Lange Commentary - Revelation 21:1 - 21:8

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Lange Commentary - Revelation 21:1 - 21:8

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

2. The New Heaven and the New Earth. The Clarified World and the Kingdom of Glory


1And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away [departed]; and there was no more sea [the sea is no more]. 2And I John [om. John] saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God [om. from God] out of [ins. the] heaven [ins. from God], prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a great voice out of heaven [om. heaven—ins. the throne] saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell [tabernacle] with them, and they shall be his people [peoples], and God4 himself shall be with them, and be their God [or om. and be their God]. And God [God or om. God] shall wipe away all tears [every tear] from their eyes; and there shall be no more death [death shall be no more], neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain [nor shall sorrow, nor crying, nor pain, be any more]: for the former [first] things are passed away [departed]. 5And he that sat [the one sitting] upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said [saith] unto me [or om. unto me], Write: for these words are true and faithful6 [faithful and true]. And he said unto me, It is [They are] clone [or fulfilled]. I am [or am], [ins. the] Alpha and [ins. the] Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst [thirsteth] of the fountain of the water of life freely. 7He that overcometh [or conquereth] shall inherit all [om. all—ins. these] things; and I will be his [om. his—ins. to him a] God, and he shall be my [om. my—8 ins. to me a] son. But [ins. to] the fearful [cowardly], and unbelieving, and the [om. the] abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers [fornicators], and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all [ins. the] liars, shall have [om. shall have] their part [ins. shall be] in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: [,] which is the second death.


Synoptical View

Two points must here be established at the outset. First, the detachment of the section Rev_20:11-14 from the foregoing last special judgment, the judgment upon Satan. Secondly, the distinction, which is carried out here also, of a predominantly heavenly-ideal and a predominantly terrestri-real vision-picture, or the distinction of the sections Rev_21:1-8 and Rev_21:9 to Rev_22:5. In respect to the first point, with the judgment upon Satan the last part of the world-judgment internal to this present world and life, or the outpouring of the Vials of Anger, is accomplished. Though the universal end-judgment is, by the Scriptures and the Church, preeminently denominated the Dies Iræ, it lies beyond the proper department of the Vials of Anger, since it introduces the eternal dooms, and is a judgment unto life for the blessed, as well as a death-judgment upon the damned; irrespective of the fact that the term of the end-judgment is, in Eschatology, summed up together with the foregoing special judgments in one great Day of Wrath, whose prelude is to be beheld in the day of wrath upon Jerusalem. In respect to the second point, we must not overlook the fact that the two finales contained in Rev_21:6-7 and Rev_22:4-5 would, as tautologies, obscure the text, if they were not to be regarded as parallels, in perfect analogy with the parallels Rev_12:6; Rev_12:14. The antithesis does here, indeed, issue in a point in which the two lines are not so strongly distinguished—Heaven descends to earth: earth becomes Heaven—; still, the pause between the visional Heaven-picture and the appearance of the City of God upon earth is distinctly perceptible (Rev_21:10).

The present Section A branches into the great antithesis of the end of the old world and the appearance or, primarily, the heavenly development, of the new world.

The centre and causality of the end of the world is the great white throne and the Judge enthroned thereon. The adjectives great and white manifestly denote the majesty and holiness of the Judge and His judgment.

In harmony with the universalism of the judgment and in accordance with Rev_21:4-5, God Himself is to be understood by the Judge; not, however, to the exclusion of the fact that Christ is the appearance of the great judging God (Tit_2:13), and thus His Parousia has here mediated the Last Judgment. With the great appearance of God the Judge, a complete subversion of the old form of the world takes place:—the corporeal world becomes nothing; the spiritual world becomes all. From His face the earth and the Heaven fled: and fled without a goal—they vanished. This cannot be apprehended as a real annihilation of the world, as the ancient orthodoxy maintained. And though the idea does essentially coincide with the fiery metamorphosis of 2Pe_3:10-13, it was not the intention of the Seer hyperbolically to express that fact [of the fiery metamorphosis]. Rather, in the antithesis, The corporeal world vanishes, the spiritual world appears, is contained the strongest expression of the thought that at last, under the almighty operation of the absolute personality of God, personal relations, as the true life-principles of the world, must become perfectly manifest. Above all, the old antithesis between Heaven and earth is hereby removed. But as decidedly as worldly relations withdraw, spiritual relations come into prominence. The Seer beholds the dead standing before the throne;—the great, because even the greatest is subject to this judgment, and the small, because even the smallest shall have perfect justice done him here. And with this the general resurrection is expressed; emphasis is not laid upon it, however, in the same manner as upon the first resurrection, because it is not specifically a resurrection to life. Clearly and positively as personalities themselves appear before the throne, just so distinctly are all the works of all individuals—works which bear the impress of their characters and which have fixed their destinies—in everlasting remembrance. There are the books, which are opened for the revelation of these works, in the unitous character of which latter the judicial sentence is, de facto, already extant (Mat_12:37). From the books the Seer distinguishes the book, the book of life, as the book êáô ̓ ἐîï÷Þí , the Bible of eternity set forth in living Divine images. In this book, that sum total is already made up, for which the books in the plural contain, amongst other things, the material. Those who are written in this book have already, in spirit, passed the judgment (Joh_5:24; Romans 6.; Gal_2:19). The result of the life of other men is contained in the books, but is also summed up in the brief epitome presented in the statement that they have fallen under judgment if their names are not found in the book of life. The following antitheses should be noted: 1. The books and the book; 2. The works and the names; 3. The lostness of the names of the lost in the confusion of their works; and the concentration of the works of faith in the names of the faithful, the perfected characters. Formally, therefore, the judgment is general; all stand before the throne. And it must all the more be general, since the very separation of the righteous from the mass of the unrighteous is itself the expression and illustration of the judgment. In a material aspect, however, the general judgment, with this very separation of the righteous, brings in view the special judgment of damnation; the more, since the truly perfected Christians, the eschatological Christians, we might say the approved ones of the end-time, with all the martyrs, who represent a spiritual end-time through the entire course of the world’s history (scarcely those also who have become believers during the thousand years), are already, through the first resurrection, not only exempted from the judgment, but also called to share in its administration.

