“Beloved, think it not strange
concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing
happened unto you,” is the counsel of the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 4:12; and in
verse 16 he appeals further, “If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be
ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” It is often most helpful to
the proper understanding of any text to discern its background, the basis
which prompted its expression; and such is definitely true in the present
instance. It will be noted in verse 1, chapter 1, that the Apostle is
addressing his letter to “the strangers” of the Black Sea Provinces. The Diaglott
expresses it much clearer: “Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, to the
sojourners of the dispersion.” Who were these “sojourners of the dispersion”?
Apparently, they were such Jews as had been exiled from or about Jerusalem, or those who
had left because conditions there were more or less unbearable for them. It
would seem these are the same ones mentioned in John 7:35, when the Jews who
were hearing Jesus, “said among themselves, whither will he go, that we shall
not find him? Will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles?”
Among such dispersed ones, those who had suffered afflictions for some cause or other there would certainly be found some who were ready listeners to the message that Jesus was indeed the Christ, their Messiah; and it would seem St. Peter had been among them, had convinced some, and was striving to “establish them in the Present Truth.” Of a certainty, those Jews had never seen Jesus personally; therefore, their acceptance of Him had been prompted by the testimonies of St. Peter or others (1 Peter 1:8). The prophecy (Isa. 8:14) that “He shall be for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel” was not without purpose. Those Jews who received Him gladly did so from the heart; but those Jews who rejected Him likewise hated Him from the heart – hated also their former brethren who then accepted Him. To some He was the savor of life unto life; to some the savor of death unto death; and the latter snarled the opprobrious name “Christian” at their former fellows, as they spat upon the ground in the same breath, the worst of all insults they could express toward the new converts. Thus, St. Peter was telling such who had become His disciples that if they suffered under the offensive name “Christian” to be not ashamed, but to “Glorify God in this name.”
The expression “fiery trial” in our text is from the Greek purosis, meaning literally “a burning,” being the same word found also in Rev. 18:9 and 18:18 (the word occurs but three times in the Bible), where the “burning” of that Great City which is called spiritually Sodom is described. This may be regarded as a fitting sarcasm in contrast that the same word should be used to describe the “sweet-smelling savor unto the Lord” which comes from the “burning,” the sharp and faith-developing trials, of the true Christians on the one hand, and the “burning,” the utter destruction, of the “vine of the earth” on the other hand. And all of this is emphasized further by St. Peter in verse 17 of chapter 4, Dia.: “Because the season is coming for the judgment to begin from the house of God; and if it begin first from us, what the end of those who are disobedient to the glad tidings of God?”
Today the name Christian is often spoken with respect, even by many Jews in the more enlightened countries; the name itself is no longer “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” Now Christians in name only must find other insulting terms for “Christians indeed [“Israelites indeed" ─ John 1:47].” Too many who received “Present Truth” under That Servant, to be a “Russe11ite” was the most insulting term to apply to those “Christians indeed.” To some, who believed Brother Johnson and his ardent adherents were in the Second Death, the epithet “Johnson-ite” would bear similar meaning to their fellows as did the name “Christian” in apostolic times. Thus, we might substitute the words, “If any man suffer as a Johnson-ite, let him not be ashamed" ─ that is, if he suffers such epithets as a faithful footstep follower of Jesus Christ. Let us keep in mind that if we “suffer as a Christian,” because of the Truth, we need never be ashamed ─ whether it be labeled Russe11ism, Hoef1eism, or whatever opprobrium erstwhile brethren may use in contempt the same as did the Jewish brethren of Jesus in contemptuous use of the name “Christian.” “As He was in this world, so are we.”
“THAT OLD SERPENT THE DEVIL”
All of the “burning” ─ fiery trials ─ of God’s people under the reign of evil have been instigated by “the God of this world,” the evil one; and this has been markedly true of the difficulties of all New Creatures during this Gospel Age. This is apparent at the very outset of the Age, when “the Apostle and High Priest of our Profession, Christ Jesus” (Heb. 3:1) was “led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil.” (Matt. 4:1) The word here translated “Devil” is from the Greek diabolos, and is a specific name for the individual Satan ─ the Devil. It is the same word as found in Rev. 20:2: “He laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan.”
