1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto 10 virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
This parable was spoken to illustrate an aspect of "the kingdom of heaven;" (Matt xxv, 1.)
Hence, the ten virgins are representative of those who come within the pale of the kingdom by receiving the truth. It cannot embrace any foreign element such as those outside, who lie in darkness of the truth, for they are not in any sense constituents of "the kingdom of heaven."
As to the time to which it refers, Jesus decides the point by the word "then" with which the parable is prefixed. The question "when?" takes us to the end of the previous chapter, where Jesus was discoursing of the time when he should return and deal to his servants according to their deserts.
At this time, the kingdom of heaven will exhibit the phase set forth. The similarity, however, must be taken with certain restrictions. The parable as a whole is a perfect semblance of the literal events viewed widely; but as regards the juncture of affairs at the coming of Christ, only a part of the parable applies, and that the last part, not that in which the virgins go forth for the first time but in that in which having gone forth, they have fallen asleep, and are aroused by the midnight cry.
The parable is borrowed from the Eastern form of the marriage ceremony, which is in force at the present day. Arrangements having been made for the nuptials, a certain number of female friends place their services at the disposal of the bride, and their first duty (having prepared) is, to go forth and take up a position on the route by which the bridegroom is expected to come with his attendants from the house of his father, to take to himself his bride. The time of his approach is a matter of uncertainty. It is almost always at night, and it frequently happens that while waiting, the virgin company go to sleep.
From this they are aroused by the announcement of the bridegroom's approach by one of their own party, or a forerunner of the bridegroom's cavalcade, as the case may be. Their duty is then to go forward and meet the bridegroom. It is not an unfrequent occurrence that several of the party, more thoughtless than the rest, find themselves at this stage without a supply of oil in their lamps, having only brought sufficient for the present need, and without their lamps lit, they would no more think of joining in the procession than a young lady in European countries would think of performing the duties of bridesmaid with an unfinished toilet.
The result is as depicted in the parable. They run out to get some at the nearest source of supply, and the chances are, by the time they return, the bridegroom has come, and the whole company are in the house of the bride, with the doors shut, after which, Eastern etiquette forbids in the most stringent manner the admission of any one.
Now these things have an almost exact counterpart in the things pertaining to the nuptials of the Son of Man.
The marriage is arranged for; he is coming from his father's presence with his angels; and a company has been organised to wait for him in the bride's interest. These are they who have "turned to God from (divers sorts of) idols, to wait for His Son from heaven."-(1 Thess. i, 10.) Plainly speaking, they are those who have believed the gospel and obeyed it in baptism, and are "looking for the glorious appearing."
These are spiritually styled virgins, (Rev. xiv, 4: 2 Cor. xi, 2) because they are separated to the exclusive ownership, service, and love of Christ. The difference between the parable and the reality is that in the parable, there is a bride separate from the virgins, whereas in the reality, the virgins are the bride. This is evident from the fact that the parable is introduced to illustrate the attitude of the "faithful and wise servants" and the "evil servants" (Matt. xxiv, 45 48), who have their counterparts in the wise virgins and the foolish virgins, and no one will deny that "the bride, the lamb's wife," is the multitude of Christ's "faithful and wise servants." They that are with him are "called and chosen and faithful."-(Rev. xvii, 14.)
"The bride hath made herself ready, and to her it was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, and the fine linen is the righteousness of SAINTS." (Rev. xix, 8).
Christ's bride being a multitudinous bride, composed of "the faithful and wise servants," it follows that in the reality signified by the parable, there is nothing to answer to the bride of the parable. It may be asked why the bride was not selected as the central figure of the parable? The answer is, that the position of the bride in Eastern nuptials would not answer to the position of Christ's bride. The oriental bride is served, honoured, and attended, and has none of the waiting to do. It is the very reverse with Christ's bride. The position and dangers of the latter are exactly represented by the virgins at an Eastern marriage, and therefore the virgins and not the bride, are chosen to represent Christ's wise and foolish servants.
The bridegroom tarries, and all Christ's apostles and servants who went forth from the world to wait his return, and for whose especial warning the parable was uttered are asleep in the dust. By and bye, the angels who liberated Jesus from the tomb will rouse them from their sleep of centuries, and cause them at the midnight hour of the Gentiles, to hear the cry,
"Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him!"
