by J. Preston Eby
The Lake of Fire
A king in Europe, a kindly monarch, went to visit a school. Children were being taught concerning the various kingdoms into which nature and man were divided. The King wished to ask the children some questions. A sweet little maid stood forth, and the King said, "Now, my dear, tell me what these are," holding objects in his hand. She said, "A flower, a bird, a beast." "Tell me to what kingdom the flower belongs." "To the vegetable kingdom, sir," said the child. "Tell me," said the monarch, "to what kingdom do these animals belong?" holding up various animals. "To the animal kingdom, sir...... Tell me, my dear," said the King, "to what kingdom do I belong?" Now, I think if she had said he belonged for the most part, to the animal kingdom, she would not have been far wrong; but the little one had great reverence for the King, although he had so often failed to recognize the Kingdom to which he belonged. The little, blushing maid did not want to say that he belonged to the animal kingdom, but "out of the mouths of babes and sucklings God perfected praise." The little one, with her eyes full of tears, for she had heard the tittering laughter which was running through the school at her embarrassment, looked up into the face of the King. "Now, tell me, dear," he said, "to what kingdom do I belong?" "You belong to the Kingdom of God, sir." And the King bowed his head, for the arrow had gone to his heart. He said, "My dear, pray that I may be worthy of that Kingdom, and of God."
The answer of the child is the answer which I give you. Do you desire to teach the child that which will enable it to triumph over the lusts and passions of a mere animal nature? Teach it that it is the Offspring of the Father of spirits, and that first and greatest of all is the spiritual nature which it has and not the psychical or the physical nature. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, and after our likeness ... so God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him" (Gen. 1:26-27). "And has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, for we are also HIS OFFSPRING. Forasmuch then as we are the OFFSPRING OF GOD..." (Acts 17:26-29). Teach the child that sex, race, or nationality is nothing in the Kingdom of God. Teach them that "there can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). Teach them to seek for that New Creation which God's Spirit alone can impart, that they may be worthy of that Kingdom and that they may have the love which rules in that Kingdom from its divine center to its utmost circumference, and which crushes lust and sin and death beneath its feet.
"...which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God" (Lk. 3:38). Adam - the SON OF GOD! God has a wayward sinner for a son, that wayward boy sprang, originally from the heart of God after a creaturely manner. He was created out of the glory of God and was a radiant creature, more radiant than an angel; and that boy, dead in scarlet sins, is still God's son, but he is a prodigal son. Some fathers may disown their sons, but the Father of the prodigal son never said that that wayward boy of His was not His son. The Bible says that such become the children of the devil; but, nevertheless, God still has a double claim upon them: they are His by creation; and they are His by right of redemption. They are dead in trespasses and sins. They need to be saved, to be converted, regenerated. They need to repent and come home; but when they do, the sorrowing Father is made glad and says, "For this My son was dead, and is alive again; be was lost, and is found." God is a bereaved God. It brings sorrow to our hearts, too, to think that our God and Father is bereaved of His children!
But to whatever depths of depravity, destitution, emptiness, sorrow, pain, and disaster the prodigal finally comes, it is good for him, for it ultimately destroys the pride and arrogance, the independence and selfhood, and the wickedness and rebellion in his heart. It would be well worth our time to consider prayerfully the deep import of the piercing words of the prophet: "Your own wickedness shall correct you, and your backslidings shall reprove you" (Jer. 2:19). Those who suppose that hell and the lake of fire represent the eternal doom of the sinners of Adam's race are ignorant and understand nothing whatever of God's great laws, and purposes, and dealings in judgment. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy about two apostates in the Church: "Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme" (I Tim. 1:19-20).
Were these two reprobates turned over to Satan to be tormented for ever in the lake of fire? Nay I They were delivered unto Satan that they might LEARN! Learn what? "Learn NOT TO BLASPHEME. " It should be obvious to every thinking mind that as soon as the lesson had been learned, the apostle called Satan off the case, and the erring one was restored to God and His people!
There is a beautiful story in Luke chapter fifteen, the parable of the Prodigal Son. While feeding hogs in the "far country," the prodigal came to himself. It was the lack of food that changed him. His body was made to need food, even as his heart was made for friendship and love, but he was destitute. "No man gave unto him," the story says. Alone! Forsaken! Stripped! Then he remembered: "How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" He was suffering the results of his own selfishness, and lust, and rebellion. His body was in agony without the sustenance it was created for. Rags, and filth, and stench were his surroundings. All this the result of his sin! To be "without God in the world" is life's ultimate in desolation and despair. The reality of judgment is separation from God's love and fellowship and blessing and the consequent recognition of condemnation and the processes of wrath and judgment.
We often forget that God not only allows Satan and sin and evil, but that He also uses them. Again and again, when trouble stalks his path, a man turns back to the God he has despised. When his wife dies, or his children go wrong; when loss and disaster fall upon him, again and again he will seek the God he has neglected. Many of our men who fought in past wars found that danger and privation turned their minds toward God. Foxholes cure atheism, they say. Weeks on a lifeboat adrift in the ocean do something to a man, and he is often a very different person when he lands on shore again. That is not because God coerces the man, but because God brings upon him such experiences as change his attitudes and priorities. And God brings such experiences upon men, not in vindictive hatred, but in love. He is too wise to err, too loving to be unkind!
Some argue that because we affirm that the judgments of God are not eternal, but corrective, we teach a "hell redemption." We are accused of believing that hell can accomplish in a man what the mercy and blood of Jesus could not accomplish. Many years ago Charles G. Finney (and we respect his ministry) opposed the teaching of the ultimate salvation of all by ridicule. Finney was a master of the invective. He said that those who were saved after this "age of grace" ends would unceasingly sing, "Thanks be to the hell that saved us by our own suffering!" Just how much weight is there to that criticism? It is a marvelous truth that CHRIST ALONE can save! There is no other way! How we rejoice that it is so! But there is one thing that must be dealt with before any man can come to Christ and be saved. MAN'S REBELLION MUST BE REMOVED. His pride and self-confidence and stubborness and trust in things and pleasures that damn and lead away from God must be broken. And this is where judgment comes in. Judgment destroys the power of the carnal mind which blinds, which is enmity against God but judgment does not grant redemption. It only breaks rebellion! It breaks man's stubborn will! But redemption was purchased upon the cross.
It is a small matter for God to break the resistance of men. Men without God live like animals. They eat, sleep, entertain themselves, labor, but they are not in touch with God at all. He has no place in their thoughts nor in their lives. Finally man awakens. Like the old country preacher who was telling of the prodigal son. He said, "He took off his coat and spent that. Then he took off his vest and spent that. Then he took off his shirt, and when he took off his shirt, he came to his self." We come to ourselves in various ways! When the prodigal was feeding hogs in the "far country" he "came to himself," according to Jesus. Did he, then, have a "hogpen redemption?" Not at all! The hogpen didn't save him, but he did get some sense knocked into him there it was there his willfulness and rebellion left him, but he was not saved until he got back to his Father.