We believe the words dragon, serpent, Devil and Satan portray the four unholy attributes of Azaze1 – the personification of evil in completeness – just as Power, Wisdom, Justice and Love describe the four character traits of Jehovah – the personification of Goodness and true Holiness in perfection.
As the “dragon,” the Evil One has attempted to devour the Gospel-Age saints by the unholy use of power, just as he through Pagan Rome did actually “devour the child.” (Rev. 12:4) Honest opponents are devoured and crushed by the unholy use of power, just as that great apostate “woman – Jezebel” used unholy power to become “drunken with the blood of the saints.” (Rev. 17:6) But in all of this seeming victory, God's holy use of power has preserved the fully faithful, has “laid up for them a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give them in that day... to all those who love His appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:8)
As the “serpent,” the evil one has been the deceiver, the beguiling tempter, of the Age in a perverted use of wisdom – Azaze1 means perverter. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any living thing” (Gen. 3:1, Rotherham); and “the woman was deceived.” (1 Tim. 2:14) But the “pure wisdom which is from above” has kept the fully faithful during the Age from being “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13)
As the “devil,” the Evil One has been the false accuser, the calumniator (so the Greek) of God’s people, especially so in the Parousia-Epiphany in the persons of antitypical Jannes and Jambres, the slanderous false-accusing sifters described by St. Paul in 2 Tim. 3:1-9. And slander, lying, false statements, misrepresentations, bad conscience manifested toward the fully faithful, are they not all an abuse of justice, i.e. “in”-justice? But here again, the “justice that is laid to the line” has spoken, or will eventually speak, in vindication of all those “whose righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” Then, finally as “Satan,” the Evil One is the adversary, or opposer of God’s fully faithful people. He often uses the measurably faithful, the “buckwheat” class, to oppose the fully faithful, causing them to meddle in the affairs of the wheat class in attempts to usurp their office powers. They frequently use the Truth given by God through His faithful mouthpieces to their own advantage, often palming it off as their own. They are all motivated through a lack of love and are those persons “who received not the Truth in the love of it,” and who have been given “energy of delusion” in return. “Thou hast given them blood [error] to drink”! (Rev. 16:6) But the true love, coming from the One “altogether lovely” provokes to good works (Heb. 10:24) just as the lack of it opposes such good works, and attempts to promote evil works. Thus, there is clearly depicted the “High and Lofty One, who inhabiteth eternity, whose Name is Holy” (Isa. 57:15), as contrasted with the Evil One who will be “bound a thousand years, cast into the bottomless pit, that he should deceive the nations no more" (Rev. 20:2,3), and eventually annihilated.
THE PATTERN OF TEMPTATIONS WELL DEFINED
If we “consider Him,” it becomes clear enough that Jesus had His most severe trials at the very outset, and then at the end of His walk on the “narrow way.” After His anointing “with the spirit without measure” at Jordan, He was possessed of a consuming zeal, which so engrossed Him He did not even stop to eat for forty days. It would seem reasonable to believe that, knowing the great import of His mission on earth, and that “the King’s business required haste,” He memorized the entire Old Testament in those forty days, as well as to “rightly divide the word of Truth” on the various Tabernacle types, etc., of which He Himself would be the central figure in the antitype. According to His own words a little later, He had instructed those who have followed Him during the Age that every Tabernacle type had to continue until its antitype appeared – “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matt. 5:18; Luke 16:17) Then, at the extreme end of His earthly ministry came the most severe trial of all – Gethsemane and the Cross; and this pattern is also clearly marked in the experiences of the Apostles – much persecution immediately after Pentecost, with greater climax toward the end of their lives. James was killed with the sword (Acts 12:2), Peter crucified head downward, John thrown into a vat of boiling oil, Paul having his head chopped off, etc. – with all of them having their most severe testings at the beginning and at the end of their narrow-way experiences.
