THE RECONCILIATION OF ALL THINGS
A REPLY TO CHARLES H. WELCH’S
BY: ADOLPH E. KNOCH
TITLE and SUBTITLES
A SCRIPTURAL PRINCIPLE OF INTERPRETATION
Or God– Not of God
The Mystery of His Will
THE SECOND DEATH
A SCRIPTURAL PRINCIPLE OF INTERPRETATION
YOU have laid down the law that “God has revealed the general principles of the great purpose of the ages in the history of His people Israel.” This, of course, is so indefinite that I am tempted to assent to it, if you will allow me to put the accent on general, and put “purposes” in the singular. God has one purpose. But if you mean by this that Israel‘s history is typical of all God’s means of accomplishing His purpose, I must object. The opposite is strikingly true. The twin truths of present conciliation and future reconciliation were revealed through the apostle Paul, whose ministry was, to a large extent, outside the realm of previous revelation. Moreover, conciliation is expressly said to have been a secret hushed in times eonian (Rom. 16:25), and universal reconciliation is made known in Colossians in connection with truths which far transcend anything in the history of Israel.
The principle you propound largely underlies the apostasy from Pauline truth. Instead of seeing that the present grace was a secret and reveals a “principle” of dealing with the nations absolutely unknown before, the transcendent truths revealed in Paul’s later epistles are explained away by means of general principles deduced from the history of Israel. If such a method introduces confusion into present truth it will be doubly disastrous when dealing with the wider realm of the universe.
Moreover, in turning from “reasoning” to “principles” you seem to have forgotten that the application of principles is entirely dependent on reasoning. And I have no hesitancy in saying that such reasoning is never sound. One of the premises is always unscriptural or extra-scriptural. I urge you to set down your principles and reasoning in the form of major and minor premises, so as to lift them from the haze that envelopes them, into clear cut propositions. This will convince you of their weakness much more, conclusively than I can.
When you reason that “we cannot interpret `all Israel‘ in one way and `all men’ in another, without forsaking a divine principle,” I am tempted to say that the principle is not sufficiently “divine” to find a place in God’s word. It is this same “principle” which has wrought havoc with the truth, which is ours in Christ Jesus and has dragged down the saints from heaven to earth, and is the cause of endless confusion. “All Israel” at a certain crisis, and all mankind without time limitations, must not be taken in the same way. Adam had but one name: Jacob had two, and “Israel” was not his by birth, but by spiritual heritage. There is no parallel.
So also your dictum that “What Abraham is to Israel Adam is to man . . . ,” may be founded on a principle,” but it is utterly outside the realm of reason or revelation. Through Adam sin entered into the world. Is it only for a part of his posterity? Are we to understand that the term mankind includes only those Who believe? Were you human before you believed? I have not found a single indication in the Scriptures that faith relates to Adam as it does to Abraham. I readily acknowledge that “descent from Abraham was not sufficient to constitute one a child of promise,” but I am not prepared to admit that sin and death come only through the line of Seth and not through Cain.
The very reverse of your principle is true. What is true of Israel, the favored nation, is not true of the wider realm of mankind. The less does not include the greater. One point is sufficient. Israel alone received the law.
The definite example you give shows how very indefinite is your typical principle: that Israel‘s history is a model of God’s method with all. But your example makes Israel‘s early experiences a type of their own later history. You compare the promise to Abraham (Gen.15) with Israel under law (Gal.3). You say that the interval of bondage in Egypt was a parallel of the later bondage under the law, and that the exodus corresponds to the redemption from the law. This certainly is no example of the principle you laid down. It burdens your argument without adding any weight to it.
You then find a parallel to Israel‘s unconditional covenant, strange interval of bondage and assured inheritance in the first chapter of Ephesians. I apprehended that you expect to use only the “strange interval of bondage” in your argument, so I will not object that the first of Ephesians knows nothing of any covenant. If God had contracted to give us the grace, which we enjoy in Christ Jesus, its graciousness would be largely canceled. The parallel is far from perfect.
Now, going back to the type, you ask, “why should that strange interval of bondage have been necessary?” Your answer is that “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (Gen.15:16) That is, Israel endured the bondage of Egypt because the Amorites were not yet sufficiently sinful. In brief, God’s forbearance with the Amorites was the cause of their bondage. In the same way God is now bearing with the “principalities and powers, rulers of the darkness of this world” and we are “in bondage” until they are expelled.
