What did Paul mean when he said, SOMETHING HAD BEEN COMMITTED TO HIM? To begin with it’s not a very common English word, is it? We don’t often use it. Fortunately, the answer is in 2 Timothy. Now this word ‘commit’ is translated in some translations, ‘a deposit’, and it does mean to deposit, but that doesn’t really cover the meaning of the Greek word. The Greek word means to ‘entrust’. Not only to pass something on to somebody else, but something that was worthwhile, something that was precious. You don’t entrust people to look after silly, empty things do you? The very fact that you ask someone to look after it, is because it’s worth something. Oh yes! And believe me this is God’s truth that was committed. ‘But who’s doing it?’ ‘Do you link it with Paul? Do we leave it with Paul? Do we go to the Ephesian writings or James or John?’ Well let’s actually see for ourselves.
When you come to 2 Timothy you will know that this is Paul’s last letter, his second letter to Timothy. And there was a very close relationship between them, it was like a father and a son. He tells Timothy in 2 Tim. 1:13: ‘Hold fast the form of sound words … ‘ Looks at verse 12. If you look at the Revised Version, middle section, you’ll find it’s just the opposite. Not what Paul had committed to God, but what God had committed to Paul, just the opposite. Now you may say to me, ‘but both can’t be right’. Well it so happens, they can! The Greek can read either way, but it is the other way that fits the context. It’s not what Paul had committed to the Lord — he committed a lot, of course he did — but that’s not what he’s talking about to Timothy. It’s what the Lord had committed to him. What the Lord had entrusted, that’s the meaning of the word. Paul had been entrusted by Christ with precious truths, and some of them are so unique as we shall probably see if we’ve got time. These things are so wonderful that ordinary words just can’t express them, all of them together. Bearing that in mind, look at 2 Tim. 1:14: ‘That good thing which was committed unto thee guard … ‘ That’s the modern translation, and it’s correct. It’s more than just keep it — guard it, it’s precious. If you let it go you’re letting something tremendous go, and it doesn’t belong to you. IT’S GOD’S! God has entrusted it to you. Friends, that’s what He’s done with all His Truth — do you realize that? When we get to know the Bible, it ‘isn’t ours in the sense that we made it up, not a bit of it. God has given it to us as a marvelous gift, and: He wants us to do something with It, of course. And this is the point of Christian witness and Christian service. This is something of tremendously practical actions which arise from realizing that this is something for a short time that God’s put into my hands, and into yours TO DO SOMETHING WITH FOR HIM. To pass it on! Look at chapter 2 of 2 Timothy. Notice he doesn’t say, ‘pull yourself up young man, and get on with it!’ No, he tells him where he can get the strength from. It is silly to say to a person, ‘be strong’, just as if you can automatically make yourself strong — you can’t, but God can make you strong. God can make me strong. That’s where one’s strength comes! 2 Tim. 2:2 here’s the word ‘commit’ again, ‘deposit’, ‘entrust’. To anybody? NO! To ‘faithful’, absolutely reliable ‘men’. This is something that God values. He’s not going to put it into the hands of people He can ‘t rely on. And Paul says to Timothy: ‘You watch it too, that you don’t pass it on to people who are not worthy of it, but to who will be faithful and can be trusted … ‘ Nearly 2000 years have gone by since that was written, marvelous isn’t it! And so it’s been passed on. Friends, it has come down to us. If we say that we love the Bible, if we say that we love all that we read here, alright, good! BUT WHAT ARE WE DOING WITH IT? That’s the thing that matters.
One day, the Apostle Paul tells us and tells us twice, we’ve all got to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Now don’t get that wrong, or dear me, I’ve got to think of all my sins, He will see all my sins. The question of sins are all finished with. These are people who are saved, whose sins have been borne by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself on the cross — they’re finished with forever. No, it’s what we’ve done after our salvation! What sort of people have we been? Have we been loyal? Have we sought to pass on the TRUTH to others? This is the important thing. This is what this man’s last letter impresses Timothy with! Paul knew that this would possibly by his last letter, and surely he’s not going to waste his time saying silly nothings to this young fellow. It is going to be ABSOLUTE essentials. This is his last opportunity to speak to him, although he said: ‘Come and see me as soon as you can’ (2 Tim. 4:9). I suppose as could be said in English, ‘I can’t last much longer”’ I’m going to give my life for the Saviour’. He knew that that was coming, of course. This was his last writing.
Now note this phrase, Timothy, ‘the things that you have heard of me’. That’s important for this young fellow because the Acts tells us that he often travelled with Paul on his missionary journey. So with that strong tie between them he not only could read all the letters Paul had written, but he would also remember all the things which he heard him say. I’ve often thought, oh, if I could only hear Paul give one address personally — wouldn’t that be marvellous! But Timothy heard them over and over again. Now this tells us then what was committed to him: ‘all that’s committed to me, I’m passing it on to you now’. So for this we have to keep to the epistles of the Apostle Paul. Now don’t misunderstand me. I’ve heard people say. ‘Well, Stuart thinks the Bible is about five epistles’. I’ve never said any such things. There are some things that are true for all times, and they are the basis. The gospel of God’s grace is exactly given by the Apostle Peter, the Apostle John, as the Apostle Paul. God hasn’t got two different ways of saving the sinner. It’s the same all the time because it looks back to that one great offering for sin of Christ Himself on the cross. He took them all. He suffered the punishment for all of us so that we shouldn’t have to suffer for ever. God’s the righteous Judge. Yes, sin has to be atoned for. There is a price to pay for it, and the Lord paid that price, that is finished! It could be said then, ‘having forgiven you some trespasses?’ No, it says ‘ALL’ (Col. 2:13), ‘having forgiven you ALL sins’. And when God says ‘ALL’ He means it. Isn’t that marvelous? I know what some people will say, ‘Oh that’s dangerous, you don’t want to tell people that. They’ll go and say, ‘ … I’ll go and sin, go on sinning as much as I want to because He’s forgiven them all’. Oh no you can’t! You can of course, but if you do it you are doing something very dangerous!
