"I have set before thee this day life and good, death and evil." "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life that both thou and thy seed may live."—Deut. 30:15,19.
The words here quoted are from Moses to Israel. To appreciate these words we must remember that they as a people and all their covenants, etc., had a typical significance. The above words "choose life" seem to imply that Israel was placed upon trial for life or death. But not so, they like all others of the race were already under condemnation of death through Adam's disobedience in the first trial, and could not be placed on full trial again, until redeemed from the first condemnation or curse of death.
God knew that they could not obtain life by keeping the Law, no matter how much they would choose to do so, because they like all others were weak, depraved through the effect of the sour grape of sin which Adam had eaten and which his children had continued to eat. Thus as Paul declares, the Law given to Israel could not give them life because of the weakness or depravity of their fallen nature. Rom. 8:3, Heb. 7:19 and 10:1-10.
Nevertheless God saw a benefit to them from even an unsuccessful attempt to live perfectly; that it would develop them as well as show them the need of the better sacrifice, the ransom, and a greater deliverer than Moses. And with all this it furnished a pattern or shadow of the great second trial insured to the whole world (which Israel typified) secured by the better sacrifices for sin; which was there prefigured, to be accomplished by the great prophet of whom Moses was but a type.
Seeing thus that the trial for life or death presented to Israel was but typical of the great second trial and its issues of life and death—second (or restored) life and second death—may help some to see that the great thousand-year-day of trial, of which our Lord Jesus has been appointed the Judge, contains the two issues, life and death. All will then be called upon to decide, and a choice must be made, and the verdict in the end will be in harmony with the choice expressed by the conduct of each during that age of trial, under most favorable opportunity.
This second trial and its sentence and result is shown also in the words of Moses quoted by Peter (Acts 3:22,23), "A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me. Him shall ye hear [obey] in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul [being] which will not hear [obey] that Prophet [and thus choose life] shall be destroyed from among his people." In few words this draws our attention to the World's second trial yet future. It shows the great Prophet or Teacher raised up by God to give a new judgment or trial to the condemned race which he has redeemed from the first condemnation. It shows too the conditions of the second trial to be righteous obedience, and that with the close of that trial some will be adjudged worthy of the second or restored life, and some worthy of destruction—second death.
Jesus having redeemed all by his perfect and precious sacrifice is the head of [R892 : page 4] this great prophet, and during the Gospel age God has been selecting the members of his body, the little flock, who with Jesus shall be God's agents in judging the world. "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?"—1 Cor. 6:2.
The Lord presents the same matter to our attention in Matt. 25:31-46. There in few words he shows the trial of the world (not the church, which as members of his body are with him in glory during that Millennial reign—judging, ruling and blessing the world), and concluding the illustration of the second trial our Lord also shows the same two classes noted above and their opposite rewards—the one class who obey and come into harmony with his arrangement enter fully into the blessing of the second life, and are therefore called "blessed." The other class with every opportunity obey not, and experience the second condemnation of death, the "second death," and are thus "cursed" or condemned again.
The first trial was of mankind only, and hence its penalty or curse, the first death, was only upon man. But the second trial is to be much more comprehensive. It will not only be the trial of fallen and imperfect mankind, but it will include every other thing and principle and being out of harmony with Jehovah. "God will bring every work into judgment with every secret thing."
The "Judgment to come" will include the judgment to condemnation of all false systems—civil, social, and religious. These will be judged, condemned and banished early in that Millennial Day, the light of truth causing them to come into disrepute and finally to flee away. This judgment comes first in order, that the trial of man may proceed unhindered by error, prejudice, etc. It will include also the trial of "the angels which sinned"—those angels which kept not their first estate of purity and obedience to God. Thus it is written by the apostle of the members of the body of the great Prophet and [R893 : page 4] High Priest who is to be Judge of all—"Know ye not that the saints shall judge angels?"—1 Cor. 6:3.
This being the case, the condemnation of the second trial (destruction, second death) will cover a wider range of offenders than the penalty or curse for failure under the first trial. In a word the second destruction at the close of the second trial is an utter destruction of every being and every thing which will not glorify God and be of use and blessing to his general creation. Thus the second death is to the perfect future age, what Gehenna the Valley of Hinnom—was to the typical city and kingdom of Israel. It will destroy and consume totally whatever is cast into it. (See article Undying Worms and Quenchless Fires.)
Thus seen the second death does not mean simply to die or be destroyed a second time; for some things will be destroyed in the "second death" which never were destroyed before; for instance, Satan never yet died, so it could not mean death a second time to him. So too some of the systems of error which will be destroyed in the Gehenna, which is the second death, never were destroyed before: hence this second death in which they will be destroyed cannot be considered as their destruction a second time. The second death, or destruction, is the name of the destruction which will come upon every evil thing as the result or verdict of the second judgment, the "judgment to come."