When they wake, they will find their lamps in the condition in which they left them, when they sank into the slumber of death. That is, they will come forth in the spiritual state in which they fell asleep. The faithful servants will emerge from the death state with undiminished love, wisdom, and loyalty, to recommence their labours in the higher sphere assigned to them; the foolish, whose adhesion to the cause of Christ was an affair of theory and profession, whose first enthusiasm had burnt out, who did not continue patiently to the end, in a worthy walk, and a persevering exhibition of the truth, will not find themselves enriched by the resurrection, but will come forth in the shame of their nakedness, which will then be manifest to all.
It will be too late to be "zealous of good works," as some may frantically proffer to be when they find themselves face to face with the reality. The judgment-seat will separate the two; the first will go into the marriage supper of the Lamb, and the other will be shut out. The broad features of the parable are thus most exactly reflected in the relations of Christ and his servants. There are, of course, one or two points of detail for which a parallel cannot be found, and the attempt to apply which will only result in needless perplexity. On the other hand, there are subordinate features in the scene to be enacted at the coming of Christ, which have no counterparts in the parable. This is inevitable, for a parable not being an exact miniature, there are of necessity little discrepancies. The great body of the truth must be allowed to gauge and determine parabolic details.
This rule, we are aware, is liable to be abused, even to the extent of ignoring palpable significances; but the extremities of folly should never deter the application of rules of wisdom.
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, May 1867. p128,129.
2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
The foolish ones may have wondered in a light, passing way what the heavy, extra vessel was with which some of the virgins were burdening themselves; or they may have smiled knowingly to themselves that these other fearful ones seemed so absurdly concerned to carry along such a huge, unnecessary supply of oil; or they may have been annoyed by the thought that the others were trying to make them look careless and unprepared; or they may not have noticed at all. All such viewpoints exist.
Five of them were wise, and five were foolish
Jesus never minimizes the seriousness of the issues involved. The reverse side of the picture is always clearly and prominently presented. There is no blurring of the edges to make it less painful and upsetting to the fleshly mind.
To the foolish virgins the brief message was, "I know you not." That was all. Just that-and a closed door. No second chance-no heed to tearful and doubtless very sincere repentance and intensive resolve to do better. The time had passed for that.
Where is the loving and gentle Jesus, who desires all to be saved, and who came to patiently seek out the lost? That Jesus is calling now, urging and pleading for adult, mature wisdom and work instead of childish foolishness. Could he do more than lay down his life in intense suffering to emphasize the vital seriousness of the words he said?
Bro Growcott - BYT 4: 20
10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
NEGLECTING THE BIBLE
CHRIST has foreshadowed that just before he appears some will be neglecting the Word of Life. Whatever be the causes which lead up to such a condition, it remains a fact that it will be neglected.
We might expect that the political developments of the latter days would have their influence in engaging men's minds, causing them to be perilous times to the saints. If "silence in heaven" was the time chosen for the sealing of the servants of God of the Constantinian period, the absence of this silence and the turbulence of the elements will prevent the less resolute in their daily attention to the Word of God. But are we sure the Word of God will be neglected by the saints in the latter days? Yes, we are sure. Christ's parable of the ten virgins illustrates this.
The virgins in question are none other than two distinct classes of professing saints in the earth at his appearing. The one class-the wise, who would understand, having oil in their lamps-the other, the foolish, having no oil in their lamps.
The foolish have had lamps and they have had oil, and they have been burning, but their lamps have gone out. Why did they go out? Simply for the want of oil. The bridegroom has come; there is one thing needed, and they are seeking for it. Others have got it, and they know the value of it, and they won't part with it. The wise have it, and the foolish feel the want of it, and they are running looking for it. Lamps out looking for oil in the darkness.
Ah, brother, what a picture of the household at the time the Lord arrives. Lamps once burning now gone out. They realize now, if they never did before, that they cannot meet him with an empty lamp. The bridegroom is coming: are there empty lamps to-day? If there are, soon the wailing cry will be heard, "Too late! Too late! Oil! Oil! Oil! give us of your oil." "Not so." The wise even have none to spare.
Now, what does such a view suggest to us before these things come to pass? Is it not the importance of the daily reading of the Word. We are apt to think, through our familiarity with the Scriptures, that we may let them stand, and that the daily reading of the Scriptures is not so much a necessity with us, who have read them over and over again. Why, the daily portions are as essential to the inner man's existence as daily food is to the outward man. Shall we take no food to-day, because we had bread-and-butter yesterday? Why, the inner man must grow daily, and be kept alive by daily portions, such as the inner man is able to digest and assimilate.
The Word of God. In the beginning the Word was God. The Word is God to-day, as well as in the beginning. If we do not love the Word, we do not love God. If we loved God, we would love His Word. If we love the Word we will daily read it and meditate upon it. We can soon feel when the Word of God has its due place in the affections. It is a light-giver, and illuminates the mind, and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. It casts its light around.
