by W.B. Screws

The Pilgrim's Messenger

"Have a pattern of sound words which you hear from me, in faith and love
which are in Christ Jesus."--11 Timothy 1:13
Published Monthly By W. B. SCREWS, Glennville, Georgia
Twenty-five Cents a Year

Volume XXIV

March, 1945

Number 8

Entered at the postoffice at Glennville, Ga., as second-class matter.

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 15:22-28.  

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 21:19.  

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 it.  

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 sin-offerings.  

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 8:22?  

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 Christ. 

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," 20:10. 

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. 

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