And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire; death and Hades (see on Revelation 20:13 ). Lake of fire (see on Revelation 20:10 ). This is described in accordance with St. Paul's teaching. "The last enemy that shall be abolished is death" ( 1 Corinthians 15:26 , Revised Version). Death and Hades, though in reality abstractions, are here personified. This is the second death. Add [even] the lake of fire. St. John has not used the phrase, "the first death," but he has alluded to the fact. The first death is the actual death of the body, and which is the natural result of that spiritually dead state into which, since the Fall, man is horn, and which is therefore, as it were, his normal state. In a similar manner, the first resurrection is the risen spiritual life of conversion; while the second resurrection is the resurrection of all men, and the bestowal of eternal life upon the just.
The resurrection from the dead.
This paragraph is an amazingly compressed eschatology. We have already studied the Scripture teaching on "the day of the Lord" which it opens up to us. We have now to look at the dread incidents which will mark that day. One of these is indicated by the words, "I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne … And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them." We will, with these words as our center point, survey the doctrine in the light of the general tenor of Scripture.
1. AT THE COMING OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST THERE WILL BE A GENERAL RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD . There is nothing in Scripture to lead to the conclusion that there will be two bodily resurrections. Those which are mainly supposed to teach it do not. Others teach precisely the contrary.
1 . There are two passages which are among the principal ones that are adduced for the doctrine of two bodily resurrections, one of the saints, and afterwards of the wicked.
2 . Other passages leave distinctly on the mind the impression of one resurrection, not of two; e.g. John 5:28 ; Matthew 25:41 ; Acts 24:15 ; Daniel 12:2 . We are pointed to one day or time, whether Scripture speaks of the righteous, or of the wicked, or of both.
II. WHAT WILL THE RESURRECTION BE ? Granted that it will be of all the dead ( John 5:28 ): what is meant by it? We reply— It will be a resurrection of bodies.
2 . The bodies of the wicked will rise. The dead will rise with bodies which will be according to character, and which will contain within themselves provision for joy or woe. Query: Have we any clue in Scripture as to the relation which exists between the body that is laid in the grave and that which will rise from it? We reply—Not any direct clue; but we have a very clear statement of an apostle in 1 Corinthians 15:36-38 , concerning four well-known principles and methods of God in the natural world; and if we apply these, as he would have us do, to the doctrine in hand, we shall find many difficulties cleared out of the way. The four facts are these.
"God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him." If these are borne in mind and carried out to their legitimate issue, they will leave us no difficulty in the matter save the one, that we do not know the whole of anything.
III. How WILL THE RESURRECTION BE EFFECTED ?
1 . By the power of God ( Matthew 22:29 ).
3 . By the energy of the Holy Ghost ( Romans 8:11 ).
If we here do little more than quote Scripture, it is because that is all that we can do. We know nothing more about the resurrection than we are told by our Lord and his apostles. We cannot forget that the Redeemer, in his memorable reply to the Sadducces, in which he showed them that their blundering over the doctrine arose from ignorance of Scripture, also pointed out in what the real glory of the resurrection consists, viz. not in the reproducing of like flesh and blood, nor in the repetition of an earthly life, but in the raising of the entire man to a life of nobler energy, in which it would be possible for him to realize the full meaning of the words, "I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob." He who was their God would be to them all that a God could be, and would raise them up and present them to himself in all the perfection of a complete and glorified manhood.
IV. ON WHAT GROUND MAY OUR BELIEF IN THE RESURRECTION SECURELY REST ? There is one ground which is sufficient in itself, viz. the testimony of Jesus Christ and his apostles. Well aware are we that this is an age of revolt from authority. Or, rather, it is supposed to be so. And men think that they require clear proof from actual experiment before they believe. But a little close examination will dispose of this self laudatory theory. For first, if the proof of x be direct and personal, based on his own trial, to him the issue is knowledge, not faith. And second, unless his own proof can be repeated or actually is repeated by others, they must accept another's finding on faith in him. And so it is in the entire scientific realm. There is no man of science that does not owe to the experiments of others ninety-nine hundredths of all his knowledge. In other words, the great bulk of scientific knowledge rests on the authority of others. There are three kinds of authority which will stand as long as the race lasts.
With regard to the resurrection. The Lord Jesus Christ, as Lord of all, has authority of the first-named order. His apostles, as taught by the Holy Ghost, have authority of the second order. Hence the question between faith and unbelief regarding the resurrection ceases to be one of the surrender of authority as a ground of faith, and becomes merely one of the transfer of authority. Are men prepared to accept as authorities on this matter men who ask them to disbelieve the resurrection, because science can give them no information respecting it? We, for our part, challenge men to produce more trustworthy testimony on any matter, than that of our Lord and his apostles concerning the resurrection. If asked, then, for the ground on which we believe it, we would reply:
1 . The Lord has assured us of it ( John 11:23 )
3 . He has led the way by his own resurrection ( 1 Corinthians 15:17 ).
4 . He has declared his will that his people shall follow him to glory ( John 17:24 ).
V. WHAT WILL FOLLOW FROM THE RESURRECTION ? ( 1 Corinthians 15:14 , "Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.") The bodies of men before the resurrection were, so to speak, held in the grasp of death. The spirits of men were in Hades, i.e. in the invisible realm—those of the blessed in a state of happy rest and honour in and with Christ; those of the ungodly and unbelieving under the guard of Christ, with a view to the great, the decisive day, ushered in by the resurrection. When the mighty voice of the Son of God shall wake the dead, then Death shall resign his hold of the bodies, and the invisible world must open its gates for all its occupants to quit those mysterious realms. Thus Death will be dead. And the invisible realm will be vacant. Both will have served a purpose in the development of the Divine plans, but they will be no longer. They will be "cast into the lake of fire."
