AS your final summary gives a concise presentation of your position on the second
death, I will quote it here in full, for the details of your argument will be much more
easily grasped when your whole position is in view.
|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 Cor.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 Pet.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 soils of God is indefinitely
It has been a pleasure to me to note your insistence on
a proper apportionment of the Word. We are agreed that there is no error so evil as
misplaced truth. You will acknowledge that your whole position must be wrong if it
necessitates the placing of a single passage of God's word in an administration to which
it cannot belong. I shall, therefore, show that Cod is not All in all in "the day of
God" and that the last enemy is not "destroyed" before that time.
I am sorry, for your sake, that you have brought in the argument about
the tares, for it weakens your position as well as exposes the character of your methods.
In Matthew 13:40 the Lord tells us when the parable of the tares has its proper
application: "...thus will it be in the conclusion of the eon." I do not believe
that even you will insist that this refers to the conclusion of the next eon, so will not
stop to prove that its place is at the beginning of the day of the Lord, and not at the
commencement of the day of God. The fact that the tares are destroyed first has no bearing
whatever on the great white throne judgment to which you refer.
I neither believe that the burning of the tares changes them into wheat
nor that they are destroyed last, contrary to the Scriptures. You are in a dilemma, not I,
for if your closing and conclusive argument consists in wresting a passage from its proper
setting, are you not jeopardizing your whole position? Let me suggest that, if you had
left the tares where the Lord put them, and the consummation where Paul puts it, you might
be exulting in Colossians 1:20 instead of opposing it.
To take your most important point first, you insist that God will be
All in all during the period of the new earth. Now we know that God will not be All in all
until after the subjection of the Son and the "destruction" of all
sovereignty and all authority and power (1 Cor.15:24,28). Is this true on the new earth?
There we find the throne of God and the Lambkin (Rev.22:1). There we are told that His
saints will be reigning for the eons of the eons (Rev.22:5). To make this clearer, let us
set them side by side:
1 Corinthians 15:
24 Thereafter the
consummation, whenever He may give up the kingdom to God, even the Father, whenever He
should be abrogating all sovereignty and all authority all power. 25
For He must be reigning until He should be placing all His enemies under His feet.
28 Now whenever the universe may be subject to
Him, then the Son Himself, also, shall be subject to Him Who subjects the universe to Him,
that God may be All in all.
1 the throne of God and the
Lambkin . . .
3 the throne of God and the Lambkin . . .
5 And they will be reigning for the eons of the
On one side all government is abolished. The reign of
the Son ceases. God, as Father, remains the only King. On the other, the Lambkin is
associated with God, and the saints are associated with Him in the government of the
earth. The Unveiling tells us nothing of the celestial administrations. In Israel alone
will be thousands of saints who reign. Can this be in a time when every form of
government, whether absolute or dependent, has been abrogated? Can God be All in all while
the Lambkin sits upon His throne? The confounding of the kingdom with the church is a
thousand times more excusable than confusing the reign of the Son in the last eon will His
abdication at the consummation.
In the tares you shifted a very small part of the end of an eon. Here
you are confusing two administrations so radically different from each other that the
latter is actually defined by contrasting it with the former. The consummation is a time
when the saints do not reign and Christ is not on the throne. You are
seeking to place it in the eon which is the highest expression of Christ's government. Is
this correctly apportioning the word of truth?
I have great difficulty in classifying your method of demonstrating
that the second death is not referred to in the fifteenth of first Corinthians. You take
the nearby occurrences of dead, die, and death, and conclude that, since all
the other instances refer to the first death, "the last enemy" must also refer
to "Adamic death." This method of study can easily be tested. The apostle says
that death is through a man, and resurrection of the dead is also through a man. By your
principle the application of a word is limited by its occurrence in a nearby context, so
we must conclude that, since death came through Adam, resurrection must also come through
the first man! The simple word man occurs both times. If "death" cannot
refer to the second death, neither can "man" refer to the second Man.