And Satan, master of psychology, makes his boldest and strongest attempts when his intended victims are weakest. This he did in the case of Jesus, when He was weakened from His fast and arduous concentration at the end of the forty days. And this Satan did by evidencing real concern for His physical welfare. “You are hungry and weak,” he had implied, “but you have received the Holy Spirit without measure; you have power to provide your every need; command that these stones be made bread.” This would not only try out the new power He had received, but would provide His temporal necessities at the same time. It might even decide Satan to repent and be converted, to join hands with Him in the work He was about to undertake.
Inasmuch as “He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin,” we may be certain His followers all during the Age would be similarly tried ─ tempted to use the power of the Truth to their own present advantage; yet accomplish just as readily the work given them to do. Numerous are the examples along this line: Balaam, who succumbed to the temptation (Num. 22); St. Peter was “offered money” for the power he had, but emphatically responded that “the gift of God is not to be purchased with money” (Acts 8:18-20); the Gospel-Age builders of Great Babylon becoming “rich, and increased of good, and in need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17) foolishly determined to bring to earth the Kingdom of God before “due time” – “my Lord delayeth.” “Money is power,” says Solomon; but it does not bring the power that maketh wise unto salvation; yet it has deceived many into believing they could be the “rich man” in this world, and “Lazarus” in the next. Just a cursory look at our Lord’s course should convince them of their fallacious reasoning.
TEMPTATION TO USE UNLAWFUL METHODS
At Jesus’ prompt rejection of Satan’s first bit of sophistry, he took up a second mode of attack: “If thou be the son of God, cast thyself down” from the pinnacle of the temple. (Matt. 4:6) This task of redeeming, uplifting mankind from the mire of sin, from relieving the poverty and human frailty, so apparent on every hand, just could not be done without some sensational methods; and this has been the thinking of the minds of worldly men throughout the Age. One outstanding weakness of the “great multitude” all during the Age has been this very mistake; thus, they become “double minded” ─ a mind to serve the Lord while using Satan’s methods. They would do great works, win great numbers, gain great favor with their fellows, yet bask in the smile of Heaven at the same time – a combination never parried by the fully faithful, but readily grasped by those befuddled by Azazel, attempting to juggle the “pearl of great price” (Matt. 13:46) with one hand, as they juggle “the pleasures of sin for a season” (Heb. 11:25) with the other hand. “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare.” (1 Tim. 6:9) “The Kingdom of Heaven cometh not with outward show,” said Jesus, and He set us the example of being “meek and lowly of heart.” There can be no argument with the statement, “The entrance of thy word giveth light,” and the great “quickening” that comes upon entrance of the Truth into the human mind has caused the large majority to “think more highly of themselves than they ought to think.” But the jester spoke a great truth when he declared, “O, if you would only know how much you have to know that you don't know nuthin.”
It is a common fallacy of professional men – doctors, lawyers, preachers, technicians – to consider others stupid because the general knowledge of their particular vocation is so limited in the general mind. This is a mistake, of course, because many uneducated people could have made excellent doctors, lawyers, etc., had they been given the opportunity. It is a sage observation that the big difference between the professors and the students is that the professors read the books first. Therefore, it is sound counsel to all, and especially to the leaders in the church, to consider St. Paul’s words: “Who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Cor. 4: 7)
TEMPTATION TO COMPROMISE
With Jesus’ positive rejection of Satan’s suggestion, there came immediately the third temptation, the temptation of Combinationism, which has overcome vast multitudes throughout the Age, and especially so here in the end of the Age. Satan would have Jesus to join with Him to accomplish His mission. Could not the two of them do it better than one of them alone? Would not two heads be better than one? Satan made it clear, of course, that he himself would be chief of the two heads: “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” This temptation of Combinationism to God’s people has been among the most alluring all during the Age ─ not stated in exactly the same words, of course, but with the same underlying principle. “Money is power,” says Solomon; and this influence is stronger today than at any time in history, because there is so much more of it in the hands of so many more people of differing ideals and desires. The person today, who contributes, say, $10,000 per year to his particular church, will not be lightly considered when he states his wishes to the preacher. One great source of strength with the last two Principal Men was their decision, SEATS FREE ─ NO COLLECTIONS. Since they asked no one for money, they could afford to tell them the truth; there was no need to compromise. This revives the story of an Admiral from the U.S. Navy: Deciding to go to church one Sunday morning as he returned from the sea, he walked to a pew near the front, occupied by one lone old man. As he joined the party, he was given reproachful glances, which, however, he ignored. The old man, not to be thus disregarded, took one of his personal cards from his pocket, wrote on it, “I paid $1,000 for this seat.” The Admiral turned the card to the other side, handed it back to its owner with the answer, “You paid too much.” And certainly Jesus would have “paid too much” had He succumbed to the tricky deceit of Satan.