VI. WHAT USES HAVE BEEN MADE OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE RESURRECTION ? Perhaps few doctrines have suffered so much as this from the meddling and muddling of man. And in part, at any rate, it is owing to this that it has been so misused. Yet not altogether to this cause must we attribute such abuse. For the doctrine is confessedly so mysterious, that the proud heart scorns it. It is so fraught with terrors to the ungodly that the wicked tremble at it. (See Sir Samuel Baker's conversation with an African youth on the resurrection; Dr. Moffat's with an African chief upon it.) It is very remarkable that we have in Scripture illustrations of no fewer than seven ways of treating this doctrine.
1 . Some denied it altogether ( 1 Corinthians 15:12 ).
2 . Some declared that it was past already ( 2 Timothy 2:18 ).
3 . Some made it a plea for putting forth curious questions ( Matthew 22:28 ).
4 . Some mocked ( Acts 17:32 ).
5 . Some postponed the consideration of the matter ( Acts 17:32 ).
6 . Some believed ( 1 Peter 1:3-5 ).
7 . One, at least, with a touching blending of faith, fear, and. common sense, was unable to formulate the doctrine, but reposed implicitly in the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. John 11:26 , John 11:27 , "Believest thou this?" etc.). We admire the answer of Martha, in which she seems to say, "Yea, Lord, I believe it, because I believe thee, though I scarcely understand what it means!" Happy they who, with extreme difficulty in formulating the doctrine in detail, can fall back in loving faith in him in whom it centres, and who "will make it plain." As that excellent man, Dr. Clerk Maxwell, said, shortly before death, "It is but a very little of pure truth that we can reach; but what a mercy to be able to say, 'We know whom we have believed!'"
VII. BELIEVING THE DOCTRINE , WHAT OUGHT TO BE ITS PRACTICAL POWER ?
1 . It has a gladsome side. Herein:
2 . It has, moreover, an aspect of unspeakable solemnity. ( Revelation 1:7 ; John 5:28 , John 5:29 .) To rise from the dead to confront the Judge of all, in an unprepared and unpardoned state, how terrible!
The Lord grant that we may find mercy of the Lord in that day!
Judgment; or, the opening of the books. £
Following on the resurrection is the judgment. In connection with this, we read that before the face of him that sat upon the throne the heavens and the earth fled away. This may include the final conflagration. But what the phrase actually means, no man is in a position adequately to judge. Such passages as Psalms 102:26 , Psalms 102:27 ; Matthew 24:35 ; Matthew 19:28 ; Hebrews 1:12-14 ; 2 Peter 3:7 , 2 Peter 3:10-12 ; 1 John 2:17 , prepare us to expect vast changes. "If there is any analogy between what has been and what is to be, there may yet be another catastrophe on the surface of the earth by virtue of which present forms of life will cease to be, and give place to others of a higher order than ever earth has known." Now, the Bible presents to us a moral development. Science shows us physical development. And we are led, by comparing both together, to the conclusion which we have before expressed, that as in the past so in the future, moral and physical events will synchronize, and that when the earth is ripe for geologic change it will also be ripe for a moral one. Planting our feet firmly on the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth, we say—There cometh a great decisive day, as tremendous in its moral and spiritual revelations and issues as it will be august in its physical changes. We recognize Divine disclosures concerning the latter as well as concerning the former. There are Divine disclosures to reason in the stone book of nature, and Divine declarations to faith in the written revelation. Where science ends revelation carries us forward, and while the former forecasts the re-preparation of the stage for further action, the other reveals the action which is to take place on that stage. Science brings to view natural law; revelation, a series of laws equally firm and sure; even those of a moral government superadded to physical control, and of a redemptive work inserted into a moral administration. There is a day coming when the working of these varied sets of laws will culminate. In the "economy of the filling up of the seasons" things are kept in store against that day. It is very remarkable to find such vast events indicated in so few words as we find here. But the fact is that all physical charges arc but subordinate to the supreme moral and spiritual issues which are pending. On these we at once proceed to dwell.
I. " THE GREAT DAY " WILL PROVE AT ONCE A CLIMAX OF HISTORY AND A REVELATION OF CHARACTER . Its bearing on the human race is indicated by the words, "day of judgment;" in which term there are included:
1 . The appearing of mankind before God.
2 . The manifestation of character.
3 . Approval or disapproval.
4 . Recompense or penalty.
"It has for a long time been disputed whether the judgment of the world will be an external, visible, formal transaction, or whether the mere decision respecting the destiny of man ; the actual taking effect of retribution is represented under the image of a judicial proceeding, like what is common among men." £ The latter opinion would have more on its side if it were only in such a symbolic book as this that the latter is suggested. But the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments combine in presenting the judgment as a vast solemn last assize.
II. THE ENTIRE ADMINISTRATION OF JUDGMENT IS IN THE HANDS OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST . ( John 5:22 , John 5:27 ; Acts 10:42 ; Acts 17:31 ; Romans 14:10 ; 2 Corinthians 5:10 ; Philippians 2:11 .) He is the Head of the human race, both by his original position as Son of God, and by his assumed position as Son of man. He "both died, and rose, and re-lived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living."
III. SCRIPTURE TELLS US WHO WILL BE CONCERNED IN THE TRANSACTIONS OF THE JUDGMENT DAY . Devils (Jud 1 John 1:6 ; 2 Peter 2:4 ; Matthew 8:28 ). Men ( Romans 2:4-11 ), including pagans, Jews, Christians, nominal and real. All ( Romans 14:10 ). None will elude the judgment of God ( Romans 2:3 ). "Every one shall give account of himself" ( Romans 14:12 ).
IV. WE ARE ALSO TOLD WHAT WILL BE JUDGED .
1 . Deeds ( 2 Corinthians 5:10 ).
3 . Thoughts ( 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 ).
4 . Secret things ( Romans 2:16 ).
5 . "Every secret thing" ( Ecclesiastes 12:14 ).
"There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known."
