Part 3 The Eternal Issues

Chapter 34.

The apocalyptic visions. — 2

"If we are to learn anything with regard to what will happen to the persons here represented," says Mr. Minton,* "we must first inquire what would happen to that which represents them, as the consequence of being cast into a lake of fire. Now it so happens that in every one of the five or six cases here specified, the result would be utter destruction. They are all living things, and not one of them could possibly exist in a lake of fire. A wild beast; a false prophet; 'the devil,' evidently under the form of the 'dragon,' seen first in ch. 12, and again in 22:2; 'death and hell' (hades), as evidently under the form already seen in ch. 6:8, of a rider or riders on horseback; and 'whosoever' of the dead, small and great, that stood before God, 'was not found written in the book of life.' If these things be intended to predict the final doom of wicked men and wicked spirits, then their doom is set forth under images which point to nothing less than extinction of being."

{* Way Everlasting, p. 68, etc.}

This shows how utterly at fault as to these figures is the speculation Mr. Minton recommends. How long would a wild beast live in a lake of fire? Certainly, if we follow our thoughts, an exceedingly short space of time. How long if we take Scripture? A thousand years as first seen, and then the ages of ages. Similarly as to to the false prophet. So as to the devil from the time he is cast in. How worse than vain to speculate! how entirely Scripture contradicts Mr. Minton's suggestions.

But this Mr. Minton is candid enough to own, and he says:

"I at once admit my inability to explain this in any way that is quite satisfactory to my own mind. But I do not admit that the view which it seems to oppose must therefore be radically wrong (!) … A wild beast could no more live in such a condition for a day than for an age." What then? "This inclines me to think that the ages of ages indicate, not the period of suffering to the condemned, but the eternal destruction that comes upon them. …What then, you will ask again, do I understand by torment '? I understand by it — destruction (!) And to all objections that torment and destruction are two different things, I reply that the Spirit of God Himself has most pointedly applied the word torment to destruction in one of those very passages. Read the account in chap. 18 of Babylon's destruction. The inhabitants perish 'in one day' by 'death and mourning and famine'; and then the city itself is 'utterly burned with fire.' Now in the long description of the burning which follows, there is not a word of any living persons or things being left in the city, to suffer torture from the fire that consumes it. The city is, of course, destroyed for the sin of its inhabitants; but their destruction is distinguished in ver. 8 from its destruction. Yet they who gaze upon that burning mass 'stand far off for the fear of her torment.' What can the word mean there but destruction?"

Thus must words be perverted by man's will, and torment mean what torment never meant, and the sanction of the Spirit of God be claimed for an unnatural and impossible use of language, such as never could be imputed to anything beside Scripture. And what is the ground for this notable absurdity? Babylon's inhabitants perish "in one day," says Mr. Minton, by "death and mourning and famine," but the city as distinguished from these is burned with fire, no living inhabitant being in it; and ver. 8 distinguishes the destruction of the inhabitants from that of the city! It is ver. 8 he is citing for all this: of course he must have read it; but this is what it says: — "Therefore shall her plagues COME in one day, death and mourning and famine; and she, shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God that judgeth her!" Where is it said, Mr. Minton, that the inhabitants all perish in one day? Nowhere: her plagues come in one day, not are over! Where is the city distinguished from the inhabitants, so as to imply that these do not suffer in the burning of the former? Again, nowhere! it is bold perversion of the language: and all to give to the word torment in the subsequent verse an impossible meaning, which would scarcely have been attempted to be fastened upon any other book than Scripture, as I have already said.

We can well believe that his interpretation is not satisfactory to Mr. Minton. It is the only encouraging thing about it, that it is not.

