age times,” this is “life æonial.” I have no doubt but that life thus attained to in “the ages to come” by a re-created race will continue on and on forever; for we are to be like God, deathless, immortal, “neither can they die any more;” but this fact of the endlessness of that life is not implied in the word æonial, but is plainly taught in other scripture; æonial describes the kind of life as explained above. Even those who hold the orthodox view must admit that æonial life is something more than mere endless existence; they believe that the damned in hell have that; æonial life, they must think, is an endless life of a certain kind, of bliss, and enjoyment, and perfect happiness; and this is true; but they fail to understand wherein that happiness and enjoyment consists; viz. in perfect knowledge of God. The highest enjoyment of which we are capable comes from knowing God; nothing else will give us true happiness; nothing else will give us peace; this, this if life; all else is death; this, and this alone is man’s perfect heaven.
Having thus determined the nature of “æonial life,” it is comparatively easy to understand what “æonial punishment” is. Not endless punishment; such an idea is senseless as well as unscriptural. The purpose of punishment is not only the protection of society, and the restraint of the offender, but also his reformation; this latter should be the main purpose of punishment; any punishment that is not conducive to this end is wholly unjustifiable, it is simply an attempt to overcome one evil with a greater evil; now to talk about endless punishment, is nonsense, as much as it would be to talk of endless correction, or endless reforming. You might speak of endless torture, or endless suffering; but endless punishment is not a proper collection of terms at all. I will add that the original word here rendered “punishment” signifies a punishment for the correction and bettering of the individual, hence it could not be endless. We have seen the true meaning of æonial; apply that meaning here and we have the correct idea of the phrase. Æonial life we have seen is that kind of life peculiar to God’s age-times; so æonial punishment or correction (which would be a perfectly correct translation) is that kind of punishment that God will make use of in future ages to correct mankind; as of æonial life, so of æonial punishment, it is not a punishment of a given duration, but of a certain kind, of such a kind as will in the end work the reformation of the offender. According to this explanation, everyone can see that there is not the slightest ground in this passage for the false doctrine of endless woe; and the strong point in this explanation is that it rests on the express statement of the Lord Jesus Christ; had Jesus given us no definition of æonial life, we could have plainly inferred its meaning from other scripture; but such references would have been open to strong objection on account of their being inferences, and not the direct teaching of the Word. But when Christ gives us a formal, precise definition of the phrase,—when he tells us just exactly what æonial life is, of course no Christian can object, and the question is settled. The whole force of the orthodox argument depends upon the meaning of the word æonial; if it means endless then the argument is sustained and the orthodox view is established; if it does not mean endless, the argument falls to the ground. The whole question then is, does æonial mean endless or not? To this question there can be but one answer in view of the scriptural testimony that I have presented above; as we have seen there are three passages in the New Testament where æonial is connected with the word time, and in such a combination the adjective could not possibly mean endless, unless there could be such a thing as an unlimited fragment. Then we have the Savior’s definition of æonial life which settles and fixes the meaning of the phrase by all the power of the divinity of the incarnate Word. If in the face of this evidence anyone can still say that æonial means endless, and then he is either mentally deficient, or else by bigotry, prejudice, ignorance, or something else of that nature, he is beyond the reach of reason and must abide in his dearly beloved falsehood until God shakes him out of it. As I have already said, æonial life when fully reached will be an endless life, but the endlessness of that life is not indicated by the epithet æonial, but is plainly taught in other scripture; no one need fear that by denying an endless hell they weaken the evidence for an endless heaven; the latter is fully assured by many passages of the plainest scripture, but we have no such evidence in favor of the former.
The meaning of æoniaI then is belonging to, peculiar to, or characteristic of, the ages; it has no relation to duration but to kind; it is that the word does not mean endless or eternal, as I have shown above; it does not even mean age lasting, although it is sometimes so rendered for the want of a better English word whereby to express it; strictly speaking, however, the word does not mean lasting throughout the age, any more than it means lasting throughout eternity; As Canon Farrar has said, “Even if æon always meant eternity, which is not the case either in classic or Helenistic Greek æonial could still only mean belonging to eternity, not lasting through it. The word by itself, whether adjective or substantive, never means endless.” As we have no single word in English that properly expresses its meaning, it seems to me best to incorporate the word right into the language, just as we have baptism, hades, etc. The form then, Æonial I think is best, used in the sense explained in the foregoing.
* Notably among the helpful books is the so called “Emphatic Diaglott,” which I consider to be the most valuable acquisition to the Bible student unacquainted with the original, extant.
** I will use the anglicized form of the original word, since we have no single word in English that exactly expresses its meaning.
***i.e. New Version; refers to The English Revised Version of 1881-1885 (RSV)
DEFINITION OF BIBLE TERMS [A. P. Adams] 1