The bearing of all this on the subject of your pamphlet is not clear. Reconciliation is not confined to mankind, but includes all creatures. It will avail nothing to prove that the Canaanites were not human.
OF GOD—NOT OF GOD
Your argument that all cannot be of God because our Lord distinctly told some of the Jews that they were not of God looks extremely plausible. To bring your point clearly before us I will write out the passages as they appear in the Greek.
John 8:47—YE NOT ARE-HEARING that OUT OF-THE God NOT YE-ARE
1 John 3:8—THE YET one-DOING THE missing OUT OF-THE Slan- derer IS
1 John 3:10—EVERY THE-one NO DOING JUSTice NOT IS OUT OF-THE God.
1 John 3:12—CAIN OUT OF-THE WICKED-one WAS
Against these we must put
1 Cor.11:12—THE YET ALL OUT OF-THE God
2 Cor.5:18—THE YET ALL OUT-OF THE God
Rom.11:36—OUT OF-Him … THE ALL
You understand that I have no hesitancy in making such contradictory statements in my own writings, for the trend of thought is sufficient to define the sense in which I am speaking. For instance, though I firmly believe that “all is of God,” yet I hope to prove that your argument is “not of God.” In the latter case I mean that it is not in harmony with what He is, so as to come directly from Him. In the former I recognize your attempt as coming from Him as its original source, but indirectly, and in conflict with His revealed will.
But I know you prefer evidence rather than explanation. If you will read the two groups of passages you will find this difference: In the first list the verb is always present. In the latter it is absent. In the former we have YE-ARE, and IS, and WAS. In the other we must supply them in English, for they are not found in the Greek.
You are familiar with the fact that the verb substantive is not usually used in Hebrew, and is omitted in Greek also. But there is a reason for its use. It is not mere chance or caprice, which inserts it here and omits it there. For instance, when used in a metaphor, when something is said to be another thing, which it represents, the verb must be used. The familiar instance “This is my body” may be written in two ways in Greek. As an absolute fact, it would he simply “This my body.” As a figure it must be “This is My body.”
Had Luther known this He never would have allowed himself to thunder “This is my body” in support of the error of consubstantiation. Zwingli was right, though he does not seem to have known that the presence of is was in his favor.
The presence of the verb in Greek should warn us that a statement is either a figure or some special aspect, such as we sometimes seek to express in English by the phrase “in a sense.” The bread is Christ’s body, in a sense. His enemies were not of God, but of the Slanderer, in a sense.
But this sense is limited. We cannot carry it back to creation. God created His enemies in Adam just the same as He did us. We cannot look back and say that some things were created by Christ and are of God, and some things were created by Satan and are of the Slanderer. We remember the unequivocal statement concerning the Word: “apart from it not one thing has come into being.“ (John 1:4) Neither has it any bearing on the consummation, but that I must prove, not predicate.
Moreover, in a deeper sense the acts of these Jews were of God, as other Scriptures testify. You are aware that Peter recognized both of these aspects of truth when he charged them with the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 3:15). Yet it was the specific counsel of God they were fulfilling. (Acts 2:23) We are told that they could not believe because Isaiah had foretold their unbelief. (John 12:39) Is fulfilling the Scriptures, of God, or of the Slanderer?
Our Lord clearly recognized these two spheres of God’s works when He actually exulted that God had concealed His message from the wise and intelligent. (Luke 10:21) Was their blindness due to Satan or of God? Both are true. The Slanderer was the instrument, but it was God’s hand that wielded it.
The high priest, as the representative of God, was used to express, in a single sentence, the divine and the human aspect of a great truth. That it was diabolical in its intent no one will deny, yet at the same time it expressed a marvelous truth. It all depends on the way we look at it. (John 11:49-52) Unless one Man should die for the people the whole nation would perish. Can God use the Adversary’s instruments to fulfill His will? Can the same thing be of Satan and of God? This prophecy of the high priest is positive proof. On the surface this murderous counsel was not of God. It was inspired by fear, jealousy, hatred. In giving this advice he did not display a single divine attribute. It was not loving; it was not right. What he meant was not of God, but what we gather from a deeper glance could have come from no one else but God.