TRUTH STRANGER THAN FICTION
It is a sound observation that truth is stranger than fiction; and this is illustrated all about us today. Who wishes to hear the Truth? Even some among former brethren ─ those who once claimed to love the Truth more than life itself ─ there is very little of the “hearing ear” any more. And this situation is very evident in Churchianity everywhere; they are willing to listen to and receive almost any kind of hocus-pocus just as long as it isn’t the Truth. Thus, to the vast majority, the Truth is indeed a “stranger,” which emphasizes the truth of Jesus’ inquiry: “When the Son of Man cometh, will He find the faith on the earth?” And the Berean Comment is most fitting: “The question implies that at that time the true faith (the Truth) would be almost extinct.” (Luke 18:8, Berean Comment) But for those who do have the faith, the Present Truth, there is the comforting assurance of Psa. 89:15: “Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound [that have an ear for the Truth]; they walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.” Such have meat to eat that others know not of; to such the Aaronic blessing is sure: “The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace”, the peace of God, which passeth understanding.
All of the three temptations of Jesus, which He met and rejected without wavering, have come in principle to all of His followers during the Age, added to which they have also been tempted to sin. It is well to bear in mind that temptation is an appealing suggestion. Without appeal, there can be no temptation. Thus, the statement, “God cannot be tempted of evil” (James 1:13) ─ evil is distasteful to every pore of His Being; just the reverse of Satan, whose characterization as The Evil One is indicative of the full corruption of evil that pervades every pore of his being. Nor is it any sin to be tempted; sin enters only when we are “overcome of evil.” Therefore, “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:21) In all of their temptations, the fully faithful eventuate as “more than conquerors” – they gain the “crown of righteousness” which wins for them a throne. “He that overcometh shall sit with me in my throne, even as I overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne” (Rev. 3:21), is the sure promise of the fully faithful New Creatures.
But the Scriptures are very clear that the New Creatures who were measurably faithful, a “great multitude,” are not such overcomers; they will never gain a throne. At best, they will serve “before the throne” ─ the throne being the heritage of their fully faithful brethren. After they have “washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14) it will also be their privilege to become a kind of police force in the spiritual realm. And we believe it is sound and just observation that every one of the Great Multitude leaders failed in at least two, and probably in all three, of those temptations which came especially upon Jesus ─ selfishness, error, worldliness ─ with the additional charge against some of them that they also fall under the fourth temptation, Sin. As the Epiphany Messenger has taught, Sectarianism is a great sin. During the Gospel Age Great Company leaders built the sects in Big Babylon, and perverted the Star Members’ teachings they embraced for their sects. The Great Company is one of the elect classes, but as a class they are not counted as overcomers of sectarianism and clericalism, even though they all must overcome their sins of teaching and practice as individuals if they receive the “palms” of victory (Rev. 7:9). Thus, we offer St. Paul’s counsel: “Exhort each other every day, while it is called today, so that no one among you may be hardened by a delusion of sin.” (Heb. 3:13, Dia.)
