Brethren Archive

Man’s Future State

by John Ritchie


FOREWORD

The subjects which are dealt with in the following pages engage the attention of very many who bear the Christian name at the present time. Numerous errors abound and increase regarding them, disturbing the minds of those who are not well established in the truth. The trend of present-day preaching is, to claim a liberality of thought, and a liberty to receive or reject whatever does not accord with current opinions, which Scripture does not allow, on matters concerning which God alone can speak. It is ours to listen and learn, not to criticise or reply against God.

Thirty six years ago, the writer passed through a season of deep exercise concerning the destiny of man, and was cast upon the Word of God for help. The issue of that experience, with what was gathered from the Word, appears in these pages. There is no attempt at being profound. The book is written for the simple, to whom, as we read, “the entrance” of God’s words “gives understanding” (Ps. 119:130). In order to keep the text as free as possible from reference to erroneous teachings in which the ordinary reader may not be interested the examination of these has been carried to an Appendix, in which, so far as seemed for general profit, they have been dealt with.

Let the reader take his Bible, and in the spirit of these noble Bereans, of whom we read in Acts 17:11, who “searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so,” go through these pages with the desire to “Prove all things, and hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).

J.Ritchie

Kilmarnock, August 1912.

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Few Biblical subjects have received greater attention during recent years than that of Man’s Future State. Godly inquiry among the children of God, with reverent study of the Scriptures, has led to a fuller knowledge of what awaits both the redeemed and the unregenerate in the intermediate, disembodied state which is entered upon at death, and in that final and eternal, bodily condition, upon which at resurrection all shall enter, and in which they shall for ever abide.

Idle curiosity in forbidden spheres, and vain speculations on things concerning the future life, have ensnared their victims in many networks of error, while others, having turned from the Word of God, which is the only reliable source of information on such themes, to be occupied with human fables, have been drawn into the vortex of latter day delusions “of seducing spirits” and “doctrines of demons,” of which the Scriptures warn us.

The enemies of God and His truth manifest an ever-increasing activity in originating and spreading new forms of seductive error on subjects relating to man’s future existence, some of them set forth with amazing confidence and often cleverly garnished with distorted and misinterpreted Scripture, to mislead the untaught and deceive the unwary.

Our aim in these chapters will be to gather from the Sacred Word what is there revealed to faith, on the transcendent truths of our departure from the present world, and the state which is to be entered after death. Our aim will be to examine the words used by the Divine Author to describe the Christian’s mode and manner of exodus from his present mortal condition, and his entrance upon that intermediate state which lies between Death and Resurrection; to gather what God has been pleased to tell regarding it, and to learn the whole testimony of Scripture regarding the final state beyond resurrection, of both saved and unsaved. As we thus seek through grace to become acquainted with the things amid which we are so soon to be, may it be with the sincere desire to have their holy influence and power present with us, in what remains of earthly life and service here.

Surely such truths are, or ought to be, of surpassing interest to all the children of God on earth, so soon to stand amid these realities, either as unclothed spirits “absent from the body,” or in resurrection power and glory clothed upon with their house from heaven.” Like the emigrant eager to catch the first glimpse of the shore to which his vessel approaches, which he has already heard of with the hearing of the ear, but which he now desires to see, so may the heaven-bound voyager across life’s rough sea, be, by the consideration of these things in which he is so soon to share, caused thereby to “set his affection on things above” (Col. 3:1). Like the footsore traveller, nearing the longed-for home upon which his heart has long been set, where loved ones wait to bid him welcome, so may we become increasingly interested in, and dominated by the power of these eternal verities, so little cared for or sought after by men who know not God. How infinitely great and vast becomes the company of the dead, both saved and unsaved, as the years roll on! Since the day that “righteous Abel” passed from the scene of his parents’ fall, and of his own salvation through faith in a coming Redeemer (Heb. 11:4), how many millions of Adam’s race have passed from the present to the future life!

How great is the power that preserves them, and the authority that claims them, as exercised by Him who proclaims Himself to be “Lord of both the dead and the living” (Rom. 14:9)!

And how soon those who have fallen asleep, and we who remain in mortal bodies, may experience that coming act of Divine power, which in a moment, shall bring the righteous dead from their graves in the image of the heavenly, and change the living, fashioning them like unto their Lord! May the consideration of these great, these transcendent truths as they are revealed in the Word, be received reverently, and held fast in that “faith and love which is in Christ Jesus,” and so operate on heart and life, that—

            “Watching and ready may we be,

                As those who wait their Lord to see.”

 

 

MAN IN LIFE AND IN DEATH

Man’s earthly life is likened in its brevity to a “handbreadth” (Psa. 39:5), in its swiftness to the passing of “a weaver’s shuttle” (Job 7:6), in its impair to a “shadow that declineth” (Ps. 102:11). But the “life that now is” (1 Tim. 4:8), so brief and so uncertain, does not comprise the whole of man’s existence. Unlike the beasts that perish, he has been formed for endless being. He continues to exist after death, although no longer in mortal flesh as an inhabitant of this present world. The ancient patriarch in his far-off day exclaimed, as he beheld the passing of one generation after another, “Man dieth and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?” (Job 14:10). To this question, God alone can give an answer, it is not in man to supply information regarding the life beyond. The present world is his realm. He is of the earth, earthy. Formed to inhabit, explore, and investigate the world in which he is placed, but beyond its borders he cannot see. All attempts of man while here in mortal flesh, to pry into the spirit world are vain. There is only One who inhabiteth Eternity (Isa. 57:17), to whom the world to come is as well known as is the present, before whom the past, the present, and the future lie equally open—the Ever-existing Omniscient, Omnipresent God. And He who knows all things, has revealed and recorded in His Holy Word all that He deems it good for man in his present state to know, regarding his future state and his final destiny.

The Agnostic confesses that concerning such subjects he knows nothing at all, for he refuses to accept the revelation that God has given.

The Spiritualist not being satisfied with the measure of revelation regarding man’s future state which God has given in His Holy Word, seeks to gratify his morbid craving for fuller knowledge in forbidden ways, which the Scripture warns us against (Lev. 19:31; 20:6; 2 Chr. 33:6).

When such warnings are unheeded, the irreverent seeker falls a victim to the deception of demons (1 Tim. 4:1), who impersonate the dead to deceive the living.

 

Man a Triune Being

As originally created, and while the Adamic race continues, man as living in mortal flesh on earth is composed of “spirit and soul and body” (1 Thess. 5:23). He may be, and is in the language of Scripture, identified with either, according to the aspect of truth being revealed or recorded.[1] He usually is identified with his body when his relation to his fellows and the material world is in view, and with his “soul” or “spirit” when his relation to God and the world beyond the present is under consideration.

The Lord Jesus, although free from all taint and result of Adam’s sin and man’s inherited fallen nature, ever “without blemish and without spot,” did in His incarnation become complete and true Man, possessing spirit (Luke 23:46), soul (Matt. 26:38), and body (Heb. 10:5). And these three component parts belong to man whether viewed as innocent, fallen, or redeemed, and will, as long as the Adamic race continues.

The story of man’s creation is simply and clearly given by the Creator Himself in Genesis 1:26-27—“Let Us make man in Our image after Our likeness.” Other forms of life had already been brought forth in the “waters” and in “the earth” at the Divine Creator’s word, but here in Man’s creation, Elohim—“The Triune God”—acts deliberately, unitedly, and directly. And what is recorded in Genesis 1:26-27, is described in detail in Genesis 2:7-25.

MAN’S BODY was formed of the dust of the earth, and it is said concerning it, “Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:19). This lifeless form is not the man, it is but his “tabernacle” or “earthly house” (2 Cor. 5:1), which he may “put off” (2 Pet. 1:14), and from which he may be “absent” (2 Cor. 5:8). It is said to be a “mortal body” (Rom. 8:11), that is, subject to death. Men may kill it (Matt. 10:28), and it may see corruption (Acts 13:36), from which condition it will be delivered at resurrection (John 5:28-29). Materialists and some who claim the Christian name say that the body is the man, and that death is the total extinction of man’s being.[2] But this is absolutely untrue (see Matt. 10:28; Acts 7:59).

MAN’S SOUL was, as we are informed in Genesis 2:7, derived from the inbreathing of his Creator. “The Lord God . . . breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” This raises him far above the brute creation, which, although they are said to have “soul” (Gen. 1:20, mar.), do not derive it from the inbreathing of the Creator. Of man only it is said that he is “the offspring of God” (Acts. 17:28), His image and glory (1 Cor. 11:7), formed to have dominion over all God’s other works. And all this is true of man now, as surely as it was of man in his innocence. By his fall he lost much, but not either of his component parts, nor his place of supreme superiority above the animal creation. To the soul is ascribed the functions of loving (1 Sam. 17:1), hating (2 Sam. 5:8), desiring (Job 23:13), longing (Ps. 84:2). It is the soul that is said to sin (Mic. 6:7), for it atonement is made (Lev. 17:11), and the Word declares of the work of Christ, “When thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed” (Isa. 53:10).

MAN’S SPIRIT is his highest part, linking him directly with God. The spirit of man “which is in him” (1 Cor. 2:11), is not transmitted by earthly parent to his descendants, but is given by God to each individual (Eccl. 12:7). Hence He is called, “the Father of spirits” (Heb. 12:9), the God of “the spirits of all flesh” (Nurn. 16:22)—which is equivalent to saying of all men, for it is the possession of “spirit” formed within him (Zech. 12:1) by his God, a separate entity in each individual, that makes man a responsible being. The beasts who lack it are not. It also gives the capacity for intercourse with God who is “a Spirit”—a capacity which no part of the lower creation possesses. To the spirit is ascribed intelligence, understanding, and judgment. It can “know” (1 Cor. 2:11), be stirred (Acts 17:16), and provoked (Ps. 106:33), and in it moral qualities are said to inhere, such as a “right spirit” (Ps. 2:10), a “meek and quiet spirit” (1 Pet. 3:4), a “spirit in which there is no guile” (Ps. 32:2).