V. MEN WILL BE JUDGED ACCORDING TO THE LIGHT THEY HAD ; i.e. according to the use they made of the light God had granted them ( Romans 2:11-15 ; Matthew 10:15 ; Matthew 11:21-24 ; Luke 11:31 , Luke 11:32 ; Luke 12:47 , Luke 12:48 ; Acts 10:34 , Acts 10:35 ). The principles here laid down are those of most manifest equity, and we are quite sure that there will be nothing contrary thereto in the sentence of God. The late Dr. Lawson, of Selkirk, was once asked by a flippant young man how he could think that any, such as Plato and Socrates, would be lost because they had not heard of Jesus Christ. He replied, "If it please God in his mercy, and through faith in his Son, to take you and me to heaven, and that we shall find there Socrates and Plato, I am sure we shall be glad indeed to meet them; but if we shall not find them in heaven, I am also sure that the Judge of all the earth will be able to assign a good reason for their absence, and that none in heaven will be either able or willing to dispute either the justice or the wisdom of his sovereign arrangements." £ We may also add that Scripture not obscurely intimates that every soul will, before the dread day comes, be brought into contact with the Lord Jesus lot acceptance or rejection; and those who followed conscientiously the dimmer light will surely accept joyfully the clearer. Certainly the Judge of all the earth will do right.
VI. WHERE IS THE RECORD OF THE ACTS , WORDS , AND THOUGHTS WHICH WILL BE DISCLOSED AT JUDGMENT ? In "the books." What are these? Who can tell? We would reverently suggest:
1 . There is that unerring record—the memory of God. To the Divine mind everything is present ( Psalms 139:1-24 .). By him nothing is forgotten. All the manifold and complicated currents of human thought, the varied fluctuations of human wills and impulses, the maze of human design and plan, past, present, and future, are all laid.open to his searching glance. Not one passing thought eludes his notice or escapes from his memory. In his mind is a complete and permanent photograph of every soul.
2 . Then there is our own memory. Judging from the collection of facts from which Science essays to draw her conclusions, nothing ever drops completely from man's memory. A word, a look, a sound, a song, a feature, a locket, a hair, may recall deeds and thoughts of a generation past. Let but the barriers which imprison memory be removed, as they seem to have been in the case of many persons near death, and the whole of one's life may rush back in an instant, and reveal the man to himself in a way that shall either make him dumb with horror or inspire him with joy.
3 . If this be so, then the memory of others must be a permanent record of a large part of our lives. For if our memory records the impulses we give, it would seem also, by parity of reasoning, to be a record of the impulses we receive. Thus the power exerted by us over others, and by others over us, creates indelible impressions on their minds and ours, so that their "books" and ours mutually supplement and confirm each other. "You cannot meet a stranger in the streets, nor utter a word in your remotest solitude, nor think a thought in your inmost heart, but lo! this recording angel has noted it down upon the tablets of your soul forever" (Macleod).
4 . Science itself suggests wondrous disclosures in this direction. The great mathematician Babbage, in his Bridgewater Treatise, remarks, "The whole atmosphere is one vast library, on whose pages are recorded all that man has ever said or woman whispered." The air, the light, are ever the bearers of our deeds and words. "It is probable," says Coleridge, "judging from the facts presented in medical records, that all thoughts are in themselves imperishable; and that if the intelligent faculty should be rendered more comprehensive, it would require only a different and apportioned organization—the body celestial instead of the body terrestrial—to bring before every human soul the collective experience of its whole past existence. And this—this, perchance, is the dread book of judgment, in the mysterious hieroglyphics of which every idle word is recorded." £
5 . And then there will be another record—in the countenance of the man. The spirit forms the face. Even here, "it is not in words explicable with what Divine lines and lights the exercise of godliness and charity will mould and gild the hardest and coldest countenances, nether to what darkness their departure will consign even the loveliest. For there is not any virtue the exercise of which even momentarily will not impress a new fairness upon the tortures; neither on them only, but on the whole body." £ The work of grace reforms the countenance. The work of sin deforms it. To a sufficiently keen observer, a man's face is a living book in which his character may be read. Yea, it is even so. "Books" in abundance are every moment having entries made therein from which the character and desert of each can be clearly read at last. So much so is this the case, that it is far easier to see how ruin impends than how salvation is possible, with such a long catalogue of sins as must attach to every man's life. Knowing as we do that in the physical world there is no forgiveness of sins, it is impossible, without Bible teaching, to see how salvation ever can be inserted into the condition of a sinful man. This naturally leads us to another inquiry—
VII. WHAT WILL BE THE ISSUES OF THE JUDGMENT ? These will be twofold.
1 . Eternal life. (Comp. Matthew 25:31-40 ; Romans 8:33 , Romans 8:34 ; 1 John 4:17 ; 2 Timothy 4:8 ; Revelation 2:10 ; Revelation 3:5 .) Scripture is very clear as to the issues of the judgment in the case of the blessed. There is, in fact, one sentence in the paragraph before us which indicates the joyous aspect of the judgment to them. "Another book was opened, which is the book of life" (cf. Isaiah 4:3 ; Luke 10:20 ; Philippians 4:3 ; Hebrews 12:23 ; Philippians 3:20 ). This book of life includes all the saved. Every one of them is written there. The Father's name is written on their foreheads. Their names are written in the Father's book. And this is emphatically a book of grace. Without the redemptive scheme of Divine love, there never would have been any such book at all. Nor should it be left unnoticed that it is called in Revelation 13:8 and Revelation 21:27 the Lamb's book of life. The names recorded there are of those who have been redeemed by his blood, and who are his purchased possession. These shall be welcomed by him to the everlasting kingdom "prepared from the foundation of the world."
(a) It is not surprising if, when we attempt detail, we soon get beyond our reach in dealing with themes so vast.
(b) In this case, however, whatever sin comes out to light, does so as that which is repented of on the one side, and forgiven on the other. So that
(c) even thus the testimony would be borne more vividly to the renewing and forgiving grace of God.
Difficulty (2): We read in John 5:24 that he that believeth shall not come into judgment; and yet we read elsewhere, "We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ:" how is this? Reply: Believers, with others, will be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ; but their manifestation will be that of pardoned and of sanctified men, whose guilt is cancelled and whose sin is removed. Surely, when this is taken into account, the difficulty ceases. There will be no such judgment as involves condemnation.