Another class of faithful overcomers are those who consecrate between the Ages, after the “door is shut” to the High Calling and before the full opening of the Millennium, that is, before the New Covenant is inaugurated, and opportunity to consecrate for restitution purposes is available. That Servant taught there would be such a class in the end of the Age when no more crowns would be available ─ a class that would be similar to the Ancient Worthies, and would receive a “better Resurrection” (Heb. 11:35) and be rewarded in partnership with the Ancient Worthies. He also saw in later years that they would be rewarded with spirit nature at the end of the Kingdom reign. The following respecting “Those Consecrating between the Ages” is from That Servant’s writings in the Sept. 1, 1915 Watch Tower, Reprint 5761:
“It is our thought that with the closing of the ‘door’ of this Gospel Age there will be no more begetting of the Holy Spirit to the spirit nature. Any afterward coming to God through consecration, before the inauguration of the restitution work, will be accepted by Him, not to the spirit plane of being, but to the earthly plane. Such would come in under the same conditions as the Ancient Worthies who were accepted of God. The Ancient Worthies came in, no call being opened to them ─ the High Calling not being yet open. But they freely gave themselves up to God without knowing what blessings their consecration would bring, except that they had the intimation that they would, in the future life, have a ‘better resurrection’ than would the remainder of the world.
“Our thought is that whoever under such conditions as these [during the time when sin and evil are in the ascendancy, such as in this our day] will make a full consecration to the Lord, to leave all to follow in His ways, and will live up faithfully, loyally, to that consecration, may be privileged to be counted as a similar class to those who preceded this Gospel Age. We know of no reason why the Lord would refuse to receive those who make a consecration after the close of the Gospel Age High Calling and before the full opening of the Millennium."
And it is reasonable to expect a God of Love, Justice, Wisdom and Power to reward such consecrators above restitutionists ─ those who are faithful and obedient and walk a narrow way when sin and evil are in the ascendancy. The Epiphany Messenger accepted That Servant’s teaching, and was privileged to bring out additional light and much convincing Scriptural support for such a class; and we also “continue in what we have learned and been assured of,” and heartily believe that such consecrators between the Ages, after the “door is shut” and before opportunity for consecration for the non-elect, will, if faithful, be rewarded with the Ancient Worthies with a “better resurrection” and become “princes in all the earth.” (Psa. 45:16)
Like the Ancient Worthies, the Youthful Worthies are on trial for faith and obedience, and not for life, but they will be tested and proved worthy if they achieve their goal, the visible rulers of the Kingdom, under the invisible Kings and Priests of God (Rev. 20:6). “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power, for he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor. 15:24-26)
J. F. Rutherford taught in harmony with That Servant at the outset of his career, but later reversed himself. He later produced a class of his own imagination, calling them Jonadabs, which later became the “great Multitude.”
We believe that all the Lord’s people would be greatly benefited if they would take heed to That Servant’s admonitions and warning in the February 15, 1912 Watch Tower, Reprint 4970:
“The Lord’s followers are to note how these same temptations are the very ones by which the adversary assails them: (1) He would be their friend and helper and would thereby induce them to violate their covenant of sacrifice by requests for physical healing, physical blessings, which they have agreed to sacrifice. (2) He would suggest to them some wild, foolish way of capturing the world for God by some great exploits or prayer tests. (3) He would have them compromise with the world and its spirit and its methods of church federation and otherwise. We are to resist the adversary courageously that he may leave us permanently, seeing no hope of winning us.”
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” (Eph. 6:13, 14, 24)
(Brother John J. Hoefle, Reprint No. 449, November 1993)
TURNED INTO HELL
“The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” —Psalms 9:17)
This statement of the Lord recorded by the Psalmist, we find without any qualification whatever, and we must accept it as a positive fact. If the claims of “Orthodoxy” were true this would be indeed a fearful thought. Hell, to them, means a place of unmitigated woe, where untold millions of human beings writhe in anguish, tortured by literal fire or the gnawing of conscience, which, say some, is even worse. Under this fearful sentence they see the vast majority of mankind hastening, as they believe, to their dreadful doom; yet feeble indeed are the efforts put forth to rescue them. Babylon still has plenty of time for social enjoyment and festivity, which according to their belief should be spent in an almost frenzied endeavor to save the perishing. And she still has plenty of money to spend in gratifying the pride of life and the lust of the eye which might be applied to the same purpose; but instead, witness her costly temples of fashion, her grand organs, her costly apparel, her contempt of the poor, her greed of gain and strife for worldly honors.