This general description of the judgment is followed by a specialization which goes back to the beginning. And first in regard to the dead. They come back from every direction out of the condition in which they have been hitherto; through the medium of the general resurrection they are placed before the throne of God. Not even into the abyss could they have sunk so deep as not to appear again. We, therefore, apprehend the detailed description as a gradation. That they are given back by the earth is assumed by the Seer as a matter of course. But also by the sea, in whose depths they seemed to have vanished forever; by death, by the power of death itself; and by the realm of the dead [Hades]—are they given up. So far as the immortality of the soul is concerned, these categories are all alike; in whatever way they [as to body] perished, they all [as to soul] live on. Again, so far as death is concerned, they are all dead and in the realm of the dead [Hades]. But in respect of the relation of these categories to a bodily appearance before the throne of God, gradual distinctions are formed. They vanished in the depth of the ocean;—they are here again. They seemed long since a prey to the power of death;—they are living again. They seemed to be floating away as shades in the gloomy land beyond the portals of death;—here they come as entire men in the reality of earthly life, summoned before the judgment throne of God. So they are judged, each one according to his work. The judgment is thus thoroughly general and thoroughly individual, and likewise, as the final judgment, characterized as in accordance with the works of those judged (Matthew 25). The judgment makes a thorough end of the old form of the world. Death itself is cast into the pool of fire. As the natural life of the blessed is swallowed up in the spiritual life, so the natural death is merged into the spiritual death. The natural death appertains to the region of becoming; with the abolition of this region, it is itself abolished. What remains of it is the sense of continual self-annihilation in the region of an absolutely indifferentized [neutralized] self-tormenting existence. The whole institution of the realm of the dead [Hades], so far as its dark side is concerned, passes into the pool of fire, into the condition of a death multiplied into itself, and yet a conscious, living death. Again, together with death and Hades, the spiritually dead incur the judgment of the pool of fire. Life, life, life, to infinitude, is denoted when it is said: the name is found in the book of life. The contrast is death, death, death, to infinitude. Middle positions, uncertain, wavering forms, have ceased to be, for it is the harvest of the world.

The pool of fire, or the pond-like, stagnating lake of fire, denotes the entire precipitate of the world and worldly history; hence the new world can unfold itself, over against it, in all its glory. The Seer first beholds the new world in the antithesis of the new Heaven and the new earth, for the old Heaven and the old earth have departed, and the sea is not any more. The sea is the womb of shapeless life, as the nutriment of life that is in process of shaping, and in this respect it is an attribute of the region of becoming, but not of the region of being. It will be understood that Heaven and earth are intended not in the cosmical sense merely, but also in the spiritual sense, and this may be true of the sea also. For the sea of nations is, in common with the mundane sea, a womb—a womb of characters, as the latter is of creatures. That which is to unite Heaven and earth is the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, prepared in Heaven by God as a bride adorned for her husband.

Our first business here is to reconcile this Parousia of the perfected Church of God with the Parousia of Christ and His escort (Rev_19:14). It is impossible to accept the confused notion that another Parousia of Christ from Heaven must ensue here. Consequently, we must distinguish the train of His elect, which has accompanied Him to earth, and has here compacted itself into a whole, from the general constituents of the Church Triumphant; a distinction which was suggested in chs. 7 and 16. The Church Triumphant in the other world does not consist purely of warriors of God [Gotteskämpfer] in the narrower sense of that term, and it has found a new home in that other world. Therefore the barrier between Heaven and earth must be in the act of vanishing, if the new earth is to be raised to the dignity of becoming the mother-country of the new Church of God. This, however, seems to be a polar vital law: Principial consummation bears upward from earth to Heaven; the consummate appearance of life brings back again from Heaven to earth. This may be otherwise expressed as follows: Redemption, as principial, first conducts the redeemed from without inwards; next, as eschatological, from within outwards.

Thus ensues the heavenly consummation of God’s Kingdom upon earth. It is proclaimed by a great voice from the Throne—hence by a solemn declaration in the name of the Divine government—in a progressive series of theocratic items.

First, the theocratic cultus shall find its fulfillment in the consummation of the Kingdom of glory. Behold, the Tabernacle of God is with men. That which was typically heralded by the Jewish tabernacle, and, later, by the Temple; that which the Church principially realized,—attains now its consummate and visible appearance: a Congregation of God, in which man’s communion with God is completely realized.

Secondly, the visible appearance of the full harvest of all pious tear-seed sown throughout the history of the world. God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. An image which might have been drawn from the nursery is employed to express the sublimest thought—the transmutation of all the earthly sufferings of the pious into heavenly bliss, through the sensible presence of Divine love and faithfulness. We may also say—the perfect transfiguration of the cross. For the first things have departed. A second, imperishable Kingdom of Life has arisen, in contrast to the second death.

Thirdly, the visible appearance of the renewal of the earth, or rather of the whole earthly Cosmos,—relatively, of the whole universe itself. Behold, I make all things new. This promise, too, must be written; it becomes, in pursuance of the Divine order, a written bond for the hope of mankind, like the promises in Rev_14:13 and Rev_19:9.

Fourthly, the full realization of all the promissory words of God. And He said unto me: They are fulfilled. Namely, the words of which it is declared: They are trustworthy and true [veritable]. They have become realized in the new earth, as words creative of God’s second, new and eternal world. The surety for them is given by the same God Who must be the Omega of all life, because He is its beginning (see Rom_11:36).