2 . On the other side, the issue will be condemnation. The terrible word "Depart!" sums up all hell. What further remarks we have to offer on the after state of the ungodly we reserve for the next homily, observing here only that κατακρίμα cannot mean anything less than "an adverse verdict;" and what that may involve, as a final sentence from the lips of the King of kings, we pray God we may never know!
Note: That scenes so solemn as the one put before us in this paragraph are meant to tell mightily upon us, and that they ought to do so, we cannot question, however incapable we may be of realizing all the details thereof. Any one or more of the following applications may well be earnestly pressed on the conscience by pastors and teachers.
1 . Let every believer keep in view the judgment day, with anxious desire then to be approved of the Judge ( 1 John 2:28 ).
2 . Let us endeavour more fully to realize the fact that we are perpetually under the scrutinizing gaze of him "with whom we have to do."
4 . How intensely momentous does a pastor's or a teacher's work appear in view of that day ( Hebrews 13:17 ) It is not to be wondered at if at times the weight of responsibility is more than he knows how to bear.
5 . The responsibility of those who hear the Word is obviously correspondingly great. It also is implied in Hebrews 13:17 .
6 . None should forget that there is a Divine, a gracious meaning, in the prolonging of the "day of salvation." The promise and the menace are not forgotten. God is not weak. Neither is he indifferent. He is "long suffering towards us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." With a view to this his goodness is drawing men now. He waits to be gracious. But we have no reason for thinking that he will wait always.
The second death: the lake of fire.
"This is the second death, the lake of fire." Few of our readers, if any, are likely here to lose sight of the symbolic style of the Apocalypse—a style which, indeed, so largely pervades it, that if there were not other passages bearing on like themes and couched in different phraseology, its interpretation would be impossible. And even with the aid of the plainer words, the theme before us is so vast, so dread, so fraught with terror, that for our part we scarcely know how to write upon it or even to approach it. Nor even now can we pretend to do more within the space at our command than to lay down some seven distinctly revealed lines of Divine teaching concerning the future state of the ungodly. When these seven lines are put together they will be found to include all the main teachings of the Word containing so dread a theme. We regard it as needless to do more at this stage of the exposition than to remind the reader of the point we have reached in the grand unfoldings of this book. The resurrection is past, the judgment has been set, men have been adjudged each one according to his works. And it is from this revealed point of time that we now start. May the writer's pen be guided, and his heart inspired in a holy and a trembling awe, as he now essays to point out the results of the Judge's solemn word, "Depart!"
I. AT THIS POINT THE REVEALED PERIOD OF PROBATION FOR THE RACE CLOSES . It is very clear, from the apostolic explanation in 2 Corinthians 6:2 of the phrase, "a day of salvation," that the present gospel day is thereby intended. This is the day of salvation, in which mercy may be obtained. To this day there is a limit. "After that thou shalt cut it down." The vine dresser could not ask for any further postponement of the act when fruitlessness was decisive and final. We are not in a position to look at the meaning of the great decisive day in relation to the government of God until we understand the Scripture doctrine of human probation. We know that nations, empires, and cities have a day of probation. So have Churches. So have individuals. Their probation may close even before their natural life ends. It was so with Judas. The line, however, which marks the close of probation is not a temporal one, but a moral one. The close of probation is reached when the state of fixedness in sin is reached . Hence we have but to expand the conception of that of individuality to that of universality to see how completely this accords with the frequent reference in Scripture of "the harvest day." Whoever lives in the habit of resisting God is hardening himself into a state of fixed unfruitfulness. And the last day will be the decisive day of treatment, because it is the consummation day of character.
II. " THE DAY OF SALVATION " WILL BE FOLLOWED BY " THE DAY OF JUDGMENT ." The latter may be a period as prolonged as the former. During "the day of salvation" grace reigns. In "the day of judgment" absolute and unswerving equity will mark the Divine procedure in every case ( Romans 2:6-16 ). And, as we understand the meaning of that, in its bearing on our present theme, we would express it thus: Whosoever refused grace, when it was freely offered him in the day of salvation, will be dealt with according to equity when that day is over. There will be nothing of vindictiveness, harshness, or excess. Nothing in degree or duration which will not be known by the individual conscience, to be absolutely right.
III. AT THIS DAY OF JUDGMENT THE RIGHTEOUS WILL NO MORE BE MINGLED WITH THE WICKED . The two solemn words, "Come!" "Depart!" will mark a difference in lot corresponding to difference of character, and also a separation of the one from the other. And it may well be made a theme of prolonged study to inquire into the meaning of the several words which express the character of those "without." There are no fewer than thirteen terms by which they are indicated. "Dogs," "sorcerers," "whoremongers," "liars," "the fearful," "unbelieving, ... idolaters," "murderers," "fornicators," "abominable," "those who worship the beast," "those who worshipped the dragon," "those who are not in the Lamb's book of life." Such is the terrible list. On earth they met with the righteous, but were never confounded with them; in the next they shall neither mix nor meet (cf. Matthew 7:23 ; Hebrews 12:14 ). We know that such characters may be met with on earth now; what they will be is but the continuation of what they are (see Revelation 22:11 ).
IV. FOR SUCH THE JUDGMENT DAY WILL INVOLVE A LOT WHICH IS THE TENFOLD ANTITHESIS OF LIFE . Let the student reverently compare the several terms which are set over against the word "life":
1 . Life and punishment ( Matthew 25:46 ).
2 . Life and judgment ( John 5:29 ).
3 . Life and wrath ( John 3:36 ).
6 . Life and the lake of fire ( Revelation 20:15 ).
7 . Life and hell fire ( Matthew 18:9 ).
8 . Life and everlasting fire ( Matthew 25:41 ).
9 . Life and the unquenchable fire ( Mark 9:48 ).
10. Life and everlasting contempt ( Daniel 12:2 ).
What a burden for men to unfold to their fellow men—"the terrors of the Lord"! Yet this must be done. Who can gauge the contents of these phrases?
