Two Seeds...One Lives On in Resurrection ...The Other Perishes
The Second Death
Universal reconciliation necessitates a resurrection from the second death. The proof text is here examined
A. -- I want to consider the teaching of the Word concerning the second death before we leave the subject of universal reconciliation.
26 THE SECOND DEATH
B. -- May I ask why you consider this subject so important?
A. -- Well, to be frank with you, were it not for the faith I have that those who are held by the second death shall one day be delivered from its power and be numbered with the redeemed, I confess that your arguments would prove too strong for me.
B. -- Will you state clearly what you believe as to this, so that we may not beat the air in our argument?
1 Corinthians 15:26 and the Second Death
A. -- I believe that at the consummation of the ages, beyond the great white throne, those who have been cast into the lake of fire shall come forth,
redeemed of the Lord, that the second death will, at the consummation, usher into life in Christ.
The word distinctly affirms that ‘the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death’ (1 Cor. 15:26). Actuated by the exigencies of a theory, some have attempted to limit this statement to the first death, but the attempt is futile. A comparison of 1 Corinthians 15:26 with the statement in Revelation 20:14 and 21:8 will show that the lake of fire is to be abolished at the consummation. It is the last enemy.
Is the Second Death in 1 Corinthians 15?
B. -- I observe that you do not pretend to discover this deliverance from the lake of fire in the book of the Revelation.
A. -- No, I will admit that apart from 1 Corinthians 15:26 Scripture is silent on the subject.
B. -- So then, your whole doctrine stands or falls with your interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:26. Now I believe that death as spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15 always refers to the death brought in by Adam, and never to the second death. My beliefs, however, like your own, must stand the test of Scripture, or they must be renounced as false. Let us therefore seek afresh the scope of the word death as used in 1 Corinthians 15. Will you share in this search, and ‘prove all things’?
The Words Dead, Die and Death examined
A. -- I find that nekros, the word ‘dead’, occurs thirteen times. The verses are: 12,13,15,16,20,21,29,32,35,42,52. They speak of ‘the resurrection of the dead’, and I admit that Adamic death is intended in each case.
B. -- Perhaps you will find confirmation of your theory in apothnesko, ‘to die’.
A. -- This word occurs five times. The verses are: 3,22,31,32,36. The usage is limited to the death of Christ and the
first death of men. And again I confess that the second death is not in view.
B. -- Your last hope then is in the word thanatos.
A. -- This word meaning ‘death’ occurs five times. The verses are 21,26,54,55,56.
B. -- Perhaps you had better give these passages in full, and will you also take note of anything in the original that distinguishes one passage from another?
‘For since by man came death (Gk. ho thanatos)’ (21).
‘The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (Gk. ho thanatos)’ (26). ‘Death is swallowed up in victory (Gk. ho thanatos)’ (54).
‘O death, where is thy sting? (Gk. thanate)’ (55).
‘The sting of death is sin (Gk. tou thanatou)’ (56).
No Distinction in the Original
B. -- With the exception of verse 55, each verse uses the word with the article. The expression ‘O death’, being in the vocative, dispenses with the article. There is therefore one unbroken reference to some one thing called ho thanatos, ‘death’. How do you prove that verse 26 deals with the second death?
A. -- I must confess that the more closely we examine this chapter, the less I find to support my theory, yet I have been led to believe that those who saw only Adamic death in 1 Corinthians 15 were blinded by prejudice.
The Scope of the Subject examined
B. -- What is the scope of 1 Corinthians 15?
A. -- The scope of any passage is determined by its literary structure.
B. -- Shall we then seek the inspired structure of this chapter? I think we can omit verses 1-11 from our present discussion; they deal with the evidences and evangel of resurrection.
‘HOW?’ ‘HOW?’ ‘AWAKE’.