I have read about men in the foxholes on the battle front getting saved. Did they get a "war redemption?" Did the war save them? No! No! No! Men in the danger and horror of war often begin to think as they never thought before, but war does not save. At best, it can only awaken them, and turn men to the Christ they have ignored. And if they are saved at all it is because they call in all sincerity upon the Saviour who died for them on Calvary's cross.
Now the prodigal didn't have to go home. He was not compelled to do so, no one dragged him. He wanted to! But he didn't want to until all his money was gone and he got to feeding hogs. The circumstances had to crowd in upon his life which caused him to come to the place where he chose to "arise and go to the Father." The heart of the Father is calling, calling, calling to His wayward children, "Come unto Me." Long before the prodigal son had come to his home, the Father was waiting, and looking for him. He saw him coming along the weary way, no longer with servants attending, no longer in rich robes; but ragged, poor, dirty, in wornout sandles, he came along the road, with the stench of the swineherd and the stains of the fleshpots upon him. Creeping along, sick, sore, and weary, he said, "Oh, if I could but be one of my Father's hired servants! "Is it he? Can it be - O God, can that be he who left only a few months ago, so strong, so happy, so bright, with the world all before him? Can that be he?" "It is. It is he." Will the Father reject him? Will the Father not say, "I gave him his portion and he has spent it all in riotous living; let him stay away for ever?" No, no. The Father saw him afar off, and he ran and fell on his neck, and kissed him, not heeding his filthiness and his rags. The Father interrupted the prayer, after the son told him of his sin, that he might become a slave in the Father's house; for there are no slaves in our Father's house. They are all sons and daughters of the Most High God. Thank God for that!
Why, then, should we be slaves to Satan, and to sin, and to death, and to hell? The Father took him and kissed him. He told the servants to bring the best robe and the signet ring that made him controller of his Father's estate. He told them to get out the musical instruments and the dancers, and to make merry and be glad. "Spread the feast, for this my son was dead; dead to me; dead to mother; dead to purity; dead to truth; dead to love; dead to God; and he is alive again. He was lost and is found." Whenever judgment has done its work; whenever a man comes to himself and says "I will"; "I will arise and go to my Father, and I will say to my Father, I have sinned against heaven and in Your sight and am no more worthy to be called your son," then the Great and Eternal God and Father will take that man, sin-stained and foul as he is in spirit, and in soul, and in body, and He will make him whiter than snow. If you ask Him to give you the lowest place as a servant, He will lift you up, and kiss you and say, "My Son! My Daughter!" The robe of the Father's righteousness will be placed upon you, you will be bountifully fed from His very own table with the wisdom of His Word, and the signet-ring that gives you power and authority over all things in His Kingdom, will be upon your finger. Cleansed and robed and empowered by the Father, you can go out and do His work.
All creation groans for the FIRSTFRUITS of His redemption to be revealed in all the majesty and power and glory of their regained inheritance! Blessed be God for ever.
You may remember the story of the man who was trying to get his mule into the barn. The man was tugging on the rope and pulling with all his might. He got behind the mule and pushed; he put his shoulder to its back but he could not budge the mule who just stood there, stifflegged, and would not move. He could not get it into the barn! A fellow walked up and watched for quite a while. Finally he said, "Mister, I'll get your mule into the barn for you if you like." The man stopped in astonishment and said," Can you?" He said," Of course, it is easy." The stranger walked over and picked up a two-by-four, came over to the mule, quietly lifted the two-by-four, and whacked him on top of the head, right between the eyes. The mule went a little crosseyed! Then he hit him behind the ears. Before the mule could quite straighten up again, he struck him underneath the chin. With that he took hold of the rope and with two fingers led the mule into the barn! The man stood there astonished. The fellow came out again and said, "You see, mister, actually this mule is a very cooperative critter. You just got to get his attention!"
Sometimes God has to GET OUR ATTENTION. And to do that He chooses to use events which are instruments of His judgment. God told Moses that the reason for His judgment upon the Egyptians was to make them know that He is God. Everything God does shows us something about who He is, but in this instance of judgment God particularly expressed that His intent was to show Himself to the Egyptians. And He was successful in this, for in chapter eight of Exodus Moses records the magicians telling Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God."
Our God has foretold the blessed era when He shall be ALL IN ALL. How can God ever be ALL- IN - ALL? Are there not some creatures and men too calloused and hostile to bend to His omnipotence? Let each one who knows Him as their ALL give answer thus: "He who has broken my stubborn will and brought me to His feet can lead the most obstinate to Himself." His will is more than a match for any man's. Were it His decree to become their DOOM, they could not stop Him. But as it is His will to become their ALL (which is a far nobler, greater goal), their ALL He shall become. His indignation may break and destroy pride and rebellion for the ages, but His love will endure endlessly and He will pursue all men until at last they surrender to His love. Ah, yes, God knows just how to GET OUR ATTENTION! He can get it here and now. If He doesn't get it here, He will get it in hell. If He doesn't get it in hell, He will get it in the lake of fire. He will get it by gracious words and tender mercies, if He can. But if not, He will get it by severe judgments and awful wrath. But, blessed be His name, He will get our attention!
God gives us power, in the positive realm, to get men's attention, to subdue them to Christ. Jesus has said, in effect, "All Authority has been given unto Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore, I give you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. I give you this authority. I am behind you, and all the powers of heaven are on your side. Go therefore and MAKE DISCIPLES." They were a poor lot to go. They were nearly all fishermen, with one honest tax-gatherer. If you can find one honest taxgatherer in America, I think you might make him an apostle without further investigation.
These men whom Christ sent out were uneducated for the most part. They had no political clout and no social rank, until Christ took them in hand. They did not know very much until He took them in hand for three years. It was astonishing what He made of them. They did not realize their mission until the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and brought to their remembrance the things which Jesus had said, and showed them the meaning of Jesus' words after He had risen from the dead, when, on the mountain side in Galilee, He gave them authority to make disciples.
Dr. J. A. Dowie, years ago, related the following incident: "A man said to me once, 'You talk as if you could make people believe.' I said, 'I can; of course I can. You give me a chance at you, and I will make you believe before I am through.' He said, 'You will never make me believe.' I said, 'Will you come and attend services at Zion Tabernacle for ten consecutive Sundays, and see if I cannot?' 'Yes,' he said, 'I will, but you will be just as far away from it at the end of the ten weeks as you were at the beginning.' I looked for that man every Sunday, and I studied him from every point of view. I got to know all about him. I got to know all of his meannesses. I got to know the wickedness he had done. I 'spanked' him for about five consecutive services. I had him writhing in his seat and swearing under his breath, and wondering who had given him away. Every now and then I would look at him from this platform and say, 'I will have you yet.' He was wondering what I meant; but he was breaking up fast. After about five weeks I did not know if he would come any more. But on the sixth Sunday I forgot about him and did not know whether he was in the place or not. That day I said, 'There are some of you whom I have been pounding, and I suppose you have about come to believe that there is no hope for you anywhere on earth or in hell.' Suddenly I saw him and said, 'There is hope for you. You are a mighty hard case, but I will have you today. You will be a disciple today. Dare you to put it off any longer?' When I said, 'Stand,' I saw that fellow try to sit when thousands arose, but he could not. Before the ten weeks were up he said, 'Doctor, I surrender.' I said, 'All right; come and be baptized next Sunday.' God enabled me to MAKE HIM A DISCIPLE" -end quote.
