The Spirit of the Word


     The Bible subjects that we have been considering, the Worlds and Ages will be still plainer if we comprehend how the apostle uses the terms, Heaven and Earth.  In 2 Pet. 3 for instance, each of the three worlds are referred to as three distinct heavens and earths. There are the "Old World," (2 Pet. 2:5) the Present World, and the New World, embracing respectively the heavens and earth which "were of old," "the heavens and earth which are now," and "the new heavens and new earth."  Now what is meant by a Heavens and Earth? It appears very plain that these terms are used symbolically, in some spiritual sense, and not in a material; for no change in the material heavens and earth was affected by the flood. Furthermore Peter tells us in the last part of this chapter, that Paul, speaking on this subject, utters "things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrestled, as they do also the other scriptures to their own destruction."  We must have a care then,  that we do not stumble here over the letter, but that we find the true spirit of the Word.  Looking through the Bible we find the terms heaven and earth used symbolically for Power, Authority, Rule, or to represent the Class that has the power or authority in their hands, the ruling class. Thus the word is used with reference to God; "Sing unto God ye kingdoms of the earth; to Him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens, which were of old; lo, he doth send out his voice and that a mighty voice;" i.e. to Him who is high above all other authority, who is supreme; as when we read of Christ, "He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all heavens, that he might fill all things;" i.e. far above all other power and authority; as again we read of "the exceeding greatness of God's power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the coming one." Again God says, "The Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool;" i.e. heaven represents the ruling element, the throne; earth represents the element ruled over, under subjection, the footstool.  As it is written again of Christ, that "after he had offered one enduring sacrifice for sins he sat down on the right hand of God [place of supreme power], from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool," (i.e. put in subjection under him).  All this very clearly indicates the symbolical use of the words heaven and earth; to the same effect see Dan. 4:11,22,26, and Heb. 7:26; still further on earth see Mic. 1:2 and Psa. 96,  and many other passages, showing that this term symbolizes the masses of the people ruled over and governed by the heavens; the ruling class; or the word refers sometimes to the general condition of affairs pertaining to the masses under any particular rule, for an example see Isa. 24:1-12; read this passage and see what a wretched condition the earth (the masses) may get into under misrule and bad government, an evil heavens. From all the foregoing we readily gather the meaning of these two terms, heaven and earth; the former refers to the government, the latter to the governed.