The intervening verses, 13-33 and 36-57, which constitute the bulk of the chapter, both deal with:
ADAM and CHRIST
The predominance of Adam
You will see that the major sections are headed by the names Adam and Christ, and these sections contain the references to the destruction or swallowing up of death. The scope of the passage is defined for us, and it is not possible to introduce the second death without committing violence to the passage. Paul amplifies the statement concerning the destruction of the last enemy by the words, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’. That ‘swallowing up’ takes place at resurrection, and is the destruction of the last enemy -- death.
A. -- I agree with you as to the strong argument you have for the place of Adam in this chapter, but do not follow your meaning when you speak of Paul amplifying.
B. -- Paul follows a customary method. First he states his theme briefly, then follows with fuller details. There are at least four such amplifications:
1. Every man in his own order.
3. The destruction of death.
The structure may be set out as follows:
Exhortation. ‘AWAKE’. The manner of resurrection. Adam and Christ.
Death swallowed up.
C 58. Exhortation. ‘BE STEDFAST’.
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4. The answer to the question ‘when?’
Let us put this statement to the test.
1. Every man in his own order.
The amplification occupies verses 37-44. The words ‘celestial bodies’ and ‘terrestrial bodies’ and the differing glory of the sun, moon and stars, all bear upon the fact that in the resurrection every man will be in his own rank or order.
2. Adam and Christ.
In this amplification, which occupies verses 45-49, the relation of Adam to Christ and the resurrection is brought
out in the following passages:
‘The first man Adam
‘The last Adam
‘The first man
‘The second man
‘The image of the earthy’. ‘The image of the heavenly’.
a living soul’.
a life-giving spirit’ (R.V.). of the earth’.
the Lord from heaven’.
The next item is that of the destruction of the last enemy. Do you not feel that, with this evident amplification of the subject, those who introduce into this passage the second death are the ones who are obliged to do so by the exigencies of their own unscriptural theories?
Destruction of Death at the Resurrection
A. -- I must confess that the evidence seems all against any other death in 1 Corinthians 15 than that connected with Adam. Please proceed, as I want to see what the amplification is of the destruction of the last enemy.
B. -- (Reads 1 Corinthians 15:51-57):
‘Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when the corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’.
This is Paul’s inspired commentary upon the destruction of the last enemy. Can this passage by any possibility
refer to the second death?
A. -- I cannot tell you.
B. -- ‘We shall not all sleep’. What place is there in that for the second death? It is ruled out. ‘At the last trump’; ‘We shall be changed’; ‘This mortal must put on immortality’. Not one of these statements can be made to fit the second death. Further, the amplification of the time period is included in the verses just read.
A. -- I begin to feel that there is not much of my position left, but there is one argument you have not met, viz., that the destruction of the last enemy takes place ‘at the consummation of the ages’.
B. -- I look in both the English, and the Greek Original, but I do not see such a passage.
A. -- I am sure it is there, for I have quoted it many times when proving the resurrection from the second death. (Looks for the passage, but fails to find it).
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B. -- I think I can explain. ‘The consummation of the ages’ is what your friends read into the words, ‘then cometh the end’.
The meaning of ‘The End’
There is no word for ‘cometh’ in the original of verse 24. It simply reads ‘Then the end’. Some understand the words to mean ‘Then the end rank’, but we can find no justification for such a rendering. Cremer, in his note on to telos, says that this word does not primarily denote the end, termination, with reference to time, but the goal reached, the completion or conclusion at which anything arrives, either as issue or ending; or as a result, acme, consummation, e.g., polemon telos, ‘victory’ (literally ‘the end of war’, end, not measuring time but object); telos andros, ‘the full age of man’ (not the end of man -- death), also of ‘the ripening of seed’. In Luke 1:33 and Mark 3:26 the idea of termination seems uppermost. The idea of issue, end, conclusion, is seen in Matthew 26:58, ‘To see the end’; James 5:11, ‘Ye have seen the end of the Lord’; 1 Peter 4:17, ‘What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel?’