But at times God has to use more severe means. Some months ago I turned on my car radio while enroute to a meeting on a Sunday morning and heard a preacher relate a most interesting and illustrative story. He said, "I remember a friend of mine that I was in school with. He was a pastor in the East Texas oil fields at the time of the explosion at the New London School. I shall never forget that night when word came in over the radio that that school had exploded and that over 300 boys and girls had been killed. I was speaking the next morning on the radio in Dallas, Texas. And that morning I directed everything I had to say to the parents and loved ones of those boys and girls. We had cards and letters from New England, from Cuba, from Mexico, from all over the country.
"But this pastor friend of mine told me this story. He said, In the parish in which I was the pastor, there lived a man that had become suddenly rich. He was a Texan who had become oil rich, even had put up a small refinery. And he had made already several millions of dollars. He had built a lovely home. He had a wife and two beautiful boys. And the wife and two boys were Christians, fellowshipping in our Church. And this pastor went on and said, This man was the worst blasphemer I had ever met in my life. I've never heard a man talk as that man would talk. He would blaspheme God, curse God. And his wife was so concerned about him and asked me to go see him. I went to see him, and I've never been treated like that in my life. He cursed me from the time I opened my mouth until I got out of earshot. He called me everything that was in the book and some things I didn't know were in the book. He was vile. His wife and one of his little boys took sick during the flu epidemic and both died at the same time. I went over that night to see them. I went in and there sat the father and the little boy that was alive. I went over and sat down beside them and began to talk, and he began to abuse me again. And curse - I've never heard anything like it! It was vile beyond description. He blasphemed God's name. There was nothing left for me to do but get up and walk out of there, which I did. I had the funeral. The man wouldn't even speak to me. And he became more vile after that. But all of the love that he'd had for his family, and that seemed to be the only thing about the man that was a redeeming feature, was now turned to this one little boy that was left.
"That little boy was in the New London School. This man, when he heard of the explosion, went out to that school and went through that rubble like a madman until he found the torn and twisted, broken body of that little boy. Then he took it in his arms and walked up and down that schoolyard like a madman until they actually took it away from him and carried it to the funeral home. You know, I felt it was my duty to go and talk with him. So that night I went over to that big home, and I went in and there was that little white casket and there he sat, the same place he'd sat before. I just steeled myself for the cursing that I was to get. I was afraid to say anything. I just sat down. Then that great big hulk of a fellow looked up and our eyes met. He hadn't cried before, but there were tears in his eyes. And instead of cursing me, he said to me, God has been after me all the time. He's tried to speak to me all my life, and I turned my back on Him. He took my wife and my other little boy, and I knew He was talking to me. But I was afraid of what men might say, those I worked with and was associated with. Oh, what a coward I've been. And now He's had to take this one! Well, he said, God can have me now. And that man got down on his knees beside that casket and took Christ as his Saviour. The last time I saw that pastor friend of mine he told me that that oil man was still serving God" -end quote.
That man did not respond to the POSITIVE witness of the Gospel of God's grace, so corrective measures were needed, and God stretched forth His hand and brought NEGATIVE forces into action, thereby getting his attention. Once broken under the judgmental dealings of God, he knelt before the Lord and received the goodness and mercy and deliverance so graciously proffered. Hallelujah! It should be clear to every thinking child of God that God does not use the same means and measures with every man to bring them to Christ. It would be very simple to fill this book with instance after instance from Holy Scripture which loudly and unmistakably proclaim the nature and purposes of all God's judgments from the banishment of Adam and Eve from Eden's fair garden in Genesis to the blazing inferno of the lake of fire in Revelation. But I would point you briefly to one plain and positive illustration which proceeded from the lips of our Lord Jesus Christ. "But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delays his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will APPOINT HIM HIS PORTION WITH THE UNBELIEVERS. And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be BEATEN WITH MANY STRIPES. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be BEATEN WITH FEW STRIPES. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more" (Lk. 12:45-48).
In this parable it is plain that Christ is teaching degrees of punishment. The Christ teaches that those who have committed things worthy of many stripes, will receive many, and those who were ignorant, and with lesser light did not know or understand the will of God, yet did things worthy of stripes, shall receive but a few.
Here is set forth in the plainest of language not only varying degrees of punishment, but also varying lengths of time for the punishment. What ever the judgment typified by the "stripes," it takes longer to inflict many stripes than just a few, so it should not be difficult to understand that some men are punished for a longer period of time than others. The Word of God declares that the Judge of all the earth shall do right, and I believe that He shall do just that. As our children were growing up we did not have one stock punishment for all their misdeeds. We suited the punishment to the disobedience, yet we haven't granted the same privilege to God! We have said that everyone is to receive the very same common punishment, hell fire, and that that judgment would endure for the very same length of time for all - eternity!
How, then, I ask, can some be beaten with "many stripes" and others with "few stripes" if all receive the same punishment of endless hell fire? How foolish can we be! It is always extremely foolish to hold to a doctrine that clearly contradicts the Word of God. I can almost feel the holy wrath, I can almost hear the stinging invective of some who think they have me now -"Ah, " they say, "but Jesus is not talking in this parable about the condition of the lost; He is teaching about the punishment of disobedient SERVANTS OF GOD!" And you are so very right, my friend! We never want to forget it. Nothing could be plainer, for Jesus prefaces His remarks with these significant words: "Who then is that FAITHFUL AND WISE STEWARD, whom his Lord shall make ruler over His household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that SERVANT, whom His Lord when He comes shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that He will make him ruler over all that He has" (Lk. 12:42- 44). There would be no answer to your argument; I would be forced to throw up my hands and admit that these words of our Lord apply only to the correction and discipline of servants of the Lord, and have absolutely no bearing whatever on the judgment of unbelievers, or on hell, or on the lake of fire, were it not for one significant statement that appears in verse forty-six. The Lord says, "The Lord of that servant will come in a day when he looks not for Him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will APPOINT HIM HIS PORTION WITH THE U-N-B-E-L-I-E-V-E-R-S." Do you see that? Ah, the punishment of this SERVANT is the SAME PUNISHMENT as the UNBELIEVER receives! He is appointed his portion WITH THE UNBELIEVERS!