Now we know that death comes through the first man and resurrection
through the Second. Yet here in a single sentence these two men, so different in some
ways, are included under the single term man. And, to make the analogy complete,
One is elsewhere defined as the second Man, just as death is elsewhere divided, and
one manifestation called the second death. It would be impossible to produce a more
complete refutation of your proposition that the application of a word is limited
by its remote contexts. A dozen different men may be denoted "man" in the same
sentence without violating any law of language, and so a dozen different deaths, if there
were such, might be called "death" in this chapter.
It is the meaning of a word which must conform to all its
various settings. You have a right to insist that the word death has the same
significance in all these passages. And that is precisely what we stand for. The mere fact
that one is a "second" death does not change it into something else. And, just
as the word man, apart from the contextual limitations, includes all
mankind, not omitting the second Man, so death includes all death, unless the
context limits it.
I am eager to acknowledge that the meaning of a word is limited
not only by the immediate context, but by every other one in which it occurs. That is one
of the basic principles of the CONCORDANT VERSION. Death has a constant, unvarying
significance wherever the word occurs, just as man anthroopos has an
undeviating sense at all times. But man may refer to Adam or to Christ, the first or the
Second Man. It refers to you and to myself in this chapter, and we certainly are neither
of these two. Why then should death be always limited to the first death? There is
not a law of language or logic to give the slightest support to this method of study.
The necessity which compelled you to propose such an argument not only
suggests that the second death may be present in the chapter, but practically proves that
it is. You would not need to make such a devious detour around this passage if you were
able to go through it. Such false reasoning confuses but it does not convince. The
reaction from it, however, will convince many that the last enemy can be no other than the
You evidently do not believe that the second death came through Adam,
but fail to state who it is through whom it comes. You will readily acknowledge that
"Adamic death" is a theological expression. It is not only useless, but
mischievous, for it makes distinctions which are unknown to the word of God. Death
came through Adam. A few, like Lazarus, have already died twice. If we seek to make each
one the channel of his own second death, we come into conflict with the truth that sin
came through Adam, and the second death is the penalty of sin quite as really as the
I will suggest a very simple method of determining whether, in any
passage, the first or the second death is intended. After the great white throne judgment
we read that death itself was cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death
(Rev.20:14). This crisis is the dividing point between the first and second death, for the
mass of mankind. If the death referred to is before this, it probably is the first; if
after this, it certainly is the second. When is death abolished or "destroyed?"
When the kingdom is given up to God? This cannot be during the reign of Christ as
Son of God, in the "day of God" on the new earth, for the Lambkin is still on
the throne. When is all sovereignty and authority and power abrogated? This cannot be
before the new earth, for in it the saints reign. Now, before this time the first death
has been cast into the second. There is no death in the new earth but the second. It is
the only one which can be abolished at that time.
Another consideration is quite as conclusive. Death at any time is an
enemy. We are agreed on that. The second death is an enemy. Now one of these is the last
enemy. Is it the first or second? Can the first death be the last enemy? No
enemy can be last if it has another coming after it. Hence the single word last is
all the proof needed to establish the fact that it must be the second death which will be
I confess I am much more attracted by your argument based on the scope
of the passage. Literary structures are helpful to an accurate study of God's word. We are
quite agreed that, in 1 Cor. 15:12-34 we have Paul's argument as to the fact of
resurrection, and in the next section (1 Cor.15:35-38) the manner of it. But that
these two distinct sections, dealing with entirely different aspects of the subject, must
of necessity have the same scope, so that one contradicts the plainest statements
contained in the other, is too great a strain for any literary analysis to stand.
Moreover, how a section dealing with the manner of the
resurrection can amplify one dealing with the fact, is quite inexplicable.
Indeed, if the Scriptures are written so, no one but a literary expert can tell what
refers to what. If "each in his own class" has no reference to the three classes
immediately enumerated, but must be interpreted by a part of the next section which deals
with another aspect altogether, common believers like myself must give up in despair. In
my own writings I seek to keep from complicating my subject and would never think of
amplifying one aspect of a subject while treating of another.