The idea of a goal reached is seen in Romans 6:21, ‘The end of those things is death’; Philippians 3:19, ‘Whose end is destruction’. So also 2 Corinthians 11:15; Hebrew 6:8. When the apostle wrote the words of 1 Corinthians 15:24, ‘Then the end’, what goal had he in view? What is the object of resurrection? Does it not take man back into the place intended for him in the Divine purpose, for which sin and death had for a while rendered him unfit? The goal, this end in view, is contained in the words of 1 Corinthians 15:28, ‘That God may be all in all’. Although ‘the end’ is mentioned immediately after the resurrection of those that are Christ’s at His parousia, it is not attained without a reign of righteousness and a rule of iron. The uninterrupted statement of the end is as follows:
‘Then the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father -- (with the object) that God may be all in all’ (1 Cor. 15:24-28 author’s translation).
This is ‘the end’. The ‘consummation of the ages’ is an invention, a false peg upon which to hang a false theory. Just notice how the destruction of death is one of a series of steps toward the goal.
A 15:24-. The end.
15:-24-. WHEN He delivers up the kingdom. b 15:-24. WHEN He abolishes all rule.
c 15:25-. FOR He must reign.
d 15:-25. Till all enemies under foot.
d 15:26-. The last enemy; death abolished.
c 15:-26. FOR He hath put all things under His feet. b 15:27. WHEN. The one exception.
1 Corinthians 15:24-28
a 15:28-. WHEN. The Son Himself subjected. A 15:-28. That God may be all in all.
A. -- My position I feel is untenable, and I am informed that there is no other passage of Scripture, except 1 Corinthians 15:26, that teaches a resurrection from the second death, so I fear my theories have proved false. I should like to finish the matter though, and see what is said by way of amplifying the time period.
‘When . . . . . . . Then’
B. -- You will notice in each section the words ‘when’ and ‘then’.
The end is attained ‘when He shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father’, and this is not done until all enemies are abolished, and all the redeemed are placed in their proper rank under Christ. The abolishing of death is timed for us in 1 Corinthians 15:54 by the words, ‘When -- then’. Isaiah 25: 8 contains the verse quoted in 1 Corinthians 15:54. It is in a context of Millennial administration:
‘Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously’ (Isa. 24:23).
THE SECOND DEATH
‘And in this mountain shall the LORD of Hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it’ (Isa. 25:6-8). (See also Isa. 26:1 and 27:1).
A further note of time is given in 1 Corinthians 15:52 ‘At the last trump’. In Revelation 11, at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, ‘the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ’. Immediately there follows reference to the ‘great power’ and the ‘reign’ and the ‘time of the dead’, and the ‘destruction of them that destroy the earth’. These Scriptures therefore place the period in view as being before the second death.
Death was virtually destroyed when Christ rose from the dead:
‘Who hath abolished (katargeo) death’ (2 Tim. 1:10).
Death will be actually destroyed when the last of the dead stand before the great white throne. Death will be manifestly destroyed when it is cast into the lake of fire.
A. -- I have been led to make a comparison between the lake of fire and the flood.
A true and a false analogy
B. -- The comparison is justifiable, I believe. What makes you hesitate now in accepting it?
A. -- I had believed the following comment to be true. In Noah’s day He cleansed away abounding sin by means of water. And was not water a purifier well suited to the task? And if in preparation for the last aion He once more wishes to dispose of evil, what more effective agent can be found than fire? It is the most searching purifier known.
B. -- These observations are rather involved. First you say that the water of the flood cleansed away abounding sin; then you say that the fire was an effective agent to dispose of evil; then you say that fire is a purifier, so I suppose your thought is that just as the flood purified in part, the fire will purify completely.
A. -- Yes, that expresses my idea.
B. -- Well, your idea will not stand the test. Turn to Genesis 6, 7, and 8:
‘Behold, I will destroy them’ (6:13).