     Now with this meaning in mind we can understand why each World is spoken of as comprising a heavens and earth. Each Kosmos exhibits some particular form of rule (the heavens) and the effects of that rule on the masses (the earth). In the "Old World," before the flood, "the sons of God" were the ruling class, the heavens of that Kosmos, and under their sway, "the earth, became corrupt before God; and the earth was filled with violence; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth;" (Gen. 6:1-13) the earth and all flesh mean one and the same thing, the masses; that World being overflowed with water, perished." In the present World, from the flood to the second advent, we still have an evil heavens and earth; Satan is the Prince of this Kosmos;" (John 14:30) under him are the "wicked spirits in the heavenlies," (Eph. 6:12, margin) i.e. in the place of authority and power; (see also Eph. 2:2; 1 Pet. 5:8) under these "rulers of darkness" are the  corrupt, wicked, and godless governments of the world; so oppressive, tyrannical and cruel that they are represented in the Bible by savage beasts. (Dan. 7:1-7). This is the present heavens. What is the present earth? What else could it be under such a heavens but just what it is, a scene of discord, strife, misery, corruption and death? a chaos of disorder and ruin? "The earth mourneth and fadeth away; the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.  The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant; therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate." (Isa. 24:4-6.). How fitly does this language express the state of affairs in this earth!  Now notice how Micah describes the present heavens, the corrupt, godless, tyrannical governments of this world. "Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grape gleaners of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the first ripe fruit. The good man is perished out of the earth, and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net; [how true] they do evil with both hands earnestly; the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man he uttereth his mischievous desire, so they wrap [hush] it up. The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge. The DAY of thy watchman and thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity." Does not this language exactly describe the condition of things in this world? Especially with reference to those in authority, the "prince," the "judge," and the "great man" and is it not true that the day of God's watchman and his visitation cometh? And already the "perplexity" foretold is racking the brains of thoughtful men, especially of those who hold the reigns of government.  Who cannot see that, looking at it from a human standpoint, the entire fabric of human society is wrong? A colossal blunder? Already tottering to its fall, and destined soon to come tumbling about the ears of those who in their pride and variety have reared it; a second Babel with bricks [man made] for stone, and slime [a rnakeshift substitute] for mortar. (Gen. 11:3). This "great Babylon" (Dan. 4:30) must fall. The "City of Confusion" (Isa. 24:10;  Babylon means confusion) shall be "thrown down and shall be found no more at all." (Rev. 18:21.). The trouble with the present heavens and earth is that it is all wrong. Many vainly think that society can be  mended, reformed, patched up, and so cured; and they have remedies to this effect; cooperation, communism, international congresses, civil service reform, anti-monopoly movements, etc.  But every remedy will fail. "For thus saith the Lord, thy bruise is incurable; and thy wound is grievous. There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up, thou hast no healing medicines." (Jer. 30:12,13.).  If things were tolerably correct generally, and wrong only in certain particulars, then there might be some hope of correcting those particular wrongs: But what will you do when, "They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course" "If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do?" (Psa. 82:5; 11:3.). Nothing, but to tear down, and build again. Hence it is written, "thou [the Son] shalt break them [the nations] with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." If a person is deceased in some particular member, but has vigor and vitality in other respects, the physician undertakes his case with a good hope that he can effect a cure.  But what will he do if "the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint? If from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrifying sores"?  Death in such a case would be a desirable and happy release, and every one would feel that the sooner the loathsome carcass was hid away under ground the better. Such is the condition of the body-politic today; "the heavens and the earth which are now" are corrupt and wicked, hence they "are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." Therefore the heavens and earth are being shaken. God is shaking them, as it is written, "Speak to Zerubbabel, [those "scattered at Babylon"] governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth, and I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them, and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother." And this shaking and destruction is in connection with the coming of "the Desire of all nations." (Hag. 2. See also Heb. 12:25-29.). God's voice (compare Psa. 29) shall "yet once more" shake, not the earth only as at Sinai, but also heaven; "and this word, Yet once more, signifyeth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain." I beIieve that we are living in God's great shaking time; I am sure that we are living in a shaking time, for certainly everything is being shaken, unsettled, and stirred up in these days as never before; and I have no doubt but that this is the very time referred to in the above prophecies; and the result will be "the removing of those things that  are shaken" that only the things that cannot be shaken may remain.  We have seen and are seeing the "signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars," and there certainly is "upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and the waves [the restless masses of the people] roaring," and moreover "men's hearts are failing them for fear, and for looking after those things that are coming on the earth;" and "the powers of heaven," the governments, are being shaken. (Luke 21:25, 26).  And what is the remedy for all this trouble, and the hope of the world in the terrible pass to which things have come?  I answer, nothing short of the advent of Christ to destroy the present evil heavens and earth, and to establish the "New heavens and new earth where in dwelleth righteousness." Let no one deceive himself by supposing that something else will heal the festering sores of the body-politic. Read the fifth chapter of the epistle of James, and see the present times described, and the remedy indicated. Notice the various counts in that awful indictment against society in these "last days." The useless hoarding up of gold and silver; "and the RUST of them shall be a witness against the rich, and shall eat their flesh as it were." It is not the gold and silver that shall be a witness against the rich, but the rust of them, i.e. the disuse of them; hoarding money simply for accumulation and not to use for God's glory and the good of others. Think of the millions of dollars that are lying idle in the banks today while millions of human being suffer for the necessities of life: Another count is the keeping back of "the hire of the laborers by fraud;" labor troubles are among the most serious characteristics of these troublous times. Other counts are the wanton living in pleasure, excess in every direction, injustice and oppression; and now the apostle comes to the remedy. Thank God there is a remedy! What is it? "Be patient, therefore brethren unto," What? unto the time when education, art and science shall civilize and elevate the world, and cure these evils? is that what we are to wait for? Not so speaks the apostle. Does he tell us to be patient unto the time when the nations shall reform themselves, when the relation between labor and capital shall be amicably and righteously settled by governments, legislatures, co-operative societies, or political parties?  Does he tell us to wait until the church wakes up from her sleep of religious ease and worldly comfort and in the strength of God puts down these crying evils, and establishes peace on the earth? Thank God! the apostle tells us to wait for none of these, if he did we should wait forever, for all of these are but parts of the corrupt whole, and each of them just as corrupt as any other part.  Once more we would ask (prompted by a desire to warn the "little flock" against the "lying  wonders" of these degenerate times) does the apostle tell us to be patient unto the time when the world shall learn that matter is but a modification of mind, that sighs, and tears, and groans, are not the product of disease, and sin, and crime, but merely the indications of a distempered mind, a misdirected imagination? when the much vaunted "mental philosophy" shall impart to every one the power to will himself an archangel if he please, and "metaphysical healing shall drive sickness from the planet"? Have we found at last in the "Mind-Cure" system the philosopher's stone that is to transform all the dull dross of this sin stricken world into the pure gold of the kingdom? Alas, alas, this boastful "science, falsely so called, is but another Babel tower, built with brick and slime, whereby to climb to heaven without the help of the ladder that Jacob saw, (Gen. 28:12) which is Jesus Christ (see John 1:51), and is destined to end like all such human schemes in confounding and scattering more and more.. "Vain man would be wise, though he be born like a wild ass's colt." But the wisdom of such wise ones shall perish, and be brought to nothing. (1 Cor. 1:19).  "The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord, and what  wisdom is in them." (Jer. 8:9). How pitiful is the pride-puffed blustering of puny man during his little brief span of life, with schemes great and mighty wherewith to accomplish, nothing. Loud is his bruit while he lives, but soon he "lieth down, and riseth not until the [present] heavens be no more." (Job 14:12). "Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over  them in the morning." (Psa. 49:14). Thank God there is to be a MORNING.  But again we ask, how shall it be ushered in? Surely not by the fitful, fleeting flashing up of man's rush-light luminaries; but by the rising of the "Sun of Righteousness." Hear the apostle, "Be patient therefore, brethren, UNTO THE COMING OF THE LORD." This, THIS is the great event that constitutes not only "The Blessed Hope" of those who "look for Him" (Heb. 9:28), but also the only  hope of the groaning creation. Therefore, brethren, "Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned; behold the judge standeth before the door." God be praised for this bright promise, streaking the darkness of the eastern sky, blessed harbinger of the coming "perfect day."  My soul goes out in most earnest longing as I pray, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus, not only for the deliverance of thine elect, but also, and more if anything, for the deliverance of the whole creation." "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, [here's leveling by Christian communism] and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain, and the GLORY of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken  it." (Isa. 40:4,5).  Let the present heavens and earth go then; the sooner the better. Let the Heavens (wicked governments) pass away with a great noise, and the Elements (Gal. 4:9) melt with fervent heat, and the earth, and the works that are therein be discovered, (2 Pet. 3:10, N.V.*, margin; compare Luke 12:2) and burned up with the "fierce fire of God's jealousy: [a cleansing fire for purification] ( Zeph. 1:14-18; 3:8,9) "Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness;"  and here is the promise, "Behold I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind." (Isa. 65:17). Let us notice some of the things that the Bible reveals about this new heavens and new earth. First, in regard to the new Heavens, i.e. the new government of this new world, the new ruling class. At the head of this government will be Christ, and associated with him as kings, priests, judges and saviors, are the Saints. Satan and his wicked crew are bound and shut up in the abyss, "that he should deceive the nations no more." (Rev. 20:1-3).  Hence "the whole earth is at rest and is quiet; they break forth into singing." (Isa. 14:7). Under these chief rulers, Christ and the Saints, will be subordinate rulers of every grade, righteous, just and incorruptible.  Read Isa. 11 and 12,  for a description of that new order of things. Of the King we read that, "the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness shall he judge the  poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked; and Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and Faithfulness the girdle of his reins." Both Isaiah and John speak of the new heavens and new earth and give descriptions, the difference between them being that Isaiah describes the new earth and John describes the new heaven. That is, John describes the ruling element of the new order of things, while Isaiah describes the condition of the people under that rule.