But let us look at the true meaning of the word hell, into which God says, He will turn the wicked and forgetful nations. We find that it is the translation of the Hebrew word Sheol, which simply means the state or condition of death. There is not in it the remotest idea of either life or torment; and no scholar can by any manner of twisting or turning make it to mean anything else. Suffering of any kind would be impossible where there is no consciousness, no life. The Psalmist says, “In death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave [Sheol] who shall give thee thanks?” (6:5) And again it is written: “Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave [Sheol] whither thou goest.” (Eccl. 9:10) The corresponding Greek word is Hades, which also means the state or condition of death, and no other can properly be attached to either.
Every minister, unless he be very ignorant indeed, knows that this is true; and ignorance on this subject is in no wise excusable in these days when books are so plentiful and so cheap. But still they go on preaching this false idea of hell, which is nothing short of a slander against the character of God, as though they were still enveloped in the ignorance of the dark ages. This very text which we are now considering, is quoted and preached from over and over again by men who ought to know, and many of whom do know the true meaning of the Hebrew word sheol, and who nevertheless in their attempt to uphold the frightful doctrine of eternal torture, knowingly pervert this Scripture.
Well, you inquire, how, then, did this idea first originate, and then obtain such universal acceptance? We answer, that it originated with Papacy, and was a part of her scheme for raising money from her ignorant and deluded subjects. Papacy taught that this place of torment was prepared for all who did not seek the protection of THE (Papal) Church. All heretics were sure to go there; while those in THE Church not counted worthy of heaven, were permitted to tarry in purgatory, there to suffer reformatory punishment, which might be shortened and relieved by the liberality of their friends in securing the prayers of the priests.
No other doctrine of the Romish Church ever did so much towards holding her captives in the bondage of fear, and increasing her revenues. The Protestant Church in emerging from Romanism, rejected the doctrine of purgatory, but retained the worse doctrine of eternal torture in hell. Though false, yet like Papacy, finding it to be such a powerful agent in binding her subjects, and exacting her revenues, she is loathe to part with it; and since reasoning and enlightened minds are beginning to question this dogma, her policy now is, to put the brakes on reason, and to hurl her anathemas against investigation. If this bondage of fear were once broken, and God’s children relied entirely on His Word, these great systems of Babylon would soon dissolve.
If we substitute the true meaning of the word Sheol, our text will read: “The wicked shall be turned into the condition of death, and all the nations that forget God.” This we believe; but who are the wicked? In one sense all men are wicked, in that all are violators of God’s law, but in its fullest sense the wicked are those who, with full knowledge of the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the remedy provided for their recovery, willfully persist in sin, and refuse the remedy.
As yet few, only consecrated believers, have come to knowledge of God; the world knows Him not and the nations cannot forget God until they are first brought to knowledge of Him. The consecrated have been enlightened, led of the Spirit through faith, to understand the deep and hidden things of God, which, though expressed in His Word, appear only as an idle tale and foolishness to the world, but which to the consecrated believer reveal the glory of God’s character.
But, as we have hitherto seen, it will not be so in the age to come, for then “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa. 11:9) Much that we now receive by faith will then be demonstrated to the world by sight. When He who has ransomed man from the power of the grave (Hos. 13:14) begins to gather His purchased possession back from the prison-house of death (Isa. 61:1); when the sleepers are awakened under the genial rays of the Sun of Righteousness, they will not be slow to realize the truth of the hitherto seemingly idle tale, that “Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man.”