 

Man in Life

While spirit, soul, and body continue in harmonious relations, each performing its functions, the man is said to be in LIFE—as that word is ordinarily used. When they cease to so act, and disrupt, then the trinity breaks up, and that condition is reached which we call DEATH. Neither of the three parts become extinct, but their disruption breaks up the man—the MAN dies. Then the body returns to dust, “the spirit unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). The former we know by sight, the latter comes to us as a revelation from God, which faith accepts and unbelief denies. A popular scientist writer has told us that “The word life yet wanders through science without a definition,” and another informs us that “no rigid definition of life appears to be at present possible.” Perhaps. But the living, healthy man, knows and enjoys the thing that science is unable to define. Annihilationists, and all materialists, who deny man’s endless being, and the conscious existence of the soul as apart from the body, tell us that life is just “existence,” and that death is “non-existence.” This is not so. The words are not synonymous. Life is a condition of existence, but many things exist without life. The pen with which I write has existence; the hand that holds it has existence too; but it has more, it has life. Those who advocate “Conditional Immortality,”[3] continually assume that life and existence are synonymous. If this be admitted, then death must be the termination of existence. But this it is not, for we are told by God in His Word, “It is appointed unto men once to die and AFTER THIS the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Had death ended man’s existence, there would be nobody left to be judged.

 

 

WHAT IS DEATH?

The answer given by Science to this question is, that it is a “cessation of correspondence with environment.” This is too dense for ordinary folk, and does not help any to a better understanding of the subject. Annihilationists tell us it is a “ceasing to exist,” which is simpler, if it were true. Christadelphians and other Materialists aver that death is “extinction of being”—or in the language of Job 10:19, which they call to their aid, to “be as though we had not been.” When we turn to the Word of God, we get from the lips of the Lord Jesus His own definition of death in plain and simple terms. He says, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). Death then is not extinction, but the casting off by the living germ of its outer husk. The seed sown is “not quickened except it die” (1 Cor. 15:36). So death to the Christian is likened to “the putting off” of his “tabernacle” (2 Pet. 1:14), the dissolution of his “earthly house” (2 Cor. 5:1.), while the living tenant removes to be “absent from the body,” but “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8, R.V.); “to be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23). Death is not the goal of man’s existence, but only a crisis, a crossing or a junction on his road. Natural death is the separation of the spirit and soul from the body, spiritual death is the separation of the man from his God. The unregenerate are said to be already “dead in sins” (Eph. 2:1), yet terribly alive and active, walking in “the course of this world” (v. 2), “serving diverse lusts and pleasures” (Tit. 3:2). “Alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18), yet terribly alive in their “enmity against” Him (Rom. 8:7). The prodigal was fully alive in the days of his riotous living, and conscious enough when he sat by the swine-troughs in the far country, yet on the day of his return and reconciliation, his father said, “my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:32). The wanton, pleasure-loving woman is said to be “dead while she liveth” (1 Tim. 5:6). To be away from God is regarded by Him as to be in death: to hear His Word and believe on Him who sent His Son is to have “passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). The unbelieving sinner “hath not life,” and “shall not see life,” yet he exists now, and shall for ever under Divine wrath (John 3:36).

 

Death, the Penalty of Sin

The apostle tells us in Romans 5:12, that “By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men.” This tells how death first entered the world; it came as the dread penalty of sin. The warning given concerning “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” to the first pair in Eden, in the time of their testing was—“In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). What was this death? Was it natural death, the separation of the soul from the body? It could not have been, for we are told that “Adam lived nine hundred and thirty years” (Gen. 5:5) after his fall. Did God fail to inflict the penalty He had pronounced? If He did, then Satan surely spoke the truth when he said, “Ye shall not surely die.” But the Word of God was verified, and on the very day of Adam’s sin, death entered “by sin,” causing a dread separation of the creature from the Creator, making an awful rupture of the intimate relations which had existed between the man and his God. This was what drove Adam to hide behind a tree, and caused the Creator to ask, “Adam, where art thou?” Thus death came, and has continued ever since. Man has become separated from his God, yet he exists. This is death, in its first and most awful form, involving in its consequences the death of the body, and in those who live and die without Christ, the second death (Rev. 20:14), which is separation from God of the entire being, spirit, soul, and body, for ever. This must be the doom of all who reject the remedy, and despise the free gift of God, which is eternal life (Rom. 6:23).

 

Death in Old Testament Times

The words of the woman of Tekoa, “We must needs die” (2 Sam. 14:14) fitly express the hope of saints in times before the Cross. Death to them was like a gloomy tunnel into which they saw their kindred pass, but from which none had ever emerged to tell their experiences there. It was to them like an unknown territory, which had not been explored. In our school days, there was a large tract of Africa marked “Sahara.” This was all that could be said about it, before the explorer’s foot had covered it. But time has changed that region, or our knowledge of it. The explorer and the geographer have been there, and now we know something of its extent, its great rivers and its peoples. It is being covered with railways, and very soon what was once only known as “Unexplored Territory” on a map, will be as well known as many parts of the homeland. Such was death, and what lay beyond it, to those of ancient time.[4] Men of faith like David, had glimpses of a “glory” beyond (Ps. 73:24), but the common language of man respecting death was generally gloomy and sad. Hezekiah “wept sore” (2 Ki. 20:3) when he was told he must die. They spoke of Sheol, or the spirit world, to which they knew they would pass after death (see Gen. 37:35), as a place of rest from labour (Job 3:17), but of silence and darkness. For the light that now shines on these regions from the Cross and the pages of a fuller revelation in the New Testament, had not then begun to break forth. It awaited, like much else, the coming of the Son of God, His passage through the realm of death as a Conqueror, and that great triumph of redemption which He was to accomplish.[5]

 

Death Abolished

By His death on the Cross, the Lord Jesus “abolished death” (2 Tim. 1:10), that is, He annulled it, rendered it “powerless,” for all His own. No longer is death to them “the King of terrors,” nor even a “debt of nature” that they must pay, for some will go as we are told in 1 Corinthians 15:51, “without dying.” To those believers who pass through “the valley of the shadow,” there is the Lord’s promise, that they shall never SEE death (John 8:51), which means, that they shall never see it as sinners must, in all its power and terror. For them its “sting” has been withdrawn (1 Cor. 15:56). In them there is a life, over which death has no claim, which passes in triumph through its broken gates. They are possessors of the life of Him who conquered death and carries its keys (Rev. 1:18). For the Christian, death has been “abolished” judicially at the Cross, and will be so actually (see 1 Cor. 15:26, where the same word is used) in the final triumph of Christ, in His power and glory. Now life and incorruptibility have been “brought to light” (2 Tim. 1:10, R.V.), or had light cast upon them—“through the Gospel,” as it is now “preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven” (1 Pet. 1:12). The realm of death, no longer enshrouded in darkness, presents no fears to the believing soul. Paul desired to “depart,” and thousands since have passed through its gates in triumph and in song to “the land of the living.” Their spirits rest with Christ beyond death, while their bodies await the triumph shout of the returning Lord, who will call all His own to share His triumph in that day of “the redemption of the body” (Eph. 4:30; Rom. 8: 23).

 

 

THE CHRISTIAN’S DEPARTURE, And the terms in which it is Described

A brief examination of the various words employed by the inspired writers, to describe the departure of the Christian from the present life, and his entrance upon that state which follows it, will enable us to learn something of what God has revealed concerning it, and to eschew the many prevalent errors and traditional beliefs which are common regarding it. On all such matters the Word of God alone can give us reliable information. We should seek to come to it with minds divested of human reasonings which darken counsel, and hinder us from learning the truth of God as revealed to faith. There are few Scriptural subjects concerning which more speculation has been indulged, and erroneous views let loose than on this, which may well warn us of the need for restrained imaginings and of reverent inquiry in the spirit of those who sit before the Lord, not to criticise His ways, but to receive His Word unto edification. Of the various terms employed by the Spirit, the one most perverted by the advocates of error, is that of falling asleep.

FALLING ASLEEP.—Death to the believer is described as “falling asleep.” The figure is used of man as identified with his body, and the activities of life in the flesh, while in the present world. The word “sleep” is never used in Scripture to describe an experience of the soul. “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth” (John 11:11), refers to that state from which the Lord was about to awake His “friend” by resurrection. “Many bodies of the saints which slept, arose” (Matt. 27:52), clearly shows its application to the body. Stephen “fell asleep” (Acts 7:60), and thus ended his testimony and suffering. “Devout men” carried his bleeding body to the grave, while his ransomed spirit had been received by the “Lord Jesus” (v. 59). When it is said David “fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers and saw corruption” (Acts 13:36), the reference is clearly to his body, for such could not be used concerning his soul and spirit. Of the witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection it is said, “some are fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:6), which means, that they had ceased to be among those who on earth bore witness to the resurrection of Christ, not that their spirits had become non-conscious or extinct. Nowhere in the Word is “sleep”[6] used of the soul or spirit, or to describe a condition of non-consciousness or non-existence between death and resurrection, it is the word used by the Spirit to describe the close of the Christian’s day of toil on earth, his release from pain and suffering which, even should it come by cruel martyrdom, is only as the “putting to sleep” of an infant in its mother’s arms. But as in natural sleep, the sleeper is not only alive, but capable of receiving communications from God (see Acts 10:9-16), and of holding intercourse with heavenly messengers (Matt. 1:20), so the spirit, freed from the mortal body in which for a season it dwelt, may, and as many Scriptures teach, does learn of the Lord many things to which in days of earthly life it was a stranger. When Moses and Elias appeared on the holy mount, we are told they were “talking with Jesus” (Matt. 9:4), and the subject of their intercourse, as the evangelist tells us was “His decease, which He should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31). When Paul was “caught up” for a brief season into paradise, he there heard and saw more than he could utter (2 Cor. 12:4), which may surely teach us that the absence of the body and its senses will not hinder fuller “revelations of the Lord” and closer intercourse with Him and His own, than are known in the present life.

DECEASE.—“After my decease” (2 Pet. 1:15), “departure” (R.V.). The word here used by Peter to describe his death is the word used in Luke 9:31 of the Lord’s own “decease,” of which Peter had heard Moses and Elias speak. The word is used in Hebrews 11:22 of the Exodus of Israel, and their departure from Egypt. Thus at death the believer ceases to be longer seen on earth among men, he departs, he makes his exodus, and goes forth to other regions. That is something wholly different to being unconscious or non-existent.

DISSOLUTION.—“If our earthly house[7] of this tabernacle were dissolved” (2 Cor. 5:1). “I must put off this my tabernacle” (2 Pet. 1:13). Here, both Paul and Peter distinguish between the frail tent or tabernacle, and the dweller who inhabits it. Like the tent of the wayfarer who “tarrieth for a night,” it must be taken down or put off. The tent is struck, but the traveller moves on. He may exist in this tabernacle or out of it. The metaphor is at once simple and expressive. In Eastern lands, travellers and herdsmen pitch their frail tents for a few brief hours. In the evening they dot the plain: in the morning their place is empty: the traveller has struck his tent and passed on. So pass the heaven-born and heaven-bound pilgrim host, one by one, from the land of their strangership, and the place of their warfare, to their rest with Christ.