BECAUSE there is something you can lose which is the crown or this prize on top of salvation. That’s what such a person will lose for eternity. Again it’s this letter, 2 Timothy, that tells you that we shall all live with Christ if we’ve been saved, BUT shall we reign with Him? NO! … And it’s that reigning that people are going to lose forever. You and I can’t play about with the things of God. No indeed! We have got to be as the Word tells us over and over again — utterly and absolutely reliable, faithful! Full of FAITH, full of trust. So the answer to this young man’s question is, ‘You have to go then to the things that Paul said: ‘you’ve heard of me‘, and those things he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write. Paul wasn’t giving his ideas or thoughts, indeed not! He was the medium that God was using’. So having said all that, well now I have to say to myself, this marvelous thing or this marvelous deposit that’s been entrusted to Paul, what am I going to say about that. I couldn’t possibly go over all of it, so I’ll just mention some of it.
In this calling (and it comes after the Acts, after the Nation of Israël which had dominating all the way through since the day of Abraham) is this new revelation, this new secret which God had made known. And the marvelous word in Colossians, which is the sister Epistle to the Ephesians of course, God wishes, wants to make this secret known. So He’s not holding back. If the people don’t know it, they’re not keen to know, they never ask, they never search, never go to the right place to find out. God by His Holy Spirit, the Great Revealer of Truth, is ready to make it known to ALL who sincerely want it, and go to this part of the BOOK: ‘the things which thou hast heard of me’, Paul says. Go to this man’s writings and you’ll see then it’s just of unique things. For instance, its unique constitution because we’re told literally it is made of joint heirs, joint partakers, and a joint body. Three times over you’ve got this word equal (joint)! Tat was never said before!
There there’s a unique period — before the foundation of the world. And the only One that goes back before the foundation of the world in the Bible is the Lord Jesus, God Himself. But all other companies are since or after the foundation of the world.
Then there’s a unique place — in heavenly places far above all, we’ve been made to sit, to be enthroned with Christ! Then you may say to me, ‘That’s impossible, we’re sitting in this Chapel’ Oh yes, that is perfectly true, but spiritually this is the way God sees it. And this is what God wills, and this is what’s going to happen friends, in actual fact when our hope is realized. So this is something that’s absolutely unique. If you’d go to anybody in the O.T. and say, ‘Do you know you’re going to sit with God in the heavenly places far above all?’ He would say, ‘You’re mad! No possibility!’. They were going to be blessed, yes, but they were all earthly blessings. I’m not belittling them, they’re wonderful blessing. I’m not belittling them, they’re wonderful blessings. But they didn’t know anything of being made to sit with Him in heavenly places. And He’s sitting in the highest sphere, and that’s where He’s been exalted to, after giving Himself for your sins and mine on Calvary’s cross and being raised from the dead. Don’t forget He ascended. Ascension goes right back, you remember, in that wonderful prayer in John 17, His prayer to the Father: ‘Glorify Me with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was’. He’s asking to have it back again. He let that all go, all the outside glory, and comes and attaches Himself to a human body. So much so that people said, ‘Well who is this? We know that His father and mother are just ordinary human people’ (John. 6:42). Poor things, they were so blind, and so deaf that they couldn’t hear or see the voice of God there, speaking to them. But that was God manifest in the flesh, in His great stooping, so He could die for your sins and for mine. It was the only way He could do it, and I’ll say that reverently. God can’t die. He’s immortal! So He takes upon Himself a human body so He can die, and that’s exactly what He did. Oh, the love that’s behind that! Shall we even fathom it! But that’s only the beginning of all these marvelous things; unique place, unique destiny and something in Ephesians 2:22, A change from a body to a house (to a building) and individuals then are likened to stones. And Who’s the Builder? God Himself is the Builder. There’s no angel doing it! What’s it all for? It says to be a HOME FOR GOD. I think we can say the world over, the average balanced person wants a HOME, and the tragedy is there are thousands that haven’t got one. And isn’t it a marvelous thought that God wants a HOME. Yes, He’s making a Home for Himself. You and I can be part of this marvelous building.
A habitation our old English says — A HOME FOR GOD. And this time it’s going to last forever. But where is it? Is it on earth? Is it on the new earth that’s coming down from heaven? NO! We’re told when He ascended, He ascended far above all heavens. Not just above all heavens, but a long way about it. (You see there are no English words to adequately bring forward the greatness of all this). And that’s why I believe there are so many things we would like to know about it and there’s nothing know about it all. WHY? Simply because our brains aren’t big enough to understand it. If God told us it wouldn’t mean anything to us — — it’s beyond our comprehension. But that is what God is getting for you and for me that know Him as Saviour, who know Him as Lord, who know Him as Head of this body (in Ephesians 2 called the new man, that’s the name God has given it). And then one of the great things in these prison Epistle (there are actually 4 of them, 5 if you take in Philemon, but that’s only a personal letter in a personal setting) it surpasses all that man can think about and it’s a reality! If God doesn’t tell us some of the things we’d like to know, well, can’t we wait a little bit longer? We’ve got to anyway whether we like it or not. But can’t we say, ‘Yes, alright, I’ll leave it with the Lord’. Paul says, when writing one of his letters, ‘Now I see partly, then (resurrection, the next life) I shall see fully, I shall know all the things I want to know now’. Now why can’t we take that?