To insist that the scope of these two passages must be confined to the
same people logically leads to the conclusion that the "we" of verse fifty-two
includes the "all are dying" of verse twenty-two, so that only believers in
Christ die in Adam! One of your own methods of determining the scope of a passage would
not be out of place here. The word "all" occurs a dozen times in the first
section. In five instances it is so nearly infinite in its scope that only God is not
included in its range. In the second section it occurs only four times, once "every
hour" (30), once "all flesh," and twice "we all."
The fact is that the scope of the second section is far more confined than the first. How
then can it amplify what is much more ample than itself?
Your main point in this connection is that the quotation from Isaiah
(25:8), "Death is swallowed up by Victory!" (15:54), can refer only to our
resurrection, and, as this is an "amplification" of the abolition of the last
enemy (15:26), death is abolished when we are changed at His coming. It is evident that
you do not see that this is inconsistent with your own position as given in your summary.
There its abolition seems to be postponed until death is cast into the lake of fire. As a
result you lead us to the startling conclusion that the victory here spoken of is the lake
of fire! Death is swallowed up by both Victory and the lake of fire at the same time, so
they must be identical! What a victory!
What are the facts? Isaiah could not have confined his statement to our
resurrection for it was a secret (verse 51) recently revealed by the apostle. All that the
apostle says is that this passage, which was written concerning Israel and the nations, comes
to pass. It is manifestly not fulfilled, for the secret here revealed does not
apply to those of whom Isaiah spoke. Its fulfillment must include many more than those
here referred to. Consequently it simply indicates that our vivification is one of a
series of blows dealt in a complete victory. It can never be fulfilled without including
the second death.
The "consummation," as the CONCORDANT VERSION
renders the word "end" (with FINISH in the sublinear), occurs at
the end of the eons, yet does not denote their cessation merely, but the accomplishment of
their purpose. As I have never taught that telos means end in the sense of
cessation, but have protested against this rendering, it is somewhat disconcerting to be
charged with doing so.
But I cannot concur in your sweeping judgment that "the
`consummation of the ages' is an invention, a false peg upon which to hang a false
theory." It is an exceedingly good peg on which much grand truth is fastened. In this
very epistle Paul speaks of the "Consummations of the eons," or age's (1
Cor.11:11). Each eon has a consummation. The consummation of the present eon is referred
to eight times (Matt.10:22; 24:6,13,14; Mark 3:7,13; Luke 21:9; Rev.2:26) in the
Scriptures. The together- consummation sunteleia or conclusion of the next
eon is referred to once (Matt.28:20). And the conclusion of all the eons is brought before
us in connection with the repudiation of sin (Heb.9:26).
I have read your pamphlet carefully to discover, if I could, the
precise point where you depart from the truth. I believe I have found it, and I urge you
to graciously consider a suggestion. You have not said a word about vivification,
or making alive. You seek to base the abolition of death on resurrection. You evidently
read verse twenty-two: For, even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus, in Christ, also, all
will be raised. Now there is no more striking change in the whole chapter than the
use of made alive instead of raised at this point. That part of the chapter
with which we are concerned does not deal with resurrection but with vivification. Herein
is the difference between us. The spirit of God has deliberately and strikingly introduced
a new thought which you ignore, yet which is absolutely essential to the truth. God never
associates the abolition of death with mere resurrection. You always do. Death was not
abolished in the case of those who have already been raised from the dead, with a single
exception--Christ the firstfruit. Death will not be abolished at the resurrection of
condemnation for they will suffer the second death.
Vivification does not occur at all at the beginning of the new earth,
the principal point you propose for the consummation. While the spirit of God is speaking
of one thing, you are talking about another.