But it is not only a light, it is a lubricator, making the machinery to go sweetly and silently, where otherwise it would be noisy. Screeching and scratching, and heart-tearing grindings preventing peace. The Word of God prevents all this. He shall "keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee."
We may prepare ourselves and be on our guard, for the time of the end will be a time of trouble. We are expressly informed that they are perilous times, and again, when we are told of the sealing-up of the vision, we are informed that many shall be purified and made white, and tried. Afflictions purify, and purification maketh white, for those who are clothed in white robes are they who have come out of great tribulation. Though we may be made white, yet to be tried suggests a putting to the test.
The breaking-up of the political clouds which have hung so long will be watched by Israel's watchers, and the dawn of the morning will be gladly welcomed by those who wait for the morning of His coming, but the wise virgins will not allow political events to swallow them up, or lessen their hold upon the Word of Life. The time of the end will be a time of Lamps burning brightly; Lamps going out; Lamps gone out.
The Christadelphian, Jan 1896.
14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
The heart of this parable lies in those last two words-HIS goods. If we grasp the depth of the significance of that expression, and apply it to our lives, we have gained the life-giving wisdom that the parable teaches.
We are "his servants" and all things we possess are "his goods." He has a great purpose in hand, and "his servants" are directed to use "his goods" exclusively for that purpose.
There are several instructive lessons in these particular "words of eternal life." First, pride and self-esteem are completely ruled out as foolish ignorance. As Paul says
"What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" (I Cor. 4:7).
If to glorify ourselves on account of what we have been given
is foolish, what shall we say of glorifying ourselves on account of sinful misuse of those things? If we use God-bestowed talents
and abilities for our own personal comfort and advantage, what
will the Lord of those servants say to us when he comes for the reckoning? Jesus says (Luke 16:11)
"If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?"
Let us ever remember those two vital expressions: "his servants-his goods." Paul says (1 Cor. 4:2)
"It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful."
That is the first, essential quality that is required in those entrusted with the goods of another-a rigid faithfulness to resist the temptation to minister to personal desire and gratification, and to see that all the entrusted goods are used for the master's purpose.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.20.
18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
The Duty of Brethren as Christ's Bowmen
As to the duty of brethren in relation to the proclamation of the truth, we would remark that our own practice is an illustration of our conviction of their duty and privilege.
We have been studying the Holy Scriptures for the past twenty five years, during all which time we have been running to and fro, and making known to the people what we found therein.
We have visited the Old World, and travelled through Britain thrice, addressing the people (sometimes by thousands) two hundred and seventy times, besides writing and publishing Elpis Israel while there.
Since our return hither we have travelled extensively in America, ranging from Halifax to Mississippi; and of late years our circuits have been over four thousand miles per annum.
Now what are we more than a brother in Edinburgh, Halifax, or Nottingham? Have we been "specially called and sent" to draw the bow? We have had no dream, nor heard any voice which they have not heard. Did they then, ever hear that we were called to do what they are privileged not to do? Have they not heard the voice of the Spirit as well as we, saying,
"Let him that understandeth-̔ ακουώ-say, come!"
And they know that the Spirit saith,
"He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Ecclesias."
We confess that we cannot perceive that we are bound to wear ourselves out by much labour, while they are free to "fold their arms in complacent quietude," doing nothing. Though much may not be effected, yet as we do not know how much and when, it is our common duty to
"contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the Saints,"
and with as much energy as though we were going to hurl all the ecclesiastical potentates of gentiledom from their crumbling and tottering thrones. We do not believe in any of Christ's brethren purchasing exemption from this laborious duty. If they be rich, or flush of means, it is their privilege to give as well as do, if they be poor, to do and to receive, which is less blessed than to give, that an equality may obtain.
Brethren, whether rich or poor, should all remember that when they are redeemed from the sins of the past in putting on the Christrobe of righteousness through the obedience of faith, they are "a purchased people;" and that when so purchased, the purchaser bought all they possess; so that they are no longer their own, but the property of another.
Now when a man purchases a servant, he does not buy him to sit all his days with a bushel on his head in complacent quietude. A δουλοσ or slave, owns nothing, neither himself, not any thing belonging to self before he became a slave. Such is the relation of brethren to Christ their Lord and Master.