So you see that there is actual evidence for a distinction, which we cannot express in English, but which, except in such a discussion as this, never causes much inconvenience. Apart from a weakness in our language, your argument has no basis in fact.
Let us restate your argument: The essential element in redemption is kinship. Christ became a Man in order to redeem some of mankind. Satan has no kinsman-redeemer, hence Christ’s redemption work does not include Satan or angels. Moreover, as the redeemer was also the avenger, and Satan is the object of His vengeance, Satan cannot be redeemed. This is especially so, since he, like the murderer in Israel, has no refuge, and must surely be put to death.
We fully agree with all this. We do not believe, and have never taught that all will be REDEEMED. Your appeal to types of redemption seems to blind you to the fact that there was deliverance in Israel apart from redemption, at the jubilee. During a definite period of fifty years, a man or an inheritance could be redeemed. Such a redemption had no effect beyond the next jubilee. Even so redemption is confined to the eonian times.
Myriads of men in Israel who could find no redeemer were released at the jubilee. Many an allotment, which was beyond redemption, was regained when liberty was proclaimed throughout the land every fifty years. So at the consummation. Millions of the unredeemed will be released from the bondage of sin when the great jubilee of the eons comes.
Why do you bring in the limitations of redemption in order to prove that the universe will not be reconciled, as God has said, and absolutely ignore an essential feature, the jubilee, which foreshadows the deliverance of all who are not redeemed? So far as types go, I could not expect you to find a more convincing one than a limited redemption to figure the salvation of the saints, and the jubilee to set forth the deliverance of all when God’s cycle of the eons is complete.
Furthermore, you seem to hint that the Amorites were not human, therefore not included “in Adam,” hence not to be saved. But scripture calls them man (ish, Joshua 10:8) and man (adam, Joshua 11:14), which should be final on that point. Even if they were not, reconciliation is not confined to mankind, but includes all creation. (Col.1:20)
THE MYSTERY OF HIS WILL
As I understand your argument, “the mystery of His will” is distinct from God’s original will, being formed later to fit the problem of sin and death. Only those who put sin, death and redemption into the original will of the Father are driven to the conclusion that they have any place in His purpose. In proof of this the word “mystery” is first used in Daniel. It was His original will that Israel‘s kingdom should be established. It was the mystery of His will that allows the present period of Gentile rule. So, when the Lord is rejected, He reveals the mysteries of the kingdom, and Ephesians, where the phrase occurs, reveals the dispensation that intervenes during the period of Israel’s blindness.
As the words, “the mystery of His will” occur but once, we should have no difficulty in testing your suggestion. The passage reads: “He makes known to us the secret of His will (in accord with His delight, which He purposed in Him) to have an administration, the complement of the eras, in which the universe is to be headed up in the Christ.“ (Eph.1:9, 10) You would have us believe that our Lord’s headship over the earth is not His original will! Who was first intended for it? He did not purpose, at first, to give Him His heavenly headship! What was His primeval plan? Is this the way He is operating the universe according to the counsel of His will?
Is there anything in the word mystery, or secret, to support your thought? A secret will is one, which is unrevealed. There is not the slightest hint that it is a secondary decision, formed by the force of circumstances over which He had no control, or an emergency measure, which He had not foreseen or provided for. Such a mysterious will is no will at all. It robs our God of His supremacy. It puts circumstance in the saddle. You will acknowledge that your phrase “original will” is not inspired. “The mystery of His will” will not serve as its opposite. Any antonym of original would drag Him from His throne.
This is an important and puzzling problem. How can there be so much in the world, which is contrary to God’s will when He is operating all in accord with His will? A single concrete example supplies the answer. We read that God willed to harden Pharaoh’s heart. (Rom.9:18) God’s revealed will was expressed in the words, “Let My people go!” (Ex.7:16) Almost everyone immediately concludes that it was God’s will that the people should go at once, and that Pharaoh was able to withstand Him. But it is evident that Pharaoh’s heart was soft enough to yield to the demand, so God willed to harden it so that he should not let the people go. This was His unrevealed will. These two phases of God’s will seem contradictory but are in reality complementary. The object in view, that God’s power should be displayed, demanded that He should reveal a part of His will through Moses; yet conceal a part from Pharaoh.
In this example we have every element that enters into the problem. It is God’s will that His will shall be withstood. He hardens hearts, and if any refuse to believe this, it is only added evidence that He has hardened their hearts also.