That’s the reason why some of our prayers aren’t answered. And people ask me for help on certain parts of the Bible, and I say, ‘Well look, I’m far from being infallible. I’m still learning myself, and there’s a lot in there that’s beyond human comprehension as I mentioned so many times’. But can’t we trust Him, can’t we say, ‘There’s coming a day, but now I know partially. ‘You know I hear people talk as if they know the Bible from beginning to end: they don’t! They most certainly do not, and they’ll never completely exhaust it, or get to know every little bit in It! You can keep going to this Book that’s written through the Holy Spirit. It’s more than a human book, it’s GOD’S BOOK, written really by Him.
Now can’t you understand what Paul meant to Timothy when he said,
- ‘All the things you’ve heard of me I entrust to you. Christ has entrusted it to me, my time has come to finish, I entrust it to you. You entrust it to faithful, reliable men who can be entrusted who are going to use it, who are going to look at it as something absolute precious’ (2 Tim. 2).
THE MOST PRECIOUS THING OF ALL, PLACE NUMBER ONE, AND THAT’S WHERE WE’VE GOT TO PUT THE LORD JESUS WHO’S IN THE VERY CENTRE OF IT. Isn’t that so? Yes! ‘In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily’ — this body is the fulness of Christ — Christ is the fullness of God (Col. 2:9). And yet some people say He isn’t God. How can people be so blind and so utterly silly to talk like that. He’s got all the Godhead, fully, and then to cap it all it says, ‘And you are complete’, that’s the word fill again, you’re complete in Him, you are filled full!. Not three quarters, leaving a bit out, but right to the brim, that’s this word fulness! That’s another word that wants weighing over. It touches God Himself you see. It touches this home that He is making. THINK OF THAT, fancy God having His home when He is at last finished. Well I’m quite sure what will happen next, it will be our revelation with Him because we are stones He has chosen, that He has shaped in just the size that He wants, and placed just where He wants us to be in an absolute eternity of wonder and magnificence that we can’t fully appreciate now! Now we know partially, then in resurrection we shall know fully, even as we are known by Him.
Now here comes the final challenge, and a warning too! Well there it is, I must stop. But there are some wonderful things in the Bible aren’t there! Oh, yes, let’s value it, and then let’s make quite sure that we’re passing it on to others. Don’t let the opportunities go by, looking at them at the back as they pass by, that’s too late, that’s no good. The Lord is willing to use us, all those who want to be utterly faithful. Let’s make the most of it for as you know the signs of te times tell us that WE HAVEN’T GOT VERY MUCH LONGER, so let’s see that we fill it with faithful Christ-like service, and His Trust entrusted now to us. Unto Him be glory in the church (ecclesia) by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
By Stuart Allen / The Berean Expositor / JANUARY 2019 VOL. 70 No. 1 / http://www.bereanonline.org / email: email@example.com
Gerard J.C. Plas
[Heaven and EARTH … Fewer and fewer today speak with any comfort and confidence and say ‘the earth is the Lord’s’ (Ps. 24:1). Many are occupied with ‘preserving the earth for future generations’ and ‘conserving the earth’s natural resources’ of our planet, never seeing that both the ‘Firmament called heaven’ (Gen. 1:8) as well as the earth are the necessary theatre for God’s outworking of His Grand Designs. Qualifications can now be acquired in ‘Earth Sciences’; alas ‘Heaven Science’, knowledge of the heavenly realms, such is obtained only in the Word of God.
What shall we make the heaven of Gen. 1:1 and those verses so soon afterwards of 6-8 as we read, which tell of another heaven? Many seem hardly to notice; but the Old Testament writers show an understanding of them. The Psalmist says, ‘the heavens declare’, ‘the firmament showeth’ (Ps. 19), but also speaks of Him (Ps. 8) Who hast set His glory ‘above the heavens’. ‘High above the heavens’ is the Greek of the Old Testament (LXX). To this high above the heavens, Paul adds in Eph. 4:10 the two words ‘of all’ (heavens), speaking of Christ’s exaltation. We recall his words too in 2 Cor. 12, of one ‘caught away to the third heaven’. Sufficient surely, to disenchant any from assuming that ‘Heaven’ is simply ‘just one place’, albeit only Scripture can be our source of these truths.
If we now remind ourselves of Gen. 1:1 ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth’, allowing the Companion Bible to inform us that ‘heaven’ in Gen. 1:1 is in fact plural, or at least dual, ‘the heavens and the earth’, as also in Deut. 4:26, is it too soon, in reading Gen. 1:1, as Stuart Allen says, to deduce that ‘God has a purpose for the heavens as well as the earth’? Is there a better time wherein to Rightly Divide the Word of Truth, and to keep these two lines of true apart? When our Lord had His night time discourse with Nicodemus, He condensed His words concerning the New Birth and the Kingdom under the phrase ‘earthly things’, going on to say that there were ‘above-heavenly’ things (Greek. Epi + ouranos, over + heaven), (Jn. 3:12), which ‘heavenly things’ not Nicodemus or Our Lord’s disciples were ready to bear (Jn. 16:12) i.e. carry or sustain.
What privilege is ours, and who are we that we may bear, or sustain what the ‘the twelve’ were not able to come to the understanding of i.e. ‘heavenly things’, ‘heavenly places’, which certainly are not ‘earthly things’ but rather ‘things above’ and concern where Christ sitteth (Col. 3:1,2) at the Right Hand of God? What days of favour do we live in, what light is ours to enjoy and to bring suitable praises from our hearts!