Fifthly, together with the universal destiny of the world, all individual destinies are fulfilled. For the men of longing, all longing for the eternal will be satisfied. The fountain of the water of life—highest life and sense of life, springing forth to infinitude from the depths of the Godhead—is offered for the free enjoyment of all who have thirsted for it.

But as the highest need of the soul, the longing for its true element, has made the thirsters warriors, combatants against all illusions of false satisfaction, and since victory has crowned the constant conflict, the second individualization of the promise runs thus: He that conquereth [or the conqueror] shall inherit these things—namely, the fulfillment of all these promises. And that which constitutes the centre, the sum and substance of this inheritance, is expressed in the words: I will be his God, and he shall be My son (1Jn_3:2).

Because the reference is to a conquest and a fulfillment conditioned entirely upon ethical grounds, an antithesis is once more employed.

It is highly significant that the lost are designated, above all, as cowards. In respect of the measure and vocation of man, in face of eternity and its revelations, faith is, in the first place, heroic bravery and gallantry; on the other hand, unbelief, in its fundamental form, is faint-heartedness, cowardice, despair as to the high calling of God and the high vocation of human nature. Under this characterism, therefore, the unbeliever comes, with his timorousness in view of Divine truth; the sinner, in the narrower sense of the term, as one who is timorous in regard to the worth of righteousness; the murderer, who was timorous at the calling of love; the fornicator, who was timorous at the law of spiritual liberty and purity of life; the sorcerer, who was timorous at the sanctity of Nature’s laws; the idolater, who, in his timorousness, surrendered the glory of the knowledge of God; also the liar, who despaired as to the good in truth;—they all cowardly despaired of the Life in life, the Divine word, law and Spirit—hence their portion shall be in the pool of fire. Their tendency led, in a straight line, to the perturbation of their being in absolute irritation.


Rev_20:11. The pause between the foregoing section and the present one is marked by the announcement of a new vision: êáὶ åἶäïí .

Rev_20:11. A great white throne.—The greatness and whiteness are indicative of the glory and holiness of the throne (Düsterd.).

And the One sitting upon it.—Who is this? Answers: 1. The Messiah (Bengel et al.; Mat_26:31 [64?]); 2. God (De Wette, Hengstenb., Düsterd.; see Rev_1:8; Rev_4:3; Rev_21:5-6; Dan_7:9); 3. God and Christ, “the Two forming One, in perfect undividedness” (Ewald). With this modification, the visible appearance of God in Christ, No. 3 is entirely correct (Tit_2:13; 1Jn_5:20).—The earth and the heaven fled (see Rev_16:20; Rev_21:1).—The antithesis between the appearance of God and. the disappearance of the world as world, is represented under the figure of an antagonism and conflict. Before the God Who maketh all things new the old form of the world takes to flight.—And place was not found for them.—The renewal pervades everything.

Rev_20:12. And I saw.—The dead have once more taken visible shape.—The great and the small (see Rev_11:18; Rev_13:16).—The perfect equality of men before the judgment seat of God is repeatedly declared. The 12th verse, as Düsterdieck judiciously remarks, closes with a general description; Rev_20:13 th then reverts to special items, as in Rev_15:1; Rev_15:6. Bengel and Hengst. apprehend the relation as a continuous unitous description: in that case, the íåêñïß of Rev_20:12 would necessarily be those who are transformed, who have lived to see the day of the Parousia, in contrast to those who are really raised from the dead. Such a view does violence to the text.—Books were opened.—(Dan_7:10). As there is repeated mention of books in the Apocalypse, so likewise is there in the Gospel of John (the Scriptures); see especially Rev_21:25. The book of life is but one; it is the book of the life of mankind in a concentrated form. Whilst the books seem to be journals concerning the works of all, the book contains the heavenly result of the history of the world, a register of the treasure, the êëῆñïò , the harvest of God, in the names of the blessed. Since the entire decision is briefly contained in the question: Is the name of such and such a man in the book of life, or not? the books occupy the place of vouchers. Thus in Matthew 25. the one book is illustrated in the statement that Christ places the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left hand; the ensuing discussion of the works of the righteous and the wicked, however, is suggestive of the books.

Rev_20:13. And the sea.—The sea cannot here be understood directly as the sea of nations, although it is thus that Hengstenberg defines even this declaration, maintaining that the reference is to those who have perished in the battles of the nations. According to this, the literal form of the passage would be: the battlefields gave back their dead. In this case, in the subsequent sentence where it speaks of death as giving up its dead, we should have to understand those who had fallen on those fields of battle, rather than, with Hengstenberg, unblest dead ones. However, the reference is rather to different conditions of the dead. Personalities of all sorts (Rev_20:12) must re-appear out of mortal conditions of all sorts (see Syn. View). In regard to the sea, De Wette, after Wetstein, groundlessly cites a pagan idea here, according to which those who had been swallowed up in the sea did not enter Hades. According to Düsterdieck, this second presentation [Rev_20:13] embraces only such as incur the punishment of the second death or the lake of fire. This assumption is based upon the false hypothesis that, according to Rev_20:5, all believers rose from the dead at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom. In that case the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom would really have constituted the judgment itself. Any blessed effects of the Parousia upon the world of nations would then have been out of the question.

Rev_20:14. And Death and Hades, etc.—“Death and Hades, presented in Rev_20:13 (comp. Rev_1:18) as localities, here appear (comp. Rev_6:8) personified, as demonic powers” (Düsterdieck). The Apocalyptist, however, would probably not father this conception. The inference is, rather, that the pool of fire must not be understood in a purely ethical sense, but that it has also its physical side. And this declaration doubtless imports that the two ground-forms of the old mortality—first, dying itself, and secondly, the mode of existence of the dead—are merged in their consummation-form, in which nothing remains of them but the second death, the æonic suffering of the lost (see Isa_25:8; 1Co_15:26).