God wills that all mankind shall be saved. That is like “Let My people go!” And just as surely as the Israelites left Egypt, shall His will prevail in the case of all mankind. But, even as the deliverance from Egypt displayed His power, so shall the salvation of all reveal His love. As His might could not be known apart from Pharaoh’s opposition, so His grace cannot shine forth without the antagonism of the world.
THE SECOND DEATH
AS your final summary gives a concise presentation of your position on the second death, I will quote it here in full, for the details of your argument will be much more easily grasped when your whole position is in view.
It is an absolute necessity to the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation that there shall be a deliverance from the second death. We look in vain for the slightest hint of such a deliverance in the only book that specifically deals with it by name (the Revelation), but we are told that such doctrine is not within its scope. There is however, we are assured, one passage of Scripture which does definitely teach deliverance from the second death, and that is 1 Cor.15:26, ‘The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.’ An examination of the chapter reveals that the only death that is in view is that brought in by Adam. This death is destroyed at the resurrection, as the amplification shows that ‘death is swallowed up in victory.’ The new heavens and the new earth follow immediately upon the casting of death into the lake of fire. (Rev.21) This same sequence is found in 2 Pet. 3. where the new heavens, the new earth, and the day of God follow the burning up of the earth and its works, and the passing away of the heavens. The end, that God may be all in all, i.e., `the day of God,’ follows hard upon the destruction of the last enemy. (1 Cor.15:24-28) That last enemy is the death which came upon all men through one man’s sin.
There is no room in any of these passages for the resurrection from the lake of fire. If there be no deliverance from the second death, there can be no such thing as universal reconciliation. Not one whose name is found written in the book of life enters the second death. Satan’s seed, those who worship the beast and receive his mark, these we are distinctly told have not their names written in the book of life. Here is the final division of the two seeds. The ‘tares’ are burned in the fire; the ‘wheat’ are gathered into the barn. The very order is important. The tares are destroyed first. Those who teach a resurrection from the lake of fire at long last must either deny this order, teach that the burning of the tares changes them into wheat, or believe that the manifestation of the soils of God is indefinitely postponed.
It has been a pleasure to me to note your insistence on a proper apportionment of the Word. We are agreed that there is no error so evil as misplaced truth. You will acknowledge that your whole position must be wrong if it necessitates the placing of a single passage of God’s word in an administration to which it cannot belong. I shall, therefore, show that Cod is not All in all in “the day of God” and that the last enemy is not “destroyed” before that time.
I am sorry, for your sake that you have brought in the argument about the tares, for it weakens your position as well as exposes the character of your methods. In Matthew 13:40 the Lord tells us when the parable of the tares has its proper application: “…thus will it be in the conclusion of the eon.” I do not believe that even you will insist that this refers to the conclusion of the next eon, so will not stop to prove that its place is at the beginning of the day of the Lord, and not at the commencement of the day of God. The fact that the tares are destroyed first has no bearing whatever on the great white throne judgment to which you refer.
I neither believe that the burning of the tares changes them into wheat nor that they are destroyed last, contrary to the Scriptures. You are in a dilemma, not I, for if your closing and conclusive argument consists in wresting a passage from its proper setting, are you not jeopardizing your whole position? Let me suggest that, if you had left the tares where the Lord put them, and the consummation where Paul puts it, you might be exulting in Colossians 1:20 instead of opposing it.
To take your most important point first, you insist that God will be All in all during the period of the new earth. Now we know that God will not be All in all until after the subjection of the Son and the “destruction” of all sovereignty and all authority and power. (1 Cor.15:24, 28) Is this true on the new earth? There we find the throne of God and the Lambkin. (Rev.22:1) There we are told that His saints will be reigning for the eons of the eons. (Rev.22:5) To make this clearer, let us set them side-by-side: 1 Corinthians 15:24 Thereafter the consummation, whenever He may give up the kingdom to God, even the Father, whenever He should be abrogating all sovereignty and all authority all power. 25 For He must be reigning until He should be placing all His enemies under His feet. 28 Now whenever the universe may be subject to Him, then the Son Himself, also, shall be subject to Him Who subjects the universe to Him that God may be All in all.