‘Behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh’ (6:17). ‘Every living substance was destroyed’ (7:23).
‘I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake’ (8:21).
Destruction and curse are what is written of the flood, not purifying.
A. -- Perhaps the passage I think of is in the New Testament.
B. -- Let us find it by all means. The Gospels speak of the flood coming and taking all away:
‘The flood came, and destroyed them all’ (Luke 17:27; see also Matt. 24:38,39). There is no writer left now other than Peter:
‘And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person -- bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly’ (2 Pet. 2:5).
That does not speak of purifying. The only reference that speaks of cleansing is 1 Peter 3:20,21, but the type of salvation or purifying is the ark that saved Noah, not the flood that destroyed the ungodly.
The Flood did not purify its Victims
A. -- It appears that I have been misled in believing the flood had a purifying effect.
THE SECOND DEATH 31 B. -- Yes, and your other idea of the purifying effect of the second death vanishes with it.
A. -- Perhaps the meaning was that the flood did not purify its victims, but the earth on which they lived.
B. -- In that case the analogy does not serve your purpose. I would readily agree that the burning up of the elements was a purifying of the earth, but what you have been trying to prove is that it purified or preserved its victims. I believe with you that the flood foreshadows the lake of fire, and the inspired words are ‘destroy’ and ‘curse’, not ‘purify’ and ‘vivify’. Our chief purpose at the moment is the question, Does Scripture warrant a resurrection from the lake of fire? I believe you must agree that it does not.
A. -- I am afraid I must. I am reluctant to give up the idea, for it is the last position left.
Second Death not Aionion Fire
A. -- You have said, however, in one of your articles that the second death was unrevealed at the time when 1 Corinthians 15 was written. There I think you are mistaken. An aionion fire prepared for the Devil and his angels was already the subject of revelation (Matt. 25:41).
B. -- Where do we read that the Devil and his angels are cast into the second death? A. -- In Revelation 20.
B. -- Will you read the passage.
‘And the Devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever’ (Rev. 20:10).
B. -- But that lake of fire was burning at the commencement of the Millennium (Rev. 19:20). Aionion fire is Gehenna, as you can see by comparing Matthew 18:8,9, and is connected with Isaiah 66:24 (see Mark 9:48). This aionion fire must be local if it is burning right through the Millennium, and is accessible from Jerusalem, when all flesh come up to worship (Isa. 66:20,23).
The lake of fire, however, spoken of in Revelation 20:14,15 is:
(1). After the great white throne.
(2). Has no reference to the Devil and his angels, and
(3). Is specifically called the second death which Gehenna is not, and, by the parallel of 2 Peter 3:12, involves both the heavens and the earth.
A. -- I see that I am mistaken. You must pardon me if I am not easily convinced.
Who enter the Second Death?
B. -- We have not time to go into details as to other phases of the subject, but I should like to ask you who they are which die the second death.
A. -- I believe that everyone that appears before the awful light of the great white throne dies the second death. B. -- Will you read the literal translation of Revelation 20:15?
A. -- (Reads), ‘And if anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire’.
B. -- Do you not see how intensely individual the words ‘if anyone’ are?
A. -- Now that you point it out, I confess they do appear so.
B. -- The judgment here is twofold; one out of the books, the other out of the book; the books being a judgment of works, the book being a question of life or death. You have made two assumptions. First you have supposed that all 32 THE SECOND DEATH
who stand before the great white throne die the second death, and secondly, having plunged this vast multitude into the lake of fire, you have then entertained the unscriptural idea of a resurrection from it.
A. -- Is it possible then that only very few will be cast into the second death?
B. -- The question of the number of those who are thus judged hardly comes within the sphere of our enquiry, but I should not like you to draw a false conclusion from my remarks. While the words ‘if any one’ are very individual, and set aside your idea that all who stand before the great white throne must necessarily be cast into the lake of fire, nevertheless Scripture gives a very comprehensive list of those who merit this awful doom:
‘The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death’ (Rev. 21:8).
