THE LAKE OF FIRE
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 two-edged 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 SECOND DEATH
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 yielding 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 disobedience 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).
NOT HURT OF THE SECOND DEATH
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 transition 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 in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? " (Rom. 7:18-24, 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 ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: " (Col. 3:1-10).
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!
TORMENTED IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LAMB
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 eons of the eons)" (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, 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 Spirit! 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 processing, 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!