May we be led to see and lay hold of that ‘sphere’ or ‘realm’ or ‘province’ of blessing even as Paul who wrote ‘Blessed be the God and Father or Our Lord Jesus Christ … ‘ (Eph. 1:3)]. By M. Garstang
SIGNS THAT PRECEDE THE PASSING OF HEAVEN AND EARTH
The transition from the Day of the Lord to the Day of God, is accompanied by dissolving and melting fire that causes the heavens and the earth to pass away, and make way for a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Pet. 3:10-13). This, however, is the climax of a series of phenomena that are concerned with signs and wonders in heaven and earth, and the result of a survey of them and their associations will reveal a similar pattern to that which we find in the book of Exodus.
There, the climax plague, namely, the slaying of the firstborn, is postponed until there have been a series of lesser plagues sent in the longsuffering of the Lord, which longsuffering though counted by many as ‘slackness’ is rather ‘that all should come to repentance’. We shall find that the overthrow of Genesis 1:2, the destruction of the world by the flood, the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire, the movements in the heavens that accompany the overthrow of Babylon, and the signs in heaven that occupy the second coming of the Lord, are all steps that led to this great climax so vividly set forth in 2 Peter 3. When we read in the Sermon on the Mount:
- ‘Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled’ (Matt. 5:18),
the Lord may be referring to a literal fact, or He may be using a strong figure in argument, as Luke 16:17 puts it:
- ‘It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail’.
If these were the only Scriptures to which appeal could be made, it would not be possible to adopt a dogmatic attitude either way. In Hebrews 1, we meet a similar argument. This time it is the Lord Himself Who ‘remains’ and not merely ‘one jot or tittle of the law’, and this time the references to the passing away of the heavens are positive:
- ‘And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands: they shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shall Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail’ (Heb. 1:10-12).
Here ‘they’, hautoi refers to ‘the heavens’, hoi ouranoi, and not to the earth. The reference is to ‘the firmament’ of Genesis 1:6-8, the raqia, or something ‘stretched out like a curtain or a tent’ (Isa. 40:22). Such a ‘heaven’ can be conceived as ‘folded up’ as a vesture, or as the LXX says of these same heavens, ’till the heavens come unstitched’ (Job 14:12), surrhapto, see Genesis 3:7, ‘sewed’ = rhapto, and Ecclesiastes 3:7. This passage provides us with a word of caution. The heavens that are to pass away, are the limited heavens of Genesis 1:6 known as the firmament, but the heavens of Genesis 1:1 may be referred to as ‘the heaven of heavens’ (Psa. 148:4; 1 Kings 8:27) to which Christ ascended when He ‘passes through the heavens’ (Heb 4:14 dierchomai) and was ‘made higher than the heavens’ (Heb. 7:26) or ‘Heaven itself’ (Heb. 9:24) or as Ephesians 4:10, ‘He ascended up far above all heavens’. This feature has a bearing upon Revelation 21:1, THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH.
At the Second Coming of Christ we read:
- ‘Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken’ (Matt. 24:29).
Here is no ‘melting’, no ‘fervent heat’, no ‘passing away’ but enough to warn the inhabitants of the earth that the Almighty who can do such things is well able to do more. The reference to the tribulation (see also vers 21) and the link with the Abomination of Desolation (verse 15) associates this passage with the pre-Millennial happenings, foreshadowing what will come after the Millennium, but not in any invading the prophecies of the time of the end. The passing of heaving and earth (Rev. 21:1) is the at least one thousand years later, and probably very much longer. We find another reference to similar phenomena in heaven and earth, at the opening of the six seal, in Revelation 6:12-17. Tabulating these events we have:
- A great earthquake.
- The sun black as sackcloth.
- The moon as blood.
- The stars fall.
- The heaven departs as a scroll.
- Every mountain and island moved out of their places.
- It is the day of the wrath of the Lamb.
With this passage we should read of the pouring out of the seventh vial in Revelation 16:17-21. Again we tabulate:
- Voices, thunders, lightnings.
- Unprecedented earthquake.
- The great city divided.
- The cities of the nations fall.
- Great Babylon comes into remembrance.
- Every island flees.
- Mountains not found.
- Plague of hail falls.
With these two passages we must make one further comparison, that is Revelation 20:11:
- ‘And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them’.
Before the Millennium ‘every island fled away, and the mountains were not found’, after the Millennium it is ‘the earth and the heavens’ that flee, and for which no place is found.
- ‘In Revelation 6:14 the mountains and islands were moved. Here, they flee. By and by the whole earth and heavens will flee away, and no place be found for them. There is no article before “mountains” so we have supplied its absence by the word “certain”‘ (The Apocalypse*, Dr. E.W. Bullinger).
The Revelation therefore gives us a series of movements:
- Rev. 6:14 moved out of their places.
- Rev. 16:20 certain mountains were not found.
- Rev. 20:11 the earth and heaven flee.
- Rev. 21:1 a new heaven and earth, the former having passed away.
These lead straight on to the climax passage of 2 Peter 3, but it will be wise to retrace our steps and include one or two references in the Old Testament before we consider Peter’s testimony.
Isaiah 13:10. Here the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof give no light, the sun is darkened, the moon ceases to shine. Here once again we are in the day of the Lord (Isa. 13:9) and at the overthrow of Babylon (Isa. 13:19). This prophecy is twofold, (1) the overthrow of Babylon by the Medes (Isa. 13:17) which is referred to in Daniel 5:31, and (2) the overthrow of Babylon at the coming of the Lord (Rev. 19:1-6). Again in Isaiah 34 we are in the Day of the Lord’s vengeance, and in the year of recompense for the controversy of Zion:
- ‘And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree’ (Isa. 34:4,8).