V. THIS RENDERING TO EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS WILL BRING APPALLING SUFFERING . It is very common for those who wish to prejudice their hearers or readers against the doctrine of future punishment, to use more frequently than any other phrase the words "eternal torment." This is exceedingly unwise—and worse, as an examination of the use of the word in the New Testament will show. Twice is this word, however, used in the symbolic language of this book. What was its intention? It is used to denote the tormenting process inflicted on accused ones, to extort from them the confession of the truth. May there not be herein a deep truth indicated, that even the perishing ones will clearly see, yea, and confess, that God is righteous? But if we are asked the question—In what will the sufferings of the lost consist? we reply:
1 . We earnestly trust we may never know.
2 . So far as Scripture teachings guide us, we cannot avoid seeing that six features will mark them.
VI. THERE IS A DREAD CONSENSUS OF CONVICTION AMONG EVANGELICAL PREACHERS AND TEACHERS ON THESE STUPENDOUS THEMES . Startling as such an assertion may be, when the controversies on future punishment are borne in mind, it is one which we venture to make, and one which we deem of infinite importance. We are well aware of the different theories on this subject. £ There is what is called the "orthodox" theory—that the punishment of the wicked will be endless. There is the annihilation theory. There is the future restoration theory. There is the theory of the relativeness of revelation with regard to time. It is no part of our purpose here to defend or to criticize either. Our space will not permit of it. The books mentioned in the footnote will furnish the needed material for this. Our aim is rather to indicate how much common ground there is for evangelical preachers and teachers to occupy in proclaiming "the terrors of the Lord." The following statements will show how far earnest representative men in the several leading divisions of eschatolegical thought travel together on similar lines. They teach:
1 . That when the Son of God comes as the Judge of all mankind, the time of probation for the human race will have closed.
2 . That then every eye shall see him, and that all things will be in readiness for a righteous administration of judgment.
3 . That all men will then appear before the tribunal of the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 . That every man will, ere then, know of his own personal relation to the Lord Jesus, and that he is to be the Judge of all mankind.
5 . That the final state of every soul will depend on its attitude to the Lord. Jesus Christ.
6 . That men will be sentenced, not according to the light God saw fit to send them, but according to the use they have made of the light granted to them.
7 . That the Lord Jesus Christ, as an omniscient and unerring Judge, will sentence every man; that this sentence will be according to truth; and that it will be the outworking of moral laws that are in operation now, which are like their Author, "the same yesterday, and today, and forever."
8 . That the measure of punishment will be according to the measure of guilt.
9 . That for the righteous there will be joy and honour unspeakable, which will never end.
10. That for the wicked there will be irremediable loss, unutterable woe, for a duration of which no man can gauge the extent, accompanied with a depth of remorse that no tongue nor pen can describe.
11. That for those who reject Jesus Christ in this life there will be no such thing as makng up lost time, and that they will never attain to the blessedness they would have reached if they had received Christ in this, the accepted time. Their time once lost is lost forever, and the corresponding loss of blessedness will never be retrieved.
Surely here is enough, and more than enough, for focussed power in the pulpit in the presentation of the revealed truth of God on the future destiny of the ungodly. And when we see what a dread aspect of finality there is in such words as "The door was shut;" when we remember how repeatedly the trumpet call Now is sounded; when we know that these are spoken of as the last days, and that the day of judgment is "the last day;" when there is no hint of an offer of mercy in the next life to those who have rejected Jesus Christ in this; when we know that, by continued sin, men are getting into a state of hardness in which no means known to us can possibly reach their consciences;—to shrink from the presentation to them of their risks would be gross unfaithfulness. There is no need to indulge in the excessive statement that sin will last as long as God lasts; there is no need to indulge in flaming descriptions of material fire and of bodily torture; there is no reason for so setting things as to make one's moral nature and conscience revolt therefrom; in fact, there is every reason for not doing anything of the kind. For, within the lines indicated of a widely spread agreement among men of diverse conclusions as to the ultimate issue, the facts of life are so real, the drift of evil is so manifest, the penalties on sin are so stern, the Word of God is so clear, the commission to the Christian teacher is so direct, and the importance of commending ourselves to every man's conscience is so vast, that with the most careful accuracy, measured statement, calm reasoning, pungent appeal, impassioned fervour, we are bound—even weeping—to plead with men in Christ's stead, to "be reconciled to God," reminding them that
"'Tis not the whole of life to live,
Nor all of death to die."
There is—there is— the second death, even the lake of fire.
The final judgment.
Stripped of its imagery, this most solemn Scripture declares to us the truth which is found in records manifold. Those of the Bible. The confirmatory passages are everywhere throughout its pages, and especially in those which record the very words of Christ. The most dreadful things in the Bible fell from his lips. Those of the traditions of ancient and heathen peoples. Everywhere we find, as especially in Egypt, creeds which declare a final and awful judgment. Those of conscience. They tell of "a fearful looking for of judgment." Read 'Macbeth,' and wherever any great writers have drawn true portraitures of men, the witness of conscience may be heard in them all. The imagery here is taken from the tribunals, and the procedure in them, with which the age of St. John was familiar—the august and awe inspiring paraphernalia of justice, the magnificent and elevated throne of the judge, the giving of the evidence, and the sentence. But underlying all this metaphor are such truths as these—
I. THAT DEATH DOES NOT END ALL . This great transaction takes place when life is over, when this world is done with. Men, therefore, live on after death, or else they could not appear at this judgment bar. And that men do thus continue to live in their true real self, there is much evidence, beside that of Scripture, to show. The ancient Greeks disputed whether the relation of the soul to the body was that of harmony to the harp, or that of the rower to the boat. If the former, then, if you destroy the harp, you destroy the harmony it gave forth; and so, if you destroy the body, you destroy the soul too, and death does end all. But if the second, then the boat may sink or go to pieces, but the rower lives on still. And so is it with the soul. The body—its boat—may sink into the depths of the grave, but the soul sinks not with it. Professor Huxley has affirmed that "life is the cause of organization, and not organization the cause of life;" and Tyndall has shown that dead matter cannot produce life. Life, therefore, must exist prior to and independent of matter, and therefore can exist after the material organization which it for a while animated has decayed. We are the same self conscious beings in old age as we were when in childhood, though our bodies have changed over and over again meanwhile. Death, then, does not end all; we live on, and so one demand of the doctrine of final judgment is met.
