Friday, May 21, 2010

Second Death Is It Literal or Figurative ?


DEATH may be literal or figurative. In the statement "let the dead
bury their dead" (+Matt.8:22) it is first used figuratively and
then literally. The literal dead could not bury their dead.
Neither would our Lord countenance the burial of the figuratively
dead. It is important that we determine in each instance whether
literal or figurative death is in view.

In deciding this point as to the second death it will help us
to note that the phrase "this is the second death" is an
{explanation} of what the lake of fire is. We have quite a few
such explanations in the book of the Revelation. They are of two
kinds, explanations of figures and explanations of literal facts.
The important point for us to note is that, in no case, is the
{explanation} figurative. The seven stars (+Rev.1:20) are figures;
those they represent, the angels or messengers, are literal. So
with the lampstands and the churches (+Rev.1:20). The statement
"the horns are ten kings" stamps the beast with the horns as a
figure and the ten kings as literal (+Rev.17:12). Likewise, the
waters which John saw may not be real water, but the peoples and
multitudes and nations are just what these words ordinarily imply
(+Rev.17:15). So with great Babylon. When we read, "the woman
which thou sawest is that great {city}" let us rest content with
God's explanation and refuse to explain it (+Rev.17:18). If the
messengers and the churches and the kings and the peoples are
literal, then the city must also be a literal city and not some
religious system or ecclesiastical power.

p64 "The Second Death" is an Explanation
hence Must be Literal Death

By this test, the Divine explanation of the lake of fire must
be literal death.

We may not reason backward from this that the lake of fire is
figurative, though it undoubtedly is full of significance. When we
read of the "fine linen, which is the righteousness of saints"
(+Rev.19:8) we may well take the robes as literal, yet at the same
time a most apt symbol of the just deeds of those who wear them. A
literal statement may be explained as well as a figurative one.
But in any case, whether the lake of fire be taken literally or
figuratively, the laws of language bar us from making the
{explanation} of it aught but a literal fact. In some instances
when involved with other figures, as in an allegory (+Gal.4:25),
the explanation does not, at first glance, seem literal. But a
closer view of even such cases will show that the rule still
holds. {Never let us explain God's explanations}.

For the sake of the student who may be interested in further
study of figures and their explanation, as well as to guard
against possible misapprehension, we will point out an interesting
fact, which must always be taken into consideration by the reader
of any version. In Greek the verb substantive ({to be} in its
various forms, as {am, is, are}, etc.) is very often omitted,
especially when it has its usual force. But when it has the
special duty of explaining that one thing {represents}, or
{means}, another, {then it cannot be omitted}. The Lamb
(+Rev.17:14) {is} Lord of lords and King of kings. No one believes
that a literal lamb will occupy this position, but that the figure
of a Lamb {represents} the Lord of lords and King of kings. But
when we read on that "they that, are with Him [are] called and
chosen and faithful" we take it literally. He is not followed by
certain qualities, such as faithfulness, but by those who have
these qualities. The verb is omitted in the Greek. Luther had
great difficulty in discriminating the literal from the
figurative. Had he noticed this simple fact, that {is} is used
only when emphatic or when it has the force of {represents} he
would have been

p65 "The Second Death" is an Explanation
hence Must be Literal Death

saved much controversy and trial, and would not have forced the
statement "This {is} My body" to mean that the bread was the
literal body of our Lord. The same argument could be used to prove
that we, too, are all His literal body, for the assembly {is} His
body (+Eph.1:23).

When, however, the verb is {omitted}, the statement is not
explanatory but descriptive, even if, as is often the case in the
original languages, the descriptive term is a noun, for the sake
of emphasis.

On the other hand, the statement that "death and hades were
cast into the lake of fire" is purely figurative, for neither
death nor hades is of such a nature as to be "cast." Fire would
have no effect on them. This figure (metonymy of the subject) is
so common that we need only to mention a few instances and
everyone will see its force. Death and the unseen are put for
their contents, for those in them are judged. So the world is put
for those included in it. "God so loved the world"--that is, the
people in it (+John 3:16; 7:7; 2 Cor.5:19, etc.). The earth is
often put for its inhabitants (+Gen.6;11,12,13; Matt.5:13, etc.).
Death, which includes all who had not been made alive in the
former resurrection (+Rev.20:5) as well as the unseen world--all
the remaining creatures still out of harmony with God--are cast
into the lake of fire.

A consideration of the last class which is to be raised and
vivified (+1 Cor.15:23,24) will also lead us to the conclusion
that the second death (which is the only death left at the
consummation) must be a literal fact.

The Firstfruit of vivification was Christ. His death was a
literal, physical fact. The second class, who are made alive at
His presence, will also be raised from the dead in the
resurrection of life.

Long before this, while they were still alive, they had known
both death and resurrection in their figurative meaning. But we
who are alive to God now, having been quick-

p66 Being "Made Alive" at the Consummation
Involves a Previous Physical Death

ened by His Spirit, look forward to a literal vivification--the
redemption of our body.

The third class--those who are vivified at the consummation,
are previously raised to physical life to stand before the great
white throne. It is evident that they must die again before the
consummation, in order that they, too, may be included among those
whom Christ makes alive. The Firstfruit was raised from literal
death; most of those who are His enter death and await His life-
giving call. Does it not follow that the rest of the dead who will
be raised at the resurrection of judgment, and are judged
according to their deeds, must die again before they can be
included in the third class of those who triumph over death? The
last enemy is not banished when they are raised for judgment, but
more than an eon later, at the consummation.

