This is intended to serve as Part Two of a paper which appeared in Instalment Nine, May-June 1973, "Into a Resurrection of Life." If the former paper has been loaned to someone or is otherwise no longer at hand, we would be glad to supply a replacement copy on request so that it may be reviewed as a basis for the present study.
The former paper was based on the words of our Lord in John 5:28-29 and Paul's teaching in Romans 2:5-10; first what our Lord had said of some far future "hour" when all who remain in their tombs until then will come forth together at the hearing of His voice, those having done good to "a resurrection of life" and those having done "bad" or "evil" to "a resurrection of judging." Paul accordingly refers to some who by endurance in good works have been seeking "glory and honor and incorruption." There he said nothing of faith or faith-righteousness as if he had referred to saints of the present era who are being saved in grace through faith; yet he does indicate that some who by good works have been seeking glory and honor and incorruption will somehow obtain much of what they have been seeking; not "glory and honor and incorruption" as such but "glory and honor and peace;" PEACE indeed but something less than "incorruption"—a most important distinction.
By contrast Paul refers to other and different persons who deliberately resist and reject the truth, having a desire to remain in the service of sin and receive the rations of death. Such he calls "stubborn indeed as to the truth yet persuaded to injustice" which perhaps we might better render as "persuaded to unrighteousness." He shows still further that these will suffer "indignation and fury, affliction and distress," though of course that does not deny their ultimate salvation as other Scriptures well confirm. Paul's teaching there coincides with our Lord's reference to some who will come forth to a resurrection of judging.
Then in the Book of Revelation John relates what he had seen of the White Throne Judgment as if looking back thereon from a time beyond. He saw first a scrollet, a little book, which had become a scroll, a larger book, at the conclusion of the judgment, indicating therefore that the number of names had been increasing. At the conclusion of the judging some whose names did not yet appear in the scroll were consigned to a lake of fire, associated there with "second death."
No doubt "second death" does presuppose a previous death of like kind; yet, for reasons to follow here, we suggest that this refers to the present mortal STATE of death even as the "death" which appears in John 5: 24 and I John 3: 14. There John says "We have passed from death unto life," and the death there in view is our present mortal state. This is the "death" which began in Adam on the day he first sinned after he had been forewarned, "In the day thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die" or "to die shall you be dying" (Gen. 2:17). By heritage the same mortal state of death has passed through" unto all mankind (Rom. 5:12). Thus when Paul says that our Savior Jesus Christ abolishes death yet illuminates life and incorruption (II Tim. 1:11), that life remains to be "put on" (I Cor. 15:53) and until then all mankind remains in "death." Meanwhile we by faith foresee a future incorruptible life as though it were a distant object under the radiance of a powerful light which in this instance is the light of the evangel. Later in this paper we distinguish the present mortal state of death which now applies to all from a future mortal state of death—a "second death"—which afterward will apply only to some who are then confined to a lake of fire for some indefinite future time.
Here it is most significant that Hades, the "unseen," is associated only with present death, never with "second death." For other reasons to follow here, it becomes equally interesting that present death and Hades are found to end directly after the White Throne Judgment where the second state of death begins and continues for some until all remaining power of death has been abolished. Thus immediately after the White Throne Judgment we observe that Death and Hades are first consigned to the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14), for those two are preceded there only by the beast and false prophet, the Adversary and his messengers, who are consigned to the same area well before the White Throne Judgment (Rev. 19:20 cf. 20:10). After that we read no more of "Hades," the "unseen" state, but we find that a diminishing effect of "second death" still remains even in the lake of fire until the last vestige of its power has been subdued. Thus death alone—"second death" without any Hades or "unseen" state—is from then on the last enemy in the course of "being abolished" (See I Cor. 15:26 CLNT). The present participle there indicates a continuing and progressive action until death, the last enemy, is totally abolished. The lake of fire itself is not an enemy; it is the last means employed for abolishing death, the last enemy.
Here it would be most regretable if anyone should mistake the lake of fire for a misconceived "purgatory" or the traditional concept of "eternal torment," neither of which has any basis in Scripture. Unless the beast and false prophet are presumed to be human, no human is otherwise ever said to be tormented in the lake of fire. Only those two as well as the Adversary and his messengers are said to be tormented there, and not necessarily because of the fire. Their torment resulting from confinement, isolation and restraint may well be mental or spiritual rather than physical. Celestial messengers themselves are said to be "flames of fire" (Heb. 1:7), as though fire to them were a normal environment; yet as we are about to find concerning the sinning messengers from Noah's day, they are subject to discipline by means of confinement and restraint which may well be the only means of discipline in the lake of fire, both for humans and messengers, though for the Adversary, the beast and the false prophet it will have the further effect of "torment" (Rev. 20:10). No humans judged at the Great White Throne are ever said to be tormented in the lake of fire; nor are they said to be consumed by fire as if they might return to an unconscious state, for we find no mention of a second Hades, a second "unseen;" nor do we find any mention or any need for a second resurrection as would be required to accord with numerous Scriptures which affirm the ultimate salvation of all; neither do we find that any humans judged at the Great White Throne are ever said to remain in the lake of fire "for the eons of the eons." That is said only of the Adversary, the beast and the false prophet.
