Some of our dear brethren seem to be deeply concerned
about extricating God from a difficulty which His word has gotten
Him. They want to prove that the second death is not death at all,
but a process of blessing that destroys death. And this, in spite
of the fact that the word tells us that it is Christ, Himself, Who
abolishes death, Second Timothy 1:10. It is not hinted in the
scripture that He uses something called "death," to abolish
death, but it is stated, positively, that He uses a process called
vivification to accomplish the work, First Corinthians
To begin with, there is a play on the word,
"signify." It is claimed that this word, used in
Revelation 1:1, means that John was going to write a book which is not
to be taken literally, but which would carry its message by means of
symbols, metaphors, figures, etc. That word is not so used in
other parts of the scripture. When Christ wanted to signify by
what death He should die, He did not resort to signs. He spoke in
plain words, "And I, if I should be exulted out of the earth, shall
be drawing all to myself," John 12:32. John adds, "Now
this He said, signifying by what death He was about to be
dying." The Jews signified by what death He was about to be
dying, not by resorting to symbols and metaphors, but by saying, in
plain words, "To us it is not allowed to kill anyone," John
18:31, 32. Jesus signified by what death Peter should be
glorifying God, but did not use signs to do it. Read John
In Acts 11:28, we find Agabus signifying that a
famine was impending, by merely saying so. When, as we find in
Acts 25:27, Festus wanted to know what changes to signify against Paul,
was he puzzled as to what symbols and metaphors to use? No; he
wanted to know what to SAY, IN WORDS.
As "signify" does not mean
"sign-ify" in these five passages, why should it have that
meaning in Rev. 1:1? No one acquainted with the Revelation would
say no metaphors are used. There are many. But this is true, in a
lesser measure, of the entire scripture. Because Christ says,
Matthew 26:26, that the bread is His body, meaning that it represents
His body, must we conclude that nothing in connection with the Dinner,
actually occurred? And what about the seven ecclesias mentioned in
Revelation 2 and 3? Are they real ecclesias? We are told
that the seven lamp stands are the seven ecclesias. This is a
metaphor, as is also the statement that the seven stars are the
messengers of the ecclesias. But the ecclesias and the messengers
are real; They do not represent something else.
There is only one safe rule of interpretation.
It is, "Literal, unless a literal interpretation would involve us
in some unreasonable difficulty." To say that Christ is
walking about with seven stars literally in His right hand, would be
unreasonable, since each star is probably larger than the earth.
But to say it means that He holds in His hand - that is, in His keeping - the
messengers of the ecclesias, is reasonable. Nothing would be
accomplished by His walking among literal lamp stands. But when we
see that it means that, in spirit, He walks among the ecclesias, we have
a sane interpretation.
The four horses and their riders, in chapter 6, are
evidently metaphors, since it is unreasonable to think peace out of the
earth, or doing any of the other things mentioned. But I find no
difficulty in giving a literal interpretation to the elders and animals
mentioned in chapter 4.
Since all this takes place in the Lord's day, 1:10,
the woman mentioned in chapter 12 cannot be the Virgin Mary. And
since no one person could, alone, shepherd the nations with an iron
club, to interpret her son literally would place us in a
difficulty. So, naturally, we suppose it to be a metaphor. Who,
then, is the woman? Since she flees into the wilderness, and since
Christ instructs Israel to do this very thing, Matthew 24:15. We
conclude that the woman is the faithful remnant of Israel, and the son
is a company out of her.
There are many other metaphors in the book, but some
of what is said must be taken literally, or there would be no background
for the figurative language.
Let it be remembered that, as to time, John was in
the first century, but, in spirit, came to be in the Lord's day, which
has not yet come. And, as to location, he was bodily on Patmos, but, after
the messages to the seven ecclesias, was taken up into heaven, in
spirit, 4:1, and saw the future from God's standpoint. This
accounts for his seeing the woman in heaven. Much of the vision
has to do with earth, but John is, in spirit, in heaven, while viewing
Heaven is not a metaphor or figure of the Jewish
religious system. If it were, and if the judging before the white
throne is to take place during the millennium, then we are forced to the
conclusion that, during the thousand years there is no religious system
at all, for we are told that the judging takes place after the present
heaven and earth passes, and before the new come into view, 20:11.
This would contradict the scriptures which tell us that during the
thousand years the Jewish religious system will be in full operation,
with the priesthood functioning perfectly, with the exception of
There is too much difficulty involved in making this
figurative, and ignoring the element of time, (after the thousand
years). It is far easier to give to the judgment scene a literal
interpretation, giving due place to the sketches of figurative language
used in describing it. A perfectly natural interpretation is to
allow the judging to take place after the thousand years, and after the
rest of the dead, (20:5), are restored to mortal life. They are
yet dead to God, although living, in a literal sense. It throws
light on the fate of those who died in the deluge in Noah's day and were
swept into the sea. This is the time of their resurrection.
None of them are included in the body of Christ, nor are they among the
dead saints roused to have part in the kingdom. Death gives up the
dead. This is, evidently, a figurative allusion to the grave,
where the receptacle of the dead is called death. The unseen is a
word indicating the condition of the souls of those who are dead.
It is a picture of dead bodies and souls "uniting." All
live, but are yet figuratively dead. We have scripture for this.
Did not Christ speak of those who were not saints, as dead, even though
they had life enough to enable them to bury people, Matthew
Why should a literal second death involve God in
dishonor, more than the first death does? The first is usually
preceded by a long period of suffering. The second will be
instantaneous. According to First Corinthians 15:22-28, those whom
we call the nonelect will not be vivified in Christ until the
consummation. The white throne judging will be long before that
time. After it is finished, shall God let those people live in a
state of mortality, until the consummation? The most merciful
thing to do is to cast them into the lake of fire and sulphur, and let
them remain unconscious unto the time for them to be vivified in
Why should we try to make the lake of fire and
sulphur something else? Why could it not be literal?
We are told of some who shall be tormented in fire
and sulphur, Revelation 14. This is quite evidently in connection
with the fall to Babylon.
We are not told that anyone will be tormented in the
lake of fire and sulphur, except in that verse which says, "And the
adversary who is deceiving them was cast into the lake of fire and
sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet are also. And they
shall be tormented day and night for the eons of the eons,"
The second death is God's way of putting and end to
the sufferings of those who are judged. At the consummation they
shall be vivified in Christ. Their judging is not punishment; it
is a preparation through sufferings, for their full appreciation of the
salvation which is in Christ, (NOT IN THE SECOND DEATH), for them.