The last eon differs from all which precede it in some
important particulars. The former things have passed by; all
things are new; evil has been segregated and consigned to the lake
of fire (+Rev.21:8) and {there is no change in character}

Not only will the unbelievers suffer the loss of eonian life
and such a judgment as accords with their deeds, but the earth is
cleansed of their presence so that this last and most glorious of
all the eons comes nearest of all to perfection. It will be the
crowning glory of Christ and may be enjoyed only by those who
have, by grace, believed on Him and have the gift of eonian life.

It is well to note, in this connection, that, during the last
eon, death is {not} abolished. It is the {last} enemy. Other
enemies are "sovereignty and authority." These continue during the
last eon, for while there is no {temple} (+Rev.21:22) there is a
{throne} (+Rev.22:1) and it is the throne of the Lamb, and the
saints reign for the whole eon (+Rev.22:5). Death cannot be
abolished until after the reign of the saints has ceased, till the
Son has handed over the Kingdom to the

p67 Being "Made Alive" at the Consummation
Involves a Previous Physical Death

Father. Then the last enemy of all is banished by means of the
vivification of all.

That the second death leads to results immeasurably beyond
the death which they had previously passed through cannot be
gainsaid. Death, for the unbeliever is the portal to judgment. The
second death will, at the consummation, usher into life in Christ.
Nevertheless, while they are so distinct in their fruitage, the
very fact that the lake of fire is defined for us as the second
{death}, leads us to the inevitable conclusion that we are to
discover its nature from the first death. The second Adam is so
called, not because He is so superior to the first Adam, but
because of His similarity to Him. Each heads a humanity. In fact,
in every case the second thing must be interpreted by the first.

If the second death is death figurative, such as is spoken of
in Romans--the regarding of the flesh--the result would be that
the raised ungodly would continue to live to man, but be dead to
God--a condition which, if undergone in a lake of fire, would be
the equivalent of eternal torment reduced to one eon in its
extent. The "spiritually" dead, or much better, {figuratively}
dead are always represented to us as physically alive. The dead
who were to bury their dead and those who are minding, or
regarding, the flesh (+Rom.8:6) are all alive so far as this world
is concerned. It is only in relation to God that they may be
considered as dead at all. Now they suffer this alienation from
Him in the midst of many comforts, oblivious to the loss which
their condition involves. To transport such into a lake of fire
(either figurative or literal) would be the most terrible fate
which they could meet. One consideration forbids this. They are
raised from the dead in the resurrection of {judgment} (not of
{life}), hence {they are already figuratively dead}. If the lake
of fire simply causes figurative death (a condition of alienation
from God) then it really has no effect on them whatever. Instead
of providing for ultimate reconciliation, it would only confirm
them in their estrangement from God.

p68 Salvation is Based on the Work of Christ
not on the Purgatorial Pains of the Sinner

Sin's natural result is death. This is true of saint and
sinner alike. For the present, until the presence of Christ, there
is no difference between saint and sinner in this respect. But it
is especially true of those who take part in the first
resurrection, that over them the {second} death has no
jurisdiction. Why? Because they are Christ's, and His blood fends
them from all God's judgment.

The phrase "second death" occurs but once again. It is
presented as a dreadful ordeal and one to be shunned. The
overcomer in Smyrna is exhorted to be faithful unto death and is
comforted with the assurance that he will not be {hurt} or
{injured} by the second death.

During this life suffering and death come to all in most
unexpected and unequal ways. Even among the ungodly the worst
criminals are spoiled and petted and lead a life of ease and die a
painless death, while some bear patiently all their days with
poverty and disease harming no one by their deeds, and yet they
drag out a miserable existence till death seems to end all. Is
this right? Is this just? Not at all. And it is for the
rectification of all this unequal and unjust distribution of the
ravages of sin, that the ungodly are summoned before the bar at
the great white throne, to be judged {in harmony with their
deeds}. God's justice will then be vindicated and the path
prepared for their reconciliation at the consummation.

Let no one complain that the details of this last great
assize are not fully made known to us. We have no personal
interest in it and we may rest content that even in the case of
those who are not conciliated to our God through the death of His
Son, the Judge of all the earth {will do right}.

Yes, He will do much more than what is right. He will use the
evil which overtakes them, just as He has always used it, for
their own ultimate welfare and His own glory. His purpose is ever
the same; only His {method} varies. He adjusts the means to the
individual requirements of each case.

p69 Salvation is Based on the Work of Christ
not on the Purgatorial Pains of the Sinner

With unbelievers, who may not share in eonian life, He does
not deal on the principle of {faith}, but {sight}. He ushers them
into His presence and pays them the wages which are their
due--death for the eons. After such a righting of wrongs, a
sweeping away of all false and deceptive illusions, the road to
reconciliation is very short. Faith is not needed as now for He no
longer hides Himself. Only life is needed, and this He gives them
at the consummation.

Why, we are asked, is this death accomplished by means of
{fire}? God uses various agencies to attain His ends, but there is
always an aptitude and fitness in the instruments He employs. In
Noah's days He cleansed away the abounding sin by means of
{water}. And was not water a purifier well suited to the task? And
if, in preparation for the last eon, He once more wishes to
dispose of evil, what more effective agent can be found than fire?
Water may wash off outward, physical filth: fire is a chemical
agent and enters into the inmost substance. It is the most
searching purifier known. The flood did not purify its victims,
but the earth on which they lived; neither does the lake of fire
purify those who enter it, but the universe of which they form a
part. It is no purgatory. All the salvation and blessing which
will eventually come to those who emerge from it when the last
enemy vanishes will be due to the virtue and power of the death of

It alone, unaided and unencumbered by aught that they may
suffer or sustain, is amply sufficient to cleanse and purify and
to insure the life which Love has purposed shall be theirs when
the eons shall have brought their harvest to His feet. A. E. K.

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