But yet he has not done with Babylon. If she perishes so as not to be "found any more at all" — "what then," he asks, "is the meaning of her smoke rising up forever and ever? What, but that her guilt and her destruction will never be forgotten; that she will be pre-eminently an object of everlasting contempt? Such destruction I believe to be the 'torment' of all impenitent sinners, and such an eternal memory of sin and its destruction to be the smoke of that torment ascending up forever and ever."*

{*Mr. Roberts, who in his "Man Mortal" does nothing but repeat Mr. Minton's arguments, and to whom no separate reply is needed therefore, quotes, however, "her smoke rose up forever and ever," to remark: "If the sense here were the popular notion of absolutely endless futurity, how absurd to describe it in the past tense — 'rose up' — as a thing having happened! How can a thing have happened 'forever' in the English sense?" Aye, or in the Greek either? Mr. R. has forgotten his Greek here, although he quotes it in the very next words. The Greek is anabainei, "goeth up."

The only additional thing to be noticed as to him is, that he makes the casting "alive" of the systems into the lake of fire to intimate that they will not die of themselves, but be destroyed by the Lord at His coming"! Do the "kings of the earth" die of themselves, because they die! And how is it the systems are still "alive" after a thousand years, if they are destroyed (in his sense) by the Lord at His coming?}

So that we must read, instead of "torment," "destruction day and night for the ages of ages"!

I do not believe that Babylon's smoke ascending up for ever and ever means that the memory of it will be forever.* The memory of all that has ever been will endure forever and this is more than the assertion of such a common-place thought. The key to the expression is that identification of the city and people which Mr. Minton so vainly contends against. The expression is, of course, figurative, but identical with that in Rev. 14:11, yet to be looked at. Babylon suffers forever, of course in those to whom her guilt really belongs.

{*In a former work I did accept this, but on more mature consideration must withdraw that acceptance.}

But Mr. Minton goes on: —

"But it is urged that the wild beast and false prophet, who were cast into the lake of fire before the millennium, are spoken of at its close as if still there. This is, however, a mistake, the word 'are' not being in the original. When a word has to be supplied, it should be supplied from what has preceded, and not made to assert an independent fact. 'The devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet' — what? Surely 'were cast.' To supply 'are' is just to beg the question, and assert a fact which is not stated in the record. The words which follow, and (they — the verb being plural) shall be tormented day and night forever and ever,' merely contain a declaration that the destruction of the beast and the false prophet and the dragon would be final and irremediable none of them would ever appear again. The two former are included in this subsequent declaration, because nothing of the kind had been said when they were first cast into the lake of fire."

That is, again, we must transform torment into destruction, and say "they shall be destroyed day and night forever and ever"! And even so we must believe that "they shall be destroyed" means that two of them have been already, and only the third "shall be"! These are somewhat large demands upon our faith — the sceptical would say "credulity"; but where man's will is at work there is still credulity enough for this and more. Yet Mr. Minton finds it himself not quite satisfactory, it would seem. He cannot blame us if we sympathize with him.

But he has still a resource, if his explanation of these texts fails to be "wholly satisfactory," as he admits it may, he can still question ours! If he can make nothing else out of them, he will not accept what they plainly say: —

"Now, waiving the question which a Universalist would raise, as to the ages of ages" — If the doubt is not Mr. Minton's own, why does he affect to raise it? — "your argument manifestly depends upon the assumption that the 'torment' spoken of in these visions represents torment in the future realities which are therein predicted. But how can you prove that? You can produce a string of texts to show the precise meaning of basanos (torment); and so can I produce a string of texts to show the precise meaning of therion (a wild beast). Does the beast in the vision represent a beast in the reality? Then why should torment in the vision represent torment in the reality?"

Before we answer this, let us hear Mr. Minton's summing up of conclusions against this: —
"1. The word 'torment' is applied to the burning of the city Babylon, when its inhabitants had already perished." This has been disproved.
"2. Its smoke is said to rise up forever and ever, after it has been so completely destroyed that it cannot be found." This is also a mere confusion arising out of the first mistake.
"3. While the beast and the false prophet are cast into the lake of fire, all their adherents are 'slain with the sword '; which, on your principle of interpretation, would show, that some of the wicked will be punished with eternal torment, others with death."