The punishment, therefore, of this servant of the Lord and the punishment of the unbelievers is equal, identical, of the same intensity, for the same length of time, the very same punishment, and that punishment is? -MANY STRIPES! Not unending stripes; not everlasting whipping; not eternal torment under the hands of the tormentors; but - many stripes. And of what precise judgment speaks our Lord when He commands "appoint him his portion with the unbelievers?" What is the "portion of the unbelievers?" Hear it! "But the fearful, and UNBELIEVING ... shall have their part (portion) IN THE LAKE WHICH BURNS WITH FIRE AND BRIMSTONE" (Rev. 21:8). The "portion of the unbelievers" is the lake of fire. And not only are the unbelievers judged there, but the unfaithful servants of God are dealt with there, too! And, by Jesus' own words, this punishment is called "many stripes," and is shown to be limited in its duration and corrective and remedial in its nature.
I believe every word that the Bible says about the lake of fire; I don't believe what Rome says about it, nor what the apostate Churches say about it, nor what tradition says about it; but I certainly believe what the Bible says about it.
The teaching concerning the lake of fire does not appear anywhere in Scripture except in the book of Revelation where it is spoken of in the following passages: Rev. 14:10-11; 19:20; 20:10; 20:13-15 and 21:8. This last passage definitely states, "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolators, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."
There should be no question remaining as to the certainty of this lake of fire; neither should there be any doubt as to the awful consequence of having to be cast into it. These Scriptures with their dreadful foreboding should be a fearful warning to all unthinking and foolish people who, because of their love for the world, the flesh, and the devil, have dared to ask why we should serve God now if all are going to be saved eventually. Such people have no love for God nor fear of God, and they manifest by what they say that their professed serving of God is only a pretense, arising - not from any true love for Him - but from fear of punishment. If there were no prospect of hell these would promptly tell God to go to hell and they would, themselves, go to the devil. It is not thus with those who truly love God, for they serve not from fear, but from pure love and devotion. Remove punishment completely from the universe, and they would still serve God with all their hearts.
Because of the gross misunderstanding of almost all people concerning the lake of fire, I would like to draw your attention to three words found in the passage quoted above. "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which BURNS with FIRE and BRIMSTONE: which is the second death."
The word BURN means combustion, or to consume. To consume does not mean to annihilate, for there is no such thing as annihilation in the absolute sense. When fire consumes a log in your fireplace it does not destroy any of the elements within the log, it merely changes their form. Combustion is the process by which chemicals combine to form new chemicals. For example: a tree might be cut down, sawed into fire wood, and burned. When the wood is burning the heat causes the chemicals of which the wood is composed to vaporize, mixing with the oxygen in the air to form new chemicals, including water and the gas carbon dioxide. So what was formerly a tree is no longer identified as the form of a tree, but the substance thereof is now simply CHANGED into a DIFFERENT FORM and exists in its new form within the atmosphere as water, carbon dioxide, etc. Thus, to bum, means to CHANGE. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that fire does not burn down; it always burns up; it seeks the highest level. And all that it consumes "goes up in smoke," to exist in a new form in a higher dimension. Even if you take a pan of water and place it over a fire, before long the water will take on the property of the fire and will begin to go up in steam. To burn means to CHANGE, and the change is always UPWARD in its motion.
FIRE is the heat and light that you feel and see when something burns. It takes heat to start a fire, but once the fire is started it produces heat that keeps the process going. Thus, fire is really HEAT and LIGHT. In my study of the lake that burns with fire and brimstone I was very much helped and impressed by the understanding given by Charles Pridgeon and I would like to quote from his scholarly work on the subject of BRIMSTONE. He says: "The Lake of Fire and Brimstone signifies a fire burning with brimstone; the word 'brimstone' or sulphur defines the character of the fire. The Greek word THEION translated 'brimstone' is exactly the same word THEION which means 'divine.' Sulphur was sacred to the deity among the ancient Greeks; and was used to fumigate, to purify, and to cleanse and consecrate to the deity; for this purpose they burned it in their incense. In Homer's Iliad (16:228), one is spoken of as purifying a goblet with fire and brimstone. The verb derived from THEION is THEIOO, which means to hallow, to make divine, or to dedicate to a god (See Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon, 1897 Edition). To any Greek, or any trained in the Greek language, a 'lake of fire and brimstone' would mean a 'lake of divine purification.' The idea of judgment need not be excluded. Divine purification and divine consecration are the plain meaning in ancient Greek. In the ordinary explanation, this fundamental meaning of the word is entirely left out, and nothing but eternal torment is associated with it" -end quote.
I realize that the above thoughts define the subject very briefly, but let us summarize the meanings thus: BURN means combustion; to change the form of. FIRE means heat and light. BRIMSTONE means divine. Putting these three together can we not see that the lake burning with fire and brimstone is, actually, DIVINE HEAT AND LIGHT PRODUCING A CHANGE! Is such a process eternal? All the laws of nature shout that it is not!
More than 2500 years ago the Holy Spirit warned the wicked inhabitants of Jerusalem that God would kindle a fire at Jerusalem's gates which would devour her palaces. "But if you will not hearken unto Me ... then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not he quenched" (Jer. 17:27). Did not God say this fire "shall NOT BE QUENCHED?" This prophecy was fulfilled and the fire did occur a few years later and it did destroy all the houses of Jerusalem (Jer. 52:13). Since God said no person or thing would "quench" this fire, did that mean that it would burn for ever? Since it accomplished the work it was sent to do, and since it is NOT BURNING TODAY, it obviously went out by itself after accomplishing its purpose!
Unquenchable fire is not eternal fire - it is simply fire that cannot be put out until it has consumed or changed everything it is possible for it to change! It then simply goes out, for there is nothing more to burn. Yet I hear the preachers ranting and raving about poor souls being cast into bell fire where "their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched" and this, we are told, means eternal, unending torment. How foolish, illogical, and deceptive! Such a view contradicts the plain meaning of the term "unquenchable" and its use in the Word of God.
Are the judgments of God permanent? Isaiah says, "When Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness" (Isa. 26:9). And Mat. 12:20 says, "A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench, till He send forth judgment unto victory." Judgment, therefore, is not an eternal condition, but it is given to produce that victory. Judgments of themselves do not save anyone, but they are used by God to bring one to one's self, to effect a change of attitude and will, to consume away the stubbornness and rebellion of men. Punishment by fire is a beneficent one. "Our GOD is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29).
The basic purpose of this divine fire of God is to cleanse, purify, purge, temper and change. It is to rid of impurities, of filth, of undesirable elements. There is no better way to deal with filth than to deal with it by fire. The punishment by penal fire leads back to the beginning of things. The final work of God in this world will be the destruction of the world (order) by penal fire. That will change all things. That will melt all the elements, so that no man can tell you where his original grab was. It will burn up all the governments, institutions, systems, and fruitage of the carnal mind. It will melt all the customs, cultures, traditions, and practices of society and make of this earth a new earth wherein dwells righteousness. Every man's work will eventually be tested in this fire. The fire will try every man's work of what sort it is. If you and I build into our walls wood, hay, and stubble, that fire will find it out, and the wall will come tumbling down.
