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Sixth Edition, 1915
By Dr. John Thomas (first edition written 1861)



Chapter 2


7. The Second Death.



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The letter to the Presbytery and Heritage in Smyrna, concludes by promising those among them who overcome that they shall "not be hurt of the Second Death." The words of the passage are, "Be faithful until death, and I will give to thee the coronal wreath (stephanon) of the life. He having an ear let him hearken to what the Spirit saith to the ecclesias. He that overcometh shall not be injured of the Second Death." Be faithful until death. They had a course of tribulation to run; for "it is through much tribulation that the saints must enter the kingdom of God" where the crown is to be obtained and worn (Acts 14:22). The kingdom and its crown of life and glory is "the prize". All the faithful in the times of the apostles knew this. Hence Paul, in 1 Cor. 9:24, writing to the christians in Corinth says, "Know ye not that they which run in a race," the athletes in the Grecian Games, "all run, but one receiveth the prize? So run that ye may obtain. And every combatant is temperate in all things; but they are so that they may receive a perishable coronal wreath (stephanon); but we one incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so I fight, not as beating the air. But I keep my body under, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when having preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." The pagans contended in their games for crowns or coronal wreaths of laurel; but the saints for wreaths of unfading leaves from the forest of the life pertaining to the Aion and the Paradise of Deity.

But they were not to expect the unfading wreath till after death for they were exhorted to be faithful until death. They were, then, to expect to die; for the Fourth Beast would make war upon them in the tribulation of the "ten days," and prevail against them, and put many of them to death. They would be injured by this death, with great suffering. But there is "a Second Death" that would be more tormenting and of more bitter anguish than the first. In the first, men and women "were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection. Others had trial of mockings, and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonments, they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute,

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afflicted, tormented (of whom the world was not worthy); they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the Promise; God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Heb. 11:35-40).

This first death was indeed terrible in all its forms. It laid its victims low "in the dust," where it retains them "invisible" for centuries. But the apostle addressing the Saints, says to them, "death is yours" (1 Cor. 3:22). They do not belong to death, but on the contrary, death belongs to them. The Serpent hath bruised them in the heel, and they now lie wounded in prison. But the wound is not incurable; they have been wounded as it were to death, but their deadly wound will be healed; for in regard to them death hath lost its sting; for "the sting of death is sin," and all their sins have been forgiven, so that it is impossible that they can be holden of it for ever. For them death hath no sting; and over them "Hades...... Hell," "the Grave," or "Invisible," has no final victory; for their death will be swallowed up of life and victory, through their Lord Jesus Anointed (1 Cor. 15:54-57; 2 Cor. 5:4).

Then, though invisible in the dust, or in common parlance, dead, or scripturally, "asleep in Jesus," they have "not received the promise," neither can they, for God's arrangement is, that all the Saints shall with Christ be "glorified together" (Rom. 8:17,32). Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets and apostles all (Enoch, Moses, and Elijah, Jesus, and those who came out of their graves after his resurrection, alone excepted), yet sleep in their graves waiting for redemption. But that redemption will not be revealed till all the saints are separated by "the obedience of faith" from among the Gentiles; for Paul testifies, that they are not to be made perfect without us; that is, if there be now a saint Living who has not been glorified, then they have not been glorified, and will not be without him; for all are to be glorified and to receive the promise at the same time and together.

The Smyrneans have not, then, as yet, obtained the unfading wreath of the life of the Aion, for they have not been "made perfect," and the Aion is not yet arrived. Those of them who were faithful until death, have conquered though they fell, and await the healing of their wounds, for the promise is to such, and such alone. They who could not endure the terrors of the death they had to face, were vanquished when they fell; or, if they rose from this death in accepting deliverance, they miss the "better resurrection," and become obnoxious to the sorer and more fearful terrors of the Second Death. Though they will rise, it will be to condemnation (John 5:28, 29), not to the resurrection of the life.

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"Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection." This is the great epoch of retribution for weal or woe; then, and not before, the living and the dead receive according to their works -- kingdom, power, glory, and endless life for the saints; the Second Death for the faithless, faint-hearted, and abominable.