UNCLOTHED.—“Not for that we would be unclothed” (2 Cor. 5:4). Here the imagery changes to the putting off and putting on of bodily apparel. Three conditions are clearly in view in these verses.(1) “In the body,” groaning for deliverance, waiting for the Lord’s coming. This is the condition in which all living believers now are. (2) To be “unclothed” by death, absent from the body, yet not extinct, but “present with the Lord.” This is what all who have died in faith have reached. Their bodies are dissolved, their unclothed spirits are with Christ. (3) “To be clothed upon” with our house from heaven at the Lord’s coming to raise the dead and change the living. None of the redeemed of this or former ages has yet reached this condition. It is yet future, waiting for the hour of the Lord’s return. The terms “unclothed,” “naked”—or as it is sometimes named, “The Intermediate State,” is applied to the second of these conditions, of which no very full description is given in Scripture. Resurrection, rather than dissolution is the Christian’s proper hope.

DEPARTURE.—“Having a desire to depart and to be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23). “The time of my departure is at hand” (2 Tim. 4:6). Here a word is used which has in it the idea of being set free, of loosing a cable, of weighing an anchor, of unmooring a ship, so that the voyager may depart for another shore. Such was Paul’s ardent “desire” when he wrote his letter to the Philippians. In his closing words to Timothy, that desire had become fact, and the time of his departure, of his “unmooring” from earth, had actually come. Happy it is for the Christian when his attachment to earth and earthly things is so light that his unmooring[8] is easy. Thus death, which to the apostle in one aspect was a cruel martyrdom, in another, was but a setting sail for that Homeland upon which his heart had so long been set, the gladsome exchange of a cheerless Roman prison, with its coarse soldier warder, for the bright and radiant presence of the living Lord, and the spirits of the just; the being “with Christ,” which he well knew to be “very far better” than even his most hallowed hours in communion with or service for the Lord here. This is the Christian view of death, and the departure of the out-going saint from his life-long companion, is well expressed in the lines—

            “As I stand by the Cross on the lone mountain’s crest,

                Looking over the ultimate sea,

            In the gloom of the mountain a ship lies at rest,

                And one sails away from the lea;

            One spreads its white wings on a far reaching tack,

                With pennant and sheet flowing free,

            One hides in the shadow with sails laid aback—

                The ship that is waiting for me.”

Death is sometimes spoken of as if it were a coming into the harbour, but the language of Scripture is rather that of a going forth, a setting sail into a wider and fuller life, that for which the saint is re-created, as the ship is formed for the sea.

AT HOME WITH THE LORD.—“Absent from the body, to be present (at home, R.V.) with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8), or as it has been rendered in two words, “exhomed” and “enhomed,” fittingly occurring thrice in this passage. No longer on pilgrimage in life’s dreary wilderness, but “at home.” No more a voyager on life’s ocean, but safe in port. In such terms of human bliss, is summed up the perfect rest, the unbroken fellowship, the untold delight of that condition, upon which so many of the Lord’s loved and redeemed people have already entered—a condition, not yet of final resurrection, power and glory, but of bliss and companionship with Christ and loved ones gone before. Of this, present day errors and ruthless denials of Divine revelation would fain deprive us, telling us that at death we enter on a long unconsciousness, knowing nothing until the hour of resurrection. As if death could take from those who already possessed it, that “life eternal” which is to “know God and His Son Jesus Christ” (John 17:3), a life that knows no break, no hiatus from the hour it is received at new birth, on to eternal ages, over which death has no power. And death is not the Christian’s goal. The grave is not his long home.

            O false, ungrateful world, to call the grave

                “Man’s last long home”;

            ’Tis but a lodging held from day to day,

                Till Christ shall come.

            It is a store of which Christ keeps the key,

                Where in each cell

            Are laid in hope, the vestments of the saints

                With Him that dwell.

 

 

THE INTERMEDIATE STATE

A writer of the last century remarks—“The Christian’s entrance to the invisible world may be to all a surprise, but the prospect of it ought not to be to any a fear.” This is a true witness. Yet the fear of death among mankind is almost universal. It is expressed in the sayings of men in all conditions of life. It is impressed on the pages of the literature of all ages. Heathen and professedly Christian writers alike confess their aversion to death. Lord Byron, who sought to get all the pleasure a man of the world can get out of life, wrote—

            “Oh God, it is a fearful thing,

            To see the human soul take wing,

                In any shape, in any mood.”

Yet it was of this very thing that Paul said, “Having a desire to depart,” and “to die is gain.” This is how the Christian, the man who knows and is “in Christ,” is able to view death. He stands in Christ, beyond and above it. There is no place for fear in him. The living Lord, who has “abolished death” as a penalty, and extracted its sting as an enemy, is never nearer to His own, than when the hour of their dissolution draws near. Then it is that, upheld by the might of His arm, and consoled by the love of His heart, the “man in Christ” (2 Cor. 12:1) triumphantly sings, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for THOU art with me” (Ps. 23:3). He has in possession a life over which death has no power, and all that remains to be done is for the tie that holds it in the mortal vessel to be loosed. Then the ransomed and unclothed spirit passes instantly into a state of conscious and intelligent bliss, in the immediate presence of the Lord, and the holy and congenial company of the spirits of the just (Heb. 12:23). There is no reckoning of time in the passage of the spirit from its earthly tent to its heavenly home “with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8, R.V.). For although in times before the Cross, angels “carried” the spirits of the righteous to “Abraham’s bosom,” there to be “comforted” (Luke 16:22), neither the mode of transition nor the place of the departed is so mentioned, since the great Forerunner Himself entered heaven itself by another route, and was “carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:51). So now do His saints pass quickly from the place of their present sojurn, to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8, R.V.). All this was exemplified in the rapture of Paul into paradise, who in this, as in much else, is a “pattern” (1 Tim. 1:16) of the saints of the present time. He was “caught up,’ (2 Cor. 12:4) “into paradise,” the present abode of the dead in Christ (Luke 23:43). There is no detention in any intermediate “Purgatory” for purification from sin, nor is there any need of it. Cleansing and renewal are experiences of earth, and all who belong to Christ already know their blessedness. They already know the regenerating and renewing of the Spirit. They already stand “once purged” (Heb. 10:2), and abiding “cleansed” in virtue of the one great offering. Under its abiding efficacy they stand before God. They need no prayers of the saints, dead or living. Not even the pious wish accompanying the death notice, or inscribed upon the tomb, Requiescat in pace—“May he rest in peace,” for that rest has already been entered. It will no doubt be a joyful “surprise” to the ransomed spirit to be thus “at home” with the Lord, to be in actual experience where faith has long had her rest, hope her anchor, and love her object. To receive directly from the Lord the solution of many a strange chapter of life’s chequered story, and learn in His own light, how perfect love had planned, and unerring wisdom wrought out the “all things” that had wrought together for good. Then it shall be known how all that for the time seemed against them, served as Divine instruments to fashion and conform the saints to Christ’s blessed image, morally and spiritually, as shortly they will also bodily be. Need we wonder if, amid those scenes of perfect peace and inexpressible bliss, some such feeling shall possess the spirits of the saints, as was expressed by the enraptured Queen of Sheba, as she stood that day long ago, in the fair palace home of Solomon in the earthly Jerusalem, with all her hard questions answered, communing heart to heart with David’s royal son—the chosen figure of Christ in glory—when she said, “Behold the half was not told me, for thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard” (1 Ki. 5:7).

To what extent the unclothed spirit apart from the body, its proper instrument of expression, will worship, or act, or commune with the Lord and other spirit beings in that intermediate state, we do not inquire beyond what Scripture reveals, for speculation on such things is irreverent, and generally dangerous. Some who, in quest of such knowledge, have fallen into the snare of Spiritualism and other “doctrines of demons,” may well be a warning to us not to pry into God’s secret things, which, for wise reasons, He has not revealed to us. This much we do know, that “the dead in Christ” are neither roaming the earth as “spirits,” nor can they be reached by any who are in mortal flesh on earth. They do not “communicate” either directly or through any channel with their kindred here. Their words we may “remember”; their manner of life we may “follow” (Heb. 13:7); their memory we may treasure; but, since the hour that they passed from us, and out of mortal flesh, they are only and always “with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:21, R.V.).[9]

 

Evidences of a Life beyond Death

The Lord’s words to the dying robber, “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43), the apostle Paul’s desire to depart and be “with Christ” (Phil. 1:13), and the appearance of Moses, who had died and been buried, with Elijah who had “gone without dying,” in the Transfiguration scene on the mount (Malt 17:3), all tell of life beyond death in conscious enjoyment and personality. And while we have no desire to pry into God’s secrets, or to seek light on things which God has hid from mortal eyes, we do desire, and it is consistent with reverent inquiry at the Word of the Lord, that we should know intelligently what is revealed concerning those to whom death has been as the apostle informs us “gain.” Wherein does that gain consist? Does Scripture cast any light upon the future life, the condition of the unclothed spirit, the state of those whom we knew and loved, who are no longer with us? The Word tells us that they are “with Christ,” that they are “at home with the Lord,” that they no longer “see as through a glass darkly, but face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12), that they rest from their labours (Rev. 14:13), and that they “know fully” as they are known (1 Cor. 13:12). And yet, whatever the measure of their bliss, we know that they are not yet “made perfect.” They cannot be “apart from us,” as Hebrews 11:40 tells us. They are waiting for the Lord in that upper room, as we wait for Him in this lower one. The coming of the Lord is theirs as it is our hope. And besides these definite statements of the Divine Word, there are many references scattered over the pages of Scripture which leave no room for doubt regarding the conscious existence of the redeemed beyond death, and in the presence of the Lord. Of these the following may be noted:—

GOD OF THE LIVING.—The Lord’s words in Matthew 22:32 prove that while the patriarchs were dead and buried, and no longer seen of men, they are regarded by God as living personalities, having God as their God. And He is “not the God of the dead, but of the living,” for all live unto Him (Luke 20:38). Therefore Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were “living” at the time that the Lord uttered these words, and as “spirits” (Heb. 12:23), are living still.