The truth of vivification, as distinct from resurrection, is the key to
the books which appear at this judgment. The measure and character of judgment is
determined by the "books." They have nothing to do with life or death. Conduct
does not determine whether or not anyone will be cast into the lake of fire. The names in
the book of life were already entered at the disruption of the world (Rev.13:8), before
anyone had done either good or evil. We agree that the account in the Unveiling does not
say that all who stand before the great white throne will die the second death. But Paul
does teach this when he restricts vivification to three classes, and entirely ignores the
great white throne judgment when listing all the times when vivification will occur. The
reason is simple. This judgment is one of works. Undoubtedly, if anyone present before it,
sought glory and honor and incorruption by enduring in good acts, God will give him eonian
life (Rom.2:7). He will have foreseen this so that the name of such a one will appear in
the book of life. They would be saved by works, not by the blood of Christ. This can never
As we have never so much as hinted that the flood or the lake of fire
purified its human victims, but have protested strongly against any such doctrine, it is
needless to refute it now. We would only say this, that you have given your readers a most
erroneous conception of what we do teach by replying to many a position which we
repudiate. If this should fall into the hands of any of your readers, we implore them not
to slander us further by spreading the impression that we hold everything which you
Your excuse for this attack on the truth of universal reconciliation is
that your position was compromised. I had no hand in that whatever. Do you realize that
your method of clearing yourself has led you to put me in a position far more unfair? I
question whether any of your readers would sympathize with your method of making a
mythical "A" take the place of definite printed statements, which are abundant.
"A" is a caricature, not a composite of our teaching. I beg of you, for your own
name's sake, to publicly print the fact that "A" does not represent my
Your argument that the second death was not revealed at the time the
fifteenth of first Corinthians was written is hardly worth considering for any weight it
has in connection with the subject in hand. You evidently agree that Gehenna is limited to
the millennium. You think that it is the eonian fire which was prepared for the Slanderer
and his angels (Matt.25:41). If so, why was he not cast into it? The wild beast and
the false prophet are cast into the same lake of fire at the beginning of the day of the
Lord into which the Slanderer is cast at its end (Rev.20:10). Our Lord spoke plainly of
both Gehenna and the lake of fire. Even if He had not, the passage we are considering is
not a repetition of what was known but is itself a revelation.
Your later exposition, that the first death "kills the body"
(Matt.10:28) and the second death is "to destroy both soul and body" is only one
more illustration of the wrong partitioning of the word of truth. It is no help to
say that Gehenna is a foreshadowing of the lake of fire. They are distinct. What is true
of one is not necessarily true of the other. Our Lord said specifically that soul and body
would be destroyed in Gehenna. By what authority do you change this to the lake of
fire, and, having done so, make it the basis of a distinction between the first and second
death for which you evidently cannot find any actual support in the Scriptures?
You say "We do not believe that Gog and Magog (Rev.20:9) will
stand before the great white throne. The fire which falls from heaven is for them the
second death. Of such Psa.1:5 speaks: `The ungodly shall not stand (or rise) in the
judgment.'" So revolutionary is this teaching that I must examine it. If the
"ungodly" or "wicked" (as it is usually rendered) are not to be at the
great white throne, who is going to be there? I am sure that the righteous will not be
present. Really, does not this prove that no one will stand before it? Then, too,
what favoritism this shows for the ungodly! All others--I do not know who they could
be--all others are judged at the great white throne before being annihilated, according to
your plan. But the wicked are annihilated before it. This is more humane and reasonable, I
But does the first psalm actually teach that the ungodly shall not rise
at the great white throne? Let us see.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand [rise] in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
In this parallelism "ungodly" corresponds to
"sinners," and "judgment" with "righteous." It is evident
that "judgment" is used in a good sense. The word for stand is rise. The
plain meaning is that the irreverent will not rise in the same resurrection with the
righteous. The same truth is taught in the Revelation (20:5), "the rest of the dead
do not live until the thousand years may be finished." The judgment is that which is
granted to those who reign in the millennium (Rev.20:4). When the awards are made in the
kingdom they will still be among the dead.