The phrase "the Second Death," occurs in three other places of the Apocalypse besides this. First, in Apoc. 20:6, which saith, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; over these the Second Death hath no power, but they shall be priests of the Deity and of the Anointed, and shall reign with him a thousand years." Here it is testified, that the Second Death hath no power over those who compose the First Resurrection: then consequently, it cannot injure the faithful Smyrneans who were faithful until death; for they are to have unfading life, and it has no power to affect that. They will be of the first rank in resurrection; so that their class being preeminent, the resurrection of which they are the subject, is "THE FIRST." The post-resurrectional death has no power over them, and nothing pertaining to it can injure them. The First Death was at the control of the Diabolos; the Second is subject to them for the punishment of their enemies, and the enemies of God. It is styled "the second death" because multitudes, though not all, who will be injured by it, will have been previously dead. To them who have been dead, and afterwards risen again to life, and after that pass through its preliminary terrors and die again, it is a second death. To that class of the resurrected, and to all living contemporaries, it is THE Second Death, though the last may not have previously died at all. It is the resurrected who are condemned to it that characterize the death as "the second;" if no one who shall be subject to it had ever before died, it would not have been styled "the second;" it is the class that designates the death, and not the death the class.

The second text is in the fourteenth verse of the same chapter. Here we have the death symbolically defined in the words, And the Death and the Invisible were cast into the lake of the fire;" for, says the Spirit, "this is the Second Death." The consuming of the Death and the Invisible in the lake of a certain fire is the Second Death. What lake of fire is this? That mentioned in Apoc. 19:20, into which the Beast and False Prophet are to be cast alive. And what are "the Death and the Invisible"? Whosoever is not found written in the book of the life (Apoc. 20:15). "Death and the Invisible" are used metonymically for the subjects of them, who are to be post-resurrectionally condemned to contemporary and conjoint destruction with the Beast and False Prophet, in the judgments by which these allied powers

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are to be utterly destroyed. "The Death and the Invisible" are the symbols of the unwritten. These, while still living souls, are "dead in trespasses and sins" -- "miserable sinners" by their own confession; and when they cease to breathe, they "die in their sins;" and when they come out of the ground again, they rise in their sins; and as "the wages of sin is death," they come out of where they have been concealed from human ken, heirs of the terrors of the Second Death. What more appropriate by which to represent these dead of the invisible, than by their inheritance, death and invisibility, past and for ever? Hence, unpardoned sinners doomed to the torment of the Second Death, and to subsequent exclusion from life for evermore, are symbolized by "the death and the Hades," or Invisible, and are destroyed with the Beast of Eight Heads and its False Prophet, styled by Jesus, in Matt. 25:41, "the Diabolos and his Angels," in the lake of the fire and brimstone, which he terms to pur to aionion, THE AION-FIRE.

The third place beside our text is Apoc. 21:8. This informs us of the character of the dead "in the Death and the Invisible," who are delivered up for the judgments of the Second Death. They are styled, "the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all the liars, whose part shall be in the lake being caused to burn with fire and brimstone, which is the Second Death." This is a formidable and comprehensive list of criminals. Who of all the clergies of "Christendom," and their pietistic followers will escape condemnation on the ground of exemption from the specifications of the text? Are they not all "unbelievers"? Who among them believe "the Gospel of the Kingdom;" or, believing it, have obeyed it? Are they not all "fearful" to avow and preach what is not popular with the people? Is not whoremongering proverbially "the ministerial sin"? Like priest, like people. Within the pale of the Old Mother of their churches we look for nothing else. And who are sorcerers, and liars, and inventors of lies, but sacramentarians of all sects, who practically give the lie to God in teaching the infusion of "spiritual grace" into the souls of faithless and ignorant infants and adults? "Without faith," saith Paul, "it is impossible to please God;" and by the Spirit, we see from the text before us, the unbelieving are condemned to the fiery indignation and sore punishment of the Second Death.

But we forbear to anticipate more under this head. The epoch of the Second Death will present itself for consideration under the missions of the second and third angels of Apoc. 14:8-11. Sufficient has been said here explanatory of the Second Death in connexion with the epistle to the ecclesia of the Smyrneans to make it intelligible. Not to

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be injured of the Second Death was great consolation to those who lived in constant jeopardy of life for the truth's sake. They might be slain by the sword, but they would rise again; and wield the two-edged sword against the enemy in the execution of "the judgment written" (Psal. 149); yet amid all the dangers, vicissitudes, and terrors of the crisis, they should "not be injured by the Second Death."




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