ETERNAL LIFE.—The believer’s present possession of eternal life (John 17:3) is a truth well attested in the Word (John 5:24; 1 John 5:12-13). He has it now, and the Giver has assured him that he shall “never perish,” shall never lose his possession, shall not at any time or by any means be deprived of it. Not even by physical death, for the life inheres in the spirit that survives, so that there is no hiatus, no break, not a moment’s cessation of its possession or enjoyment, from new birth till resurrection and eternal glory. It is the same life all through, only in different conditions.

HERE AND HEREAFTER. The “light affliction” of the present time, linked with “the eternal weight of glory” of the future (2 Cor. 4:17), the “sowing” now and the “reaping” hereafter (Gal. 6:8), the faithful service of earthly days and the rewards of the coming judgment seat (2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12) all tell that the future is no isolated life from the present, but in a very real sense its continuance and its sequel. The life is one, and the reward or loss of the future will be the answer to faithfulness or unfaithfulness in the present world. This leaves no place for a lapse into non-consciousness, less still for the need of a reconstruction or recreation of one who has for ages been utterly “extinct,” has “ceased to be.”

“IN CHRIST.”—The believing dead are described as those which “are fallen asleep in Christ” (1 Cor. 20:18), and as “the dead in Christ” (1 Thess. 4:16). They were “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3) when they lived on earth, and death has not deprived them of that position. “Soul sleep” or “extinction of being” between death and resurrection denies the Christian’s place “in Christ,” and it is a negation of the great and well-attested fact of the continuous seal of the Spirit upon believers, from the day of their conversion (Eph. 1:13), until the day of final redemption (Eph. 4:30), the redemption of the body. The teaching of the Word on this great subject, may be briefly summarised thus:—The dead in Christ, absent from the body, as unclothed spirits, are at home with the Lord, in His immediate presence, fully conscious, able to commune with Him and with each other, while they await in hope and with expectation, the coming hour of resurrection, in which the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and the living saints changed in a moment, then “together” caught up, to be for ever with the Lord. For the present they are in the secret of His presence, at rest, in paradise. As Samuel Rutherford sweetly sings—

            “Twixt me and the Resurrection,

                But Paradise doth stand;

            Then, then the glory dwelling

                In Immanuel’s Land.”

 

 

SHEOL, HADES, PARADISE

In Old Testament times, the abode of departed spirits was known as Sheol, which is usually translated “hell,” and sometimes “grave” and “pit.” It is a word which means “the unseen,” or as we say “the invisible world.” In no case is it used for the place to which the body goes for burial, but always of the soul.

In the preface to the Revised Bible the Revisers say “The Hebrew Sheol signifies the abode of departed spirits, and corresponds to the Greek Hades, or the under world. . . It does not signify the place of burial.” Several other words are used to denote the place to which the body goes, and sees corruption,[10] but they are never confused with, but always in contrast to, the place of the disembodied spirit. For example in Psalm 16:10, David’s words—which in Acts 2:27 are applied to the Lord Jesus—“Thou wilt not leave My soul in Sheol, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption” (the pit), distinguish between Sheol the place to which the soul goes, and “the pit” which the body in the ordinary course of things sees corruption. Here, Peter tells us, the Lord’s body saw no corruption. It is needful to keep this distinction in view, because teachers of false doctrine, taking advantage of the word Sheol being sometimes rendered “grave” in the A.V., make it always the place of burial and corruption, which it is not. When Jacob speaks of going down to Sheol to his son Joseph (Gen. 37:35), it is clearly to the place of the soul, for he then believed Joseph’s body to have been “devoured by wild beasts,” and not buried in any grave.

And this Sheol or “unseen world” of departed spirits, is in the Old Testament described as composed of two separate compartments, an upper Sheol, in which the souls of the righteous were at rest, and a lowest Sheol, in which the anger of God burned (Deut. 32:22), from which the Psalmist praises God he had been delivered (Ps. 86:13). There is no precise definition of its locality given, nor do we gather much as to the experiences of those who are there, which is quite in keeping with Old Testament time and teaching. There, an earthly people with earthly blessings, worshipping in an earthly temple are chiefly in view, and their exile from their people, their land, and their worship, or their removal from them by death, is regarded as loss rather than gain. This is expressed by Hezekiah in view of his departure: “For Sheol cannot praise Thee, Death cannot celebrate Thee, they that go down to the pit cannot hope in Thy truth” (Isa. 38:18)—words, which have been made to teach soul-sleep, non-consciousness, and non-existence. But they merely contrast life in the body, in the land and in temple worship, with what to them was the silent, unknown, and unexplored after-world, from which none had returned to tell what they found there, upon which no full light had then been cast, or Divine revelation given. Yet men of faith, while uninformed as to the experiences of the unseen spirit world after death, did lay hold on that which lay far beyond it, bathed in the light and glory of resurrection. Thus the patriarch Job was able to say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand in the latter day on the earth: and though after my skin worms devour this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25-26). In the like faith of a coming resurrection, the Psalmist says—“I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness” (Ps. 17:11). And the pilgrim patriarch looking still further on, had a glimpse of “the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10).

The New Testament word Hades is found there eleven times. It is generally translated “hell” in the A.V., and once “grave” in 1 Corinthians 15:55. In the R.V. it is uniformly “hades,” and always signifies the state and the place of departed spirits. The reference to “death and hades” together in such passages as Revelation 1:18, 6:8 and 20:13-14, connects the body with death and the soul with hades. At the final resurrection, death delivers up the bodies, and hades the souls of “the dead” for judgment (Rev. 20:13). Thus, both “death and hades” will become empty: no son of Adam’s race, either saved or lost, will be found at last there. The contents of both are cast into “the lake of fire,” for in the Eternal State there will be no more separation of soul and body. The resurrected and changed saved will be in eternal glory (1 Pet. 5:10), the lost in Gehenna (Mark 9:43-44)—“the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14).

In our Lord’s own description of it in Luke 16:19-31, Hades, like its Old Testament equivalent Sheol, consisted of two compartments, with a “great gulf fixed” between. In this first uplifting by our Lord’s own hand of the veil which up till then had hid the unseen world from our view, we see two men in the disembodied state, after death and before resurrection, one in conscious bliss “comforted,” the other in conscious woe “tormented.” Those who deny the consciousness of the soul after death, refer this to the after-resurrection condition, but this is refuted by the fact that the rich man had “brethren” on earth, whom he wanted to be warned lest they also should come to “this place of torment.” The figurative language used need present no difficulty. The figures used express facts. “Abraham’s bosom” to a Jew would express the place of highest privilege and honour, and a spirit able to “remember,” to “pray,” to be “tormented” apart from the body, can by no possible exegesis be made to teach non-consciousness or annihiliation. And although neither the saved nor the lost have yet come to the final re-embodied state, in which the bliss of the one, and the woe of the other will be full and final, both have already, as disembodied spirits, entered upon the conscious and actual experiences which are here described in the words “comforted” and “tormented” as spoken by our Divine Lord.[11]

The word Paradise, as the present abode of the spirits of the righteous, was first named by the Lord on the day of His mighty conquest of death, and triumph over him who had the power thereof (Heb. 2:14-15). What the results of the Cross, with its accomplished redemption, and victory over death gave, in increase of liberty, joy, and blessing to the saved of the Lord on earth, we know from the testimony of the Word, and the experiences of the disciples before and after it. What that victory brought to the spirits of the redeemed in Hades, when the mighty Victor Himself entered and passed through that state[12] not detained in it, but bearing with Him in the triumph of His power to the paradise above, all of His own who from the beginning had been detained, up to and including that last trophy of His saving grace, to whom He had only some brief hours before spoken the assuring words—“Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43), is made known to us in the New Testament Scriptures. Perhaps not so fully as idle curiosity would desire, yet with sufficient plainness to enable all who reverence the silence as they value the revelations of God, to be assured of what is the truth, and to reject man’s foolish inventions, and Satan’s deadly errors, regarding the present condition of the saved and the lost.

 

 

PARADISE: The Abode of Departed Saints

The bright and blissful word “Paradise,” occurs just three times in the New Testament. First in the words spoken by the Lord to the believing robber on Calvary, “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Secondly Paul tells us he was caught up into Paradise, where he heard “unspeakable words” (2 Cor. 12:5). Thirdly in the Lord’s message to the church at Ephesus He gives the promise, “To Him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). The latter passage differs from the other two. There, it is called “the Paradise of God,” and has in its midst “the tree of life.” This identifies it with the after-resurrection state, as described in Revelation 22:2, and points onward to that time when believers will be “clothed upon” with their “house from heaven,” that is their resurrection body. Into this “Paradise of God” the redeemed do not enter one by one as unclothed spirits after death, but after they have been “caught up together” to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:16), being conformed bodily to His image, made like Him, and seeing Him as He is (1 John 3:2), and so to be “ever with the Lord.” This marks it as entirely distinct from the present disembodied spirit state of those who are “absent from the body” and “present with the Lord.”

The other two passages speak of Paradise as the present abode of the spirits of the redeemed, and is the name given by the Lord to that state, in which, for a season, they abide with Him, far from the toils of earthly life, sharing His joys as now “hid in God” (Col. 3:3). Although deprived by death of their bodies, through which, during the years of their earthly spiritual history, they manifested the heavenly life that they already possessed, and in which they served the Lord whom they owned, His saints welcomed to where He is, enjoy the secret and unspeakable delights of the presence of their Lord, and share with Him the honours and the joys which He now has while waiting for the manifested glories of His kingdom.

The word “Paradise,” in the Greek language, means “a garden,” a pleasure park, enclosed and private to its owner. It is said to be derived from the times of the Persian kingdom, when the heir to the throne had his royal residence surrounded by its “paradise,” or pleasure grounds, to which he welcomed his personal friends to share his honours and his joys, while awaiting the glories of the throne.

This, in one aspect, is the present place of the Lord Jesus. As a “nobleman” who has gone into “a far country” there to “receive for himself a kingdom and to return” (Luke 19:12). Israel, His kindred according to the flesh, like the “citizens” who hated their absent lord, and sent the message after him, saying, “We will not have this man to reign over us,” are, as a people, “cast off,” and suffering “wrath” (1 Thess. 2:14) because of their rejection of the Messiah, and their resistance of the testimony which the Holy Ghost bore to Him after He had reached the present place of His glory at the “right hand of God” (Acts 7:53). His true servants still on earth are using what He has committed to their trust, to be used for Him in His service (v. 13), while they await His return and the following bema, to give an account of their stewardship (v. 15). And, if in the meantime, before that day of His return, and their reward (Rev. 22:12), they having served their generation by the will of God, fall on sleep, having ended their service, and are laid unto their fathers (Acts 13:36), in respect of their bodies, the living Lord receives their spirits (Acts 7:60) to His presence in that paradise into which He Himself has entered, and in which He shares with His loved ones, whose spirits are gathering there, the present joys and honours of His “nobleman” state, while He awaits the peerless glories of His kingdom. For we see not yet all “things put under Him,” but we do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honour” (Heb. 2:9), appointed “Heir of all” (Heb. 1:12), where, for the present He has entered upon part of that “joy set before Him,” for which He endured the Cross, despising the shame (Heb. 12:2).

