Under this heading we have considered from time to time the various Hebrew and
Greek words which are used in Scripture to teach the
nature of the Wages of Sin, and without exception, whether considered
etymologically, or whether considered in the light of its context and usage,
every word demonstrated the fact that utter destruction and perishing was the
wages of sin.
Before, however, we conclude this series and take up related subjects, we will
consider the testimony of the book of the Revelation on this question, as some
readers have a few difficulties, which it may be well for us to clear up. First
let us notice the expression, "The book of life." There are seven
passages wherein this phrase occurs in the A.V., but the best Greek texts omit
Rev. xxii.19. This leaves six passages for consideration, and they occur in the
The Book of Life.
A | iii.5. Overcomers.
B | a | xiii.8. Earth dwellers -- worship.
b | xvii.8. Earth dwellers -- wonder.
B | a | xx.12. Judgment.
b | xx.15. Judgment.
A | xxi.27. Those who enter the city.
We would point out that in xvii.8, xx.12, and xxi.27 the word translated book is
biblion (a little book), whereas in iii.5, xiii.8, and xx.15 it is biblos (a
book), although, at present, the exact bearing of this distinction is not
evident to us. The first and last passages need not detain us in the present
consideration, although they demand, and we hope will receive, careful
exposition in the series of articles just commenced entitled, "Studies in
Book of the Revelation." Let us notice the four passages which touch upon
the question of the wages of sin. The first pair are used in connection with the
"And all who dwell upon the earth will worship him, (each one) whose name
hath not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of
the Lamb slain" (xiii.8).
"The beast which thou sawest was, and is not; and is about to ascend out of
the abyss, and to go into perdition: and those who dwell on the earth shall
wonder, whose name is not written in the book of life from the foundation of the
world, when they behold the beast; because he was, and is not, and shall be
Without entering into the extremely interesting exposition of the verses here,
it will suffice for us to notice the fact that not one of those who worship the
beast, or who wonder at his travesty of the resurrection, has his name written
in the book of life. It must be also noticed that it does not say that upon
worshipping the beast their names were blotted out, but rather that the
worshippers of the beast are they who have not their names written in the book
of life from the foundation of the world. Passing on for the moment to the
second pair we are brought into the context of judgment:-
"And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne;
and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of
"And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the
lake of fire" (xx.15).
This passage has suffered somewhat at the hands of those who really
believe the Word of God, and therefore we would call attention to one or two
facts which are of importance:-
1. There are two sets of books.
2. There are two distinct sentences passed.
3. There are two classes who stand before the great white throne.
First as to the two sets of books. The Scripture calls particular attention to
the "books" which were opened, and "another book," which is
the book of life. The sentences passed differ, the one being connected with the
books, and the other with the book of life. The first sentence to be passed is
judgment according to works. "The dead were judged out of those things
which were written in the books, according to their works." This judgment
according to works gives the needed room for the "few stripes" and the
"many stripes," for the "more tolerable" judgment upon Sodom
and Gomorrha than that to be inflicted upon Capernaum.
It is a most unwarranted assumption to teach that all who are thus judged are
cast into the lake of fire and suffer the judgment of the second death, for this
dread doom is not only kept quite distinct, but is reserved for one class only,
as we shall see in the next reference. Note the change from the plural to the
singular. Verses 12 and 13 bring before us with strong emphasis the great
multitude who stand before the great white throne. Verse 15 by its sudden change
to the singular calls for more careful attention, especially if we keep in mind
the dreadful character of the subject: kai ei tis ouch eurethe en te biblo,
"And if anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast
(singular) into the lake of fire."
The title "The book of life" must be noticed. It is not the book of
the kingdom and its glories, for there might still be hope for those who had
forfeited these blessings. It is not the book of rewards, it is life; and for
those not found in that book, the lake of fire becomes, not a place of loss of
privilege, loss of pleasure, loss of reward; not a place of custody until these
periods of glory have passed away, but it becomes the reverse of life, namely,
death. Revelation xx. passes immediately into xxi., with its new heaven and new
earth. If resurrection from the second death were true, here is the place where
such a tremendous subject would be mentioned.
Resuming our consideration of this passage we further ask, Where is the warrant
for the teaching that "all who stand before the great white throne will be
cast into the lake of fire"? The idea is a perversion. That which is so
intensely particular has again been made exceedingly general. It is evident that
none will be cast into that lake of fire, but those whose names are not found
written in the book of life. Multitudes will have lost all share in the glories
of the kingdom. They will have had none of the blessings of the first
resurrection, but they will still be distinguished from those whose names are
not found written in the book of life. As our subject here is the wages of sin,
we reserve further comment upon this large, but neglected, class until dealing
with the "reconciliation" aspect of the subject.
The lake of fire, as verse 14 declares, is the second death. This second death
is not Adamic death. From this second death there has been offered no ransom.