Rev_20:15. And if any one was not, etc.—Literally apprehended, this seems very hard; ideally apprehended it means, where the second, higher life is utterly wanting, there is the second death; the essential and proper fulfillment of death; the natural, and therefore the positive consequence.

Rev_21:1. And I saw.—Picture of the consummation—first, as a Heaven-picture. The final goal of the history of the old world; therefore, the final goal of all the longing of all the pious (Romans 8.), of all revelations of salvation and prophecies, of all the forms and operations of the redemption and of the Kingdom of God, and hence even of all judgments, which at last, in the concentration of the final judgment, were obliged to make room for the eternal City of God. “Augustine (De Civ. Dei xx. 17) apprehends what follows de seculo futuro et immortalitate et æternitate sanctorum, and this opinion of his has, with more justice than others pronounced by him upon the Apocalypse, become authoritative.” De Wette. Even Hengstenberg, with a salto mortale, touching lightly the last period of the rebellion of Gog and Magog, has leaped from the mediæval Kingdom into the consummation-time of the new Jerusalem. Grotius, on the contrary, keeps to the period subsequent to Constantine, and Vitringa conceives of the time as still prior to the universal judgment (comp. Düsterd., p. 562, but particularly De Wette, p. 194). From the stand-point of a conception of heavenly felicity as abstractly spiritual, many have been unable to reconcile themselves to this descent of Heaven to earth, in antithesis to a rising of earth to Heaven. “The idea of the Church Triumphant is not that which precisely corresponds with the idea presented here: the conception here presented is that of the Kingdom of God in its consummation—a Kingdom for which Christ has, in His Church, broken the way—a Kingdom which has been gradually actualized—the Kingdom of the whole of redeemed and blessed humanity; the dominion of Christ is merged in that of God, Who is present (Rev_21:11), and shares His Throne with the Lamb (Rev_22:1).” De Wette.

A new Heaven and a new earth (Isa_65:17; Isaiah 66; Psa_104:30). “The theological question as to whether the old world is to pass away in such a manner that the new world will arise from it as from a seed, or whether an absolute new creation, following upon the complete destruction of the old world, is to be assumed, can be decided least of all by the Apocalyptic description; this description, however (comp. also 2Pe_3:10 sqq.), is not opposed to the former view, which has greater Scriptural probabilities in its favor than the latter (1Co_15:42 sqq.; Rom_8:21; Mat_19:28).” Duesterdieck. On the contrary, the Apocalypse alone sets forth the true mediation of the last metamorphosis of the old world, in the Millennial Kingdom. The idea of the antithesis of an absolute destruction and new creation belongs only to the half-spiritualistic, half-materialistic letter-theology of orthodoxism.

And the sea.—Why is it no more? The following answers to this inquiry are presented by Düsterdieck: 1. Navigation is no longer necessary (Andr.); 2. It is dried up by the universal conflagration (Bede); 3. As the old world arose out of the water, so the new has arisen out of the fire (De Wette); 4. A horror of the deep sea (Ewald); 5. There was no sea in Paradise either (Züllig); 6. Connection of the sea with the infernal abyss (Ewald II.); 7. The sea as a constituent part of the old world. “The text does not forbid the idea of a new sea accompanying the new earth” (Düsterd.). For our explanation see the Synopt. View.

Rev_21:2. The holy City.—New Jerusalem.—It is related to the ἄíù ̔ ÉåñïõóáëÞì (Gal_4:26) as the resurrection is related to the principle of the new life; or the Palingenesia to the ἀíáãÝííçóéò ; as the end to the harvest (1 Corinthians 15). The heavenly essence of the Church of God, possessed by it even upon earth, here arrives at a heavenly manifestation.—Coming down from God.—For a kindred rabbinical conception, cited by Wetstein on the passage in Galatians, see Düsterdieck, p. 563.—Prepared.—See Rev_19:7-8; 2Co_11:2; Eph_5:27; 1Pe_3:3. The new Jerusalem, as the sum of perfected individuals, is the City of God; in its unity, it is the Bride of Christ. The consummate manhood of all the citizens of the City of God is conditioned by their consummate receptivity, which extends even to perfect unanimity.

Rev_21:3. Behold, the tabernacle of God.—See Isa_2:3; Isa_4:5; Eze_37:27; Eze_43:7; 1Co_3:9; 2Co_6:16; Eph_2:19-22.

Rev_21:4. God shall wipe away, etc.—See Psa_126:5-6; Isa_25:8; Isa_65:19.—Death.—See Rev_20:14.—Sorrow.—Mourning for the dead, especially.—Nor crying, nor pain. ÊñáõãÞ is the acute form of sorrow (“vehement outcry,—for instance, at the experience of such acts of violence as are indicated in Rev_13:10; Rev_13:17; Rev_2:10. [Bleek, Ewald; comp. Exo_3:7; Exo_3:9; Est_4:3.]” Duesterd.). The ðüíïò , pain, or painful labor, is the chronic form of the same.—For the first things.—To be taken in an emphatic sense, like the first man (1Co_15:4-5 sqq.)—the present æon. In accordance with the entire mass of Holy Scripture, the world is designed to be a succession of two worlds.