Here we have two important verbal connections. There is a link with Genesis 1:2, for the words translated ‘without form and void’ (Heb. tohu and bohu) are here rendered in Isaiah 34:11, ‘confusion’ and ’emptiness’, which together with the use of the same words in Jeremiah 4:23,24 show that ‘that which has been is that which shall be’ as the great cycle of the ages draws to a completion. The present heavens and earth finds its place between two ‘overthrows’ Gen. 1:2 and Isa. 34:11), the one in Isaiah 34:11 foreshadowing the actual and final dissolution of 2Peter 3, Joel 2:10,30,31 and 3:15 associates these phenomena with the great and terrible day of the Lord (Joel 2:11,31), and similar words are used of the extinguishing of Pharaoh by Ezekiel (Ezek. 32:7,8). To these references might be added those which foretell a mighty shaking both of earth and heaven, such as Job 9:6; Isaiah 2:19,21; 13:13; 23:11; Haggai 2:66,7,21, and Hebrews 12:26,27. Also such references to earthquakes as Isaiah 29:6; Zechariah 14:5; Matthew 24:7 and the five occurrences in the Apocalypse, Revelation 6:12; 8:5; 11:13,19 and 16:18.
We now arrive at the climax prophecy 2 Peter, chapter 3. We will not attempt here a complete literary structure of this passage, but the following will exhibit its salient features.
2 Peter 3
A 3:1,2. a This second epistle (Peter’s) b Pure minds stirred to remembrance. c Words of Lord and Saviour.
B 3:3-13. d Scoffers. Promise of His Coming. e Willful ignorance. e Be not ignorant. d The Lord. Promise. e Day of the Lord. Heaven and earth pass away. e Day of God. Heaven and earth made new.
A 3:14-18. a In all his epistles (Paul’s). b Unlearned unstable destruction. c Grace of Lord and Saviour.
It will be noted that the first two chapters form a preface, the third chapter being ‘this second epistle’ proper. Prefaces are often skipped by readers, but a divinely inspired preface cannot be so lightly treated. Peter is concerned, among other things, with the safeguarding of prophetic truth and the assurance of his readers. The expression, ‘knowing this first’, links 2 Peter 1:20 with 2 Peter 3:3, and both passage are concerned with the integrity and inspiration of the prophetic writings, ‘we have not followed cunningly devised fables’, in spite of all that the scoffers may say, or the arguments they may bring forward.
Chapter 2 passes from the true Prophet to the false, and also counters the objection of chapter 3, namely that ‘all things continue as they were’, by giving three instances of Divine interposition:
- The angels that sinned.
- The flood.
- The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and contrast the ‘grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Pet. 3:18) with a graceless knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 2:20).
The Received Text be it noted makes a distinction here. In 2 Peter 2:20 it is ‘The Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’, but in 3:18 it is ‘Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’. In both passages there is ‘knowledge’, but in 2 Peter 1:8 Peter warns of a ‘barren and unfruitful’ knowlegde. In both chapter 1 and 2 there is an ‘escape’ from corruption, but one is ensured by reason of the partaking of the ‘Divine nature’ (2 Pet. 1:4), which is absent in 2 Peter 2:18-20.
So much for the surrounding context, but our main theme is found in 2 Peter 3:10-13. Here we find the day of the Lord, succeeded by the day of God. As the day of God was the object of desire (verse 12) and as the New Heaven and New Earth were equally desired, ‘looking for’ and ‘look for’ being translations of the same Greek word, the day of God seems to include the New Heavens and Earth. The passing away of the heavens and earth synchronizes with the passing away of the ‘former’ heaven and earth of Revelation 21:1. This takes place at the end of the Great White Throne judgment, which therefore must be included in the day of the Lord, the Millennium being the first part of that great prophetic day, but not exhausting it. Further, the last words of Revelation 20 speak of the ‘lake of fire’. This synchronizes with the ‘fervent heat’ of 2 Peter 3:10, wherein and whereby ‘the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up’.
The words ‘pass away’ in these two passages are the same Greek words, which established yet another link. Peter makes a connection in 2 Peter 3:6,7 between the flood of water in the days of Noah, and the dissolution of heaven and earth by fire, saying:
- ‘whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men’.
Just as the threat to slay Pharaoh’s firstborn was postponed while a series of lesser plagues gave him opportunity to repent, so judgment after judgment falls upon the earth at the time of the end (see for example Revelation 9), yet it is written they ‘repented not’ (Rev. 9:20,21). So the longsuffering of the Lord reaches its limit, the heavens pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with ‘fervent heat’, ‘crackling roar’, ‘set ablaze and melt’ (Moffatt), and a new day dawns, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
Much indeed could be said on this great theme. The fact that in Isaiah 65 and 66 as well as in Revelation 21, sin, death, carcases, worm, fire, and exclusion from the new Jerusalem, fall within the newly-created heavens and earth when read with Peter’s definition ‘wherein dwelleth righteousness’, suggests that even when this great renewal takes place, there will be more than one stage before ‘the end’. Let us not be so absorbed in the dreadful facts that have been brought before us, however, as to forget Peter’s inspired corollary.
- ‘Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God … be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you’ (2 Pet. 3:11-15).
THE LAKE OF FIRE, AND THE MILLENNIUM
Why a ‘lake’ of fire? Of the commentators we have consulted, none make any reference to this particular word, to its meaning or to the reason for its use. The Greek word translated ‘lake’ is limne. Parkhurst says that the word indicates a lake of standing water, as opposed to a running stream, and is so called from lian memein, ‘remaining very quiet’, so the Latin stagnum, a pool. Schrevelius reads limne, a port, harbour, haven, station, refuge, accusative limena; as if lian menei, because there the ships rest in safety; hence limenarches, harbour master. Limne, occurs in the LXX in Psalm 107:30, ‘haven’, Psalm 107:35; 114:8, ‘a standing water’, Song of Solomon, ‘fishpools’. The word occurs in the New Testament ten times and is always translated ‘lake’. Apart from the five references in the Revelation, the remainder occur in Luke’s Gospel, 5:1,2; 8:22,23,33, the lake Gennesaret, elsewhere called the sea of Galilee, and the sea and lake of Tiberias, and in the Old Testament the sea of Chinnereth.