1 the throne of God and the Lambkin…
3 the throne of God and the Lambkin…
5 And they will be reigning for the eons of the eons.
On one side all government is abolished. The reign of the Son ceases. God, as Father, remains the only King. On the other, the Lambkin is associated with God, and the saints are associated with Him in the government of the earth. The Unveiling tells us nothing of the celestial administrations. In Israel alone will be thousands of saints who reign. Can this be in a time when every form of government, whether absolute or dependent, has been abrogated? Can God be All in all while the Lambkin sits upon His throne? The confounding of the kingdom with the church is a thousand times more excusable than confusing the reign of the Son in the last eon will His abdication at the consummation.
In the tares you shifted a very small part of the end of an eon. Here you are confusing two administrations so radically different from each other that the latter is actually defined by contrasting it with the former. The consummation is a time when the saints do not reign and Christ is not on the throne. You are seeking to place it in the eon which is the highest expression of Christ’s government. Is this correctly apportioning the word of truth?
I have great difficulty in classifying your method of demonstrating that the second death is not referred to in the fifteenth of first Corinthians. You take the nearby occurrences of dead, die, and death, and conclude that, since all the other instances refer to the first death, “the last enemy” must also refer to “Adamic death.” This method of study can easily be tested. The apostle says that death is through a man, and resurrection of the dead is also through a man. By your principle the application of a word is limited by its occurrence in a nearby context, so we must conclude that, since death came through Adam, resurrection must also come through the first man! The simple word man occurs both times. If “death” cannot refer to the second death, neither can “man” refer to the second Man.
Now we know that death comes through the first man and resurrection through the Second. Yet here in a single sentence these two men, so different in some ways, are included under the single term man. And, to make the analogy complete, One is elsewhere defined as the second Man, just as death is elsewhere divided, and one manifestation called the second death. It would be impossible to produce a more complete refutation of your proposition that the application of a word is limited by its remote contexts. A dozen different men may be denoted “man” in the same sentence without violating any law of language, and so a dozen different deaths, if there were such, might be called “death” in this chapter.
It is the meaning of a word, which must conform to all its various settings. You have a right to insist that the word death has the same significance in all these passages. And that is precisely what we stand for. The mere fact that one is a “second” death does not change it into something else. And, just as the word man, apart from the contextual limitations, includes all mankind, not omitting the second Man, so death includes all death, unless the context limits it.
I am eager to acknowledge that the meaning of a word is limited not only by the immediate context, but by every other one in which it occurs. That is one of the basic principles of the CONCORDANT VERSION. Death has a constant, unvarying significance wherever the word occurs, just as man anthroopos has an undeviating sense at all times. But man may refer to Adam or to Christ, the first or the Second Man. It refers to you and to myself in this chapter, and we certainly are neither of these two. Why then should death be always limited to the first death? There is not a law of language or logic to give the slightest support to this method of study.
The necessity, which compelled you to propose such an argument not only suggests that the second death may be present in the chapter, but practically, proves that it is. You would not need to make such a devious detour around this passage if you were able to go through it. Such false reasoning confuses but it does not convince. The reaction from it, however, will convince many that the last enemy can be no other than the second death.
You evidently do not believe that the second death came through Adam, but fail to state who it is through whom it comes. You will readily acknowledge that “Adamic death” is a theological expression. It is not only useless, but mischievous, for it makes distinctions which are unknown to the word of God. Death came through Adam. A few, like Lazarus, have already died twice. If we seek to make each one the channel of his own second death, we come into conflict with the truth that sin came through Adam, and the second death is the penalty of sin quite as really as the first.
I will suggest a very simple method of determining whether, in any passage, the first or the second death is intended. After the great white throne judgment we read that death itself was cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death (Rev.20:14). This crisis is the dividing point between the first and second death, for the mass of mankind. If the death referred to is before this, it probably is the first; if after this, it certainly is the second. When is death abolished or “destroyed?” When the kingdom is given up to God? This cannot be during the reign of Christ as Son of God, in the “day of God” on the new earth, for the Lambkin is still on the throne. When is all sovereignty and authority and power abrogated? This cannot be before the new earth, for in it the saints reign. Now, before this time the first death has been cast into the second. There is no death in the new earth but the second. It is the only one, which can be abolished at that time.