Now the Scriptures say that Gog and Magog were devoured by fire. I take
it that they died. And then we read that "the dead, great and small" stand
before the throne. Believing as you do, I sympathize with you in seeking to keep as many
as possible from that throne. If they are to be annihilated, judgment is an unnecessary
farce. But I have no reason for changing what is written. "The dead, great and
small," at that time includes none but the "ungodly." God's great oath
shall not fail of fulfillment (Rom.14:11):
". . . to Me will bow every knee,
And every tongue will be acclaiming God."
Your remarks on the nature of the second death make it evident that you
do not think it is death at all, but annihilation. This does great credit to your heart,
but it violates one of the simplest laws of language. The spirit of God chooses the terms
of a definition with the utmost precision. When it became necessary to explain what the
lake of fire is, we are told that it is "the second death" (Rev.20:14). Shall we
explain the divine definition, and say that this death is different from that previously
known? Then it is not a definition. It is imperative in a definition that the words
should be used in their usual and accepted sense, or else modified to suit.
"Death" is not modified here except by the adjective "second." This
does not, in the least, affect its nature. If you or I or anyone else is at liberty to
modify God's explanations, we place ourselves above the Revealer Himself.
To summarize: When God says "call" He means precisely that,
subject only to the limitations of the context. When He declares that He will reconcile
"the all" to Himself (Col.1:20), nothing less will satisfy His word and heart
but the complete obliteration of all enmity or estrangement.
In the original, the Scriptures declare unreservedly that "all is
of God" (Rom.11:36; 1 Cor.11:12; 2 Cor.5:18), and carefully and constantly make it
plain that what is "not of God" is so in a figurative sense.
The proper principle of interpretation does not confuse God's dealings
in the various eons, and, above all does not seek to apply eonian truth to post-eonian
conditions. God's dealings with Israel do not gauge the grace which is ours in Christ
Jesus. Neither are His eonian activities the index of His post-eonian purpose. We have
plain statements and have no need of such "principles."
"The Present Interval of Bondage," "The Two Seeds,"
and "The Kinsman-Redeemer," are all concerned with the process and not with the
goal. They apply to intermediate conditions, not to the ultimate result. Election and
redemption are eonian. Those who are saved at the consummation are not elect, and not
redeemed. In Israel redemption was operative during the interval up to the next jubilee.
Few were set free by redemption, but all went free in the jubilee.
"The Mystery of His Will" has reference to the secret of
Christ, that He is to be Head of the whole universe (Eph.1:10). It has no connection with
the introduction of sin. You say "God did not plan sin, but He provided against
it." You will acknowledge that He provided against it before it entered. As I
am dealing with this fully elsewhere, I will simply suggest that you will find it
impossible to uphold your contention without declaring the deity of the Devil.
As you insist that all is not of God, and that Satan is the ultimate
source of some things, I do not see why you should oppose his worship, much less seek to
fasten on me some nebulous connection with the "mystery of iniquity." I do not
ascribe divine attributes to the adversary as you do.
The second death is death. Death is to be abolished as the last enemy.
This cannot be while it is still in operation in the lake of fire. Scripture does not
speak of a resurrection from the lake of fire, but it does speak of the vivification of
all mankind when death is made inoperative.
As one who sees the hand of God in all things, and has admired His
wisdom in bringing good out of evil, righteousness out of sin, and reconciliation out of
estrangement, I thank you for your effort. That one so highly regarded by many of superior
spiritual attainments should not be able to bring forward a single definite statement from
the word of God which contradicts its unequivocal assertion concerning universal
reconciliation confirms my faith in its truth, and deepens my desire to make it known.
Now, my dear brother, do not misunderstand me to mean that I must break
off our fellowship in Christ, or will refuse to cooperate in the work of the Lord. You
have intimated that such is your attitude, but it does not find any response in my heart.
Your teaching may compromise my ministry, it may lead to much confusion and
misunderstanding, so that I may appear to be against the truth, but I am conscious of
God's complete and active supervision, so that all these things are for me, not against
me. I have no doubt that He will use your opposition in His own way to make known the
boundless beneficence of His love. In His name, I thank you.