As noted in Rev. 21:8 and 22:15, it is only the most wilful of sinners who are ever consigned to the lake of fire; namely such as then continue to be (at heart) "murderers and paramours and enchanters and idolaters and all the false;" some who then are still disposed to be "fabricating and fondling falsehood," though this need not include others who once may have been such as these until they afterward repented; some who then will have entered into a resurrection of life. Those in the lake of fire will be such as then insist on remaining as they were, "stubborn indeed as to the truth yet persuaded to unrighteousness.
If we have observed correctly that many at the Great White Throne may well respond quickly to the revelation of divine righteousness and thus go "into a resurrection of life," then it is only for those who still resist the truth - presumably a minor part—that any "resurrection of judging" remains. For those the lake of fire must become an environment conducive to a change of mind and heart, resulting in ultimate reconciliation; a purpose no bodily pain or instant execution would serve at all; yet it may well require an atmosphere of confinement, isolation and restraint, such as God is employing even now for the sinning messengers of Noah's day who are kept by "imperceptible bonds" in the gloomy caverns of Tartarus, as we shall observe here later.
Now as we turn further to Scripture and observe the effects of fire—not as fire is known to our present experience but as it operates UNDER DIVINE CONTROL—we find it may well serve a beneficent purpose even to earthly life. We are reminded first how God once appeared to Moses as flames of fire in a burning bush (Ex. 3). He announced Himself as the God of Abraham and went on to talk with Moses out of the flames. We read that "the bush burned with fire" but strangely it was not consumed. Presumably it was not even injured! There perhaps it is not so strange that God should speak to Moses from flames of fire, for according to Scripture God Himself IS a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29) though His presence with Moses indicates He does not always CONSUME; yet to note that fire, divinely controlled, can be harmless even to earthly life, this appears strange to our present experience, though it becomes both enlightening and reassuring.
We are further reminded how God, as Jehovah, went before Israel at night in a pillar of fire "to give them light" on their journey in the wilderness which exemplifies another beneficent use of fire under divine control. Moreover, God speaks through the prophet to a future generation of Israel: "When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee" (Isa. 43:2).
From the book of Daniel we read of a time when three of his associates—Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego—were cast bodily into a burning fiery furnace where they were joined also by a celestial messenger in human form. The four remained unharmed in a furnace so hot that the flames slew even the men outside. Yet to the four in the furnace the fire had no power on their bodies nor even on their clothing, "nor was an hair of their head singed nor the smell of fire had passed upon them" (Daniel 3). In our present era of grace while supernatural powers are wisely held in suspense so that we may walk by faith, not by sight, and thus obtain a greater blessing, it seems that amazing incidents like these are subconsciously downgraded as if they were nothing more than visions or dreams, yet according to Scripture we know they were FACTS. Obviously the operation of divine power to control the effects of fire is no more restrained in a fiery lake than in a torrid fiery furnace, though of course for widely different objectives.
We have only meager information concerning the procedure of judging at the Great White Throne and the manner of chastening or discipline in the lake of fire; even less than we are told about other judgments. Whatever is revealed about any judgment may improve our understanding of others, so we turn here to consider what Scripture reveals about one or two judgments other than the one at the Great White Throne.
One such future judgment is related to the present restraint and isolation of the sinning messengers from celestial realms who came to earth in antediluvian days and took themselves wives from the daughters of men as recorded in Genesis 6. Both Peter and Jude have something to say about these. Jude says they kept not their own sovereignty but left their own habitation and are now being kept in "imperceptible bonds under gloom for the judging of the great day" (Jude 6). Peter tells us more exactly that they were thrust into the gloomy caverns of Tartarus where he says they are kept for "chastening judging" (II Pet. 2:4,5) and in that connection he applies some manner of remedial "chastening" also to humans as well as messengers, for he says the Lord knoweth how to keep "the unjust (unrighteous) for chastening in the day of judging" (II Pet. 2:6-10).
From the original Greek text for Jude's epistle it appears as if those "imperceptible bonds" are somehow concealed or "unperceived" by reason of the gloom. There is a possible hint in this that gloom or darkness has much to do with the present restraint and confinement of those messengers in the gloomy caverns of Tartarus where they are being kept for future judging.