A complacently quiescent Christ[adelphian] is one who will never inherit the kingdom, though his faith be ever so orthodox, or his baptism ever so valid. He is an unprofitable concealer of his Master's property in a napkin. He is the napkin, and the property the truth he has received, and concealed within himself. Woe be to the christ[adelphian] brother who presents himself at the tribunal of Christ with nothing else to offer but a hidden truth. Ill starred will he be who can only say, "I received the truth and was immersed, and henceforth enjoyed myself in silence!"
Quietude and silence are not the prerogatives of the Saints in this present evil world. Their duty is to
"cry aloud and spare not; to lift up their voice like a trumpet and show the people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins."
They have nothing to do with results and consequences-let them make the truth known, and leave the rest to him who gives the increase. Every one can do something for the extention of the truth, if it be only trying to extend it among his acquaintance, and as an element of "the Bride" through whom the Spirit operates, "say come."
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Dec 1858
19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
We must fill our minds with the Word of God to the fullest extent of our opportunities. Nothing is more pitifully infantile than for anyone in the Truth saying they have "nothing to do." What blindness! There should be an eager, insatiable desire to learn more and more of the marvelous divine record. All its so interesting characters should become more and more real and familiar to us -- all its warnings and promises more and more vivid and impressive.
One thing only is certain to us: Christ's judgment seat, where we must give open, public account of how we have used or abused our Master's goods: time, talents, property, opportunities. Keep that inevitable day ever before your mind: will it be eternal joy -- or shame and eternal death?
All activity must have some incentive. The secret of getting anything done is to create the incentive. The incentive in spiritual things lies in a strong, ever-present perception of the reality of the future. Of Jesus it is recorded (Heb. 12:2)
"For the joy set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame."
That was his incentive-his driving force. His teaching is largely concerned with creating an incentive in men to follow the course of divine wisdom; impressing them with how much is to be gained by following the right course-how much to be lost by following the wrong-how much more desirable is the beauty of holiness than the ugliness of the natural mind.
The time of reckoning is bound to come. It will either be a glad opportunity to lay before the Master the fruits of a life of loving labour, or else it will be a time of intense remorse and regret for past neglect and foolishness.
Jesus is trying in these parables to get men to think about that time, and get ready for it. His words are hard words-certainly they are hard words! Would it be kind for him to give smooth and comfortable words, when only hard and clear words truly and fairly reveal the facts that must some day be faced by all?
The unfaithful servant is called for his account. His first words are, "I knew thou art a hard man." He is obsessed with this idea of "hardness." He has no real love or enthusiasm for his master's work. He resents being told what he must do, or having his pleasure interfered with. He did not realize that the master was concerned solely with the servants' own welfare, and was just testing them as a basis for future gifts and honour.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.20
Our status in the Kingdom will depend upon our attainments in probation. This is a question of capacity imparted in the first instance. All men differ: some have much more native gift than others: some, five talents; some, two; some, one. It is not the number of talents that is the rule of judgment, but the use of them. Increase by faithful use -- this is the rule of acceptance. The holder of the one talent would have found equal favour with the others if it had been put out to use. The words of the judge show this. His offence was his sloth and indifference to the charge committed to him, such as it was. He did not turn what he had to account. Had he done so, he would have entered equally with the others into the joy of his Lord.
But though the number of the talents is not the rule of acceptance, it is the measure of the position to which that acceptance admits. The parable shows this; and the principle is reasonable, and is affirmed in the Scriptures in many ways. It is recognised that fruitfulness is in "some thirty fold, some sixty fold, and some an hundred fold," and it is plainly declared that "every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour" (1 Cor. iii. 8).
It is on this principle that "the wise shall shine as the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever." It is a principle distinctly foreshadowed in the organization of David's worthies. There were a "first three," and those who "attained not unto the first three," and so on in the list downwards. The degree of rank was determined by achievement. All more or less did meritorious things under circumstances of difficulty; but the greatness and the difficulty of some deeds exceeded that of others (2 Sam. xxiii. 8-39). When Jesus says "he will give to every man according as his work shall be" (Rev. xxii. 12), we see the same thing.
Thus his judgment has two operations. While it decrees total rejection and death in the case of the class represented by the unprofitable servant (of whom it is said, "Cast out the unprofitable servant into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"), it distributes differing measures of reward and distinction among those servants who, in differing degrees, are found faithful to the trusts severally reposed. It is therefore no mere flight of the imagination that looks forward in the light of this parable to the time when the accepted servants of Christ, reigning with him, will hold different positions of honour and power according to the parts they have performed in this cloudy and dark day.