Although the word is sometimes applied to the Garden of Eden, it is never so used in Scripture. Its use seems rather to be restricted to that place of the present triumph of the living Lord as Victor over death (Heb. 2:14), and Conqueror of principalities and powers of darkness (Col. 2:15), into which He welcomes the spirits of His own, when the days of their wilderness pilgrimage and toil are past. There He shares with them in fuller measure than they ever knew on earth, His love and His joy. For Him, and for them, the weariness and the warfare, the struggle and the conflict are over, and while He, and they with Him, wait for the glories which are to be revealed, there is the present untold rest and joy of that Paradise condition, into which so many of the redeemed have already entered, and which—if His personal return does not intervene—all the present generation of His wilderness saints must shortly share.

The Scriptures are reticent regarding locality and description of this Paradise condition, and it is not for us to inquire beyond what God has seen fit to reveal. The few scattered references and allusions given in the Word, provide all that we need to know, perhaps all that we in our present mortal state can understand of it.

To the dying robber, who had owned His Name and confessed His Kingship in the hour of His rejection, in the presence of his late companion in sin and crime, and the whole galaxy of Jerusalem’s leaders, religious, political, and profane, the crucified Lord, in the full exercise of His Divine power, and with the consciousness of His assured victory over death and hades, both so near, spake in full hearing of that seething, mocking crowd, the words—sealed by His own familiar word of certainty—“Verily, I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

It is surely one of God’s great mysteries of grace, that these triumphant words of promise, sealed by the oath of the Son of God, which lift the veil from the unseen, and flood its gateway for the first time with heavenly light, were not, as we might have expected, uttered to some aged and honoured saint, whose long years of faithful service and holy walk might—like an Enoch of early times (Gen. 5:24), who had the special honour conferred upon him by God of being taken without tasting death—have, so to speak, earned him the distinction of having this new revelation made to him. But it was to a newly saved sinner, a man who was to pass that day from earthly life by a death of shame, whose body was to be exposed to the brutal hands of a cruel soldiery, and possibly thrown into a criminal’s uncovered grave, that the conquering Lord first told out in words which must have thrilled the host of heaven, and carried dismay to the hordes of hell, that this dying sinner who had owned His Name, was to pass from a criminal’s cross into Paradise to be “with” His Lord, simply and wholly in virtue of the precious blood which was about to be shed for his ransom. And thus did He become the prototype and first-fruits of a long line of sinners saved by grace, who, since that day, have received the Son of God as their Saviour, confessed Him as their Lord, and passed to their rest in that Paradise of His presence on the same grand title.

Paul, who in many respects is a “pattern” (1 Tim. 1:16) of the saints of this age of grace, was permitted to pass through an experience which marks him as the representative of those who fall asleep and pass for a season into Paradise (2 Cor. 12:4), as John in later times (Rev. 4:1) became the pattern of such as will be “alive and remain” (1 Thess. 4:15) at the coming of the Lord, to go without dying. Both were “caught up” for a season, from their mortal state: Paul “into Paradise,” where he saw and heard what he was unable to describe, and John to see things which “must be hereafter”—“after these” (R.V.)—things which he describes in great detail, for in the post-resurrection state there is to be no secrets, all will be an open vision. Paul was “caught up even to the third heaven”—“caught up into Paradise,” as the words are in the Revised Version, which fixes its locality as being in that heaven in which is God’s dwelling place, where Christ is at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 13:1; 10:12; 12:2). There, the Lord gave for a brief period, a foretaste of the joys of Paradise to His suffering saint and servant, which he never forgot in all his subsequent course.[13] Whether Paul at the time of his rapture was actually dead or otherwise—in the body or out of it—he did not know himself, even fourteen years after. What he did know, and know with assurance, was, that he as “a man in Christ” had been actually “in Paradise.” We may surely learn from this, that the disembodied spirit can see and hear, can enter on the experience of Paradise in a fully conscious condition, apart from the body and its functions, and this is fully confirmed by the words which he afterwards wrote, words which are true of all who have passed from mortal life, that they are “with Christ, which is very far better” (Phil. 1:23, R.V.).

 

 

ERRONEOUS DOCTRINES Concerning the State of the Dead, Examined

Diverse and strange doctrines, subversive of the faith, had been brought into the early churches while the apostles and their immediate followers were still labouring amongst them. In the Galatian churches “another Gospel” was being preached (chap. 1:6, 8), and legal observances introduced (chap. 4:9, 21; 6:12-13). At Colosse, the saints were in danger of being beguiled through a heathen philosophy. At Ephesus, some had make shipwreck concerning the faith, and had become blasphemers (1 Tim. 1:20); others, evidently fraternising with men disciplined for evil doctrine, had their faith overthrown (2 Tim. 2:18). And worse conditions were said to be at hand (Acts 20:29), when man would arise in the midst of these churches, speaking “perverse things,” and thus secure a following, while others “ignorant,” would “wrest the Scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:16).

That some of the errors of these early times concerned the future life, we learn from Paul’s last letter to Timothy, in which he warns against those who had erred concerning the truth, by saying that “the resurrection was already past” (2 Tim. 2:18), while others had denied that there was any resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12). As time advanced, and the Gospel in its simplicity proclaimed by godly men in the Spirit’s power was less known, and the truth in its purity was less taught, doctrines and traditions opposed to the faith came in like a flood, many of them bearing on the state of the dead. In the writings of the so-called “Fathers” of the second and third centuries, prayers for and to the dead, purgatory, with masses for the deliverance of souls therein detained for purification, are named, and were generally accepted as if of God. When once the Word of God is lost, or tradition allowed to make it of “none effect” (Mark 7:7-13), it is easy to drift into error. And it needs to be remembered, that some of the most dangerous forms of error which mislead the unwary, are reared on perverted and misinterpreted Scripture. This was so at the beginning; it is so now. And we need especially to be on our guard against accepting anything respecting those who have left the present world, except what God has told us in His Word, for here God has mercifully interposed a veil, beyond which man in mortal life is prohibited from passing, to inquire into the state of the departed. Sentiments, as expressed in many of our hymns and traditions, venerable with age, which inform us that the spirits of the dead are hovering around us as “a cloud of witnesses unseen,” and that “footsteps of departed loved ones follow us along life’s road,” if accepted as true, prepare the way for that which is worse. Visions of, and messages from the unseen world, whether received in sleep or while awake, when accredited as being of God, soon withdraw the ear from listening to His voice through the Word, and lay those who accept them open to the awful delusions of Spiritualism, which professes to put living beings on earth into communication with their departed friends in the spirit world. That saints who have gone to be “with Christ” are still one in life and love with those who are in mortal flesh on earth; that those who, while here, had been “IN the Lord Jesus Christ,” and still known as “the dead IN Christ” (1 Thess. 1:1; 4:16)—death having wrought no change in their vital union with Him, or with His—we most surely believe, but that there can be any present communications between them and us, Scripture does not inform us, and it would be dangerous to speculate or to venture forth on such forbidden ground.[14]

 

Prayers FOR the Dead

It was probably no more than a calling to remembrance of the faith of the departed, that originated the practice of naming “ancestors, fathers, martyrs” in prayer, ending with the request that they might “have a speedy part in resurrection glory.” This through time developed into prayers for all the dead, including such as had died in a doubtful state. Out of this grew the Purgatory of Romanism, with masses for the dead, offered by priests, for payment by the living. And all this at first was based on perverted Scriptures. 1 Timothy 2:1, truly bids us pray “for all men,” but the context limits such prayers to be for the living. Paul’s request for mercy to Onesiphorus (2 Tim. 1:16-18, with 4:19) is made to mean that he was dead, and that the “mercy” asked was for his soul in purgatory, of which there is not the slightest hint. And “the fire” in 1 Corinthians 3:13-14, which Augustine assumes to be purgatorial, is definitely said to be for the testing of the works of those who serve the Lord here, not for the purification of their souls. As the Gospel and the blessings of present salvation (2 Tim. 1:9), full forgiveness (Col. 2:13), perfect cleansing (Rev. 1:7), and present meetness (Col. 1:12) for heaven were lost, it became easy to find acceptance for these traditions, which held the field for centuries, and are still believed by the greater part of Christendom to whom the personal use of the Word of God is denied.

How far this false teaching has spread we may gather from a charge given to his clergy by the late Primate of the Church of England, where he tells them that prayers for the dead are “not forbidden,” while “what they may need in order to fit them for the final entrance into perfect happiness, we cannot tell.” In full keeping with this was the call to pray for “the repose of the soul of their late father in God,” the former English Primate, who, although “spiritual head of the Church of England,” required Requiem Masses and prayers offered for his soul after death.[15] But thank God, those who, apart from sacredotalism and priestcraft, rest on the atoning work of the Son of God, know that in virtue of His work alone they pass in the hour of death to be “with Christ,” or if they are found alive at His coming they will be caught up “in a moment” to be for ever “with the Lord.”

 

Prayers TO the Dead

Having introduced prayers for the dead, it was an easy matter to sanction prayers TO the holy dead, who—by a false interpretation of Revelation 8:3-4—are alleged to be now acting as supplicators and mediators between God and man. This Romanism and Ritualism has done, ever multiplying these, in the face of the direct testimony of Scripture, that there is “ONE Mediator between God and men” (1 Tim. 2:5). But we may rest assured that neither the Virgin Mary, who personally confessed her need, and possession of a Saviour (Luke 1:47), nor any other of the “saints” who are with Christ, ever heard or heeded a single prayer from earth or hades offered to them, although the Romish doctrine is that they, and especially Mary, can do more for sinners than Christ. And this pernicious error is at present leavening the doctrine of Christendom.