The death of Christ upon Calvary's cross was endured with reference to the sin
and punishment connected with Adam and his race. This second death is something
peculiar and different. This may be noticed under the heading of the two classes
here brought before us. During the antichristian ascendancy those who have not
their names written in the book of life worship the beast. We have no record
that one solitary soul whose name is in the book of life will ever do so. When
we have examined the other references to punishment in the Revelation, we shall
find that this special class are under notice practically the whole time, and
that the judgments are special and peculiar, as also are those who endure them,
namely, the beast, the false prophet, and the dragon. What careless exposition
is that which applies the punishment reserved for such superhuman creatures as
this infernal trinity to all sinners alike, regardless of age, clime, period or
Before turning to other passages let us ask, What is this lake of fire?
Scripture supplies the answer. It is "the second death." Its purpose
can be ascertained by noticing verse 14, "And death and hades were cast
into the lake of fire; this is the second death," even the lake of fire.
Why were death and hades cast in? To perpetuate them? To revive them again at
some later period? No, for Revelation xx.1-4 says, "There shall be no more
death . . for the former things have passed away." Death and the
grave are among the "former things" of this present creation which are
to pass away at the advent of the new creation. Death is never converted. Death
is an enemy to the last. For those whose names are found in the book of life the
first death will have been swallowed up of life. Those whose names are not thus
found will, together with death, be consigned to the second death, which brings
them all to an end.
If the lake of fire was intended to be purgatorial in character, if ever
"the victims of its rule" should emerge the redeemed of the Lord, then
the casting in of death and hades would not denote their entire extinction, but
rather their preservation and possible resuscitation. This emphatic destructive
agency, this second death, is the fulfillment of the Scriptures which speak of
the destruction, and total annihilation of the ungodly. Just as we find two
classes indicated in Rev. xx., so in other parts of the book we find the same
distinction observed. The locusts who arise out of the abyss are commanded not
to hurt anything "but those men which have not the seal of God on their
foreheads" (Rev. ix.4, note also ix.20,21). In xiv.9-11 we read:-
"If anyone worship the beast and his image and receiveth his mark on his
forehead, or on his hand, even he shall drink of the wine of God's fury, which
is mingled undiluted in the cup of His wrath; and he shall be tormented with
fire and brimstone in the presence of the angels and in the presence of the
Lamb; and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up unto ages of ages: and they
have no rest day nor night who worship the beast and his image, and whoever
receiveth the mark of his name."
Care must be observed in the rendering of some of these solemn words. For
example, in the clause "they have no rest day nor night who worship,"
&c., we must note that hoi proskunountes is the present participle denoting
that they have no rest day nor nightwhile they are worshipping. "Receiveth"
also is the present tense."Day and night" is associated with time, not
with eternity. Thetorment here threatened must indeed be terrible; how long it
last before it ends in destruction we cannot tell. The smoke ascends unto (eis,
unto, no hint of throughout) ages of ages, but the torment itself, and the
tormented, cannot enter the new creation (xxii.3). In Rev. xvi. the seven
plagues are poured out upon the worshippers of the beast:-
"The men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped
his image" (verse 2).
"They have shed the blood of saints and prophets" (verse 6).
"The throne of the beast"; "blasphemed and repented not"
(verses 10 and 11).
The fate of the "eighth" who is "of the seven" is that he
"goeth into perdition" (xvii.11). In xix.19 we read:-
"And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet . . . .these both
were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with fire and brimstone."
That these super-human beings continue to live in this lake of fire seems
evident by reading xx.10:-
"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 unto the ages of the ages."
Whilst it is true that the word "are" is not in the original, and
could just as well read "were," yet the next word
"tormented" is plural, and must be translated, "they shall be
tormented," which seems to imply that the beast and the false prophet are
referred to. Torment is spoken of in relation to this lake of fire with
reference to these three, but when, as we have seen, the passage relates to
those who have not their names in the book of life, then
the statement is added, "which is the second death."
We have brought these several passages from the book of Revelation together in
order that the reader may observe that in the majority of cases, and in
connection with the passage which uses the strongest terms, the special class of
anti-christians are intended, and that these particular terms must not be
interpreted in a general way of sinners of all times. No countenance is given
even in these passages to the idea of eternal conscious suffering. This
is the one idea which we set before us at the commencement of the series. Does
the Scripture teach the eternal conscious suffering of sinners as the wages of
sin, and if not, what does it teach? We believe that we have demonstrated that
the traditional Hell is a lie, a libel against God, and a slur upon a simple
faith in God's written Word. Death, perishing, destruction is everywhere taught
as the judgment of sin, and the analysis of Hebrew and Greek terms have yielded
much information of a positive character.
The enquiry, however, is not exhausted. Having completely settled the question
of eternal conscious suffering we must not too hastily conclude that we have
settled the far wider subject of human destiny. We need to revise our findings
and view them in the light of other Scriptures. May grace be given in the study,
and may the Lord be glorified in the result.