Some will be heads of villages while some are rulers of towns, and some, groups of towns, and others governors of districts and provinces, and some even heads of kingdoms. All will be satisfied and all glorious, but all will not be of equal rank and honour. The degree in which one of these stars will differ from another star in glory will be the Lord's sovereign determination. It will therefore not be open to question, or fruitful of envy; for every one admitted will be so much a lover of the Lord as to be ready to rejoice in all the Lord's appointments, even if they involved his own exclusion. The dreadfulness will belong to those who, in the first establishment of these things, are permitted to see what they have lost, and doomed to a place in that distracted crowd which will depart with "weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth," to be seen no more for ever.
24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
Men reap as they sow even now. If we are content with a one-talent knowledge of the truth - if we rest upon that mere outline - knowledge of the Scriptures which leads to the belief and obedience of the gospel - if having become sufficiently enlightened to put on the name of Christ, we thenceforth leave the subject at rest, and devote our energies to other knowledge, and other pleasures, and other cares, we shall never attain to that knowledge of God that results in His love and fear; we shall never become subject to that rich indwelling of the word of Christ which Christ desires in those to be chosen.
Wisdom is not to be attained with a slack hand.
"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding."
Bro Roberts - Wisdom.
26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
Eternity -- Its Immensity
Do you realize what ETERNITY means? It means that -- if worthy -- you will be given a billion years of perfect, joyful life for every SECOND you have spent serving God. And you could make that one hundred billion years -- and still be understating it.
In the light of this, how can anyone claim to love God and not give Him the total full-time devotion and service that He asks? How can anyone be so cheap and selfish as not to give every possible effort to manifest love and gratitude in service?
No wonder the verdict is to the napkin-wrapper -- "Thou wicked and slothful servant! Cast him into outer darkness". (MATT 25:26)
Bro Growcott - Search Me O God
30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Nothing we have ever experienced in this life will be one thousandth as terrible as rejection at the judgment seat of Christ. And that rejection is a looming possibility if we do not have the wisdom to give ourselves entirely to God in this present brief period of opportunity and probation. It's not so much what we accomplish, but rather the totality of our love and dedication and effort to obey Him and please Him.
For the rejected, there will be physical suffering, certainly, but -- however severe -- that will be but a minor aspect. Many can accept physical suffering with joy in the enthusiasm of a good cause. The real and dreadful depths of the suffering will be mental -- the awful, gnawing, unremitting bitterness of hopeless remorse and regret and self-condemnation for the utter stupidity of playing and self-pleasing when God lovingly asks us to WORK FULL TIME in the Vineyard, and become an eternal part in His glorious Purpose.
How mockingly meaningless will then seem the juvenile things we waste our time and interest on today while precious time slips away! What vain, anguished poundings then on the forever shut door of Joy and Hope! God loved us, and abundantly manifested that love, and sought the totality of ours in small return. Like a spoiled child, we accepted the benefits of His love, but did not reciprocate it in the fulness of devotion that true love must of its very nature bring forth. Our "love" went not beyond self-interest, and now we reap as we have sown. Mercifully, this dreadful, hopeless anguish will sooner or later end in the then sought-for and at last welcomed relief of eternal death.
THE secret of total happiness and total contentment is total love of God. This is the whole meaning and purpose of life. This is that for which we were created and are divinely destined. This solves all problems and assuages all sorrows. This is peace.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
When they do this, they rest from their judicial labours, and enjoy the blessing promised to the Saints...
...It is the time indicated by Jesus in Matt. 16:27, saying, "The Son of Man come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then (topte, that thati is afterwards) he shall reward every man according to his works". The blessedness is when the smoke has all cleared out of the temple; and the Saints have fully executed the judgment committed to them.
The wrath of the Deity being all "filled up", "all the families of the earth are blessed in Abraham and his Seed" (Gen. 12:3; 22:18; Gal. 3:8). 'From this time", the resurrected brethren of Jesus are blessed in the possession of the kingdom in abundant peace. The "war of the great day Almighty," with all its lightnings and "Seven Thunders" proceeding from the throne (ch, 4:5) will be hushed in millennial peace,
"No strife shall rage, nor hostile feuds Disturb those peaceful years;
To ploughshares men shall beat their swords, To pruning-hooks their spears.
No longer hosts encount'ring hosts, Shall crowds of slain deplore; They hang the trumpet in the hall, And practise war no more"....
...The saints are blessed at the time indicated, not simply because they rest, but to the end that they may take rest (hina anapausontai) from their labours. They are blessed in the inscription of the Father's Name upon their foreheads, by which they were "clothed upon by their house from heaven". This makes the earthy bodies with which they emerged from the nether parts of the earth, incorruptible, immortal, almighty, and spiritual.