When God turns on the HEAT, the BLAZING LIGHT OF HIS SPIRIT AND WORD - some things begin to change! The fire is never sent to destroy the PERSON, but to purge out all that hinders and separates him from his God, to consume the pride, arrogance, hostility, defiance, and rebellion of the flesh, the carnal mind, that He might then be wooed and drawn by the Holy Spirit unto the Father of Spirits and live.
More than three centuries ago when the Black Plague swept through London, England, more than 68,000 men, women, and children were sickened with the putrid fever, suffered nameless agonies, passed into delirium, sometimes with convulsions, and then died. Before the end of the terrible nightmare of anguish and death, what was thought to be an even greater tragedy occured. The city caught fire, the whole heavens were ablaze as the Great Fire destroyed more than 13,200 homes and 89 churches. Most of the city, which was built largely of wood, lay in ashes. Wonder of wonders! As soon as the last dying embers cooled and the smoke cleared, the inhabitants of the city discovered that the Plague had been stayed! Not another person died of the epidemic. The Plague never returned. The fire had killed the bacteria-carrying fleas and rats that caused the Plague. It took a fire to do it!
Fire is a great cleanser, purifier, and changer. We all know that a horse must be broken, that is, its will must be broken before it is of any practical use to man. God put that will in the horse, but it must be broken and made to conform to the will of man. Just as surely did God put the will in man, BUT IT MUST BE BROKEN and we will benefit by the very process of breaking. Man may do a lot of crying and wailing, but when he is broken to HIS will, what a wonderful condition it is. God may take man over some rough places, even through the lake of fire and brimstone, but the love of God will break every man to His will. If you think the Kingdom of God is rosewater, or eau-de-cologne, you are mistaken. You cannot war on the devil with that. You cannot war on the carnal minds of men with that. You have to make war on the world, the flesh, and the devil with a sword sharper than any twoedged sword. You have to make war on the carnal mind with fire, divine fire that must burn up every inherent altar of Baal, and lick up the very dust around.
Make no mistake! OUR GOD is a consuming fire! He is man's "horse breaker" and He will break you, precious friend of mine, and bring you to the foot of the cross of Jesus no matter how hot He has to build the fire around you! Even if long ages of fiery judgment and tormenting darkness fall upon you, they will last no longer than till the Great Fire of God has melted all arrogance into humility, and all that is self has died in the bloody sweat and all-saving cross of the Christ, which will never give up its redeeming power till sin and sinners have no more a name among the creatures of God.
The book of Revelation is a book of symbols. In the introduction to this marvelous book the beloved John explains, "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John" (Rev. 1:1). The word "signified" is from the Greek SEMAINO meaning to indicate or communicate by means of signs and symbols. The meanings of all the symbols of the Revelation are given, either in the book itself, or elsewhere in the Scriptures.
The first things John beheld when in Spirit was One like unto the Son of man, standing in the midst of seven golden candlesticks, holding seven stars in His right hand. The One like unto the Son of man is identified as the resurrected and glorified Lord, for this One says, "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: I am He that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore" (Rev. 1:10, 17-18). The other symbols of that first vision are interpreted as follows: "The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels (messengers) of the seven Churches: and the seven candlesticks which you saw are the seven Churches" (Rev. 1:20). Children in school learn what we call definitions. A definition is an explanatory statement which tells us exactly what a certain thing is, as "an island is a tract of land completely surrounded by water."
God also gives us definitions in His Word. He tells us exactly what certain things are. And in the Scripture just quoted He has told us exactly what the seven stars and the seven candlesticks are. Those are God's definitions. And in Rev. 20:14 God tells us exactly what the SECOND DEATH is. "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. THIS IS THE SECOND DEATH." Now let me make this a little plainer. Definitions of men can be given backward. For instance, the definition, "An island is a tract of land completely surrounded by water," can be given thus: "A tract of land completely surrounded by water is an island." This is but another way of stating the same fact. It does not, in any way, change the meaning. Now let us try this on the definition of the second death. The Bible states it thus: "Death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. THIS IS the second death." Now let us turn this around for clarity. "The second death IS death and hell cast into the lake of fire." Therefore we have exactly the same meaning either way it is stated.
What is the second death? It is the first death and hell cast into the lake of fire! This fact is very IMPORTANT. The second death is not merely the lake of fire. The second death is not men being tortured for ever in the lake of fire. The Holy Spirit has made it very simple and plain. The second death is the first death and hell CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE. That is the Holy Spirit's definition, not mine. Can we now open the eyes of our understanding to see that everything cast into the lake of fire pertains to DEATH? Death itself is cast into the lake of fire. Hell, the realm of the dead, is cast into the lake of fire. And those whose names are not written in the Book of Life, those who are dead, in trespasses and in sins, who inhabit hell, are cast into the lake of fire. That is the end of death and hell and sin, for God shall destroy death in the lake of fire, He shall burn up hell in the lake of fire, and He shall consume sin and rebellion in the lake of fire.
How I long to see the end of sin and death and hell! The time is coming, praise His name! when God's Kingdom shall be All in All, and there shall be neither sin, nor sinners, nor death, nor hell. It is clear that God does not destroy men in the lake of fire, nowhere does it say that, for that would be a contradiction of terms. How can you destroy death by creating death? How can you abolish death by bringing men under the power of eternal death from which there is no escape? Oh, no, it is not men who are destroyed in the lake of fire - it is SIN and DEATH and HELL that are destroyed. "And the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (I Cor. 15:26). Thus, the lake of fire is nothing more nor less than THE DEATH OF DEATH!
The following words by Ray Prinzing give fresh insight into this wonderful truth: "The offence of the first Adam brought all men under the sentence of death for sin. Hence presently our mortal bodies are in a state of dying, while our minds need to be freed from minding the things of the flesh, to mind the things of the Spirit. The act of disobedience of Adam brought forth death. Now, the obedience and work of righteousness of the last Adam also brings forth a death for every man. The question arises, Is the SECOND DEATH the same kind of death as the first? Many people think that it is a repetition of the first, and that the results are the same, while its action is more severe and cruel, and destructive, being by fire. And some Christians add very sorrowfully, 'and from this second death there is no resurrection, it is an endless torment in agony,' BUT NOT SO! For God's seconds are never duplicates of the first, they are always better, higher, and more powerful than the firsts, and used to counter-balance all the action of the firsts, and MUCH MORE - He always saves the best until last.
"All Bible statements prove that the two deaths are absolutely UNALIKE, and that the two are opposite and antagonistic. The second death undoes all the work of the first death in the same manner that the last Adam undid all the work of the first Adam. Not to nullify the purpose being wrought out by the plan of God in the firsts, but to bring a release from the firsts in a MUCH MORE manner of majesty and glory and power and scope of coverage, into the greater and glorious things of God. Creation was made subject to vanity for a purpose! Sin was allowed for wise ends, but when those ends have been secured it will have to cease to exist. The purpose is not nullified, but the means whereby the purpose has been executed shall be done away. Discipline is a means to an end, but not an end in itself, it leads up to the 'AFTERWARDS YIELDING THE PEACEABLE FRUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.'