The Nature of the Second Death
Returning to the nature of the second death, perhaps you would say what death is, apart from resurrection.
A. -- Sleep.
B. -- No; death can only be called sleep with resurrection in view. If there be no resurrection, Paul says that they which have fallen asleep in Christ have perished (1 Cor. 15:18). Throughout Scripture, fire is spoken of as a destroyer, and often the agricultural figure of a fire for burning up weeds is used. Your theory would suggest that the husbandman gathers the thistles and the weeds together to burn them, in the hope that by some weird alchemy such weeds shall be transmuted into vines, figs, olives or wheat.
Let us summarize our findings before parting:
Summary All Things
When once we have seen that Scripture deals with two conflicting lines of purpose, we can then see that the words ‘all things’ embrace all within the limits of the original purpose. Perhaps 2 Corinthians 5:17,18 expresses the relation of ‘all things’ to God and the new creation as clearly as any passage:
‘If anyone be in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things have passed away; new things have come in; but the all things are of God, Who has reconciled us’ (Author’s translation).
All Things of God
Scripture categorically declares that some things are ‘not of God’ (1 John 3:8-12), and among them those things which are ‘of the Devil’. Anyone therefore who teaches that the ‘all things’ that are of God include the Devil and all his works is not only unscriptural, but antichristian and must be rejected.
A Scriptural Principle of Interpretation
There is no formal system of Divinity to be found in Scripture. The great principles of faith are taught in the recorded lives of men, and in the dealings of God with Israel. Israel’s history furnishes a digest of the greater purpose of the ages. The words ‘all in Adam’ are to be understood by the parallel words ‘all Israel’, and inasmuch as they are not all Israel which are of Israel, so they are not all in Adam which are of Adam. In both cases there is in operation the law that sets aside ‘Ishmael’ and reckons only such as are ‘in Isaac’ as children of the promise and the true ‘seed’.
The Present Interval of Bondage
A comparison of Genesis 15:5-16. Galatians 3:15-18 and Ephesians 1:3-14 reveals that underlying the purpose of the ages is a threefold development, viz.:
(1). An unconditional promise
(2). An interval of bondage
(3). The promise fulfilled
The will of the FATHER. The work of the SON. The witness of the SPIRIT.
The will of God shall be accomplished, but not without conflict. There is an enemy at work. And just as Israel’s bondage in Egypt was connected with the iniquity of the Amorite, so the bondage of the true seed is connected with Satan and the mystery of iniquity. Israel enter into the inheritance held by the Amorites and exterminate them. The true seed will enter into their particular inheritance, and the seed of the wicked one, the names of whom not being in the book of life, will be destroyed.
The Two Seeds
From the birth of Cain onward to the Giants of Noah’s day, the Canaanites of Joshua’s time, and the ‘tares’ sown by the enemy, there has existed side by side with the true seed ‘the children of the wicked one’. Not until these ‘tares’ are bound in bundles and burned can the ‘righteous shine forth in the kingdom of their Father’. The seed of the wicked one being ‘of the Devil’ cannot be ‘of God’ and are not included in the ‘all things’ that make up the new creation.
Scripture reveals three outstanding features which are fundamental to a true conception of redemption:
The redeemer must be next of kin. The redemption touches:
(a) A forfeited inheritance,
The redeemer is also the avenger.
Hebrew 2:14,15 reveals Christ as the great Kinsman-Redeemer (‘flesh and blood, He likewise -- ‘), exercising the twofold office of redeemer (‘deliver -- bondage’), and avenger (‘destroy -- the Devil’). The provision of the cities of refuge was not for a ‘murderer’. Satan was a murderer from the beginning.
The Deity of the Redeemer is abundantly testified in the Old Testament. His humanity is necessitated by the demand of kinship, and both aspects of His person are found in ‘Immanuel’, the child born who was nevertheless ‘the mighty God’.