In Luke 8:22,23,33 ‘the lake’ is associated with the storm that threatened the lives of the disciples, and which the Saviour ‘rebuked’, and the place where the swine possessed of demons were choked. In every place, a lake of water is intended, which makes it strange that a ‘lake of standing water, a haven, and a harbour’ should burn with ‘fire and brimstone’! There is only one other set of references that may some bearing, and these are found in the Apocrypha. Difficult as it may be for us to understand, at the sounding of the sixth trumpet, four angels are let to loose, which had been bound in the great River Euphrates (Rev. 9:14). How could ‘angels’ be held by a ‘river’? In the article entitled THE BOTTOMLESS PIT, we show the connection that exists in Scripture between ‘the abyss’, ‘the sea’ and ‘the deep’ of Genesis 1:2. That connection must be kept in mind here. In the second book of the Maccabees, 12:3-9 we have the following record:
- ‘The men of Joppe also did such an ungodly deed: they prayed the Jews that dwelt among them to go with their wives and children into the boats which they had prepared, as though they had meant them no hurt. Who accepted of it according to the common decree the city, as being desirous to live in peace, and suspecting nothing: but when they were gone forth into the deep, they drowned no less than two hundred of them’.
- ‘When Judas heard of this cruelty done unto his countrymen, he commanded those that were with him to make them ready. And calling upon God the righteous Judge, he came against those murderers of his brethren, and burnt the haven (“lake”) by night, and set the boats on fire, and those that fled thither (of from the fire) he slew … But when he heard that the Jamnites were minded to do in like manner … he came … and set fire on the haven and the navy, so that the light of the fire was seen at Jerusalem two hundred and forty furlongs off’.
We Gentiles have never had impressed upon our hearts, minds and memory, the exploits of the Maccabees. Were we to have had a revelation written especially for English-speaking people it might use a mixture of figures; it might speak of a fat boy carved in stone, a monument by Sir Christopher Wren, and refer to Pudding, Pie, and the sin of gluttony, but it is very unlikely that a Chinese reader, or come to that, some readers nearer home, would make sense of this oblique reference to the great fire of London! So, the essentially Hebrew atmosphere of the book of the Revelation not only draws freely upon Old Testament imagery, but contains allusion to un-canonical or traditional happenings that may never find a place in a respectable commentary written for English readers. It may be that this ‘lake’ of fire, before the judgment of that day had been a ‘haven’ for those evil beings, the Beast and the False Prophet, and we know that it had been ‘prepared for the Devil and his angels’ as the place of their final destruction (Matt. 25:41). Nothing definite can be adduced from what we have presented, but we have at least given the term employed something more than a casual glance.
We have devoted some attention to the promise to the overcomer, that such would not have their names blotted out of the book of life. We must now devote some attention to the parallel promise given to the overcomer in the church of Smyrna: ‘he that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death’ and this second death together with the book of life and the lake of fire, figures prominently in the judgment of the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11-15). The choice of the word ‘hurt’ by the Authorized Version translators may have been influenced by such passages as:
- ‘Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt’ (Dan. 3:25).
- So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him’ (Dan. 6:23).
In contrast with the three who were not ‘hurt’ in the furnace, is the fate of the men who stoked the fire (Dan. 3:22) and in contrast with Daniel, is the fate of those who accused him (Dan. 6:24). The word translated ‘hurt’ in Revelation 2:11 is adikeo, which is so rendered in eight other passages in the Apocalypse, and twice translated ‘unjust’ in Revelation 22:11. From what we have already seen, it will be recognized that some wider survey of the references to ‘fire’ and its implications is called for. Matthew 5:22 coming in the Sermon on the Mount has references to disciples and not to the ungodly outside world.
It is set in a form of progression, the penalty keeping pace with the offence thus:
- ‘Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of THE JUDGMENT: and
- ‘Whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of THE COUNSEL: but
- ‘Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of HELL FIRE‘.
The Council here is the Sanhedrin. Raca is a word like ’empty head’, ‘Hell fire’ here is Gehenna:
- ‘But what was there more grievous in the word “fool” than in the word “Raca”? Let King Solomon be interpreter, who everywhere, by a “fool” understands a wicked and reprobate person, foolishness being opposed to spiritual wisdom. “Raca” denotes indeed, “morosity” and lightness of manners and life; but “fool” judgeth bitterly of the spiritual and eternal state’ (Lightfoot).
While we can recognize a series of degrees in there actions, and that they are accompanied by corresponding degrees of punishment, it still seems to be inexplicable, that for saying raca, a believer was amenable to the Sanhedrin, but for saying fool, the offender was in danger of hell fire. Put into modern times, we could read:
- The first offence would be liable to a fine, imposed by a magistrate.
- The second offence might lead to the assizes, and a term of imprisonment.
- The third offence, to a punishment of inconceivable horror, far worse than that of being beheaded or hanged.
If we turn to Matthew 25 we shall be met with a similar problem. There, at the Second Coming, the Lord gathers the nations of the earth before Him and they are judged on one issue only, the way in which they have treated His ‘brethren’. To one section the King says:
- ‘Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ (Matt. 25:34).
To the other, the King says:
- ‘Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matt. 25:41).
The kindness shown to the Lord’s brethren was not intentionally rendered to the Lord as the astonished inquiry of verses 37-40 will show, and the lack of kindness was not intentionally witheld from the Lord, yet one group go ‘into everlasting life’ which is equated with the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and the other group go ‘into everlasting punishment’ which is equated with ‘everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels’.