II. THAT THERE SHOULD BE RECORDS UPON WHICH THE JUDGMENT SHALL PROCEED . They are spoken of in this Scripture (verse 12) as "books." "And another book, which is the book of life." The books contain biographies, and therefore are voluminous. The "other book" contains but names, and therefore is but one. No biography is needed; nought but the fact that they believed in Jesus. But what is meant by the "books"? Simply that there are records of the soul's life, which will be opened and read in the great judgment day. They are found:
1 . In the souls of others. In the character we have helped to impress upon them. There is no one but what has written down evidence about himself on the souls of others. If we have helped them heavenward, that is there; if we have urged them hellward, that is there.
2 . But chiefly in our own souls. We are always writing such record, and it may be read even now in the body, in the countenance, in the very way we bear ourselves before our fellow men. Character can be read now. It comes out at the eyes, in the look, the aspect, is heard in the tone of voice. But much more helps to conceal it. The restraints of society, the regard to the opinion of others, make men reticent and reserved and full of concealment of their real selves. But in the spiritual body it is altogether probable that the essence of the man will be far more visible—may, in fact, be, as many have thought, the creator of its body, so that "every seed" shall have "its own body." But on the soul itself its record will be read. Many a man can trace yet the scar of a wound, and that not a severe one, which he received thirty, forty, fifty, years and more ago. The ever changing body will so hold its record. And there are scars of the soul. Wounds inflicted on it will abide and be visible so long as the soul lasts. Like the undeveloped plate of the photographer, a mere blurred surface until he plunges it into the bath, and then the image comes out clearly; so our souls are now illegible and their record indistinct, but when plunged into the bath of eternity, then what has been impressed thereon will be distinct and clear. Then the image of "the deeds done in the body" will come out with startling but unerring accuracy. If man can find out means, as he has found, so to register the words and tones of a speaker that they can be reproduced years after, and whenever it is desired, is there not in that discovery of science a solemn suggestion that all our "idle" and worse "words" may be recorded somewhere, and be heard again when we thought they were forgotten forever? Yes, there are records. And—
III. A JUDGMENT . "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after death the judgment." "And they were judged every man," etc. (verse 13). What do these Scriptures mean? Now, the Greek word for "judgment" is "crisis;" that is the Greek word, simply, in English letters. But what is more is that our word "crisis" does more accurately set forth the meaning of "judgment" than what is commonly understood thereby. When we speak of a "crisis," we mean a turning point, a decisive settling as to the course which affairs will take. That is a crisis. But when we speak of "judgment," the imagery of these verses rise up before our minds, and we think of an external judge, and a sentence that he passes upon us. Judgment, however, often takes place. How common it is to hear it said of a man who has passed through some great experience, "He has never been the same man since"! Great trials, disappointments, distresses of any kind, and great successes and wealth also, act as crises, turning points, judgments, to a man. They act like the watershed of a district, which determines which way the streams shall flow; so these great crises of a man's life turn this way or that the moral and spiritual dispositions which dwell in him. They do much to settle him in a fixed habit of character, for good or ill, as the case may be. How much more, then, after "death" must there be "judgment"! Then, freed from all the restraints of life, from all that hindered the manifestation of what he really was, his nature now gravitates towards that side of spiritual character to which it has long been leaning, but from which it has hitherto been held back. It takes up its position according to its nature. If evil, with the evil; if good, with the good—for in this case his name is found "written in the book of life." It is ill for us to put off the idea of judgment until some far distant day, amid some unwonted scenes. God's judgments are continually taking place, and every thought, act, and word is helping to determine to which side, whether to the right hand or to the left, our souls shall go.
IV. THE SENTENCE . It has been said that this judgment told of here is of the ungodly only, and that the book of life is mentioned only for the sake of showing "that their names are not there." We cannot think this. Nothing is said about the sentence of any, only the final fate of the ungodly. "The lake of fire," the "oven of fire" ( Matthew 13:1-58 .), and similar expressions, are metaphors taken from the barbarous punishments of that age. To east men alive into fire was a fearful but not unusual punishment. Hence it is taken because of its fearfulness as a figure of the final fate of the ungodly. Evil character such as that into which they have settled is like a raging fire, and the blindness of heart and mind which attends such character is like "the blackness of darkness" itself. We may see men in hell today when filled with the fury of rage and passion; and, blessed be God, we may see others in heaven because filled with the peace of God. Heaven or hell is, in great degree, in a man ere ever he enters either the one or the other. They are in us before we are in them, and the judgment is but each man's going to his own place. What solemn confirmation, then, do such Scriptures as that before us receive from observed facts and experiences of men in this life! What urgency, therefore, do they lend to the exhortation, "Commit thy way unto the Lord"! And how prompt should be our resolve to entrust the keeping of our souls unto Christ, so that in the great judgment after death they may go with Christ and his saints into eternal life! "Jesus, by thy wounds we pray, help now that our names may be written in the book of life" (Hengstenberg).—S.C.
The final judgment upon evil conduct.
The scenes of the Book of Revelation are now approaching completion, and they present more definitely the characteristics of "the end." Judgment proceeds on human conduct daily, but there is a final judgment, "the judgment of the great day," when "we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God." That dread day is now present to the mind of the seer, and before that inner eye, by a spiritual illumination, the solemn scene is depicted. It is pictorial, and, like the Lord's own picture of the separating of the sheep from the goats, though it lacks the completeness of this teaching, it has aspects of the most awful grandeur. In the symbolical presentation the following dreadful features are prominent—
I. THE AUTHORITY , SANCTITY , AND DREAD TERRIBLENESS OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT . The symbol of the authoritative character of the judgment is represented in "a great throne;" its sanctity in the ever-present symbol of purity—it is a "white" throne, "we know that his judgment is according to truth;" while the terribleness of the holy judgment is indicated in the assertion that the very "earth and the heaven fled away" from "the face" of him that sat on the throne.
II. THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE JUDGMENT . The symbol here approaches a terrible realism. The seer beheld "the dead, the great and the small, stand before the throne," and "the sea" and "death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them, and they were judged." The judgment is upon the "dead," and it transplants our thoughts to the final issues of human history.
III. The judgment which is universal is also MINUTE AND INDIVIDUAL . "They were judged every man." None escape or pass by. Every servant to whom the Lord has entrusted goods must give account of the same.
IV. The judgment proceeds UPON THE CONDUCT OF THE EARTHLY LIFE . "They were judged every man according to their works." Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, "Every idle word that men shall speak they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."
V. THE FINAL , TERRIBLE AWARD OF EVIL DOING . "If any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire." That this represents the termination of the present order of things is indicated by the destruction of death and Hades; the present, the temporary, is swallowed up in the final. One side only of the judgment is represented—that of the wicked.
Truly these awful scenes are not for the eye, but for the heart. No picture is permissible of any part of these unspeakable things. Men must take the terrible intimations, and ponder them in their hearts; and "blessed" is the man that so "reads" and so "understands the words of the prophecy of this book," that he turns in lowly meekness to him who is the one and only Saviour of men, and seeks by his grace to walk "in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless."—R.G.
The fourth scene in the history of humanity: the age of retribution.
"And I saw a great white throne," etc. There was one fact common to all the preceding epochs through which redeemed humanity had passed—they were all probationary, all connected with the overtures of mercy to the guilty, and the means of spiritual purity, blessedness, and elevation for the polluted, unhappy, and degraded. But the probationary element, which had run on through all dispensations from Adam to Christ, and through all revolutions from Christ to the consummation of the world, is now closed; its last ray has fallen, its sun has gone down to rise no more. Hence on, every man shall be treated according to his past works, and shall reap the fruit of his own doings. The morning of retribution has broken. The magnificent passage before us points to the period designated in Scripture "the day of God," "the judgment of the great day," "the revelation of the righteous judgment of God," "the eternal judgment." It may be well to premise at the outset, in order to guard against the tendency of associating too much of what is merely material and human with the circumstances and transactions of this period, that this retribution will literally involve the judiciary circumstances here portrayed. I have heard and read discourses on this subject, which impress the mind more with a kind of Old Bailey scene, than with the great moral facts which distinguish that period from all preceding times. It is true that we have here the mention of the "throne" and "books" common to human courts; but it should be remembered that inspired writers, in accommodation to our ordinary habits—ay, and laws of thought—reveal to us the unknown through the medium of the known. What mind, in sooth, can receive any new idea without comparing it with the old? We judge of the unseen by the seen; we learn what the testimony of others unfolds to us through the medium of what we have already beheld. Thus "the day of judgment' is set forth under the figure of ancient courts of judicature, which in general features agree with all the modern courts in the civilized world. There is the judge on his seat or throne; there is the prisoner arraigned; there is the investigation carried on through "books" or documents; and there is justice administered. Now, there is quite sufficient resemblance between these courts of human justice and the judicial transactions of God at the last day, to warrant the former being employed as illustrations of the latter, without supposing a "throne" or a "book" whatever. For example:
1 . There is the bringing of the Judge and the accused into conscious contact.
2 . There is the final settling of the question of guiltiness or non-guiltiness, according to recognized law.
3 . There is the administration of an award to which the accused is bound to submit. Let us now proceed to notice a few facts in relation to this retributive period.
I. THIS RETRIBUTIVE PERIOD WILL DAWN WITH OVERPOWERING SPLENDOUR UPON THE WORLD . Observe:
1 . The character of this manifestation. He comes on a throne. A "throne" is an emblem of glory. It is generally valuable in itself. That of Solomon consisted wholly of gold and ivory; but its glory mainly consists of its being the seat of supremacy. Hence ambition points to nothing higher. The people have ever looked up with a species of adoration to the throne. But what a throne is this! "His throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire." It is a "white throne." Human thrones have often, perhaps generally, been stained by sensuality, injustice, and tyranny. The throne has sometimes become so loathsome that the people, roused into indignation, have seized and burnt it in the streets. But this is a "white throne." There is not a single stain upon it. He who has ever occupied it "is light, and in him is no darkness at all." It is a great "white throne." Great in its occupant: "He filleth all in all." Great in its influence. Toward it the eyes of all intelligences are directed; to it all beings are amenable; from it all laws that determine the character and regulate the destiny of all creatures proceed.
2 . The effect of this manifestation. Before its refulgence this material universe could not stand; it melted—it vanished away. "No more place was found for them" ( Revelation 20:11 ). It will pass away, perhaps, as the orbs of night pass away in the high noontide of the sun: they are still in being, still in their orbits, and still move on as ever; but they are lost to us by reason of a "glory that excelleth." What a contrast between Christ now as the Judge, and Christ of old as the despised Nazarene!
II. THIS RETRIBUTIVE PERIOD WILL WITNESS THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD , AND THE CONSEQUENT DESTRUCTION OF HADES AND THE GRAVE . "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [Hades] delivered up the dead which were in them" ( Revelation 20:13 ). The words suggest two thoughts on this subject.
1 . That in the resurrection there will be a connection between man's raised and man's mortal body. A resurrection of the material relics is a traditional dogma of the stupid, not a conviction of the studious. It is evidently implied that the resurrection-body is a something that has come out of the body, deposited either in the grave or the sea. What is the connection? Is it meant that men will come up with exactly the same bodies as they had during the probationary state? This, probably, is the vulgar idea, and this is the idea against which infidels level their objections. The question is now, as of old, "With what body do they come?" And assuming that they come in the same body, they commence their antagonistic reasonings and their sneers. But this is not the Scripture doctrine. "That which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be." If it be said—Is there no identity, no sameness? I ask—What do you mean by "sameness "? If you say sameness, in the sense of particles, bulk, or capacity, I answer— No! The sameness between the old body and the resurrection body is not the sameness between the seed you deposit in the soil and the wheat which in autumn is produced by it. The one grows out of the other, has the form of the other; the resurrection body is not the same as the old probationary body, in the same sense as the body of any given individual is the same in its man -state as it was in its child -state. Take the case of a man in two different periods of life—say, ten years of age and sixty. In the intervening periods his body has passed through several radical changes; yet at sixty he feels that he has the same body which he had at ten. It is not until your science comes that he questions it; and where the science has been the most convincing, it has never destroyed this underlying consciousness of physical identity. How can you account for this consciousness of sameness?