Rev_21:5. And the One sitting upon the throne, etc.—“That which the heavenly voice [Rev_21:3], interpreting the vision of John, had proclaimed, is now confirmed by the One sitting upon the throne (comp. Rev_20:11), in two speeches.” Duesterd. The words, And He saith unto me: Write; for these words, etc., are, according to Bengel, Züllig, Hengst., and Düsterdieck, an interlogue [Zwischenrede=between-speech] on the part of the Angel; these commentators refer to Rev_19:9; Rev_22:6. Observe, however, the change between Rev_14:9 sqq. and Rev_21:13 [to which also reference is made by Düsterdieck]. There the discourse of the Angel is followed by a speech from Heaven which commands the Seer to write the comforting declaration [Rev_21:13]. We therefore cannot infer from Rev_19:9 that an angelic speech here interrupts the voice from the throne. And this inference is the less proper from the fact that it would seem very strange for the speech of an Angel to be made to corroborate the language of God Himself. Moreover, the Divine speech in Rev_21:6 is too closely connected with Rev_21:5 for the above-cited view to be tenable.

Rev_21:6. They are fulfilled.—Comp. Rev_16:17. According to Düsterdieck, ãÝãïíáí refers to what John has previously seen. But his visions were sure in themselves. We refer the expression to the ëüãïé in the sense of highest realization; they have become facts. The words, I am the Alpha and the Omega, etc., contain the proof of the foregoing assertion that the words of God are, on the one hand, words of absolute faithfulness ( ðéóôïß ), and, on the other hand, of absolute reality ( ἀëçèéíïß ).—I will give unto him that thirsteth, etc.—In the satisfaction of all true human longing, the height of human blessedness is expressed (blessedness=possession of fullness; comp. the Lexicons).

Rev_21:7. He that conquereth.—(See the Seven Epistles.) Here, towards the end, we are once more carried back to the beginning. For the nucleus of the Seven Churches, considered in their symbolic totality, is the foundation for the glorious City of God which is now about to appear.—God as the inheritance of man; consummate blessedness: man as the son of God; consummate dignity (Mat_5:9; Rom_8:17).

Rev_21:8. But the cowardly. Äåéëïῖò . “In contrast to ὁ íéêῶí , those Christians are meant who elude the painful combat with the world by denying the faithfulness of the faith (Bengel, De Wette, Hengst.).” Duesterdieck. This is certainly a much too special and superficial explanation. The category of these cowards, who were cowardly in the highest relation, embraces all the lost: that is, in other words—in view of the high epic goal of humanity, all lagging behind and being lost is traced back to a lack of specific æonic manly courage, to a shameful straggling from the ranks and a desertion of one’s colors. If we apprehend the äåéëïῖò as composing a genus, a significant senary of species is formed: 1. Unbelievers and the abominable (in practice), transgressors against nature (see Romans 1); 2. Murderers and fornicators (cruelty and sensuality—a well-known pair); 3. Sorcerers and idolaters. Even here the affinity is manifest. Now, however, a seventh sort supervenes, apparently,—liars. But it is not without import that an addition is here made— êáὶ ðᾶóéí —in accordance with which these latter are classed with idolaters. Idolatry is in several instances in the Apocalypse designated as falsity (see Rev_14:5; also Grot., Rev_21:27; Rev_22:15; comp. Rom_1:25).—Unbelieving.—According to Bengel and Ewald: Apostates from the faith. According to Düsterdieck: Inhabitants of the earth hostile to the Christian faith. In the universal judgment, this distinction is no longer of any importance; the heathen is an unbeliever—the unbeliever is a heathen.—Abominable.—Those who through the working of abomination have made themselves abominable, ἐâäåëõãìÝíïé , flagitiis fœdi.Their part.—Change of construction. We are not to overlook the fact that they have deserved their lot, i.e., have drawn it upon themselves as the penalty of their sin.


By the American Editor

[Concerning the souls of the departed, between the periods of their decease and the resurrection of their bodies, there are two questions of acknowledged interest. The one relates to their moral condition; the other, to their local habitation. The former of these questions it is not intended to discuss at all in this Excursus. The doctrine generally held in Protestant Churches is herein assumed to be true—viz.: that at death the period of gracious opportunity and discipline is brought to a close; that the souls of believers in Christ are at once made perfect in holiness and do immediately pass into glory; and that the souls of unbelievers, having sinned away their day of grace, are left hopeless in their sins, and are reserved in misery for public condemnation and everlasting destruction.

The second of these questions—viz.: that which relates to the local habitation of departed spirits—is one, not only of great interest, but also, in the judgment of all who have given special attention to it, of great difficulty. This difficulty arises, in the judgment of the writer, from three sources. The first and most important of these is the reticence of Scripture on the subject—but little is revealed thereon in the Word of God. More, however, is revealed than is generally supposed.

The second source of difficulty is properly introduced by the preceding remark. Notwithstanding the amount of distinct revelation, the whole matter is obscured to the reader of the English Version of the Bible by the erroneous rendering of the Hebrew term ùְׁàåֹì (Sheol) and its Greek equivalent ̔́ Áéäçò (Hades). These words which in the original Scriptures have a fixed and definite meaning, indicating a place in the Unseen World distinct from both Heaven and Hell (regarded as the place of final punishment), are constantly rendered by either grave or Hell. By this mistranslation an idea proper to the Word of God is completely blotted out from the English Version; and, not only so, but the texts which present that idea are distributed amongst those which set forth two entirely distinct ideas—thus obscuring the teachings of Scripture concerning both the grave and Hell. But the obscuring and confusing influence of this erroneous translation does not terminate upon those who study only the English Version. The first and most enduring conceptions of the doctrines of Scripture are derived from the Version we read in childhood—conceptions which, even when false, subsequent study often fails to eradicate. And beyond this,—every Version, especially the one in common use, is, to a certain extent, a Commentary, and as such exerts a powerful influence over the minds of students of the original Scriptures. Had the word Hades been reproduced in our Version, much of the confusion that now embarrasses this subject could never have found existence. And here it is in place to remark that even though the Greek and Hebrew words were indefinite, synonymous sometimes with grave and sometimes with Hell, it would have been well, since the Holy Ghost inspired synonyms, to have preserved their use in our Version.