Let us observe, the inheritance was actually prepared for the one group, but the other enter a punishment, not originally ‘prepared’ for them, but for the devil and his angels. If from these verses we are to gather that failure to visit the brethren of the Lord in prison, merits everlasting punishment, and everlasting fire in the sense of a traditional ‘Hell’, then all argument is at an end. We stand appalled, but helpless before a power beyond our own, but whether we stand assured of its utter and unquestioned righteousness, each one of us alone can answer. Before we leave these unhappy nations to their awful lot, would it not be well if we knew the word used by the Lord for ‘punishment’ here? He had the choice of at least four words:
- Ekdikesis, ‘The punishment of evildoers’ (1 Pet. 2:14).
- Epitimia, ‘Sufficient … is this punishment’ (2 Cor. 2:6).
- Timoria, ‘Sorer punishment’ (Heb. 10:29).
These words are not found in Matthew 25. The word employed there is kolasis, ‘a pruning’ (Dr. Bullinger’s Lexicon) www.levenwater.org / The one other occurrence of kolasis is in 1 John 4:18, ‘torment’. Kolazo is translated ‘punish’ in Acts 4:21 and 2 Peter 2:9. The first meaning of kolazo given in Liddell and Scott is ‘curtail, dock, prune’, and secondly to ‘castigate’ keep within bounds, correct, punish’. Kolasis is used with dendron, ‘trees’ in the sense of pruning. Turning to the usage of the word kolasis in the LXX we read in Ezekiel 18:30:
- ‘I will judge you O house of Israël, saith the Lord, each one according to his way: be converted, and turn from all your ungodliness, and it shall not become to you the punishment of iniquity’.
Again in Ezekiel 44:12-14, the Levites, because of their departure and ministry of idols, became ‘a punishment’ of iniquity to the house of Israël, with the consequence that these Levites could no longer draw near, nor approach the holy things, but they shall bear ‘their reproach’ (atimian, ‘no honour’, see usage in 2 Tim. 2:20,21) and take a lower service. This is understandable, but to translate this word kolasis as equivalent to everlasting torment in ‘hell’ is, here, impossible. Before attempting a conclusion of this matter in Matthew 25, let us get a little light by turning to Hebrews 6. It will, we trust, be conceded that for Israël to ‘crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame’ is a deeper sin, than neglecting to visit the Lord’s brethren in prison. Yet while there is reference to ‘burning’ as a consequence, it is remedial:
- ‘For the earth … which beareth thorns and briars is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned’ (Heb. 6:7,8).
The ‘earth’ here is a piece of land under cultivation. The word ‘rejected’ is adokimos, ‘disqualified’ having failed the test, and is not cursed, but ‘nigh unto’ cursing, an expression parallel to being ‘hurt’ of the second death. The burning which is its end, burns up the ‘thorns and briars’, but does not destroy the land itself, but rather benefits it. It is comparable to the ‘pruning’ of a tree. If we can allow the gentler meaning of the term in Matthew 25, the nations who failed will go away into an age-long pruning, thereby missing the glory of the Millennium, but will benefit by its administration and correction.
Let us examine the Scriptures as to the usage of ‘fire’ to indicate the Holiness and the Presence of God, before we go further in our search
Fire and the Holiness of God
- ‘Our God is a consuming fire’ (Heb. 12:29).
These words refer back to Deuteronomy 4:24 and 9:3. This fire turns boths ways. Its flame scorches the covenant people who provoke the Lord to jealousy, the flame destroys the enemies of His people. The association of fire with the presence of the Lord quite irrespective of sin or wrath, is the burden of many references:
- ‘The sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire’ (Exod. 24:17).
This fire devoured Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:2) as it consumed the murmurers in Numbers 11:1. Deuteronomy 5 is full of reference to this association of fire with the presence of the Lord, and in Ezekiel 1 to 10, fire is associated with the appearance of the Lord there. ‘Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? asks Isaiah (33:14). God Himself being a consuming fire, it must follow that saved and lost must, if in that sacred presence, alike be affected by its searching character, the believer being able to answer the challenge of Isaiah 33:14, ‘who … shall dwell with everlasting burnings’ because clothed in the asbestos (Greek word is found in four passages) covering wherein they are accepted in the Beloved; this glorious immunity being theirs, as found ‘in Christ’ not having their own righteousness as a protection, but the righteousness of God which is by faith.
These selfsame believers however, who are thus immune from the searching flame of the Divine Presence, may have with them and about them ‘works’ which by their very nature cannot stand the test of fire, and so are mercifully shrivelled as they draw near. This aspect we must now pursue as it impinges eventually on the interpretation we must put upon the lake of fire in Revelation 20 and elsewhere. We have used the word asbestos in its modern meaning; in the New Testament it refers to the fire that is unquenchable, not to the material that is unburnable (Matt. 3:12; Mark 9:43,45 and Luke 3:17).
Fire, and the Redeemed
Let us take the illustration found in Daniel 3. The overwhelming pride of Nebuchadnezzar left the three friends of Daniel no alternative but to disobey his commands, even though the consequence of disobedience was to be cast into a ‘burning fiery furnace’. To ensure their destruction Nebuchadnezzar commanded that the furnace be heated seven times more than was wont, and so vehement was its flame that the men who took up the faithful three, were themselves instantly slain, but Sadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, though they ‘fell down bound’ in the midst of such a fiery furnace, were seen walking unscathed together with one like unto the Son of God, and, as Nebuchadnezzar admitted, ‘they have no hurt’. What is the meaning by having ‘no hurt’ is made clear in Daniel 3:27:
- ‘These men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them’.