Another consideration is quite as conclusive. Death at any time is an enemy. We are agreed on that. The second death is an enemy. Now one of these is the last enemy. Is it the first or second? Can the first death be the last enemy? No enemy can be last if it has another coming after it. Hence the single word last is all the proof needed to establish the fact that it must be the second death, which will be abolished.
I confess I am much more attracted by your argument based on the scope of the passage. Literary structures are helpful to an accurate study of God’s word. We are quite agreed that, in 1 Cor. 15:12-34 we have Paul’s argument as to the fact of resurrection, and in the next section (1 Cor.15:35-38) the manner of it. But that these two distinct sections, dealing with entirely different aspects of the subject, must of necessity have the same scope, so that one contradicts the plainest statements contained in the other, is too great a strain for any literary analysis to stand.
Moreover, how a section dealing with the manner of the resurrection can amplify one dealing with the fact, is quite inexplicable. Indeed, if the Scriptures are written so, no one but a literary expert can tell what refers to what. If “each in his own class” has no reference to the three classes immediately enumerated, but must be interpreted by a part of the next section, which deals with another aspect altogether, common believers like myself must give up in despair. In my own writings I seek to keep from complicating my subject and would never think of amplifying one aspect of a subject while treating of another.
To insist that the scope of these two passages must be confined to the same people logically leads to the conclusion that the “we” of verse fifty-two includes the “all are dying” of verse twenty-two, so that only believers in Christ die in Adam! One of your own methods of determining the scope of a passage would not be out of place here. The word “all” occurs a dozen times in the first section. In five instances it is so nearly infinite in its scope that only God is not included in its range. In the second section it occurs only four times, once “every hour” (30), once “all flesh,” and twice “we all.” The fact is that the scope of the second section is far more confined than the first. How then can it amplify what is much more ample than itself?
Your main point in this connection is that the quotation from Isaiah (25:8), “Death is swallowed up by Victory!” (15:54), can refer only to our resurrection, and, as this is an “amplification” of the abolition of the last enemy (15:26), death is abolished when we are changed at His coming. It is evident that you do not see that this is inconsistent with your own position as given in your summary. There its abolition seems to be postponed until death is cast into the lake of fire. As a result you lead us to the startling conclusion that the victory here spoken of is the lake of fire! Death is swallowed up by both Victory and the lake of fire at the same time, so they must be identical! What a victory!
What are the facts? Isaiah could not have confined his statement to our resurrection for it was a secret (verse 51) recently revealed by the apostle. All that the apostle says is that this passage, which was written concerning Israel and the nations, comes to pass. It is manifestly not fulfilled, for the secret here revealed does not apply to those of whom Isaiah spoke. Its fulfillment must include many more than those here referred to. Consequently it simply indicates that our vivification is one of a series of blows dealt in a complete victory. It can never be fulfilled without including the second death.
The “consummation,” as the CONCORDANT VERSION renders the word “end” (with FINISH in the sublinear), occurs at the end of the eons, yet does not denote their cessation merely, but the accomplishment of their purpose. As I have never taught that telos means end in the sense of cessation, but have protested against this rendering, it is somewhat disconcerting to be charged with doing so.
But I cannot concur in your sweeping judgment that “the `consummation of the ages’ is an invention, a false peg upon which to hang a false theory.” It is an exceedingly good peg on which much grand truth is fastened. In this very epistle Paul speaks of the “Consummations of the eons,” or age’s. (1 Cor.11:11) Each eon has a consummation. The consummation of the present eon is referred to eight times (Matt.10:22; 24:6, 13, 14; Mark 3:7,13; Luke 21:9; Rev.2:26) in the Scriptures. The together- consummation sunteleia or conclusion of the next eon is referred to once. (Matt.28:20) And the conclusion of all the eons is brought before us in connection with the repudiation of sin. (Heb.9:26)
I have read your pamphlet carefully to discover, if I could, the precise point where you depart from the truth. I believe I have found it, and I urge you to graciously consider a suggestion. You have not said a word about vivification, or making alive. You seek to base the abolition of death on resurrection. You evidently read verse twenty-two: For, even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus, in Christ, also, all will be raised. Now there is no more striking change in the whole chapter than the use of made alive instead of raised at this point. That part of the chapter with which we are concerned does not deal with resurrection but with vivification. Herein is the difference between us. The spirit of God has deliberately and strikingly introduced a new thought which you ignore, yet which is absolutely essential to the truth. God never associates the abolition of death with mere resurrection. You always do. Death was not abolished in the case of those who have already been raised from the dead, with a single exception – Christ the firstfruit. Death will not be abolished at the resurrection of condemnation for they will suffer the second death.