The third source of difficulty is the general and almost unquestioned assumption that the dwelling-place of the souls of the righteous dead has been the same since the Resurrection of Christ that it was before that event—an assumption opposed, as the effort will be made to show, to distinct intimations in the Word of God. In consequence of this assumption, there have been two schools in the Evangelical Church, each basing its doctrine on the clear and irrefragable teaching of the Scriptures—the one, in view of the ante-resurrection testimony, affirming the existence of an intermediate place, located in Hades, into which the souls of those who now die in the Lord are carried; the other, in view of the post-resurrection testimony, denying that there is now, or ever has been, such a place.

It is the desire of the writer to contribute something toward the settlement of this interesting question; and to this end he will endeavor to set forth what seems to him, after careful investigation, to be the Scriptural teaching concerning Sheol or Hades. To avoid confusion, the Greek term Hades, which is the Septuagint and New Testament equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol, will be used throughout this article. It may also be remarked that the term Hell will always be employed as indicating the place of final punishment.

It will be proper to say something as to the principles and mode of the investigation as conducted in the study. It was assumed, in the first place, that it should be made entirely within the field of the original Scriptures—the Septuagint being used as a door of communication between the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New. It was also assumed that each expression employed in Scripture to indicate a topic of revelation, should be regarded as maintaining one uniform sense throughout the Word of God,—unless, indeed, the contexts of different instances of its use should require us to put different senses upon it. It is desirable that the limitation of this principle should be distinctly recognized. It was not dogmatically assumed that each expression must, at all hazards, be regarded as having only one sense; but that, until the contrary should appear, each passage should be so regarded. Now, the term Hades (Sheol) occurs sixty-five times in the Old Testament; in thirty-one instances it is rendered in the English Version by grave, in thirty-one by Hell, and in three by pit. In the New Testament it occurs eleven times; in one of these instances it is rendered by grave, and in ten by Hells. It was not assumed that these renderings, or at least one class of them, must be wrong; on the contrary, it was admitted that the very fact that they had been made by the learned Translators carried with it strong probability of their essential correctness—not so strong, indeed, as to make unnecessary an investigation or to show the impropriety of this assumption in order thereto, yet sufficiently strong to make manifest the importance of the limitation.

As to the mode of the investigation—all the passages in which Hades occurs were tabulated and compared together, with the view of determining whether, consistently with the contextual requirements of each, some uniform meaning might not be given to the term. The experiment was successful beyond most sanguine expectation. It resulted in the conviction that by Hades is designated—I. Not the grave; II. Not Hell; III. Not the Unseen World, including Heaven and Hell; IV. Not the state of death; V. But—(1) a Place in the Unseen World distinct from both Heaven and Hell; (2) having, before the resurrection of Christ, two compartments—one of comfort, the other of misery; (3) to which, antecedent to the resurrection of Christ, the souls of all who died were carried; (4) into which Christ, at His death, descended, delivering the souls of the righteous; (5) to which, since the ascension of Christ, the souls of the wicked, and of the wicked only, have been consigned; (6) in which they are reserved in misery against the day of general judgment; (7) from which they are then to be brought for public judgment previously to their being cast into Hell.

The following argument is designed to commend the foregoing results of private study to others. It will be found to be strictly Scriptural. The truth of the facts on which it is based can be readily tested by any one who has access to the Englishman’s Hebrew, the Englishman’s Greek, and Cruden’s English Concordance.

As a further preliminary it is proper, though scarcely necessary, to state that in conducting the special arguments to prove that Hades is not the grave, is not Hell, etc., it is not designed to assert that in many particular passages the original term cannot bear the meanings denied to them. It is freely admitted that in some instances it may be translated grave, and in others Hell, without destroying the sense. And so in some instances it might be translated house, and in others ship. This is but saying that in every passage the context does not determine the meaning of all the terms employed therein. It is contended, first, that in no passage are these meanings required by the context; and, secondly, that in many they are excluded thereby. It is also claimed that it will become apparent upon a careful examination that, while the one meaning attributed to the term in this Excursus is required by many passages, it is excluded by none—that consistently with the context, it may be put upon it in every instance of its occurrence in the Word of God.

It is also proper to mention that independent arguments will not be presented in proof of each one of the points included in the last general topic. It is believed that the truth of each will appear in the course of the general discussion.

I. Hades not the Grave

This will be argued, in the first place, from data afforded by the Old Testament; and, secondly, from that afforded by the New.

A. That Hades must be regarded as having been used in the Old Testament to designate something different from the literal grave, seems to be evident from the following considerations:

1. It is never construed in the mode, nor with the terms, continually employed in the case of ÷ֶáֶø (or ÷ְáåּøָä ), and which unmistakably mark that term as designating the place of the sepulture of the body. Thus ÷ֶáֶø is used in both singular and plural;—it has a territorial location, Exo_14:11; its site is purchased and sold, Gen_23:4-20; it is possessed by the owner of the soil or by the person buried therein, Gen_1:5; Gen_35:20; it is dug by human hands, Gen_1:5; it is connected with the verb signifying to bury, Gen_47:30;—dead bodies are buried in it by living men, Gen_1:13;—it is marked by a monument, Gen_35:20; it may be touched by living men, Num_19:16; literal dead bones are in it, 2Ki_13:21;—it may be opened by men and the bones exhumed, 2Ki_23:16. Hades is always singular; it is never thus construed; it is not in a single instance thus spoken of.

