THE LEAVES OF THE TREE
Question: Revelation 22:2 says, "The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." Yet 21:4 says, "And death will be no more, nor will there be sorrow or crying or pain anymore; for the former things have passed away." Why does 22:2 mention the healing of the nations? Since there is healing, there surely must be the flesh, which brings in sickness, pain, and death. In the new heaven and new earth, will we have a spiritual body or a fleshly body?
Answer: In the new heaven and new earth, man will be divided into two classes, the kings and the citizens, just like it is in the millennium. Please differentiate between "peoples" in 21:3 and "son" in 21:7. The sons will dwell in the city; they are the glorified saints throughout the ages. They will have a spiritual body. But the "nations" and the "peoples" will still have fleshly bodies. They will be the ones transferred from the millennium. There will still be the fleshly body, but there will be no death, sickness, etc. Since there is the fleshly body, there will inevitably be weaknesses, even though there will be no sickness and death. The leaves of the tree of life are for "the healing of the nations." By eating the leaves, they will forever be strong on the new earth. For the overcoming believers, they will not eat the leaves, but the fruits (2:7). Praise the Lord!
WHO ARE THE DOGS?
Question: Revelation 22:15 says, "Outside are the dogs." According to A Commentary of the New Testament, these dogs refer to the evil nature of the sinners. Can sinners still exist then? Will there not be a restoration to the condition of Eden before the fall? Where will sin be? It will surely not be in the cleansed Christians who have passed through all the tribulations and trials. Will not the sinners be thrown into the lake of fire as recorded in the last two verses of chapter twenty? (Wong, Singapore)
Answer: It is true that the dogs refer to the sinners. It is also true that the new heaven and the new earth will be a restoration of the condition in Eden. It is likewise true that sinners will be thrown into the lake of fire, and that there will be no sin in the new heaven and new earth. In the new heaven and new earth, there will only be the saved ones. But you misunderstand this verse a little. If you compare this verse with 21:8 you will find out where the sinners are; they are in the lake of fire. Revelation 22:15 tells us where the lake of fire is; it is on the new earth. The sinners are in the lake of fire, and they are also outside the city. This means that the lake of fire must be outside the city. In the old days Sodom was close to Jerusalem. Therefore, hell should be close to the New Jerusalem. In the new earth there will be a place which is the lake of fire. The lake of fire is an actual place. What a warning this is!
THE GOATS IN MATTHEW 25
Question: Will the kingdom of the goats go directly into hell? (Lee, Kiangsu)
Answer: According to Matthew 25:41, they should go directly to hell. The "eternal fire" cannot be explained any other way. A companion passage to this verse is Matthew 13:47-50. There it clearly says "the furnace of fire."
CONCERNING 1 PETER 3:19 AND 4:6
Question: How do you explain 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6?
Answer: In order to understand 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6, we must first know who the "sons of God" are in Genesis 6.
The "sons of God" are the angels because: (1) The whole Old Testament only mentions the sons of God a few times (in Job and Daniel). Except in this case, where nothing is explicitly said about them, all the other cases refer to angels or supernatural beings. (2) Some brothers say that the "sons of God" were the descendants of Seth, while the "daughters" were the descendants of Cain. If this is true, how could Cain beget daughters only, and Seth beget males only? (3) Seth cannot be apart from the "men" in verse 2. (4) The "sons of God" are versus the "men" in the same verse. This means that they were not men. (5) If we say that the "men" in verse 2 were the descendants of Cain, should not the "men" in verse 1 mean the same thing? (6) In verse 3 the word "also" indicates that those who were of flesh were not limited to men only. "For that he [man] also is flesh." This indicates that there were some who were not men who were of the flesh already. Some brothers argue that angels are not distinguished by sex, and that they neither marry nor are given to marriage. But Matthew 22:30 does not say explicitly that there is no distinction between male and female angels. No clear indication can be found from other Scriptures either. Therefore, we cannot say for sure if there are male and female angels. Even if there is no distinction of sex, does not the Scripture often use the pronoun he instead of she to describe the angels? This proves that at least the angels tend to be masculine. There is then no difficulty in saying that they could marry the daughters of men. Since angels do not have a body, it is even more understandable that they attached themselves to the human body. If our Lord only said that angels do not marry in Matthew 22:30, it would be difficult to assume that "sons of God" are angels. But did not the Lord say, "angels in heaven"? This means that only the angels who kept their place and dared not leave their posts (Jude 6) do not marry; all the others do. Many manuscripts have the words "of God" after the word "angels" in Matthew 22:30. This further proves that those who are not of God are not characterized by such description.
We can now return to our main subject. First Peter 3:19 and 4:6 do not teach that there is another chance for repentance after a man dies. If a man is not saved now, he will never be saved. The "spirits in prison" in 3:19 are not humans. The word spirits in the Bible does not always refer to man. There are two uses of the word spirit: (1) it refers to the evil spirits, and (2) it refers to man’s spirit. This expression is continued in the next verse which shows that these spirits were the disobedient ones at the time of Noah.
Therefore, our conclusion is that these spirits are the angels who have sinned. They have left their place and come to the world to marry humans. They did not obey God and were destroyed by the flood; their spirits went down into Tartarus and are waiting for their judgment to come. (The testimony of 2 Peter 2:4 through 5 matches our interpretation. The word hell in the Chinese Union Version is a mistranslation. The Hebrew word is Tartarus, which refers to the heart of the earth.) These angels sinned in the likeness of man. When man sinned against God, the Lord Jesus came to accomplish redemption. Since these ones were in the likeness of man (taking human bodies and marrying the daughters of men), and since they sinned as men did, they could be redeemed just the same way that man could.
According to the above interpretation of 1 Peter 3:19, the meaning of 4:6 should become very obvious. (We cannot interpret the words "those who are now dead" spiritually and consider these ones to only be spiritually dead because: (1) there is no basis for allowing such a spiritual interpretation, and (2) the word "also" rules out such an interpretation. The tone of this word implies something special. It is common and natural to preach the gospel to those who are spiritually dead, and there is nothing special about this. Since it says, "the gospel was announced also to those who are now dead," it implies that these dead ones were special and not men who are dead in sin.) The dead here does not refer to dead men, but to the above-mentioned angels who had sinned. The gospel was preached also, or even, to them. Therefore, it was something special. It is indeed special to preach the gospel to the angels. "Was announced" means that the gospel was preached to them but is no longer preached to them. Christ went to Tartarus to preach the gospel to them once. The result was that their flesh, the body to which they attached themselves at the time they sinned, was judged "according to men." (The expression "according to men" further proves that they were not men, but were only judged according to men.) Their spirits, "the spirits in prison" will live according to God. Therefore, after Christ preached to them, they believed and were saved. However, they are still detained in Tartarus until the coming day (2 Pet. 2:4).
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 07: The Christian (5), Chapter 12, by Watchman Nee)