 

Preaching TO the Dead

This is chiefly based on a Romish interpretation of 1 Peter 3:19-20, from which it has been deduced that either to the antediluvians, or to all who as “spirits” were then held “in prison,” Christ in His disembodied state offered salvation. And upon this the doctrine is built, that death does not close man’s opportunity of salvation, or cut off hope of his future evangelization. Men holding high places in the Church of England, such as Dean Farrar and Dr Plumptre, supported this view, but it is entirely opposed to Scripture. The passage simply says that “in the Spirit,” R.V. (i.e., of Christ) which was in Noah—with which compare chapter 1:11, during the period of “God’s long-suffering,” he preached to the disobedient antediluvians, whose spirits are now in prison. The end of the Spirit’s striving, and of their opportunity come together. Neither the Lord personally, nor any sent by Him, have ever proclaimed mercy to lost souls since the hour of their departure from earth. Of that we are absolutely certain.[16] The context is full of warning, not of hope, and the case cited does not teach probation beyond the grave, but rather that the doom of sinners is irrevocably fixed at death.

The alarming spread of erroneous teachings subversive of the Gospel, advancing false views of Divine mercy, denying God’s hatred and punishment of sin, while hardening sinners in it, calls for definite and clear testimony on these subjects, from all who now preach the Word.

 

 

THE STATE AND EMPLOYMENTS of Departed Saints

On a subject so transcendent as the present state and occupations of the Christian dead, concerning which we can know absolutely nothing beyond what God has made known in the Scriptures, speculation is as irreverent as it is dangerous. In a sphere where man is forbidden to enter, or human reason to pry we are shut up to what God has revealed, and to the very words in which His revelation is made, being careful not to read popular meanings into them, or draw unwarranted inferences from them. Reason always fails in such a sphere. Faith rests in what God has revealed, and is satisfied, remembering that Scripture was not given to gratify curiosity, or to inform us on things we have no need to know at present. Two supposing forms of error in our time, actively working under various names, seek to obscure the truth.

Sadduceeism, which regards death as the introduction to a condition of non-conscious existence, or the end of being, and thrusts its dead hopelessly out of sight, regarding them as being “no more,” denying all that God has revealed of the state after death, and before resurrection. A revival of this ancient cult is embodied in the teachings of Christadelphianism, and various present time forms of materialism. They all deny the survival of the spirit in, and beyond death.

Theosophy, in its more popular form as Spiritualism, which regards the present union of spirit, soul, and body, as an unnatural state, such as hinders the spirit from its highest conceptions, and sees in death the means of deliverance from a cumbersome body, and the dark grave a fit place of sepulture for the cast-off weeds of a despised humanity. This, while more attractive, is scarcely less God dishonouring and dangerous. It leaves the way open for demons to personate those who have died, and deceive such as come under their power. And some who accept the teaching of the Word, regarding the present disembodied condition of those who have died in faith, as being “with Christ,” are in danger of being led beyond the limits of Scripture, by receiving current traditions which abound in our religious phraseology and hymnology regarding the condition and occupations of the dead in Christ. That statements, taken from the Word, which refer to the after-resurrection and immortal condition, are frequently applied to the present “absent from the body” state, confusing things that differ, and providing missiles for propagators of error to use against the truth.

Such expressions as “Sudden death is sudden glory”—“Gone to serve in the heavenly sphere,” and others of a similar kind, are not according to God’s revelation in the Word. For “glory” to the saint is connected with the coming of the Lord, when those who have gone, and they who remain, will alike become partakers of it (1 Pet. 5; 1 Cor. 15:43). And activities of service in heaven await possession of the body, which for the present the dead in Christ are “absent from.” Rest and expectancy, rather than service and glory, characterise the present state of the dead in Christ. Words placed on the tombstones of the dead, telling us of them as “wearing crowns and bearing palms,” or having “entered upon a glorious immortality,” however well meant, in honour of the faith and hope of the loved ones no longer here, are wholly misleading. For none of those who, through all the ages, died in faith, have yet reached such conditions. They apply to the post resurrection state, and are only true concerning those for whom the Scripture says they have been prepared. Had this been known and remembered, it would have saved many from accepting the Romish error of the Intercession of Saints, which has held millions in its delusive grasp throughout the centuries. For while we believe that as sinners saved by grace, the Virgin Mother and the Apostles are as “spirits” at home with the Lord, we are equally sure that their bodies remain in the grasp of corruption, awaiting, in common with all the dead in Christ, that coming hour in which they shall be “raised in incorruption” to enter on the appointed sphere of heavenly service (Rev. 22:3) which awaits them, but which they do not for the present share, nor can they, until they receive their bodies of glory, fitted for it.

Scattered references throughout the Word teach us that with those who have finished their appointed course, and departed, it is indeed “very far better” (Phil. 1:23, R.V.), and that they have reached a stage of communion with their Lord and of knowledge in heavenly things, far beyond their highest experience and holiest moments here. “Made perfect” (Heb. 12:23) is the comprehensive description given by the Word of the “spirits” of the just, in the state upon which they have entered. The one word in the original indicates complete growth through experience—the being perfected for an appointed sphere. Freed from the hindrances that encumbered and surrounded them here, the “spirits” of the just are there in their sphere for which Divine grace and spiritual birth have fitted them, with all their powers fully developed, and capable of knowing perfectly what they only knew “in part” in days of mortal life. The spirit freed from its earthly house may be capable of such intercourse with Christ, and with the spirits of the just, as we are for a brief moment permitted to behold on the holy mount, when Moses and Elias, in company with the transfigured Lord, “talked with Him” of His coming “decease.” And those experiences of some who, in life’s last hours, when the actual moment of their spirit’s unloosing from the body had come, had such revelations of the living Lord and from Him, of that into which they were about to enter, may well intimate to us that the “unclothed” spirit passes, without an effort beyond the veil, into the full enjoyment of that bliss, which in its hours of most holy and heavenly communion it had already tasted. Such are doubtless foretastes of Paradise. But beyond this we cannot go.

 

 

EXAMINATION OF SCRIPTURES Supposed to refer to the Intermediate State

At this stage of our inquiry, it may be profitable to examine certain Scriptures which advocates of the sleep of the soul, the non-consciousness of the saved between death and resurrection, and the total extinction of the unsaved at death use, in support of their erroneous teachings.

It is ominous that most of the passages which are pressed into service to teach Soul-sleep of the saved, and Annihilation of the lost, are taken from the Old Testament, where, as we have already shown, there is no full revelation given regarding the intermediate or unclothed state. It was at the Cross where death was “abolished,” and it is “through the Gospel” that light is cast upon life and immortality.[17] Yet, with the fulness of that light now shining on these subjects in the New Testament, the advocates of error return to find their “proofs” in the grey dawn of the Old. There the view of death is as it existed before Christ abolished it. And having found what suits their purpose, they proceed to wrench the texts from their contexts, read meanings into them entirely foreign to them, and then discredit all New Testament teaching that clashes with their inferences. And not only are these citations taken from the Old Testament, but chiefly from the three books of Job, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes, which abound in allegories and metaphors, giving records of man’s estimate of human life on earth, as viewed from the standpoint of “under the sun”; by man as walking in the light of his own wisdom, rather than by Divine Revelation on the after-death condition.

The sayings of men are recorded by the Spirit in Scripture, not as always approving of them, but to warn us of their folly, and to show how far even a “righteous” Job and a “wise” Solomon, according to their reasonings as men were, from having the mind of God, and being in His way of reckoning about themselves and others. In the Book of Job, the language of Satan is recorded in chapter 1:9-11, in which he accuses Job falsely. In chapter 42:7, God says to Job’s three friends, “Ye have not spoken of Me the thing that is true.” Yet their words, untrue as they are, form a great part of the Book of Job, and are written, not as having the approval of God, but for our instruction and warning. They are part of the Divinely inspired Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16), which are profitable for that end.

The Psalms, give us the utterances of man’s heart in sorrow and in song. Their viewpoint is chiefly man’s life on earth in blessing, with death at its end, cutting him off from all that he enjoys below. The life beyond death is only incidentally referred to there, and never fully described. Individuals had glimpses of glories to come in resurrection (Heb. 11:13-16), but this is different from the after-death state.

Ecclesiastes, gives the experiences of one who tells what he “said in his heart” (chap. 1:15), at a time when, by human wisdom, he sought to solve the problems of human life and destiny, and was in quest of satisfaction in things “under the sun.” After pursuing this course, with all the resources of human wisdom and wealth which were at his disposal, he confesses that “a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun” (chap. 9:11). And regarding man’s being and destiny, all that he discovered by his searching was, that “a man has no pre-eminence above a beast” (chap. 3:19).

Concerning the dead he could not discover anything, nor tell whither “the spirit of man” went at death. But having owned his inability, through human wisdom (chap. 1:13), to discover these “works of God” (11:5), he then had revealed to him the “way of the spirit,” and he learned that at death it “returns unto God who gave it” (chap. 11:7), bearing with it there the character it acquired in its earthly history, and with its destiny fixed for ever. If this had been better known, it would have saved many from being perverted from the truth, by those who use isolated statements taken from these books, defiantly misapplying them, to teach their erroneous views on the after-death condition.

We will now briefly examine some of the passages, which are generally used to teach the sleep of the souls of the saved, and the extinction of the unsaved, at or after death.

1.         “There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary be at rest” (Job 3:17). These are part of Job’s words when he “cursed his day,” and wished he had not been born to sorrow, or that he had died in infancy, and “had not been” (v. 16) in a world of woe. Viewing death as something to be longed for (v. 21), he sees in it rest for the weary, and freedom from the trouble of the wicked. This is not extinction. If death ends all, there is nothing to be “at rest.”

2.         “I go, whence I shall not return” (Job 10:21; 16:22). Clearly, that he would not return to the world, the scene of his mingled joys and sorrows. But he knew, and rejoiced in the hope of resurrection (see Job 19:25). Though he would not “return,” he was not to be non-existent, no more than was Enoch, of whom it is said that “he was not; for God took him” (Gen. 5:24).

3.         “Before I go hence, and be no more” (Ps. 39:13). The context shows this to be “no more” on earth, the place in which he was a stranger. To men, the dead are “no more,” but to God they live (see Luke 20:38). There is nothing taught here about the after-death condition.

4.         “In that very day his thoughts perish” (Ps. 46:3-4)—Young renders it “purposes”—his plans come to nought. Not however the one who makes them.

5.         “Like the beasts that perish” (Psa. 49:20). Not that he is a beast, but, if without understanding, he is “LIKE the beasts,” living an animal existence. The Lord contrasts man with beasts, and says man is “much better” (Matt. 12:12). Into him only did the Lord breathe the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). Man only is God’s offspring (Acts 17:29).