"The first Adam died to God and righteousness, and became alive unto sin. The last Adam died unto sin (Rom. 6:10), and lives unto God, and so fulfills all righteousness. The first made all men sinners, the last makes all men righteous. The lives and the deaths of the two Adams are thus greatly contrasting the one to the other. The FIRST DEATH was a transition from life to death, the SECOND DEATH is a transition from corruption to incorruption, from mortality to immortality. Transformed from the carnal mind to the spiritual mind, which is life and peace, which transformation is wrought by a dying out to the one realm, to come alive to the higher realm. Because - the second death is prepared to purge out and burn away sin and its results, and so doing cleanse all of God's universe.
"Death came as an enemy, the fruitage of an act of disobedience that turned man away from God and into the realm of carnality, minding self and flesh. Now God makes death overcome itself. It is by death that death is rendered powerless, and there arises an upspringing, a new life. It takes death to destroy death, and thus Christ 'did taste death for every man' - 'that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage' (Heb. 2:9,14-15). Since we are all under the effects of the first death, it is appointed unto us to die once more - not physical death, we are already in a state of mortality - but now a dying out to this present death state. We conquer this death of the carnal mind by dying to it - only God could use such a process bringing victory, but praise God, He is destroying the first death with the second death!
"All the Crucifixion, our identification with the cross of Christ, must first be accepted by faith as a fact, and then the working of it in and through us is a process. If it is done now, through our yieldedness to the call and the claims of Christ upon us, we won't have to face it later, in what is called 'the lake of fire,' which is the second death. The passing through that lake of divine purification will thoroughly purge out the last remaining fragments of the rebellion and waywardness of man, till the mystery of iniquity is no more, and then the carnal mind being abolished, death is no more" -end quote. It is true that some men are cast into the processing of the lake of fire. But what a disreputable lot!
"...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 burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." These are men saturated with the power of the first death - dead in trespasses and in sins, sold under sin, slaves to every devilish passion, possessed of corrupt and perverse natures, obsessed with every evil device, unrelentingly driven by the spirit of the world, the flesh, and the devil. And nothing God has done has yet broken these stubborn wills or brought these men to repentance. The wages of sin has not broken them. The harvest of evil has not broken them. Hell has not broken them. The tender mercies of the Lord have not broken them. The Spirit has faithfully told us of a second death into which unbelieving and incorrigibly wicked men shall surely go. They go there with death and with hell. The second death will be an experience and a period of time similar to this first death we are now experiencing, but much more terrible and severe than anything we now know. The penalty of sin is very great. The processes of God to break the resistance of willfully wicked men are extremely severe. Not only in this present age do they smite us, but in that second death which is to come. It can only be described as the "lake of fire." This terrible death is reserved for those who have not profited from the previous judgments and still need further correction to subdue them to the will of God. When the process is complete, and the last sinner has emerged from the discipline with a broken and contrite spirit, having learned the lessons of the awful fruit of man's "own way," fully yielding to the Lordship of our Saviour, then at last shall be fulfilled the beautiful promise: "And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be NO MORE DEATH, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make ALL THINGS new. And He said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful" (Rev. 21:3-5).
Whatever we hold as the nature of the death state, may we let this truth sink deep into our hearts: DEATH IS TO BE ABOLISHED. The ringing declaration, "The LAST enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (I Cor. 15:26), overthrows the whole structure of accepted, but unproved, theology which shuts up the mass of the human race in "eternal death." When the "last" enemy is abolished it is self-evident that none remains. Those wretched religionists who demand the endlessness of death, who argue for eternal torment in the lake of fire, the second death, do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. The lake of fire MUST end because death and hell are cast into it, which is the second death, and in the end THERE SHALL BE N-O M-O-R-E D-E-A-T-H.
No more death! No more first death. No more second death. No more of any kind of death. To say there is no more death is to say that there are no more sinners, for sinners are DEAD MEN, dead in trespasses and in sins. To say there is no more death is to say that God has not "burned up" all the wicked and left them dead, or in hell, for as long as any creature of God is in a state of death, death is not abolished. To say there is no more death is to say there is no more hell, for hell is "the realm of the dead." To say there is no more death is to say there is no more a lake of fire, for the lake of fire IS the second DEATH. To say there is no more death is to say there is no more sin, for "the wages of sin is DEATH." What a universe of truth is contained in three little words: NO MORE DEATH! This grand truth seems to be almost unknown in the Church systems. Although the very climax and fulfillment of all revelation, it has been eclipsed by human perversions. As a result the God of the popular Churches has lost the essential attributes of Deity. He is like the foolish man who started to build but could not finish. Man's theology brings nothing to a conclusion. It attains no definite goal. Sin, suffering, and insubjection are never conquered. Death is never destroyed. Redemption is never fully secured. God is compelled to work an eternal miracle in order to maintain a never-ending eyesore in His creation, once so subject, so sinless, and so good. He has to eternally keep His great foot on the lid of hell; for if even one of the devils should get out there would be hell everywhere! But death in all its forms shall be destroyed until it shall be said, "There is no more death!" Jesus is Conqueror! Then shall every creature in the universe bow and in glad chorus sing, "O death, where is they sting? O grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be unto God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" (I Cor. 15:55-57).
There is a strange and wonderful statement found in Rev. 2:11. "He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the Churches; He that overcomes shall not be HURT of the second death." I would draw your attention to the fact that it does not say that the overcomer experiences nothing of the second death, that he does not pass through it, or that its work is not wrought in his life; but the thought is that he will not be "hurt" by it.
It is possible to pass through the most terrible experience and not be hurt by it. Listen! "And these three men Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spoke, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they HAVE NO HURT; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God" (Dan. 3:23-25). Oh, to know that we can pass through the darkest night or the hottest fire and not be hurt by it if Jesus goes with us! How heartening and assuring to read such promises as these: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: and when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you" (Isa. 43:2).
The word "hurt" is from the Greek ADIKEO meaning to be unjust, do wrong, injure or offend. Armed with this understanding we may paraphrase Rev. 2:11 thus: "He that overcomes shall not be done an injustice, wronged, injured or offended by the second death." The great difference between the unbeliever and the child of God is that the unbeliever is taken hand and foot and "cast" into the lake of fire, fighting, kicking, screaming, cursing, and resisting all the way, while the child of God willingly and obediently walks into the fiery processings of God hand in hand with his blessed Redeemer. And, one way or the other, ALL MEN MUST DIE UNTO SIN.