     In the last two chapters of the Revelation, John describes the new  heavens under the symbol of a magnificent city, the New Jerusalem; this wonderful city we are told is "The Bride, the Lamb's Wife," (Rev. 21:2,9-11) and the description that follows, sets forth to the utmost extent of human language the grandeur and beauty of the glorified Bride, represented by this great city. The Bride is made up of the Overcomers, who are also the kings and priests with Christ, the King of kings, and Great High Priest. (Heb. 8:1). The glowing description of this city indicates the excellency and perfection of that new heavens. Its jasper walls, and pearly gates, its foundations of precious stones, and golden streets are only representations faintly symbolizing the transcendent majesty of that new and perfect government. Every blessing for mankind is represented as flowing out of this grand city. The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the Temple and the Light of it; "and the nations of them that are saved shall walk in the light of it; and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it; and the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there." This is no selfish orthodox heaven, with narrow gates all fast upon a handful of saved, and myriads of the lost eternally wailing round its outer walls; this is a great city with twelve gates, each one wide enough for a regiment to march in abreast, and never shut, thank God! The River of the Water of Life has its source in this city and flows through it, and out of it to give health  and life wherever it flows, (compare Ezek. 47:1-12) and on either side of the River was there the Tree of Life, with its monthly fruitage for meat, and its abundant leafage for the "healing" of the "bruises and sores" of the nations. (Ezek. 47:12, margin.).