6.         “I will sing praises unto God, while I have any being” (Ps. 146:2), with which may be coupled the same writer’s confession, “I will give thanks to Thee for ever” (Ps. 30:12). This proves surely that his “having any being” does not terminate in death, but extends far beyond his present life on earth.

7.         “Let the wicked be no more” (Ps. 104:35), means—what the first half of the verse states—that sinners will be “consumed out of the earth,” when the Lord purifies it for millennial blessing. Man’s future state, unclothed or resurrected, is not in view in this passage at all.

8.         “The dead know not anything” (Eccl. 9:5). This is the chief prop of soul-sleep and annihiliation teachers. Interpreted thus, it would flatly deny what the Lord says in Luke 16:23-25, where “the dead” are shown to know a good deal; in the case of the ungodly, as we learn from Luke 16:19-24, much more than they want to know, or remember. Did “the rich man who died and was buried” not know anything? The narrative tells us that he knew a great deal, that he was anything but “non-conscious.” He knew Lazarus was in Abraham’s bosom: he knew that his brethren were still on earth, and needed the word of warning: he knew that he himself was “in torment.” With this knowledge of what was going on in heaven, earth, and hell, it is hard to see the application of the text—as teachers of error apply it—to teach that the dead are “non-conscious.” The context clearly tells us that all that the passage means is that after death they know nothing of what goes on in the place of their former existence, neither have they there any more a “reward” or remembrance among mankind on earth.

9.         “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). This, instead of teaching man’s “extinction,” corresponds exactly with what is recorded of Stephen in Acts 7:59. His enemies killed him. His body was carried by devout men to burial (chap. 8:2): his spirit was “received” by the living Lord, where he had just seen Him in heaven, at the right hand of God (chap. 7:55). Thus he was “absent from the body and present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

10.       “Yet a little while and the wicked shall not be” (Ps. 37:10). Here, those who teach from this text Annihilation stop. But the verse goes on to say, “Yea, thou shalt obediently consider his place, and it shall not be.” Where? Clearly on the earth. As we read in Proverbs 2:21-22, “The upright shall dwell in the land, but the wicked shall be cut off from the earth.” He is no longer in “his place” there. Where he is, this Psalm does not say.

11.       “Let them melt away as waters which run continually (Ps. 58:7). This has been also used to teach the extinction of the lost. But these words have no reference to the after-death condition. They refer to the extirpation of the wicked out of the earth, when the Lord in judgment cleanses it by fire for millennial blessing. Man’s final doom is not in view here at all. The context adds: “He is a God that judgeth in the earth” (v. 11).

12.       “The destruction of the transgressors should be together, and sinners shall be together” (Isa. 1:28). The context tells that this applies to the purification of Zion by judgment in days yet to come. The passage cannot by any exegesis be made to teach the final doom of sinners, either in hades or beyond the judgment.

New Testament passages in which the words “destruction,” “punishment,” “perdition,” and such like are used, which Annihilationists rely on to establish their doctrines, will be examined later. There is absolutely nothing in Old Testament citations which they bring to their aid, to give the least warrant for the theory that the wicked become non-existent, or cease to be, when they become disrupted at death. Their bodies go to the grave, their souls to hades, there to remain in conscious misery, reserved unto the day of judgment (2 Pet. 2:9), when they receive their final doom (Rev. 20:11-16).

 

 

RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD IN CHRIST

The vast transcendent subject of the resurrection of the dead has been an offence to the worldly-wise all through the ages. The craft of Satan has been used against it, and the traditions of men have been set in order to obscure it. The testimony of the Word of God is full and clear regarding it, and the faith of each succeeding generation of the saints of God has rested securely upon that enduring Word, while their hope has waited in patience for its full realisation. Its magnitude and eternal issues increase as the years go by. For over six millenniums, generation after generation of Adam’s sons and daughters have been laid in the dust of death. Every thirty and odd years, it is estimated that a whole generation of over fifteen hundred millions of human beings die. Their bodies lie in the earth on which we tread, or become changed, and mingle with myriads of organisms around us. Can these, the philosopher asks, be ever made to live again?[18] “How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come?” (1 Cor. 15:35) is still his question. The answer is given in the Word of God. It comes to us by Divine revelation alone. Among those who accept it as a Bible truth, and confess with their lips, “I believe in the resurrection of the dead,” how few give time or thought to its immense and eternal issues, alike to the saved and the lost.

“Resurrection OF the dead” (Heb. 6:2) is a foundation truth of the faith. Dimly forseen by patriarchs, they buried their dead in the hope of it (Gen. 23:5), and confessed their faith in the certainty of it (Job 19:25). Sufferers and martyrs, in the prospect of it, sealed their testimony with their blood (Heb. 11:35), and those bereaved of loved ones, had a ray of comfort borne as from the distant future, in the hope of a resurrection and re-union on afar-off “last-day” (John 11:24). A fuller revelation waited on the triumph of Christ over death, and as the First-fruits in resurrection. This has now come, and remains on record in the Scriptures.

 

Resurrection OF the Dead

“Resurrection OF the dead” is the general term which embraces the first resurrection of the righteous only, and the later resurrection of those who stand before the great white throne for judgment (see John 5:28-30; Rev. 20:12-13). All must be raised, but not at the same time, or for the same purpose. “The dead in Christ” will be raised at the moment of His coming as Son of God to the air (1 Thess. 4:16); “the rest of the dead” will not be raised until after the thousand years of millennial glory (Rev. 20:5), when they are brought forth to judgment.

 

Resurrection FROM the Dead

“Resurrection FROM”—(literally “from among”)—“the dead” is the word used to describe the former event. It first came from the lips of the Lord, on the way back from the Transfiguration scene on “the holy mount” (Matt. 17:9; Mark 9:9-10). The newness of the word, attracted the notice of the disciples, and caused them to “question one with another what the rising FROM the dead should mean.” They were familiar with “resurrection OF the dead,” but a “resurrection FROM,” or “out from the dead,” was something entirely new to them. The truth here first uttered, and subsequently repeated by the Lord, is always limited in its application to His own (Luke 14:13-14; 20:27-28). It is more fully unfolded in its details in the Epistles, notably in 1 Corinthians 15:50-51, where the apostle writes of it as “a mystery”—that is, something hitherto not made fully known; and in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, as a revelation—a distinct “word of the Lord” to meet the need of those who were sorrowing over the death of some of their brethren, whom they evidently feared would miss their share in the triumph at the coming of the Son of God from heaven, for which the living saints waited (chap. 1:9). This “resurrection of life” (John 5:29), elsewhere named “the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14) and “the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:5), includes Christ Himself the Firstfruits, all “who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:23), and the martyred saints who will live and bear faithful testimony unto death during the reign of Antichrist in the period between Christ’s coming for His saints, and His appearing with them. These all share in the “first resurrection,” and reign with Christ a thousand years. But no others. They only are “children, of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36). The “rest of the dead” lie in their unblest graves during the thousand years of millennial glory, to be raised by an act of Divine power for judgment. This elective “out-resurrection” of the saints from among the dead (Phil. 3:11) was the apostle’s hope and prize.

 

The Resurrection Body

In the “moment” of the Lord’s descent from heaven into “the air” (1 Thess. 4:17) with “a shout”—a word of command, such as a general gives to his soldiers—the whole of the ransomed dead shall be raised, and by an act of Almighty power transformed into the image of their Lord. That “shout” with “the voice of the archangel,” will be felt and owned throughout the whole realm of death in land and sea. The grave will yield its ancient charge. The mighty deep will disgorge its long-held treasure. The bodies of the “dead in Christ,” long ago redeemed by blood, will be claimed by power, and fashioned like unto the body of Christ’s glory (Phil. 3:21), each retaining distinct personality, knowing as they are known, and all conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29), made perfectly “like Him” (1 John 3:2), seeing Him as He is. What a moment of triumph and of power that will be! Death once more will own its Victor’s claim, and be “swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54), and although Death is not actually “destroyed” (1 Cor. 15:26) for a thousand years, but remains the custodian of “the dead” who are to be raised for judgment, it has no longer any power over that raised and glorified company.

All that we at present know of “the body that shall be,” in the resurrection state, is what God has revealed in the Word. Speculation here, would be alike irreverent and dangerous. In 2 Corinthians 5:2, it is called “our house which is from heaven.” In 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, four words are used in describing it. It is “raised in incorruption”—no trace of the grave is on it: no power of death (Luke 20:36) can touch it. “It is raised in power”—no weakness or decay can afflict it. “It is raised in glory”—no trace of fallen man’s dishonour will be seen in it. “It is a spiritual body”—fitted for the heavenly sphere, the fit companion and instrument of the heaven-born life, a body eternal and unfading, which will bear the beauty of immortal youth.

 

 

TRANSLATION OF LIVING SAINTS

Simultaneous with the resurrection of “the dead in Christ” at the shout of the returning Lord with the “archangel’s voice,” we read that “the trump of God” shall summon all the living saints of every land, and, “in a moment,” power Divine shall change their mortal bodies—the bodies of their humiliation (Phil. 3:21, R.V.), in which they have lived, fashioning them anew, conforming them to the body of Christ’s glory.[19] Then will be fulfilled the word, “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). Never, so far as we know, have any, save for a passing glance, seen the living Lord in His unveiled glory. Now the raised and changed saints gaze upon Him “as He is,” and the immediate effect is, they are made “like Him.” In the case of the living, mortality is “swallowed up of life” (2 Cor. 5:4). Like Enoch of old, they will go “without dying.” Their mortality is changed for immortality, as the corruptibility of the dead is changed for incorruptibility. The world is emptied of the living saints,[20] as the grave is swept of the dead in Christ. Not a saint of God will be left in the world; not an atom of the dust of the ransomed dead in the tomb. The triumph of the Lord will be complete. Not a hoof will be left in the hand of the enemy.

The first mention of this secret of the Lord, kept hidden from saints of former times, was made to Martha of Bethany, in that memorable hour of sorrow, when her brother Lazarus lay in the grave. Her hope, according to the revelation of that time was, in his resurrection at “the last day.” Then it was that the Lord announced Himself to her as “the Resurrection and the Life,” and uttered the mighty words, “He that believeth on Me, though he die, yet shall He live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me, shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26). As the “Resurrection” He will call the dead from their graves. Thus death will be “swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). As the “Life,” He will quicken the mortal bodies of His living saints “through His Spirit that dwelleth in them” (Rom. 8:11, with Phil. 3:21). Thus “mortality is swallowed up of life” (2 Cor. 5:4). And this bud of promise is unfolded in all its fulness as a “mystery” revealed to the apostle, then by him to the saints, as in 1 Corinthians 15:51. There, he tells of the “change” to be wrought “in a moment” on those who “shall not sleep,” and in 1 Thessalonians 4:14, that they shall be “caught up together” with the raised dead, to meet “the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17).