Elsewhere Peter refers to the same messengers as "spirits in jail" and "those once stubborn" (the original text indicates they were "unpersuadable") when the patience of God waited in the days before the flood until Noah had completed the ark (I Pet. 3:19-20). Since they are shown to be confined as "spirits in jail," this suggests the probability that their former earthly bodies had been dematerialised so they could escape the flood while Noah and his family were being saved by means of the ark, yet the messenger were prevented from returning to celestial realms.
In that connection Peter tells us also, what no one else does, that our Lord went to visit these sinning messengers in "jail" or "prison" after His resurrection, which incidentally was after all authority in heaven and on earth had been restored to Him (Matt. 28:18). What a strange coincidence that a Judge of such magnitude should visit prisoners with their degree of obvious guilt so long before their trial! We are not told what manner of message He brought to them. Peter says only "He heralds." It would seem that His presence alone should have been more than eloquent. Whereas they had left their own habitation and came to earth only to sin, here they were confronted by One who had preceded them all as the one and only "resplendent morning star" (Rev. 22:17) and He had left His preeminent glory to enter the prisonhouse of death here upon the earth through the lowly means of human birth rather to seek and save both men and messengers, including even themselves! In His immediate presence it would seem they should scarcely need any reminder of this.
We are not told if those messengers will remain "unpersuadable" and unrepentant until "the judging of the great day" as Jude calls it. In that case they apparently would be included among those who will be consigned to the lake of fire with the Adversary and his messengers. For them that would be, as Peter says, "chastening judging," though we are not told the duration of their chastening. For the Adversary, the beast and the false prophet, but for no others, it is said to be "torment" for the "eons of the eons" (Rev. 20:10).
A different judgment which may indirectly assist our understanding of others is the one which occurs when the Son of Mankind with all His holy messengers is to come in His glory as related in Matt. 25:31-46. That will be at the beginning of a forthcoming Millennium whereas the White Throne Judgment is, of course, post-Millennial. At the earlier judgment when the Son of Mankind comes in His glory we find no mention of any resurrections, but there will be persons of the generation then living who have been charitable to our Lord's brethren from Israel at a time when they have suffered much adversity from the Gentiles. Conversely, there will be others who then have shown no mercy. Therefore there will be those whom our Lord separates then to His right hand of favor and to them He tenders the blessings of a kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. Others who meanwhile have been uncharitable are sent away to "the fire eonian made ready for the Adversary and his messengers" and "into chastening eonian."
Since we note from this that some are sent away into the same fire as is prepared for the Adversary and his messengers, this cannot occur until after the Millennium, for it is not until then that the Adversary himself is consigned to the lake of fire where he is preceded only by the beast and the false prophet (Rev. 20:10 cf. 19:20). No others are said to be consigned to the lake of fire until after the White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:15). For them, as Peter also reminds us, that will be a "day of judging" and of "chastening" (he does not say torment). See II Pet.2:4-10.
That occurs in the same context where Peter first refers to the sinning messengers of Noah's day and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah whose former inhabitants can next appear only at the Great White Throne. In a manner like unto the sinning messengers and the inhabitants of ancient Sodom, Peter shows that other unrighteous ones are being kept for "chastening" in a "day of judging;" a judging therefore which is characterized by chastening. Present participles both for "judging" and "chastening" indicate a progressive action, a process.
Here we press the point that "chastening' essentially requires a conscious state—else there could be no chastening—and the need for remedial chastening is the only explainable reason why some are consigned to the lake of fire directly after the White Throne Judgment; those who then are not yet named in the scroll of life while others coming forth from the tombs at the same "hour" will have entered "into a resurrection of life." Those not named in the scroll of life are then obviously still unrighteous only because they remain impenitent, and for this they require not torment but "chastening," even in a lake at fire. Fear of torment might well elicit a strained confession yet no repentance of heart and mind.
We have no cause to assume that fire UNDER DIVINE CONTROL is ever a torment to any human, because as previously shown here, this is something the Scriptures do not confirm. Yet neither could there be any "chastening" if persons consigned to a lake of fire were instantly consumed as is often supposed. Thus for unrepenting hearts and minds there is chastening indeed but REMEDIAL chastening, conducive to sound and sober reconsideration—such "Godly sorrow" as Paul says is producing repentance "for unregretted salvation" (II Cor. 7:10). Under such remedial chastening no feigned repentance could go unperceived, for we are reminded that the Lord "will also illuminate the hidden things of darkness and manifest the counsels of the hearts" (I Cor. 4:5).