Quite true, as to the time of the Lord's coming; but the latter are raised among "the rest of the dead," and then cast into the lake of fire also. How, if the beast and the false prophet are "phases of evil," as Mr. M. suggests, and not persons, they should be cast into the lake of fire into which Satan and all the wicked afterwards are cast, is a difficulty upon his side he can never explain. If their adherents had been at the same time cast in, it might have been contended that they shared the fate of their adherents, or if all had been slain this might have been said. But that "phases of evil" should be cast into a place of torment is inexplicable in the way the verses stand.

His fourth objection applies only to Rev. 14:10, so must be reserved.

His fifth is the old mistake as to death and hades being cast in.

His sixth is, that torment not mentioned with regard to the dead in ver. 15. But the lake of fire is not (as he asserts) "the very embodiment of destruction," in his sense of it, as we have seen, and death being destroyed at the beginning of the ages makes it impossible thereafter that men should die. He asks: —

"7. But does the lake of fire itself go on burning forever? Is it 'everlasting' or 'unquenchable' in that sense? What are the very next words? 'And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.' What then has become of the lake of fire which St. John saw on the first earth? Why, of course, it has passed away with the earth of which it formed part. Is there any lake of fire on the new earth?"

I think it useful to quote exact words, or people might really believe there was some strange perversion on my part, or misconception at least of an adversary's arguments. Mr. Minton proceeds with a full page more of reasonings upon this foundation, in which it is, of course, quite useless to follow him, for the foundation itself is lacking. Where does the passage speak of the lake of fire being on earth at all? He would seem to be reading from another Bible than that which is in all our hands. Why, the devil is only cast into this lake of fire at the close of the millennium, there to be tormented day and night for the ages of ages. Whatever that means, a long lapse of time is surely indicated. But in the very next words we read of the great white throne set up, and the earth and the heavens fleeing away. Are the ages of ages all expired in the meantime, and before the final judgment?

But again, the throne is set, the earth and the heavens flee away but the dead summoned from their graves are cast into the lake of fire, which, of course, has ceased to exist with that earth which has fled away!

We will now answer Mr. Minton's question as to why "torment" in the vision should represent torment in the reality. And we answer: —

1. Because it is impossible to say what it does represent figuratively. No one has given us, — no one (it seems) can give us, any meaning in the least degree satisfactory.

2. Because the language throughout the twentieth chapter becomes more and more literal continually. The "devil," when cast in, is distinguished by the title given him in the interpretation of the previous vision, not by "the dragon," as in the vision itself.* The interpretation in verse 6 of the "first resurrection" shows us the exceeding simplicity of the vision it interprets. Souls (persons) slain are seen to live again, and that signifies literal resurrection. The "thousand years," the reign as kings and priests, are the same in the vision and the interpretation alike. And as the solemn subject of judgment is approached, the plainest words seem studied by which to set it forth. How simple and decisive they are we can realize the better, after their survival of the treatment which we have seen them endure.

{*The "beast" is indeed still that, but I see not how else he could be spoken of without revealing the mystery which is left to the "mind which hath understanding." The second "beast" has become "the false prophet."}

3. Because literal death in the lake of fire we have seen to be impossible, and fire which does not annihilate must apparently torment.

4. Because the devils in the gospel speak of torment as their future doom, and here, therefore, the word is guaranteed as literal.

We ask Mr. Minton's attention seriously to these reasons as well as to the examination of his own views which has been given. He cannot complain of misrepresentation or of partial representation, nor do we think we have dealt with them more severely than he would himself desire if God give him another mind upon this subject every way so important to souls.