(a) Because he knows the one has risen out of the other. It has been an evolution. The casual connection has been preserved. The one was the outcome of the other.
(b) Because he knows the one has retained the same plan, or outline as the other. If the body, in the man-state, had taken a form different to that of its child-state, the consciousness of identity might have been lost. If it passed, for instance, from the human form to the lion, eagle, or any other form, though the particles might have been all retained, and bulk and capacity continued as ever, the sense of identity would have been lost.
(c) Because he knows the one fulfils the same functions as the other. The body, in the child-state, was the inlet and outlet of himself. Through it, in all cases, he derived and imparted his feelings and ideas. It was the great medium between his spirit and the material universe. Now, for these three reasons, man may feel that his resurrection body is the same as the one in which he spent his probationary life. It grows out of the buried. There is in the body that went down to the grave a something, I know not what, which the man, the spiritual self, takes into his immortal frame. The resurrection body may retain its present form or outline; it may be moulded after the same archetype. It may also fulfil many of the same functions. Ever will it be the medium between the material and the spiritual. I know, then, of no objection that you can urge against the fact of a man having a resurrection body which he may feel to be identical with his probationary body, that could not antecedently be urged against a fact in the present experience of every adult—the fact of an individual having a man body which he feels to be the same as his child body.
2 . That the resurrection will be coextensive with the mortality of mankind. "The sea gave up its dead." What a vast cemetery is the sea! Here mighty navies slumber; millions of the industrious, the enterprising, and the brave, lie beneath its restless waves. But all must now come forth. All that have perished—whether in the barques of scientific expedition, or the ships of commerce, or the fleets of conquered nations, must come forth in this dread day. "Death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them" ( Revelation 20:13 ). This is the grave. "All that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and shall come forth." What a voice is that! It would reverberate over sea and land, from island to island, from continent to continent; roll its thunders through the deepest vaults and catacombs; and soon the mouldering skeletons and the scattered dust would feel the stir of life, and spring to immortality. Martyrs, who had no grave to shelter them from the storm of ages, whose dust was consumed in the flames, and left at the mercy of the wild elements, would appear again; as the field of battle, where mighty armies struggled in demon fury, would start to life on the plains where, in hellish rage, they fell. "And hell gave up its dead." Hell here means, not the place of punishment, but the universe of disembodied spirits, both good and bad. This Hades of the Greeks, and Sheol of the Hebrews, sends forth all the myriads of human souls that it has ever received, from Abel to the last man that grappled with the" king of terrors." "The small and great." Not an infant too young, not a patriarch too old. Tyrants and their slaves, sages and their pupils, ministers and their people—all will appear.
III. This RETRIBUTIVE PERIOD WILL BRING HUMANITY INTO CONSCIOUS CONTACT WITH GOD . "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God" ( Revelation 20:12 ). They stand before God; they confront him, as it were, eye to eye, being to being. Each feels God to be the All to him now. The idea of God fills every soul as a burning flame. They stand before him, feeling his presence, and awaiting his doom fixing word. This is a distinguishing feature of the retributive period. In every preceding period of human history, with the exception of the millennial ages, the vast majorities of all generations had no conscious contact with God. Some denied his very being, whilst others desired not a knowledge of his ways. But hence on, forever and ever, all the good and the bad will "stand before God"—will be in conscious contact with him. His felt presence will be the heaven of the good, and his felt presence will be the hell of the ceil.
1 . There will be no atheism after this. How will the atheist teachers of the past ages feel now? Lucretius, Democritus, and Strabo among the ancients; Diderot, Lagrange, D'Alembert, Mirabeau, and Hobbes amongst the moderns, will feel now, and evermore, that the greatest reality in the universe was the Being whose existence they impiously ignored or denied.
2 . There will be no deism after this. The men who taught, through preceding ages, the doctrine that God had no immediate connection with his creatures; that he governed the universe through an inflexible system of laws; that he took no Cognizance of individuals, and felt no interest in them, will know now that no being in the universe had been in such close contact with every particle and period of their existence as God. All the objects that intervened between God and the soul will be withdrawn now; the veil of sense and matter will be rent asunder, to unite no more.
3 . There will be no indifferentism after this. God's Being, presence, and claims will no longer be subjects of no importance. They will be everything to all. God's presence will fill the conscious life of all, as midday sun without a cloud the day.
IV. THIS RETRIBUTIVE PERIOD WILL SETTLE FOREVER THE QUESTION OF EVERY MAN 'S CHARACTER AND DESTINY . "And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works," etc. ( Revelation 20:12 , Revelation 20:13 ). Here observe three things.
1 . That the worth of a man's character will be determined by his works. "According to their works." Not by religious position, or creed, or profession, or office; but by "works." "What has a man done?" will be the question.
2 . That a man's works will be determined by recognized authorities. "Books" will be opened. God's moral and remedial laws are books, and these books will now be opened—opened to memory, to conscience, and the universe. This will be a day of moral conviction.
3 . That according to the correspondence, or noncorrespondence, of man's works with these recognized authorities will be his final destiny. "Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" ( Revelation 20:15 ). "The book of life"—the remedial law or scheme of salvation—the gospel. Whoever was not found vitally interested in this was cast into the lake of fire.
What a scene is this that has passed under review! In its light how mean do man's highest dignities and honours appear! How ineffably paltry the pageantry of courts! how empty the pretensions of sovereigns! How solemn is life, in all its stages, relations, and aspects! God help us to live in the light of " that day"! —D.T.