The Mystery of His Will
God did not plan sin, but He provided against it. His original purpose is spoken of as His will; the provision against sin and death is spoken of as the ‘mystery of His will’. It was the will of God that Israel should be ‘head and not tail’, but upon their temporary failure the mystery of His will was put into operation, placing Nebuchadnezzar upon the throne, and giving dominion to the Gentiles until such time as ‘all Israel shall be saved’.
We most emphatically repudiate the horrible teaching that God definitely planned sin, and that the Devil was deliberately designed to be ‘a devil’, but we glory in the fact that in His matchless wisdom God has taken the wise in their own craftiness and overruled evil for good.
The Two Mysteries
Two mysteries run through the ages, viz., the mystery of godliness, and the mystery of iniquity. Both have relation to claims of Deity. The satanic mystery finds its goal in the man of sin, the son of perdition, who sits in the
temple of God, showing himself as God. The mystery of godliness finds its goal in the exaltation of the Son of man, the Son of God, with every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. The one mystery ends in destruction and is called ‘the LIE’, the other ends in glory and is called ‘the TRUTH’. Scripture declares that ‘no lie is of the truth’, and the workers of iniquity, who have even cast out demons in Christ’s name, are repudiated by Him.
The Second Death
It is an absolute necessity to the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation that there shall be a deliverance from the second death. We look in vain for the slightest hint of such a deliverance in the only book that specifically deals with it by name (the Revelation), but we are told that such doctrine is not within its scope. There is however, we are assured, one passage of Scripture which does definitely teach deliverance from the second death, and that is 1 Corinthians 15:26, ‘The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death’. An examination of the chapter reveals that the only death that is in view is that brought in by Adam. This death is destroyed at the resurrection, as the amplification shows that ‘death is swallowed up in victory’. The new heavens and the new earth follow immediately upon the casting of death into the lake of fire (Rev. 21). This same sequence is found in 2 Peter 3 where the new heavens, the new earth, and the day of God follow the burning up of the earth and its works, and the passing away of the heavens. The end, that God may be all in all, i.e., ‘the day of God’, follows hard upon the destruction of the last enemy (1 Cor. 15:24-28). That last enemy is the death which came upon all men through one man’s sin.
There is no room in any of these passages for the resurrection from the lake of fire. If there be no deliverance from the second death, there can be no such thing as universal reconciliation. Not one whose name is found written in the book of life enters the second death. Satan’s seed, those who worship the beast and receive his mark, these we are distinctly told have not their names written in the book of life. Here is the final division of the two seeds. The ‘tares’ are burned in the fire; the ‘wheat’ are gathered into the barn. The very order is important. The tares are destroyed first. Those who teach a resurrection from the lake of fire at long last must either deny this order, teach that the burning of the tares changes them into wheat, or believe that the manifestation of the sons of God is indefinitely postponed.
Universal reconciliation is an attractive doctrine. Its attractiveness is its bait and its snare. The ‘comfort’ some receive from it is no more proof of its truth than is the ‘comfort’ received from the traditional idea that our loved ones who have died are now consciously in glory. Doubtless ‘Christian Science’ made the Bible a ‘new book’ to many, but it is nevertheless a doctrine of demons. We have but one test for truth; it must stand four-square with ‘all Scripture’.
In the pages of this booklet we have sought to indicate what we believe is the truth of God. We have no personal quarrel with individuals, and apart from answering any legitimate questions that may arise out of this treatise we shall take no further notice of either the erroneous doctrine or any who propagate it. Because this particular error compromised our own stewardship we felt obliged to deal with it and show our own position. We trust nevertheless that the truth may be seen all the clearer for the moment of conflict.
To all to whom this witness makes its appeal as truth we earnestly commend this booklet, trusting that many will be able to use it in the fight of faith.
‘I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that NO LIE IS OF THE TRUTH’ (1 John 2:21).