There is but one more argument, adduced by Blain, and repeated by Goodwyn,* that "day and night are characteristic elements of this dispensation," but in that case, for the purpose of his argument, "this dispensation" must last "for the ages of the ages." That "night" is not found in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:5) or the new earth is nothing to the purpose self-evidently. I grant the language may be figurative, but its obvious use is to convey the thought of what is continuous or ceaseless, which in addition to the phrase "forever and ever" shows even by itself that annihilation cannot be meant. What would be the force of "annihilation day and night forever and ever"?

{* Death not Life, Truth and Tradition, p. 32.}

The arguments on the side of "conditional immortality" close then here. But we have still to glance at those of the restorationist school.

Dr. Farrar is "quite content that texts should decide" this question. That would give us hope that in telling us "what hell is not," he would have shown us at least what this connected prophecy of Revelation on the very subject does not mean. But although he has spent pages upon the rabbis, I cannot find ten lines upon this main text throughout his book. Indeed the only thing at all to the purpose that I can find is one note of two lines quoted from Dr. Chauncey, that "If all things without exception be subjected to Christ, then death, the second death, as well as the first death, will be finally swallowed up in victory."** This belongs properly to another branch of our subject, but a word or two is amply sufficient in answer. For the "second death" is always subject to Christ, and never opposed, never needs to be subjected. Are the prisons to which a king commits his prisoners not subject to the king who commits them there? Dr. Farrar's reasoning is scarcely equal to his powers in other respects, if he believes this.

{* Eternal Hope, Excursus 5, p. 222.}

Mr. F. N. Oxenham in his "letter" to Mr. Gladstone, again spends pages upon two lines of Keble, and not a line upon the Scripture so all important in this matter.

We must depend then upon Mr. Jukes mainly to represent the restorationist view here, apart of course from the general reasoning upon the expressions for eternity which we have already examined. And we shall allow him as usual to speak for himself. He says: — *

{* Restitution of All Things, pp. 88-95.}

"I cannot even attempt here to trace the stages or processes of the future judgment of those who are raised up to condemnation … but what has here been gathered from the word of God as to the course and method of His salvation, throws great light upon that 'resurrection of judgment' which our Lord speaks of."

How the method of God's salvation should throw great light upon the process of final judgment, it is very hard to say. Mr. Jukes of course assumes that that judgment is itself a process of salvation. In that case of course it would throw light. But on the contrary, Scripture contrasts these as two incompatible things. He that believes in Christ "has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment," while "he that believeth not the Son shall not see life." "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be condemned." "To them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation." "There is one Lawgiver who is able to save and to destroy." "And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"* This is the uniform tenor of Scripture, in a great variety of expressions which assure us that the judgment of the wicked is the very opposite of being a method of salvation: it is a method of destruction. But we will let Mr. Jukes proceed.

{* John 5:24; 3:36; Mark 16:16; Phil. 1:28; James 4:12 1 Peter 4:18.}

"Awful as it is, who can doubt the end and purpose of this judgment? for 'God, the judge of all,' 'changes not,' and 'Jesus Christ' is still 'the same yesterday, today, and for the ages.'"

Which assures us of His unrepenting performance of all that He has threatened, as of all that He has promised.

"And the very context of the passage which describes the casting of the wicked into the lake of fire, seems to show that this resurrection and the second death are both parts of the same redeeming plan, which necessarily involves judgment on those who will not judge themselves, and have not accepted the loving judgments and sufferings which in this life prepare the first-born for the first resurrection. So we read, — 'And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new … He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be His God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whore-mongers, and sorcerers, and idolators, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone which is the second death.' What does He say here but that 'all things shall be made new,' though in the way to this the fearful and unbelieving must pass the lake of fire?"

He says the very opposite. For instead of "passing" the lake of fire, He says they "have their part" in it, as the saints have theirs in the first resurrection. And these (or among these) are they who have their "part" taken out of the book of life (Rev. 22:19) of whom Mr. Jukes teaches they have their part there really still.