2. It is spoken of with expressions of comparison utterly inconsistent with the idea of the literal grave. Thus we read of—“The lowest Hades,” Deu_32:22, Psa_86:13; “The depths of Hades,” Pro_9:18; “the midst of Hades,” Eze_32:21.

3. It is in two instances clearly distinguished from the grave. In Gen_37:35, where it first appears in the Bible, Jacob declares—“I will go down into Hades unto my son;” but from Gen_37:33 we learn that the Patriarch was under the impression that Joseph had not, and could not have, a grave; he is there represented as exclaiming, “An evil beast hath devoured him.” And in Isa_14:15 it is declared that Lucifer shall be “brought down to Hades,” who, Isa_14:19, is represented as being “cast out of his ( ÷ֶáֶø ) grave.

4. It is used in antithesis with Heaven under circumstances which show that the literal grave cannot be intended. “It is as high as Heaven, what canst thou do ? deeper than Hades, what canst thou know?” Job_11:8. “If I ascend up into Heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in Hades, behold, thou art there,” Psa_139:8. “Though they dig into Hades, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to Heaven, thence will I bring them down,” Amo_9:2.

5. In the poetical Books it never occurs in one of two parallel clauses, answering to ÷ֶáֶø in the other; nor under any other circumstances which grammatically require us to regard it as a synonym thereof.

6. It is manifestly used as synonymous with two other terms which cannot be regarded as indicating the literal grave—viz: áåֹø [pit) and úַçְúִéּåֹú àֶøֶõ nether parts of the earth.

The former of these, áåֹø , occurs fifteen times, and is distinguished from ÷ֶáֶø by all the general characteristics by which Hades is distinguished from it. That it is synonymous with Hades, or that it indicates a compartment thereof, is abundantly evident. In Psa_30:3 the words appear in corresponding hemistiches—“O Lord, thou hast brought my soul from Hades; thou hast kept me alive that I should not go down to the ( áåֹø ) pit.” The same occurs in Pro_1:12, “Let us swallow them up alive as Hades; and whole as those who go down to the pit.” It is evident upon bare inspection that in Isa_14:15—“Thou shalt be brought down to Hades, to the sides of the pit”—the áåֹø of the second clause is synonymous with the Hades of the first; it is also evident that it is synonymous with the Hades of Rev_21:9; Rev_21:11, rendered in the former Hell and in the latter grave. That these words are synonymous will be further evident from an examination of Eze_31:14-18. In that passage Hades occurs three times,—in Eze_31:15 it is translated grave; and in Eze_31:16-17, Hell: áåֹø occurs twice, in Eze_31:14-16, and in both instances is rendered pit. The words translated “nether parts of the earth,” in Eze_31:14; Eze_31:16; Eze_31:18, are àֶãֶõúַּçְúéú )—a compound term manifestly synonymous with the other two.

The phrase úַçְúִéú àֶøֶõ or úַçְúּéåֹú àֶøֶõ occurs nine times. In Eze_31:14; Eze_31:16; Eze_31:18; Eze_32:18; Eze_32:24; Eze_26:20, it is manifestly synonymous with Hades. In Psa_139:15 it is used as a figurative expression for the womb. It also appears in Isa_44:23 and Psa_63:9 (10). What does it mean in these passages? Dr. Hodge, in his Commentary on Ephesians (Rev_4:9), remarks concerning this phrase that it “is used for the Earth in opposition to Heaven, Isa_44:23; probably for the grave in Psa_63:9; as a poetical designation for the womb in Psa_139:15; and for Hades or the invisible world, Eze_30:24.” He gives no reason for any of these interpretations, evidently presuming that their correctness would be manifest upon inspection. No exception can be taken as to the propriety of his opinion in the last two instances, (save as to the judgment concerning the nature of Hades conveyed by the use of the alternative phrase—“or the invisible world”). It should be carefully noted, however, that the phrase appears in Ezekiel, not only in the one passage referred to by him, but in five others,—in all of which it is manifest that it must be synonymous with Hades. This then is not only an established, but it is the leading, sense of the expression; and we must conclude that it has this sense in the other three passages unless the contrary be required by the contexts. Now in Psa_139:15 the context requires that we should attach to it a figurative meaning. But what is there in the other passages to make it necessary to depart from the leading sense? Most certainly when the Psalmist exclaimed, Psa_63:9, “Those that seek my soul to destroy it shall go into the lower parts of the earth,” there is nothing to forbid the idea that he meant they should go into Hades. Nor, on the supposition that Hades was a place of conscious existence to which the souls of the departed good as well as of the evil were carried, is there anything unnatural or improbable in supposing that when Isaiah (Isa_44:23) wrote, “Sing, O ye heavens, for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth,” he intended to call on Hades to rejoice.

7. Those in Hades are spoken of as being in a state of conscious existence, which never occurs in the case of the occupants of ÷ֶáֶø . In Isa_14:4-17, the chief ones of the earth who are already imprisoned in Hades, are represented as greeting the King of Babylon at his entrance with the words, “Art thou also become weak as we?” Similar teaching is found in Eze_30:16; Eze_32:21. With this agrees the idea suggested by the phrases, “sorrows of Hades,” 2Sa_22:6, Psa_18:5 (6); “pains of Hades,” Psa_116:3; and with this agree also the facts that the womb ( úַçְúִéåּú àֶøֶõ ), Psa_139:15, and the belly of the whale in which Jonah (Rev_2:2) was imprisoned—both places of conscious existence, though of darkness and confinement—were figured by Hades. All this, it is true, may be attributed to poetic license—and so any teaching of the poetic Scriptures may thus be attributed. Nevertheless the fact remains that these declarations are found in the inspired Word of God in connection with Hades, and the further fact that similar expressions are never found in connection with ÷ֶçֶø .