In the previous paper of Instalment Nine—"Into a Resurrection of Life"—we observed there are those who come forth to a resurrection of life while others at the same time come forth to a resurrection of judging. We observed also that the distinction between those two kinds is determined after the little scrollet has somehow expanded in volume to become a larger scroll—the "scroll of life." By that time it includes the names of some but not of all who then have appeared before the Great White Throne. We find a clear indication that there will be others whose names are not found written in the scroll of life, for we read: "If any was not found written in the scroll of life, he was cast into the lake of fire," but not until Death and Hades are first consigned to that area. Thereupon we read no more of Hades. Since there is no mention of a second Hades, we cannot infer that there is any second "unseen" or unconscious state associated with what is called "the second death." Thus we conclude that this becomes a second conscious state of dying like unto the present mortal state, though it does not terminate with a second tenure in the tomb, as does the present state of dying, for it has no identity with Hades, the "unseen" state. The second state of dying therefore must terminate in LIFE.
As we have observed here also from a previous judgment when the Son of Mankind comes in His glory, the lake of fire is the same as the fire said to be prepared for the Adversary and his messengers which for some becomes a means of eonian chastening—a chastening which then, the same as now, has but one purpose ••• to work out "the peaceable fruit of righteousness" (Heb. 12:11). We suggest therefore that for some the present mortal state of dying will end and a second mortal state of dying will begin at the conclusion of the White Throne Judgment and thereupon they will experience remedial chastening in the lake of fire.
We pause here to consider the reason for that distinction; why there must be a "second death" if it becomes in fact a further state of mortality, like unto the present, until all have passed from death unto life: some by means of "chastening eonian."
Scripture elsewhere indicates that there is to be a time when there is no longer a sacrifice concerned with sins resulting from a wilful refusal of openly revealed truth; when truth becomes so manifest that the acceptance thereof requires no faith. That future state of individual responsibility is described as trampling on the Son of God, deeming the blood of the covenant contaminating and outraging the spirit of grace (Heb. 10:26-31). This suggests a time and condition when such deliberate contempt for God's revealed righteousness in Christ can be no longer attributed to Adam's first sin and its racial consequence, for then it becomes a knowledgable choice of each individual. To some lesser degree the same principle of justice will apply to a future generation of Israel under a new covenant in a forthcoming eon, previous to the White Throne Judgment. Thus the prophet Ezekiel foresaw a time when the ancient proverb will no longer apply: "The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge" (Ezek. 18:2). Each one even then is shown to be largely responsible for his own acts or intentions, the motives of his own heart and mind. Later in the brilliant light of the Great White Throne this individual responsibility becomes unconditional. When others then have come forth from the tombs unsaced to observe and obtain a deliverance equally available to all, the former plea of racial and hereditary depravity can no longer serve as acceptable defense for those who will remain "stubborn indeed as to the truth yet persuaded to unrighteousness.
Thus after many enter into a resurrection of life—an UP-STANDING process as the Greek ANASTASIS denotes there are some who enter into a resurrection of judging which for them becomes eonian chastening of some indefinite duration in the lake of fire; whatever may be needful for their deliverance from the power of sin. For them that remains a second mortal state of dying until it terminates in life after this chastening has worked out "the peaceable fruit of righteousness."
It is true of course that this is not an evangel for today. Judgments in themselves are not an evangel at any time. They are concerned rather with God's righteous indignation against all the unrighteousness both of messengers and men. Yet a knowledge of God's judgments may well prepare the heart better to receive and honor His righteousness in Christ. Consequently, what the Scriptures do reveal about future judgments is useful also "for this teaching of ours," not less now than it was in Paul's day. His first two chapters of Romans and much of the third are concerned largely with human unrighteousness and those who dishonor the truth by means of irreverence as well as unrighteousness. Thus when Paul envisioned that faraway day when God will be judging the hidden things of humanity, he said it would be "according to my evangel" (Rom. 2:16). God's judgments, therefore, as well as His evangel are well IN ACCORD with His purpose of the eons which He makes in Christ Jesus our Lord, as also proclaimed by Paul.
Though all God's judgments against sin are severe, they are tempered with mercy; those also at the Great White Throne. There the same as elsewhere it is the good works rather than the bad which are first taken into account (Ezek. 12:14; John 5:29; Rom. 2:7-10). Even for the most obstinate sinners consigned and restricted to the lake of fire, all judgments even then are remedial rather than vindictive. As such they serve only to destroy the power of sin, the sting of death, yet meanwhile they save the sinner. "By the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning" we read that "He shall wash away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purge the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof" (Isa. 4:4). "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness" (Mal. 3:3). "He shall bring forth judgment unto truth" (Isa. 42:3).
As we consider these numerous judgments for the many who were never blest with God's evangel concerning His son as we are now, and especially those who by good works have sought for glory and honor and incorruption which no human works can ever deserve or obtain on personal merit, then how richly blest are those of us to whom God has dealt some measure of faith whereby we may apprehend something of the riches of His grace in this present era, so that in the eons to come He should be displaying the transcendent riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. To Him be all the glory in the ecclesia and in Christ Jesus for all the generations of the eon of the eons! Amen! M.E.J (Instalment Eleven, November-December 1973)