Vivification does not occur at all at the beginning of the new earth, the principal point you propose for the consummation. While the spirit of God is speaking of one thing, you are talking about another.
The truth of vivification, as distinct from resurrection, is the key to the books which appear at this judgment. The measure and character of judgment is determined by the “books.” They have nothing to do with life or death. Conduct does not determine whether or not anyone will be cast into the lake of fire. The names in the book of life were already entered at the disruption of the world (Rev.13:8), before anyone had done either good or evil. We agree that the account in the Unveiling does not say that all who stand before the great white throne will die the second death. But Paul does teach this when he restricts vivification to three classes, and entirely ignores the great white throne judgment when listing all the times when vivification will occur. The reason is simple. This judgment is one of works. Undoubtedly, if anyone present before it, sought glory and honor and incorruption by enduring in good acts, God will give him eonian life. (Rom.2:7) He will have foreseen this so that the name of such a one will appear in the book of life. They would be saved by works, not by the blood of Christ. This can never be.
As we have never so much as hinted that the flood or the lake of fire purified its human victims, but have protested strongly against any such doctrine, it is needless to refute it now. We would only say this, that you have given your readers a most erroneous conception of what we do teach by replying to many a position which we repudiate. If this should fall into the hands of any of your readers, we implore them not to slander us further by spreading the impression that we hold everything, which you attack.
Your excuse for this attack on the truth of universal reconciliation is that your position was compromised. I had no hand in that whatever. Do you realize that your method of clearing yourself has led you to put me in a position far more unfair? I question whether any of your readers would sympathize with your method of making a mythical “A” take the place of definite printed statements, which are abundant. “A” is a caricature, not a composite of our teaching. I beg of you, for your own name’s sake, to publicly print the fact that “A” does not represent my teaching.
Your argument that the second death was not revealed at the time the fifteenth of first Corinthians was written is hardly worth considering for any weight it has in connection with the subject in hand. You evidently agree that Gehenna is limited to the millennium. You think that it is the eonian fire which was prepared for the Slanderer and his angels. (Matt.25:41) If so, why was he not cast into it? The wild beast and the false prophet are cast into the same lake of fire at the beginning of the day of the Lord into which the Slanderer is cast at its end. (Rev.20:10) Our Lord spoke plainly of both Gehenna and the lake of fire. Even if He had not, the passage we are considering is not a repetition of what was known but is itself a revelation.
Your later exposition, that the first death “kills the body” (Matt.10:28) and the second death is “to destroy both soul and body” is only one more illustration of the wrong partitioning of the word of truth. It is no help to say that Gehenna is a foreshadowing of the lake of fire. They are distinct. What is true of one is not necessarily true of the other. Our Lord said specifically that soul and body would be destroyed in Gehenna. By what authority do you change this to the lake of fire, and, having done so, make it the basis of a distinction between the first and second death for which you evidently cannot find any actual support in the Scriptures?
You say “We do not believe that Gog and Magog (Rev.20:9) will stand before the great white throne. The fire, which falls from heaven is for them the second death. Of such Psa.1:5 speaks: ‘The ungodly shall not stand (or rise) in the judgment.'” So revolutionary is this teaching that I must examine it. If the “ungodly” or “wicked” (as it is usually rendered) are not to be at the great white throne, who is going to be there? I am sure that the righteous will not be present. Really, does not this prove that no one will stand before it? Then, too, what favoritism this shows for the ungodly! All others – I do not know who they could be–all others are judged at the great white throne before being annihilated, according to your plan. But the wicked are annihilated before it. This is more humane and reasonable, I admit.
But does the first psalm actually teach that the ungodly shall not rise at the great white throne? Let us see.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand [rise] in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
In this parallelism “ungodly” corresponds to “sinners,” and “judgment” with “righteous.” It is evident that “judgment” is used in a good sense. The word for stand is rise. The plain meaning is that the irreverent will not rise in the same resurrection with the righteous. The same truth is taught in the Revelation (20:5), “the rest of the dead do not live until the thousand years may be finished.” The judgment is that which is granted to those who reign in the millennium. (Rev.20:4) When the awards are made in the kingdom they will still be among the dead.