The foundation of the world Ex 5,6,8.
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel...
And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord.
They now constituted the One Body of Moses, and the Firstborn Son of Yahweh (Exod. 4:22; Zech. 3:2; Jude 9): and when they arrived at Sinai, fifty days after the institution of the Passover, they became the kingdom of the Deity (Exod. 19:5,6,8). These events signalize the katabole tou kosmou, or '"foundation of the world;" to which frequent reference is made in the New Testament, in connection with the prepositions pro, before, and apo, from, since, etc. (Matt. 25:34; 13:35; Luke 11:50; Jhn. 17:24).
Luke 11: 50 refers back to the blood of Abel 'the period of laying the foundation of the world'
Elpis Israel 1.4.
The kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world
From this it appears that the work of preparing the kingdom takes from the foundation of the world to the resurrection of the dead. All this time the kingdom is preparing; but when the King descends and rebukes the nations, and wastes the land of Nimrod with the sword, and makes Israel a strong nation, it will then be said that the kingdom is prepared.
The reader will probably inquire, what does this work of preparation consist in that it should take so long a time? This is an important question, and, in reply, I remark that if physical force only were employed in preparing the kingdom, it need not take so long. A kingdom may be set up in a few days, and abolished as speedily, as we have witnessed in our own time. But it is not so with the kingdom of God.
The physical is subordinated to the intellectual and moral; and, as men, among whom it is being prepared, are so earthly and sensual, the mental progresses much more slowly than the physical, and, therefore, a kingdom founded upon moral principles requires longer to prepare, but is more enduring when completed.
Elpis Israel 2.2.
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
...if our case be so, we may look forward with confidence to our arraignment on that solemn day, when men and angels will be made to see us as we actually are under the searching light of divine exposure.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 50
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
...the parable of the virgins declares that to be accepted, we must have a constantly-maintained supply of the Spirit of God in our lives, thoughts and actions. We must have a spiritual reservoir, so that our lives will continually give forth a pure, steady, godly light.
The parable of the talents declares that all man's possessions and abilities are the property of God; that they must be used faithfully in God's service; and that a strict accounting of them will be required when life is done.
The judgment scene teaches that unless our life is dedicated to the benefit of others rather than our own advantage and interests, we shall be rejected at the final day.
Let us then consider these vital words of life more particularly. And let us not regard this consideration as an interesting diversion or a pleasant spiritual relaxation. That is the complacent spirit in which Christendom settles into their cool and comfortable pews to have their ears gently tickled.
Properly comprehending these teachings is a matter of life and death.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.20.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
The Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet, with their officials, are the symbols of what the Lord Jesus in his discourse recorded in Matt. 25., styles "the Devil and his Angels;" for whom to pur to aionion, the fire of the aionian judgment has been prepared.
The Beast and the False Prophet are symbols of relation, and comparatively modern developments upon the original Dragon-territory.
Their essential spiritual attributes are the same Sin-Flesh Iniquity in secular and ecclesiastical manifestation upon the Roman Habitable. This is the Apocalyptic arena, with a dominion, however, considerably augmented in modern times.
The title, "the Devil and his Angels" is, in effect, inscribed upon the Dragon in the words, "the Dragon, the old Serpent, who is Devil and Satan". His origin is enrooted in rebellious human nature, and therefore he is "Devil;" and being always, in whatever form he may exist, the enemy of the Truth and righteousness of the Deity, and the adversary of its adherents, he is "Satan".
Upon these principles, the Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet, with their Horn-appendages, are "the Devil and his Angels". These are the fuel of the fiery lake, or
"TOPHET ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; YAHWEH hath made it deep and large; the pile thereof is fire and much wood: the breath of Yahweh, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it" (Isa. 30:33).
The effect of the fire upon the Dragon-king, or power, is its suppression for a thousand years; upon his horns, the appropriation of their kingdoms by the Saints, and the destruction of all armies; but upon the Beast and False Prophet organizations, their utter annihilation and eternal extinction.
The things represented by these symbols, however, are not the only wood, or fuel, of the lake of fire. The reader will remember that before the Judgment Seat of Christ in the wilderness of Teman, there were two classes of saints in Christ Jesus constitutionally; the one class consisting of "the called, the chosen, and faithful;" or as Paul styles them in 1 Cor. 3 12, "gold, silver, and precious stones," which are made manifest as such in the day when things are revealed by fire; and the other class consisting of "the called," but not "chosen," because not "faithful;" or, as Paul styles them in the same place, "wood, hay, and stubble".