When the natural man becomes the spiritual man, the great change is described by the Holy Spirit as a passing from death unto life. Before the transistion occurred, the practical difficulty was this, how to get into harmony with the new environment of the Kingdom of God? But no sooner do we enter into the Kingdom of God than the problem is reversed. The question now is, how to get out of harmony with the old environment of the flesh, the world, and the devil? The moment the new CHRIST LIFE is begun there comes a great anxiety to break with the old, for the regenerated spirit has nothing in common with the old. The former way of life now becomes embarrassing. Because of "sin in our members" it refuses to be dismissed from our consciousness. It competes doggedly with the new nature of the Christ. And in a hundred ways the former traditions, the memories and passions of the past, the fixed associations and habits of the earlier life, now press in to draw us to walk after the flesh, complicating the new walk. The complex and bewildered soul, in fact, finds itself confronted by two contrasting faculties, the flesh and the spirit, each with urgent but yet incompatible claims. It is a dual consciousness of a double world, a world whose inhabitants are deadly enemies, and engaged in perpetual civil war!
The position is perplexing. It is clear that no man can attempt to live both lives. No man can walk both after the flesh and after the spirit anymore than one can walk down two roads at the same time. His testimony will agree with the apostle who wrote: "For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot perform it. I have the intention and urge to do what is right, but no power to carry it out; for I fail to practice the good deeds I desire to do, but the evil deeds I do not desire to do are what I am ever doing. Now if I do what I do not desire to do, it is no longer I doing it it is not myself that acts - but the sin (principle) which dwells within me. So I find it to be a law of my being that when I want to do what is right and good, evil is ever present with me and I am subject to its insistent demands. For I endorse and delight in the Law of God in my inmost self - with my new nature. But I discern in my bodily members - in the sensitive appetites and wills of the flesh - a different law at war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner to the law of sin that dwells in my bodily organs - in the sensitive appetites and wills of the flesh. O unhappy and pitiable and wretched man that I am! Who will release and deliver me from the shackles of this body of death?" (Rom. 7:18-24, Amplified).
To walk both after the flesh and after the spirit is morally impossible. "No man," as Christ so often emphasized, "can serve two masters." And yet, as a matter of fact, here is the new-born child of God being in relation to both worlds - flesh and spirit. With sin and purity, with light and darkness, with God and the devil, the confused and undecided soul is now in relation. What is to be done in such an emergency? How can the New Life deliver itself from the ever-persistent call of the flesh? The ready solution of the difficulty is - TO DIE! Not for our "old man" to die, for he is already crucified with Christ, but for us to DIE TO SIN, or to KILL THE EVIL DESIRE LURKING IN OUR BODILY MEMBERS. To die to any reality is to withdraw correspondence with it, to cut ourselves off from all communication with it. The solution of the problem will simply be this, for the spiritual life to REVERSE CONTINUALLY the processes of the fleshly life. The spiritual man having passed from death unto life - the fleshly man must next proceed to pass from life unto death. Regeneration of the spirit in short must be accompanied by degeneration of the flesh, the carnal mind. And this DEATH PROCESS is the SECOND DEATH - the DEATH OF DEATH! Now it is no surprise to find that this is the process everywhere described and recommended by the Holy Spirit! Paul asked the burning question, "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" and swift came the answer, "O thank God! - HE WILL! through Jesus Christ our Lord! " (Rom. 7:24-25).
Listen to the words of the apostle as he presses this beautiful truth home to the hearts of the understanding saints in Colosse: "If then you have been raised with Christ to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead, aim at and seek the rich, eternal treasures that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above - the higher things - not on the things that are on the earth. For as far as this world is concerned you have died, and your new real life is hid with Christ in God. So KILL (DEADEN, DEPRIVE OF POWER) the evil desire lurking in your members - those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin: sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and coveteousness, for that is idolatry. It is on account of these very sins that the holy anger of God is ever coming upon those who are obstinately opposed to the divine will, the sons of disobedience, among whom you also once walked, when you were living in and addicted to such practices. But now PUT AWAY AND RID YOURSELVES COMPLETELY OF ALL THESE THINGS: anger, rage, bad feeling toward others, curses and slander and foulmouthed abuse and shameful utterances from your lips! Do not lie to one another, for you have stripped off the old unregenerate self with its evil practices, and have clothed yourselves with the new spiritual self, which is ever in the process of being renewed and remolded into fuller and more perfect knowledge upon knowledge, after the image (the likeness) of Him who created it" (Col. 3:1-10, Amplified).
Let me repeat - all men shall die to sin. Some lovingly submit to God's dealings that the dreadful death of the carnal mind in their members may be "mortified" or put to death, while others must be subdued and broken under the severe heat of judgmental fire. The former pass through the death to self - but are not "hurt" by it. In dying by a living and active faith to everything of the flesh, and living by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, a perfect work is wrought in which everything that is in any way opposed to God is brought to death. These become what God seeks in order to satisfy His heart.
In the measure that we are identified with the cross of Christ, and made conformable to His death, in which it is no longer our will but HIS, in that measure we are "dying out" to the first death, via the process of the second death, the death of death, our whole being coming up in the likeness of His resurrection. The second death, the destruction of the carnal mind and its hostility and enmity against God, is not to be feared by the blood-bought over- coming saints of God - it is God's arrangement whereby all the effects of the first death shall be disannulled, and all carnal-mindedness shall cease.
For us who willingly submit to this process "no man takes our life from us, we lay it down." But for those who will not lay it down, I do not hesitate to say that IT WILL BE TAKEN FROM THEM. To quote the timely words of Ray Prinzing once more: "Now - while we see the victory of the ultimate, a complete triumph over death, first death, second death, ALL DEATH to ultimately be brought to an end, there is a present-tense application which is before us. God has apprehended in this hour, as in all preceding generations, a remnant in whom HIS SPIRIT is working, and they are becoming daily experiencial partakers of His death, overcoming all the desires and lusts of the carnal mind. To those who now OVERCOME, the same shall not be 'hurt' of the 'second death,' when it is manifested in its more severe forms, as portrayed in the term of being 'a lake of fire.' Praise God, with the inworking of the Holy Spirit, enabling us to overcome all the evil of this present age, and all the carnal mind, we shall not be done an injustice by the second death. THE WHOLE PROCESS IS UNTO VICTORY. There may be suffering involved, for indeed, it means death to all our pre-conceived ideas, death to all the rebellion of our self-will, but it also means that we shall be loosed, set free from the shackles that bind, and with the inflow of His life we shall walk in the glorious liberty of the sons of God" -end quote.
Make no mistake about it. There are multitudes who shall resist God until the extreme measures He must use to subdue them are beyond our comprehension. For them the second death shall hold terror, and will prove a most painful experience. Let us die now! Let us die to sin now! Let us die to our own stubborn wills now! Let us die to our fleshly ways now! Let us take the cup of suffering and submit to the refining fires now! Let us arise in the newness of HIS LIFE now, to be conformed to His image. He that overcomes NOW shall not be HURT by the second death!
