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There are other passages in the Bible, not connected with the phrase end of the world, which, by some, are supposed to teach the end of the material universe. Some of them we have referred to in our remarks on the judgment, and also on the phrase last days. But we will now present a few more passages, the first of which is in Rev. 6: 12-17. "And I beheld, when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair; and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind and the heaven departed as a scroll, when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places; and the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bond man, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains: and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" This language is similar to that in the third chapter of 2 Peter, which we have already explained as relating in particular to the end of the aion, or the passing away of the Jewish heavens and earth. Now we, in the first place, make the inquiry, Is this language used in a literal or in a figurative sense? If we consider it literal, then we have the following conclusions: First the earth must have been shaken, at least in some parts of it; for "there was a great earthquake." Second, the earth must have been deprived of light; for "the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood." And, in the third place, the earth must have accomplished the greatest miracle ever known; for the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind." We can conceive the appearance of figs falling to or upon the earth, when furiously driven by the wind; but how to understand the furious beating of the mighty stars of heaven against the (comparatively) small earth, is more than we can conceive of. For it is a fact that the earth still kept her balance and motion. It is not said that the earth was destroyed, or that it departed. The mountains or islands were not destroyed, or removed from the earth; they were only moved out of their places while the kings of the earth, with the
many others, hid themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains, calling upon the same to hide them from the face of him that sat upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. It is said the heavens departed, but not the earth; she still stood, notwithstanding her burden of stars, and made a foothold for the four angels, which John soon after saw standing upon her four corners, holding the four winds, that they should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor any green tree. Another difficulty is to be considered. "The heaven departed as a scroll, when it is rolled together." And where was it? The previous verse tells us that the stars (which constitute the literal heavens) had fallen to the earth. Of course the conclusion must be this: all the mighty hosts of the starry heavens rolled together in one confused mass (having lost the power of gravitation), and, finally, lit upon the earth as a resting-place! This conclusion must, of itself, be perfectly ridiculous. Even one of the stars, on a common average, is much larger than the earth, which fact would literally render it impossible!
But, in viewing these passages, and all others of the like kind, in a figurative sense, we have no great difficulty in understanding them. We have before referred to the language of Joel, as quoted by Peter, and applied to the times in which he lived. See Acts 2: 16, 19, 20, "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel. . . . I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come." Peter assures us that this language was fulfilled in his days; yet the earth, the sun and the moon, still remain. Isaiah uses the same language in describing the judgment about to fall upon Idumea. Isa. 34: 4, 5, "And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; and all their hosts shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as the falling fig from the fig-tree. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven; behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment." The events here described have long since been numbered with the past; yet the heavens and the earth remain. In the text it is said, they called for the rocks and mountains to fall upon them, to hide them, &c. But Jesus uses the same language in allusion to the same horrors which should attend the destruction of Jerusalem.
Luke 23: 30, "Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us." In Luke 21: 22, he says, "For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled." The great day of wrath, in the text, is answered by the days of vengeance, which fell upon the Jewish nation. It is not at all strange that either Christ or John should use such highly figurative language in the above descriptions; for, as we have seen, it was the style of the Eastern nations, in describing the revolutions in civil or ecclesiastical governments, to use bold and metaphorical expressions. Peter has made use of similar language in his second epistle, chap. 3: 7-13, which we have noticed in another place. David also tells us, "The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved he uttered his voice, the earth melted." Whatever else David might have meant by the melting of the earth, he could not have alluded to its literal destruction, for he represents it as already past. In Ps. 97: 5, he says, The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord." In Joel 1: 19, 20, it is said, "O Lord, to thee will I cry for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field. The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness." See, also, Deut. 32: 22—25, “ For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn to the lowest hell (sheol), and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains." That the above language is figurative, and equally as strong as any in the New Testament. will not be disputed.
There is also another class of texts, which may be supposed to imply the literal destruction of heaven and earth; some of which we will briefly notice. In Isa. 51: 6, it is said, "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shal. not be abolished." Ps. 102: 25-27, "Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure : yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shall thou change them, and
they shall be changed. But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end."
It is agreed, by good critics, that according to the Hebrew idiom, when the respective qualities of two objects are compared, the writer uses a direct affirmation in regard to the one, and an abso lute negation in regard to the other. According to this idiom, the Prophet and the Psalmist both expressed in strong terms the abiding nature of God's goodness and salvation, by declaring that they should remain, though the heavens and the earth should pass away. Paul, in Heb. 1: 10, 12, quotes the language of David, and preserves the same style of expression. And let it here be remembered that the language of the New Testament is strongly tinctured with the idiom and style of the Old Testament, or Hebrew writings. The same rule of interpretation in this respect, applies both to the Old and to the New Testament. Matt. 24: 35, says, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Here we see the same style, which establishes the certainty of his word, and only signifies that heaven and earth would sooner pass away than his word prove. false. In Matt. 5: 18, it is said, "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Here it is implied that heaven and earth cannot pass away. The phrase, "till heaven and earth pass away," is evidently a proverbial expression for anything that appears impossible; for Luke says, chap. 16: 17, "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass than one tittle of the law to fail." That heaven and earth should pass away, or perish, seems impossible; equally impossible is it that the smallest part of the law should fail of being fulfilled. Thus, we have seen from the language of scripture, there is no evidence of the destruction of the material world or universe.
ON THE WORD FIRE, AND PHRASES EVERLASTING, ETERNAL, AND UNQUENCHABLE FIRE.
The passages where the word FIRE, and the phrases EVERLASTING, ETERNAL, and UNQUENCHABLE FIRE, occur.
Deut. 32: 22-25. For a fire is kindled in mine anger; and shall burn unto the lowest hell (sheol), and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them. They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust. The sword without and terror within shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also, with the man of gray hairs.
Numb. 21: 28, 29. For there is a fire gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon it hath consumed Ar of Moab, and the lords of the high places of Arnon. Woe to thee, Moab! thou art undone, O people of Chemosh he hath given his sons that escaped, and his daughters, into captivity unto Sihon, king of the Amorites.
Jer. 48 45. They that fled stood under the shadow of Heshbon because of the force but a fire shall come forth out of Heshbon, and a flame from the midst of Sihon, and shall devour the corner of Moab, and the crown of the head of the tumultuous ones.
Ps. 66: 10-12. For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidest affliction upon our loins. Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.
Ps. 83: 13-15. O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind. As the fire burneth the wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire; so persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm.
Ps. 97: 3-5. mies round about
A fire goeth before him (God), and burneth up his ene-