In view of all the foregoing considerations it seems rational to conclude that in the Old Testament Scriptures the term Hades was not used to designate the literal grave. Certain exegetical objections to this conclusion, may, however, present themselves to the minds of some. These, so far as they are known, or can be imagined, will now be considered.

(1) It may be urged that the declarations of Jacob and his sons concerning the bringing down of gray hairs to Hades, Gen_42:38; Gen_44:29; Gen_44:31; and the direction of David to Solomon to bring to Hades the hoar heads of Joab and Shimei, 1Ki_2:6; 1Ki_2:9; seem to imply that Hades was regarded as the resting-place of the body. This might be admitted, and at the same time a valid argument be drawn from other Scriptures requiring us to put another than the apparently normal construction upon the words of the Patriarch and David. We are not, however, driven to such a strait as this. Let it be observed that there is nothing in the form of the expressions to forbid our regarding the phrases gray hairs and hoar heads as indicating men in a state of old age. From this point of view there is nothing unnatural in regarding the Hades to which these old men were to be brought as a place of departed spirits. In the case of Jacob, for a reason already given, we cannot regard him as contemplating under this term the literal grave.

(2) In several passages, it may also be objected, Hades is spoken of under terms proper only to the grave. Psa_6:5 (6), “In Hades who shall give thee thanks?” Isa_38:18, “Hades cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee; they that go down to the pit cannot hope for thy truth;”—Ecc_9:10, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in Hades, whither thou goest.” It must be acknowledged that these passages, in themselves, irrespective of the condition of the writers, are consistent with the idea that by the term Hades as employed in them was meant the literal grave. This, however, is not a necessary interpretation—and if it be, let it be observed, these texts must be regarded as affirming that the grave is the end of man, as denying the immortality of the soul. But the passages are also consistent with the idea that by Hades is meant the state of death, or Hell, or a place of gloom in the Unseen World distinct from Hell. In the progress of the discussion each of these hypotheses will be considered.

(3) Again, it may be contended that the ideas of burial and physical consumption, which are ideas proper only to the grave, are presented in the following passages: Psa_49:14 (15), “Like sheep they are laid in Hades, death shall feed on them,” etc.; Job_24:19, “Drought and heat consume the snow waters; so doth Hades those which have sinned.”

The difficulty in these passages is altogether in the English translation. Dr. J. Addison Alexander translates the former, “Like a flock to the grave (Hades) they drive; death is their shepherd.” In Job_24:19, the verb translated consume is properly rendered violently take, as in the margin; the reference is to the rapacity of Hades—not to the consumption of the body. The declaration in the following verse—“the worm shall feed sweetly on him,” may refer to the condition of the body when the spirit has been seized by Hades.

(4) It may also be asserted that in the Book of Job, especially in the 17 chapter, the oneness of Hades with the grave seems to be naturally implied.

In the 17 of Job, most of the words that have been brought into this discussion are employed: ÷ֶáֶø , Job_17:1; Hades, Job_17:13; ùָçַú , Job_17:14; and áåø , Job_17:16. At first glance it would seem as though these terms had been used indiscriminately as synonyms for each other. Careful inspection, however, shows that they may be regarded as indicating the future of the entire man—the body to the grave, the spirit to the place of departed spirits. We, of the present day, sometimes speak of the grave as our place after death, and sometimes of the world of spirits as our place, without intending thereby to imply our belief that they are one and the same. So is language employed in the book of Job; and in Job 17 both forms of expression are introduced. Thus, naturally—and only thus—can the phraseology employed in Job be reconciled with itself and with other Scriptures.

B. The New Testament teaching as to the distinction between Hades and ìíῆìá or ìíçìåῖïí (the grave or sepulchre) is remarkably clear.

The term, as remarked in the Introduction of this Excursus, occurs but eleven times in the New Testament, and in every instance save one it is, in the English Version, translated Hell. The excepted case is in 1Co_15:55, “O grave, where is thy victory.” That in the other instances it will not bear the translation grave is evident upon bare inspection. These are as follows: “And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto Heaven, shalt be brought down to Hades,” Mat_11:23; “The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (the Church), Mat_16:18; “And thou, Capernaum … shalt be thrust down to Hades,” Luk_10:15; “And in Hades he (Dives) lifted up his eyes, being in torments,” Luk_16:23; “Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades,” Act_2:27; “His soul was not left in Hades,” Act_2:31; “I … have the keys of Hades and of death,” Rev_1:18; “His name was Death and Hades followed with him,” Rev_6:8; “Death and Hades delivered up the dead that were in them,” Rev_20:13; “Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire,” Rev_20:14.

The New Testament idea of Hades as distinct from the grave may be most clearly perceived in the declaration concerning Dives in Luk_16:23; and in the didactic teaching of the Apostle Peter, Act_2:27-31, concerning the soul of Jesus between His death and His resurrection. The Apostle, manifestly, spoke of both the body and the soul of our Lord (comp. Act_2:27 and Act_2:31), asserting that the former did not see corruption (although it was placed in a sepulchre), and that the latter was not left in Hades—implying, of course, that it went to Hades. Unless we adopt the conclusion that the soul sleeps with the dead body in the tomb—in the face of the manifest implications of the Apostle and the whole tenor of the Word of God—Hades must be distinct from the tomb. That the soul of Jesus did descend into Hades will, it is believed, more abundantly appear in the course of this Excursus.

Reference has been made to one instance in the New Testament in which the E. V. renders Hades by grave, viz., 1Co_15:55. In his comment on this passage, Dr. Hodge writes, in immediate continuance of what has already been quoted—“Here where the special reference is to the bodies of men and to the delivery of them from the power of death, it is properly rendered the grave. The Apostle is not speaking of the delivery of souls of men from any intermediate state, but of the redemption of the body.” It is indeed true that the special re