Moreover it is only as to the condition of the blessed that God says, "Behold, I make all things new," as the context proves. "He that overcometh, I will be his God, and he shall be my son; but" — but what? He that overcometh not shall be also in the end my son? No, surely, "but the fearful and unbelieving, etc., shall have their part in the lake of fire." Mr. Jukes' explanation is a destruction of the sense, a sense which is as plain as can be. But again he says: —

"The 'second death' therefore, so far from being, as some think, the hopeless shutting up of man forever in the curse of disobedience, will, if I err not, be God's way to free those who in no other way than by such a death can be delivered out of the dark world whose life they live in. … To get out of this world there is but one way, death; not the first, for that is passed, but the second death. Even if we have not light to see this, ought not the present to teach us something of God's future ways; for is He not the same yesterday, today, and forever?"

So it is "forever" now, instead of "to the ages"! but "now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation." Is the day of judgment and of wrath still the same? If God is (as of course He must be) essentially always the same, does that make grace and wrath the same? or judgment and salvation? Does it not rather assure us that He who has threatened will make good? And that the word will fully be sustained, "he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him"? Is it no perversion of the truth of His unchangeableness, to say that His wrath abideth not, and all shall finally "see life"? He goes on: —

"We know that in inflicting present death, His present purpose is to destroy him that has the power of death, that is, the devil."

We know nothing of the kind; it is Christ's death, not ours, which does this. Has Mr. Jukes read the next words in the text he quotes?

"How can we conclude from this, that in inflicting the second death, the unchanging God will act on a principle entirely different from that which now actuates Him?"

That is, again, why should a day of salvation and a day of judgment differ in character? But as to death itself the principle is not different; for as the first death is the judgment upon the natural world, so the second death is upon the world beyond the grave for those who endure it. And as the first is final as to this present scene, the second will be as to that.

"And why should it be thought a thing incredible that God should raise the dead, who for their sin suffer the penalty of the second death? Does this death exceed the power of Christ to overcome it? Or shall the greater foe still triumph, while the less, the first death, is surely overcome? Who has taught us thus to limit the meaning of the words, 'Death is swallowed up in victory'? "

I answer to the last question, God Himself; if 1 Cor. 15 be inspired of Him. For the apostle there tells us that it is fulfilled at the resurrection of the body, and that is no question of the second death at all. Nor is the second death Christ's foe, as the first death is. For the first death does (while it lasts) prevent the fulfilment of the eternal purpose fully, whether with saint or sinner. The second death does not, and is not an enemy, as I have before replied to Dr. Chauncey. As to what is "credible," all is that God reveals. This He has not revealed, but the very opposite.

"Is God's 'will to save all men' limited to fourscore years, or changed by that event which we call death, but which we are distinctly told is His appointed means for our deliverance?"

We are not told this as to physical death. Are the saints who do not die, but are changed at the Lord's coming, not delivered? God would indeed have all men to be saved, but this is not purpose or counsel, which is always another word,* but desire. "How often would I," says our Lord as to Jerusalem, "and ye would not." And "now is the accepted time" applies only to living men. But all this will come up again elsewhere, and the rest of Mr. Jukes' arguments will then be considered more fittingly. They are not based upon the text before us.

Thus then we have examined every objection which has been raised to that simple reading of this important Scripture with which we first began. We have surely seen that the metaphors are not ambiguous, but written in the speech of Him who cannot lie, nor call by the name of "revelation" an exaggerated, or at least "mysterious and highly-wrought" account, which, when reduced to the "sober hue" of truth, becomes the total opposite of what is on the face of it.

{* boulomai, boule: as Matt. 11:27; Luke 22:42; Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28; Acts 27:42; Eph. 1:11; Heb. 6:17, etc. But we shall have to recur to this again.

Thank God, His word never fails to justify itself; and its witness is neither to be brow-beaten nor cajoled from its first statements for the simplest honest-hearted hearer. He has hid these things from wise and prudent, to reveal them unto babes.