That is what we meant when we used the word asbestos for the perfect immunity of the believer ‘in Christ’. These men are an anticipation of those who shall not be ‘hurt’ of the second death. Isaiah assured the ‘redeemed’ of this immunity when he wrote:
- ‘When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee’ (Isa. 43:2).
Just as we find Daniel pondering over the writings of Jeremiah (Dan. 9:2), so we can readily believe that the three friends found all the encouragement they needed, when facing the ordeal of fire set by Nebuchadnezzar, in the precious words of Isaiah 43.
Again, as space is limited, we have no need to ‘prove’ to the spirit-taught believer, this blessed position of complete immunity, demonstrated by Daniel 3 and prominent in Isaiah 43, as being equally true of all believers. We therefore turn our attention to the second division of this aspect of truth.
The test of faith and of works
- ‘The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ’ (1 Pet. 1:7).
Here, it is not salvation that is under the test, it is the ‘trial of faith’. The Greek words dokimion ‘trial’ and ‘tried’ dokimazo, have reference to the testing of metals, indeed the LXX of Proverbs 27:21 uses dokimion to translate the word, ‘a fining pot’ or ‘crucible’ and Job said, ‘When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold’ (Job 23:10). Peter again speaks of ‘the fiery trial’ that was about to try some of his readers (1 Pet. 4:12). Paul writing to the Corinthians makes it very clear, that those who are building upon the one foundation, namely Christ, while never in danger of ‘being lost’ might ‘suffer loss’ as over against ‘receiving a reward’ and uses the trial by fire to illustrate his teaching:
- ‘Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: BUT HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so as by fire’ (1 Cor. 3:12-15).
Here ‘works’ are in view, and ‘works’ only. When examining the character of the Millennium we drew attention to the words of the Saviour to the seven churches, ‘I know thy works’ and how they were linked with Revelation 20, ‘the dead were judge … according to their works’. First, to every one of the seven churches, the Saviour said. ‘I know thy works’, and so dominant is this reference to ‘works’ in these two chapters (Rev. 2 and 3), that we find the Greek word ergon occurring fourteen times. It is to one of these churches made up of the redeemed that the overcomer is promised ‘He … shall not be hurt of the second death’ (Rev. 2:11), a promise fulfilled in Revelation 20:6 for there those who ‘reign’ with Christ for the thousand years, are said to be blessed and holy; they are said to be priests of God and of Christ, and ‘ON SUCH the second death hath no power’. Every one of these seven churches is linked with the Millennial kingdom by either the promise to the overcomer, or the warning to the slacker, or by both. Let us see this for ourselves:
- Ephesus. Promise. Paradise (Rev. 2:7 and 22:2).
- Smyrna. Promise. Not hurt of the second death (Rev. 2:11 and 20:6).
- Pergamos. Promise. New name (Rev. 2:17 and 19:12). Threat. Fight, sword, mouth (Rev. 2:16 and 19:15).
- Thyatira. Promise. Rod of Iron (Rev. 2:27 and 12:5). Threat. Kill with death (Rev. 2:23 and 20:14).
- Sardis. Promise. Not blot out (Rev. 3:5 and 20:12,15).
- Philadelphia. Promise. New Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12 and 2:12).
- Laodicea. Promise. Sit in throne (Rev. 3:21 and 20:4).
If ‘the second death’ be the doom that awaits the wicked dead, what congruity is there between the POSITION, ‘priests of God and of Christ and the PROMISE’, ‘on such the second death hath no power’ (Rev. 20:6)? Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the gospel of grace, knows that ‘there is … no condemnation’ possible for the believer ‘in Christ’. Now this second death is equated with ‘the lake of fire’ (Rev. 20:14,15) and so falls within the bounds of our present inquiry. This lake of fire is mentioned in five passages in the Revelation, and in several other passages by implication:
- ‘The beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone’ (Rev. 19:20).
- ‘And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are (or were), and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever’ (Rev. 20:10).
- ‘And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death’ (Rev. 20:14).
- ‘And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire’ (Rev. 20:15).
- ‘He that overcometh shall inherit all things … but the fearful … shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death’ (Rev. 21:7,8).
The first thing we must note is that in Revelation 21, the doom of those parallel with verse 8, is said to be exclusion from the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:27). Let us make sure of this:
- ‘But 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 burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death’.
- ‘And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life’.
Someone who was timid, who had flinched under the dreadful persecution of the time of the Beast and False Prophet, this one who fell and against which sin Paul even warned Timothy (2 Tim. 1:7), he has his part in the lake of fire, whereas any one that defiled was excluded from the heavenly Jerusalem. Yet this, while it sounds odd enough, will be seen more strange, for in one verse the abominable and ‘ALL’ liars are destined for the lake of fire, while in the corresponding verse ANYTHING that worketh abomination, or maketh a lie is excluded from the Heavenly Jerusalem! Surely, if the Scriptures are inspired, this means that the reference to the lake of fire, the reference to the second death, the reference to the book of life and the reference to the entry into the heavenly city are to be read together. This lake of fire is said to have been ‘prepared’ for the Devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41), in contrast with the kingdom that had been ‘prepared’ for those who received the Lord’s commendation (25:34), the ‘Bride’ also is prepared for her husband (Rev. 21:2).
In each case they are exceptional, and cannot be spread wider that the contexts will allow. This dreadful lake of fire had not been ‘prepared’ for any other than the Devil and his angels, but if anyone yielded to the pressure or the temptation of the last days so as to ally himself with the Devil and his emissaries, he could be ‘hurt’ of the second death, he would find that the fire that destroyed the enemy, would also burn up his fleshly ‘works’, and he could ‘suffer loss’ even the loss of the Heavenly city, yet ‘he himself could be saved so as by fire’.