     All this describes the goodness and benevolence of the new heavens, the government of the new Kosmos; and now what will be the condition of the people, the new earth under such a government? What else could it be but blessed and glorious? Just so sure as the present evil heavens produces a sin-and-sorrow-cursed earth, so that future righteous heavens shall produce an earth filled with the "peaceable fruit of righteousness." (Heb. 12:11)

     Isaiah describes this new earth [the people], (65:17-25) when there shall be no more sorrow, wrong, or injustice, but "all shall know the Lord," and "all shall be righteous." (Isa. 60:21). "The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea;" war shall be no more; crime shall cease; "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all God's holy mountain (kingdom)." Joy and beauty shall bud and blossom on every hand; "the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carrnel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God." "Instead of the thorn, shall come up the fir tree; and instead of the brier, shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off." The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb; and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them." Everything animate and inanimate is represented as being in harmony  and rejoicing in this state of things.  The Psalmist exclaims "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; fear before him all the earth. Say among the heathen that the Lord reigneth.; the world [the new Kosmos]  shall be established that it shall not be moved; he shall judge the people righteously. Let the Heavens rejoice, and let the Earth be glad; let the sea roar and the fulness thereof; let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together.  Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein; then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord, for he cometh he cometh to judge the earth; "He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth." If you wish to read other descriptions of this new order of things see Psalms 67, 72, 97, 98, and many other passages.  I do not mean to be understood as saying that this perfect condition of the earth will be effected instantaneously, but this will be the ultimate result under the sway of that godlike heavens, Christ and his Saints. God speed the joyful day when "this present evil world" (Gal. 1:5) shall pass away, with all its sin, misery, corruption and death, and give place to that bright era of glory and blessedness; when, "Mercy and Truth shall meet together, and righteousness and peace shall kiss each other;" when "Truth shall spring out of the Earth and righteousness shall look down from Heaven, and the Lord shall give that which is good, and our land shall yield her increase, and Righteousness shall go before Him, and shall set us in the way of His steps."  (Psa. 85:9-13).

     I have thus endeavored to set forth the meaning of these terms Heaven and earth; I think I have given the Bible teachings on this subject, and with the foregoing explanation in mind we can readily understand the apostle when he speaks of "the heavens and the earth which are now," and the "new heavens and new earth." With the previous articles on Age and World in mind, we shall have the whole subject in hand. We can understand that a World (kosmos) is a system, arrangement, or order of things, embracing a distinct heavens and earth; i.e., having a particular form of rule, or government, and exhibiting a certain condition of the people under that rule. We can also understand how that each world includes several Ages, during which that particular heavens and earth holds sway, and God's plan as it pertains to his people, is being developed.. "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that we look for such things, let us be diligent that we may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless."

i.e. New Version; refers to The English Revised Version of 1881-1885 (RSV)

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