We have also seen by previous investigation, that the gradual ascent of the King’s Highway of Holiness in that age will be easy and possible to all, when all the stones - stumbling blocks shall have been gathered out and straight paths made for their feet. It is in that Age that this text applies. Those who ignore the favoring circumstances of that Age, and will not be obedient to the righteous Judge or Ruler - Christ - will truly be the wicked. And every loyal subject of the Kingdom of God will approve the righteous judgment which turns such a one again into Sheol - the condition of death. Such a one would be unworthy of life, and were he permitted to live; his life would be a curse to himself and to the rest of mankind, and a blemish on the work of God.
This will be the SECOND DEATH, from which there shall be no resurrection. After having been ransomed from the first or the Adamic death (Sheol) by the sacrifice of Christ, and then they die again on account of their own sin, “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” (Heb. 10:26) “Christ dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.” (Rom. 6:9) This second death should be dreaded and shunned by all, since it is to be the final end of existence to all those deemed unworthy of life. But in it there can be no suffering. Like the first death, it is the extinction of life: in fact it would not be called a second, if it were not like the first. The work of Christ is to destroy the Adamic death.
It is because mankind had, through sin, become subject to death (Sheol, Hades) that Christ Jesus came to deliver us and save us from death. For this purpose Christ was manifested, that he might destroy death. (1 John 3:8; Heb. 2:14) Death is a cessation of existence, the absence of LIFE. There is no difference between the condition in the first and second deaths, but there is hope of a release from the first, while from the second there will be no release, no return to life. The first death sentence passed upon all on account of Adam’s sin, while the second death can be incurred only by willful individual sin, and can come only upon those who have first been released from the first death, either reckonedly or actually released.
That this last proposition is true is evident, since a man cannot lose his life (die) twice, without having it restored once in the interim. The world will in the next age have existence actually restored to them by resurrection, then, unless obedient to the favorable arrangements of that time, will merit and receive the second death, or death a second time. (Compare Ezek. 18:2-4 and Jer. 31:29, 30) During this Age only those can be liable to the second death, which first by faith in Christ have been justified and reckoned as free from the Adamic death. These can become liable to the second death by sinning willfully, counting the blood of the covenant wherewith they were sanctified a common thing.
But the application of our text belongs to the coming Age, when all shall be set free from Sheol or Hades, for saints and sinners all go into Sheol now, and this scripture indicates that, in the time when it applies, only the wicked shall go there. And the nations that forget God must be nations that have known him, else they could not forget him; and never yet have the nations been brought to that knowledge, nor will they until the coming time, when the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth, and none shall need to say unto his neighbor, “Know thou the Lord,” for all shall know him from the least to the greatest of them. (Isa. 11:9; Jer. 31:34) Again, we find that the Hebrew word shub, which in our text is translated turned, signifies turned back, as to a place or condition where they once were. They once were in Sheol, and were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, and will be brought out of Sheol; but if then they are wicked, they, and all who forget God, shall be turned back to Sheol.
(Pastor Russell, Reprint 552, 553, November 1883)
LETTER OF GENERAL INTEREST
Dear Marjorie and all there in the Lord,
Warm greetings from the Sea of Galilee! And it is warm here with many of our days already hitting 100 degrees. So we had to say “Goodbye” to our lovely, long and green spring this year. Due to some good rains the Sea of Galilee did come up some, but not to a good level and now it has started to drop – sadly. So our summer is here! I pray you will all be protected in the hurricane season there.
Wow! This has been such a busy spring in Israel for tourists. I have been very busy until this last week. In May there were only two nights that I did not have guests for the Bed/Breakfast rooms. So I am now grateful for a couple of slow weeks before July guests come. I have had a lot of interesting and intense visitors from many countries. So it is nice to be able to share God’s plans for Israel with them in a world that becomes more anti-Israel all the time,
Well, there is a lot of talk of possible war here this summer, and many preparations as well. We seem to get more “unfriendly” neighbors (example Turkey now) all the time. So we have to trust the Lord Day by day! He has the best plans, and controls it all.
I am so thankful I was able to visit my sister in December last year as she died the last week of March. I am so thankful the Lord gave us one last good visit. We never know what is next.
Hope all is well with you and those there. Please give my greetings from Israel to all!
In His Love, Hava Bausch (ISRAEL)