The constitution and destiny of these two classes, though originally built upon the same foundation, is widely divergent. The gold, silver, and precious stones, of the New Jerusalem community, are fire proof. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they can dwell with devouring fire, and with the burnings of Olahm; fire having no power over their bodies to singe a hair of their heads, nor to leave its smell upon them.
Not so, however, the wood, hay, and stubble. They cannot continue to exist in fire, being in nature destructible. The judicial inspection of his house-hold, having separated the refuse and the vile, from those "accounted worthy to obtain of the aion, and of the resurrection;" the rejected, by virtue of the sentence pronounced upon them by Christ, saying,
"Depart from me, ye cursed, into the aionian fire, prepared for the Devil and his Angels,"
forthwith enter upon their journey to the place of exile or torment; or, in the words of Jesus, "they go away into ajonian punishment;" while the righteous, by their being quickened, enter into aionian life.
Come ye blessed ...Depart, ye cursed - Matt 25: 34 & 41.
There are the two sides of the picture. Some brethren and sisters will hear one, and some the other. This is a terrible reality, and we should live constantly in the shadow of it. There is no need for anyone to hear the latter message. That is the great pity of it. God desires that none should be rejected. This part of the picture is so utterly unnecessary and avoidable. These words of Jesus are words of life-to some, the wise.
...They refer to a basic, consistent, full-time course of life-a course that is related to the storing up of the spirit oil and the faithful use of the master's talents.
The natural man serves himself. His basic law is to do well by himself. He is primarily concerned with his own welfare and security. His labors are directed toward the gratification of his lusts, greed and pride. This is not only regarded as legitimate and commendable, but it is taken for granted as a first principle of life. The natural man is self-centered. With the spiritual man, God is the center, and his own present advantage or profit is incidental.
The natural man is wrapped up in his own interests; the spiritual man is wholly absorbed with the things that God is doing. He is so obsessed with the glories of the future, so anxious to learn all about God's ways and be useful in the working out of them, that passing things hold little interest for him.
These are the two classes Jesus is speaking of. The accepted are surprised at his warm words of commendation, for they are painfully aware of how little they have actually done. The others are terribly surprised at their rejection. They had been so wrapped up in their own perfectly legitimate interests and activities that they had never stopped to think about the possible application of this parable to themselves.
They were "in the Truth," they attended the meetings, they knew the sick were being visited fairly regularly and they even occasionally visited them themselves. And not only that, but out of their comfort-able surplus they had given the Master back what they considered was a very generous percentage of his own talent!
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.20.
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
If we harden our hearts to the afflictions of the afflicted, and wrap ourselves comfortably in the mantle of God's bestowed mercies, heedless of the needs of those to whom God has given less, the day so powerfully depicted by Christ in Matthew xxv. will show us in terrible severity, if we never realised it before, that though we speak with the tongues of men and angels, and though we have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, if we have not the love that takes an active serving shape, we are of no use to the King whose reign is to be a reign of love and blessing.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 50
46 And these shall go away into everlasting [aionian] punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
It may be well to remark here, that aionian punishment, is so called, not as expressive of its duration, but of its epoch of execution. The epoch of judgment is the forty years of the Seventh Vial, which precede the commencement of the thousand years. These forty years are the course of time, or aion, constituting the epoch in which punishment is inflicted upon resurrected individuals, and the living worshippers of the Beast and his Image. It is therefore styled aionian, or the punishment pertaining to the aion of judgment.
From this, and the context, we learn, that the punishment in store for "the Devil and his Angels," will also overwhelm them who are not the Lord's.
Whatever the everlasting punishment is, this is obvious, it is not life; for life is the eternal reward of the righteous. It is something then opposed to life. It is an "everlasting fire" interprets some one. That is true if the common version truly express the sense of the original; for it is so written. But the wicked are to be thrown into this everlasting fire. It is everlasting fire before they go in; something else, then, not the wicked, is the fuel of the fire.
This Lake of Fire "consumes the wicked into smoke," while it still continues to burn. The phrases "everlasting fire," "everlasting punishment" are expressive of the agent and the result of its action upon those who become the subjects acted upon; what the punishment is intrinsically is obvious from the known action of fire upon flesh, and the antithetic declaration, that the righteous shall "go into life eternal." As Jesus and his Apostles taught the same doctrine, a few passages from their writings will make the matter plain to the meanest capacity.
"He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life" says John 1 Ep. v. 12.