Now the Scriptures say that Gog and Magog were devoured by fire. I take it that they died. And then we read that “the dead, great and small” stand before the throne. Believing as you do, I sympathize with you in seeking to keep as many as possible from that throne. If they are to be annihilated, judgment is an unnecessary farce. But I have no reason for changing what is written. “The dead, great and small,” at that time includes none but the “ungodly.” God’s great oath shall not fail of fulfillment (Rom.14:11):
“. . . to Me will bow every knee,
And every tongue will be acclaiming God.”
Your remarks on the nature of the second death make it evident that you do not think it is death at all, but annihilation. This does great credit to your heart, but it violates one of the simplest laws of language. The spirit of God chooses the terms of a definition with the utmost precision. When it became necessary to explain what the lake of fire is, we are told that it is “the second death.” (Rev.20:14) Shall we explain the divine definition, and say that this death is different from that previously known? Then it is not a definition. It is imperative in a definition that the words should be used in their usual and accepted sense, or else modified to suit. “Death” is not modified here except by the adjective “second.” This does not, in the least, affect its nature. If you or I or anyone else is at liberty to modify God’s explanations, we place ourselves above the Revealer Himself.
To summarize: When God says “call” He means precisely that, subject only to the limitations of the context. When He declares that He will reconcile “the all” to Himself (Col.1:20), nothing less will satisfy His word and heart but the complete obliteration of all enmity or estrangement.
In the original, the Scriptures declare unreservedly that “all is of God” (Rom.11:36; 1 Cor.11:12; 2 Cor.5:18), and carefully and constantly make it plain that what is “not of God” is so in a figurative sense.
The proper principle of interpretation does not confuse God’s dealings in the various eons, and, above all does not seek to apply eonian truth to post-eonian conditions. God’s dealings with Israel do not gauge the grace, which is ours in Christ Jesus. Neither are His eonian activities the index of His post-eonian purpose. We have plain statements and have no need of such “principles.”
“The Present Interval of Bondage,” “The Two Seeds,” and “The Kinsman-Redeemer,” are all concerned with the process and not with the goal. They apply to intermediate conditions, not to the ultimate result. Election and redemption are eonian. Those who are saved at the consummation are not elect, and not redeemed. In Israel redemption was operative during the interval up to the next jubilee. Few were set free by redemption, but all went free in the jubilee.
“The Mystery of His Will” has reference to the secret of Christ that He is to be Head of the whole universe. (Eph.1:10) It has no connection with the introduction of sin. You say “God did not plan sin, but He provided against it.” You will acknowledge that He provided against it before it entered. As I am dealing with this fully elsewhere, I will simply suggest that you will find it impossible to uphold your contention without declaring the deity of the Devil.
As you insist that all is not of God, and that Satan is the ultimate source of some things, I do not see why you should oppose his worship, much less seek to fasten on me some nebulous connection with the “mystery of iniquity.” I do not ascribe divine attributes to the adversary as you do.
The second death is death. Death is to be abolished as the last enemy. This cannot be while it is still in operation in the lake of fire. Scripture does not speak of a resurrection from the lake of fire, but it does speak of the vivification of all mankind when death is made inoperative.
As one who sees the hand of God in all things, and has admired His wisdom in bringing good out of evil, righteousness out of sin, and reconciliation out of estrangement, I thank you for your effort. That one so highly regarded by many of superior spiritual attainments should not be able to bring forward a single definite statement from the word of God which contradicts its unequivocal assertion concerning universal reconciliation confirms my faith in its truth, and deepens my desire to make it known.
Now, my dear brother, do not misunderstand me to mean that I must break off our fellowship in Christ, or will refuse to cooperate in the work of the Lord. You have intimated that such is your attitude, but it does not find any response in my heart. Your teaching may compromise my ministry, it may lead to much confusion and misunderstanding, so that I may appear to be against the truth, but I am conscious of God’s complete and active supervision, so that all these things are for me, not against me. I have no doubt that He will use your opposition in His own way to make known the boundless beneficence of His love. In His name, I thank you.
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RECONCILIATION OF ALL THINGS, THE, A Reply to Charles H. Welch [Adolph E. Knoch] 1