The words torment, tormented, tormentors, and torments occur twenty-one times in the King James version, and all in the New Testament. Three of these are in connection with the lake of fire. Let me give you the quotations. "The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be TORMENTED WITH FIRE AND BRIMSTONE IN THE PRESENCE OF THE HOLY ANGELS (MESSENGERS) AND IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LAMB: and the smoke of their torment ascends up for ever and ever (Greek: unto the ages of the ages): and they have no rest day nor night..." (Rev. 14:10-11).
"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 (Greek: unto the ages of the ages - see Part One of this series -'Just What Do You Mean ... ETERNITY!')" (Rev. 20:10).
Notice please, in both instances, the subjects are tormented with fire and brimstone, and we have previously established what the fire and brimstone are. But Rev. 14:10 sheds further light, those are also tormented by and through another agency, which in reality sums up and constitutes the fire and brimstone, and that agency is THE PRESENCE OF THE LAMB and the holy angels, or messengers. What an amazing divine paradox! The Lamb - precious embodiment of the very character of innocence, patience, meekness, gentleness, holiness, sacrifice, and redemption - being made TORMENT to men for whom He died! The very thought seems incongruous. You see, dear ones, IT IS NOT THE NATURE of a lamb to torture anyone. It is simply not in the nature of the lamb to want to hurt in any way. Really! What could a lamb do to torture anyone? It has no capability for such a thing. And so it is with the LAMB OF GOD! The Lamb of God has no desire, no ability to inflict torture in any way - His desire is entirely redemptive - that men might have life and have it more abundantly!
I cannot imagine One with the nature of a lamb packing poor lost souls like brick into a kiln, standing there blowing the fires of hell through them for ever. Such a grotesque representation charges the blessed Redeemer with crimes more heartless than those of Adoph Eichmann. Ah, the torment comes not from the Lamb. The torment lies within the bosoms of the tormented. The Scripture does not say that the Lamb torments them! If you think it does, you are mistaken. It states that THEY ARE TORMENTED IN THE PRESENCE of the Lamb. What a thought! TORMENTED IN THE PRESENCE. The Lamb is merely present. He does not torment. The condition is within themselves. Because they are wrong and sinful in nature, wicked in their hearts, selfish in their minds, and impure in their desires, they are CONDEMNED IN THEIR CONSCIENCES by the very PRESENCE of the pure, holy, sinless, selfless, sacrificing Lamb of God. Hell is at its fiercest when it sees heaven, and not till then.
When these realize the presence, or the character of the Lamb, they are tortured in their consciences, for in the Light of the Lamb they see themselves for the wretched little devils they are. The very PRESENCE of TRUTH torments the deceitful and the liar. The very PRESENCE of HOLINESS torments the immoral and corrupt. The very PRESENCE of LOVE is torment to the mean and hateful. The PRESENCE of Him who is the PRINCE OF PEACE is torture to those who live by violence and the sword. The very PRESENCE of the LIFE OF THE LAMB is the most awful torment and torture to all the opposing forces, both deceiver and deceived, until all the deceit and hostility has been taken out of them, and they come to KNOW THE LORD. When these have been exposed for a sufficient time to the PRESENCE of the Lamb, the Lamb will overcome them; His love and power will conquer their hearts; the rebellion and waywardness will be taken from them and they will at last ENJOY the Presence of the Lamb!
When the maniac of Gadara encountered the Christ the devils cried out, saying, "Have You come here to TORMENT US before the time?" (Mat. 8:29). IT WAS TORMENT FOR A POSSESSED PERSON TO BE IN THE PRESENCE OF THE CHRIST. It is torment for any enemy of God to be ushered into the presence of God. Anyone who is unacquainted with God and happens to come into a group who are worshipping and praising God, is in torment all the time he is there. The sooner such a person can leave, the better he likes it. Such an atmosphere is hell for that person! Why is it so hard to get your unsaved loved ones and friends to go to Church? They are unhappy and miserable in a Church meeting! They are tormented when with the saints worshipping God. They are estranged from God, citizens of the devil's kingdom, and cannot relate to the praises of God, the moving of the Holy Spirit, giving tithes, and the Word that is ministered. This all makes them unhappy and uncomfortable.
Peter Marshall said that when the apostles preached the Gospel there were either riots or regeneration. The fact of the matter is that in most cases there were both, for the same Gospel melted some hearts and turned others to stone. People were led either to faith in Jesus Christ or they were stirred to the most violent animosity and enmity. Jesus Christ has always been either a stone of stumbling or the sure foundation stone. We build upon it or we stumble over it and are crushed by it. Riots or regeneration! Joy unspeakable and full of glory or torment! A person under deep conviction is tormented. Tormented with what? He is tormented with the fire of God's holy presence, the fire of His penetrating, burning Word. He has no peace or rest, day or night. His conscience troubles him continually. When you and I were under deep conviction for our sins and past life we were tormented by the Holy Spirit, the presence of God. And we had no rest day or night. When we were finally broken by the Holy Spirit's dealing and repented and confessed those sins to Jesus, we cried often and shed many bitter tears of remorse and regret. THAT, my friend, is exactly what the rebellious will do in the ages to come as God deals with "every man in his own order." There was no short cut to salvation for us, and there will be none for them. In some cases it took months and years, sometimes a lifetime, of preaching and dealings to win our hearts to the Lord. And I am sure that it will take much preaching and many dealings along with the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to win the ignorant, disobedient, and defiant masses who lived and died in this world outside of Christ.
A brother in the Lord shared this illustration of wicked people being tormented in the presence of the Lamb: "A few years ago, we often preached to ALL the women in the state penitentiary for women. They were forced to sit and listen while we sang about Jesus, talked about Jesus and preached about Him. Some wept, some stared, and some faces showed bitter hatred toward us. Others seemed to writhe and twist in mental anguish and physical torment. Why? Because they were forced to listen. There was no escape" -end quote.
Suppose a few filthy, vile men and a few immoral women from some house of prostitution were forced to sit in the midst of a large congregation of singing, shouting, worshipping saints. This certainly would he torment to most of them. They would be tortured in the flames of the blazing glory of God in that place! If they were not held in their seats by force, most of them would rush out of there. I have been in meetings where I witnessed three responses to the glorious manifestation of the Lord's presence. First, the saints who loved the Lord rejoiced and adoringly worshipped. Some who were not Christians, but whose hearts were tender toward the Lord, came under deep conviction and, weeping and broken, gave themselves into the loving hands of Jesus. But others, filled with self, haters of righteousness, I have seen jump up and literally run out of a meeting - TORMENTED IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LAMB! Sure, they would rush, even run to get away from the convicting power of the Holy Ghost! I have seen it, and so have you.
To the unsaved, HIS GLORY is a LAKE OF FIRE AND BRIMSTONE - divine, cleansing, purging, purifying, consuming fire! In ages yet unborn God shall expose ALL MEN to the sweet abiding presence of the Lamb. They will come under such severe processings, under such profound conviction that they will be tormented and have no rest day or night until they finally yield. And when they do, many fountains of tears will flow with weeping, praying, and calling upon the Lord. I believe it! God hasten it!
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