There is no quibbling here. The declaration is plain that such a man shall not have life; and a man without life, every one knows, or aught to know, is dead. "The wages of sin is death"-Rom vi. 23. It is simply affirmed to be "death," not "eternal life in misery" as theologists say! "To them that perish, we (the Apostles) are the savour of death unto death" or as Macknight has it, and Campbell endorses it, "death ending in death" 2 Cor. ii. 16. is not death ending in death eternal? And to be subject to such a death, is not that an eternal punishment?
In the same passage, Paul contrasts it with life ending in life, which is life as eternal, or final, as death which ends in death. And furthermore, we see that to "perish" is to die a death that ends in death. Let our wiseacres look at this! "He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption"-Gal. vi. 8. If a man would know what "corruption of the flesh" means, let him watch the process on the "washed hog returned to its wallowing in the mire," or the "dog returned to his vomit" after death has seized upon them. Such is the destiny of those "who sow to the flesh."
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, 'The Olivet Prophecy'. Dec 1860.
There has been no small dissension and disputation about the above passage of holy scripture. The dispute itself indeed seems likely to be everlasting, at least with these who cannot, or will not, understand the meaning of the words about which they debate.
A strong argument with those who would have us believe that everlasting punishment is synonymous with everlasting torment, and of the same unlimited duration as the future life of the righteous, is that precisely the same Greek word is used in both clauses of the verse under consideration, that is to say, the Greek word aionian is applied both to the punishment and to the life, and that consequently the one must be of the same unlimited duration as the other.
The fact that the original word used is the same in both cases is readily admitted, but the fallacy of the argument founded upon this admission, will be apparent when it is understood that neither the Hebrew nor Greek words in the Bible translated everlasting, eternal, for ever and ever. &c., express any definite period at all. Such period may be long or short, limited or unlimited, past or future. This point can only be determined by the context and the nature of the thing spoken of.
Thus in relation to God, unlimited duration in the widest sense is obviously implied. The same is true of the life promised to the righteous. But in relation to the wicked, it is not so. They are not destined to live for an unlimited period; on the contrary, the scriptures declare that such shall die, consume away into smoke, utterly perish, and become as extinct as if they never had been, or never existed. The punishment of the wicked therefore cannot possibly mean everlasting life in conscious torment.
The primary signification of the Greek word kolasis translated punishment in the authorized version is not torment, but curbing, restraining, repressing The verb from which it is derived, also signifies to prune, lop or cut off, and this is in harmony with what is written concerning the wicked in Psalm xxxvii. 9, and numerous other places: "Evil doers shall be cut off."
That there are those who are destined to entire extinction of being is clearly proved by the following passages:
"For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen; as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee, thy reward shall return upon thine own head. For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been."-(Ob. 15, 16.)
"For yet a little while and the wicked shall not be; yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be."-(Ps. xxxvii. 10.)
"Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more."-(Ps. civ. 35)
"Thus saith the Lord, who maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters: who bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they (the Chaldeans) shall lie down together, they shall not rise; they are extinct, they are quenched as tow."
If these passages, and they are but a sample of many that might be brought forward, do not teach extinction of being in the case of certain of the wicked, I should be glad to know what they do teach, or how the idea of extinction of being, or ceasing to exist, can be expressed in language?
There is a very large class among those who live and die in their sins, who will never rise out of their graves to live again, either in happiness or in misery. Such are spoken of in the following passages:
"O Lord, our God, other Lords beside thee have had dominion over us; but by thee only will we make mention of thy name. They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise: therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish."-(Is. xxvi. 13, 14.)
"In their heat I will make their feasts, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake, saith the Lord."-(Jer. li. 39.)
"I will make drunk her (Babylon's) princes and her wise men, her captains and her rulers, and her mighty men; and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the King, whose name is the Lord of Hosts."-(Jer. li. 57.)
"The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead."-(Prov. xxi. 16.)
If it be true that the wicked are destined to a conscious torment of unlimited duration, it follows of necessity that they are endowed with everlasting life equally with the righteous; the difference being that while the latter live in a state of happiness, the former live in a state of misery.
But where in the Bible is everlasting life promised to the wicked?
That it is promised to the righteous there can be no dispute. Christ's words, speaking of his sheep, are, "I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish."-(John xx. 28.)
The converse of this of course teaches that those who are not Christ's sheep will perish. Those who take the inherent immortality of man for granted, are compelled, when speaking of the punishment of the wicked, to interpret such words as "perish," "destroy," &c., in accordance therewith, and such persons labour very hard to convince us that the wicked are both imperishable and indestructible; in fact, that though always perishing, they never do perish, and though subjected continually to the most destructive of all agents, they somehow survive and still live on in torments indescribable.
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, May 1868