            “One moment, twinkling fair and bright,

                And we, caught upward through the air,

            Shall shine in Thy transcendent light,

                And ever Thy heavenly image bear.”

What a moment of heavenly reunion, of unbounded joy, of glorious victory that will be! The redeemed of the Lord of every land, of every tongue, of every age, scattered here and sundered far, all around Himself at last! Not a lamb of the ransomed flock awanting! Not a member of the mystic body missing! All there at last, all together, and all “gathered together” unto Him” (2 Thess. 2:1)—like the steel to the magnet—who is “the Chiefest (the Standard-bearer) among ten thousand,” and “altogether lovely” (S. of Sol. 5:10-16). This will be the hour of the gladness of His heart, part of that “joy that was set before Him” for which He “endured the Cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). Now, with all the saints around Him, He sees of the travail of His soul, and is satisfied. And nearest of all to Himself, in that glorified company, will be the Church, which He loved, for which He gave Himself up a sacrifice—the saints who shared His rejection during the time of His absence from earth, who had, under the care of the Spirit, been guided along the desert like Rebekah of old, towards the heavenly Hebron, the dwelling-place of the Father and the Son. Here, in the midst of that heavenly throng, He will “present to Himself the Church glorious, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:25-26). Each glorified one in that company perfectly like Him, fitted to be with Him, and able to say—

            “Meet companion then for Jesus,

                From Him, for Him made;

            Glory of God’s grace for ever,

                There in me displayed.

            He and I in that bright glory,

                One deep joy shall share;

            Mine, to be for ever with Him,

                His, that I am there.”

 

 

COMING GLORIES OF THE REDEEMED

It does not come within the scope of our present inquiry, to trace in detail the future glories of the redeemed, from the moment of their removal from earth, at the coming of the Lord, until they enter upon the final and eternal state, in the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21:1), which, according to the promise of God they “look for” (2 Pet. 3:13). This, we have sought to do elsewhere.[21] But certain outstanding events, which are especially connected with redeemed Man’s Future State, may be briefly noted.

From the “gathering together unto Him” (2 Thess. 2:1), and the receiving (John 14:3) and presentation to Himself there of the Church glorious (Eph. 5:27), the glorified company will next be led by the Lord to the Father’s House, the circle of love, where they are “presented faultless in the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), evidently by the Son, to whom they were given to be kept, and by the Spirit (here, as in 2 Cor. 3:17, named “the Lord”)—who had indwelt them and guided them to be presented “unblamable in holiness before God, even our Father” (2 Thess. 3:13).

With what a welcome will the Great Firstborn, and the children which God has given Him (Heb. 2:13), “the many sons” whom at last He has safely brought to “glory” (Heb. 2:16), be received to the Father’s House—the place where all the children are equally near and dear. This seems to the first circle into which the glorified saints are brought, and there, after the long sundering, they are at home.

            “Home! Oh how soft and sweet

                It thrills upon the heart!

            Home! where the brethren meet,

                And never, never part.”

 

A Scene within the Heavens

The Book of Revelation presents the glorified saints in another, and it may be, later position. In chapters 2-3 the moral history of the Church is traced from Pentecostal freshness and power, to Laodicean lukewarmness and apostasy, and the whole course of its testimony in seven aspects, as represented by the seven chosen lampstands of the Asian Churches. We hear and see no more of the Church, or those who compose it, as being on earth. In chapter 4 John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, the one of whom the Lord said, “If I will that he tarry till I come” (John 21:22), is called up by trumpet voice (comp. 1 Thess. 4:16) into heaven, there to see things which must come to pass “after these” (R.V.)—that is after the course of Church testimony on earth has been completed. Here in the heavens, John sees a central throne, with One seated thereon, and round about that throne were four-and-twenty thrones, filled with crowned elders, wearing white robes, who are taken to represent the glorified saints—it may be of former dispensations—as worshippers; while closer still, nearer to the Lamb “who is in the midst of the throne” (Rev. 5:6) are seen four “living ones” (v. 5) full of spiritual intelligence, looking backward and onward on the purposes of their God. Who can these represent but the glorified Church, the saints of the present out-calling of grace, one with Christ, who will lead the heavenly worship, and execute the judgment of God in the coming age (1 Cor. 6:2: Rev. 6). These together fall down and proclaim the Lamb, as the only worthy One. On Him every eye is fixed: in virtue of His blood alone, they stand in the dazzling light of the throne of God. There at last, in full and glorious measure, is realised what had often been hymned in earthly days—

            “When I stand before the throne,

                Dressed in beauty not mine own;

            When I see Thee as Thou art,

                Love Thee with unsinning heart;

            Then Lord shall I fully know,

                Not till then, how much I know.”

 

The Judgment-Seat of Christ

The Judgment-Seat of Christ, with the Rewards of Service, seems to come next. Here, the glorified saints appear in their character of servants and stewards, to have their work reviewed; and their service rewarded, by Him whom they had owned as Master and Lord. As sinners, their judgment had long been past: it ended at the Cross where they judicially died in Christ (Gal. 2:20). Into such a judgment no believer will ever come (John 5:24, R.V.). As sons their discipline and judgment (Heb. 12:6-9: 1 Pet. 1:7) continued through earthly life, had fulfilled its gracious purpose, and ended in the hour of dissolution, or translation. No disciplinary or purgatorial purification after earthly life was needed to fit them for that glory. But their manifestation as servants before the Beema of Christ to show how their race had been run (1 Cor 9:24-27): their conflict with the power of evil maintained (2 Tim. 2:3-4): their stewardship fulfilled (Matt. 25:14), and their course completed (2 Tim. 4:7), awaits a coming hour within the heavens, when they shall receive their reward from Him who only fully knows all their service and their works (1 Cor. 3:14), with the motives that prompted them (1 Cor. 4:5), and the manner in which they were wrought (2 Tim. 2:5). Much, which in “man’s day” (1 Cor. 4:3, marg.) had been accounted great, and had human praise lavished upon it, may only appear as “wood, hay, and stubble” there, while lowly deeds and unrecognised service rendered to the Lord, according to His Word, will have His “well done” and rich reward on that day. “Victor’s crowns”—as the Word is—representing rewards and places of honour in the coming kingdom of the Lord, will be granted to those who have gained them, bright and abiding memorials of their Master’s approval of all that grace had wrought in and through them. The Victor’s Crown of Righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8) to all who had loved His appearing, and acted in view of it: of Life to those who for His Name and truth had been faithful even unto death (Rev. 2:10); of Glory, to those who had fed and guided the flock in wilderness days, not for lucre or place, but because the sheep were Christ’s, who had received neither recognition or reward for their labour here.

Like David’s companions in rejection, who shared with him the cave and the wilderness, harried and hunted by those who hated them, true men, who risked their lives for their royal Master, some to give Him a cup of water from the well of Bethlehem: others to accomplish acts of bravery for His sake (2 Sam. 23:15-23), and were appointed to places of honour when He reached the throne, so will all true love, obedience, service, and suffering, be honoured in that day. All that was done in and for the Lord, will receive His praise then. Then, loaded with the honours of that great tribunal, they will pass to the places of heavenly honour, which had been appointed them at that judgment-seat.

 

 

THE ETERNAL STATE OF THE REDEEMED

The marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6-9), the appearing or Epiphany of the Lord with all His saints (Col. 3:3; Rev. 19:11), the judgment of those who are alive on earth, who had rejected the Gospel preached to them (2 Thess. 1:7-9), the doom of Christendom (Rev. 17:1-7), the establishment, character, duration, and end of the millennial kingdom (Ps. 72:1; Rev. 21:4), with the blessings which will flow to the whole earth in that time, though all themes of transcendent interest, need not occupy us here. We need only remind ourselves that the saints in glorified bodies will be with the Lord during all these events, reigning with Him (Rev. 20:4), and seeing His face as they serve Him perfectly and constantly there (Rev. 22:3-4). Many of the descriptions of these millennial times, of both heavenly and earthly blessing, have been used by those who fail in “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) to teach the final reconciliation and restoration of the lost, and the ultimate salvation of all men and fallen angels. Notably has this been so in interpreting such Scriptures as Acts 3:21, in which the expression “The Restitution of all things” has provided the title for a book devoted to this subject. In Philippians 2:10 and Colossians 1:20, where reconciliation of all things, and acknowledgement of Christ’s Lordship by all men need to be distinguished; and John 3:17 and 1 Timothy 4:10, where salvation as potential in Christ for all, and actual in fact and possession only in those who believe are named, both clearly differentiated in the Word, are confused by those who use such Scriptures in the interests of Universalism. Old Testament prophecies of coming days of glory to Israel under their Messiah’s rule, and of extensive earthly blessing to the whole earth, teach us nothing concerning the final state of the saved or the lost. Only once in the prophets do we get a glance of the Eternal State, and there it is a simple announcement of “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17; 66:22) rather than of those who are to inhabit them. In Revelation 21:1-8, God gives us a view of the Eternal State, with this newly-created heaven and new earth, fresh in their beauty and perfection from their Creator’s hands, in which righteousness shall “dwell” (2 Pet. 3:13), finding here its eternal home, and to which no usurper shall ever find an entrance.

The heavenly city—New Jerusalem—which at the beginning of Millennial times is seen descending towards the earth, now during the reign of Christ and His heavenly people seems to hover over it, as the seat of government and source of glory to the earthly sphere of Christ’s kingdom. Filled with the glory of God, which shines through its crystal walls lighting up the earthly city, which will then according to the prophetic word—“rise, shine for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen up in thee” (Isa. 60:1)—become the light-giver to the whole world. “The nations shall walk amidst the light thereof” (Rev. 21:24, R.V.), “for the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it” (Isa. 40:1-5). But this bright and blessed scene, lasting for a thousand years, ends in a last great revolt. Those who perforce had yielded only a feigned obedience (Ps. 18:43-44) to a power which they could not resist, and to which any trace of open hostility would have brought swift judgment (Isa. 65:20), immediately that Satan is loosed from his prison for the final testing of man—who had already been tried in innocence, under law, in grace, and had in all manifested his opposition to God, now after a thousand years of perfect rule in view of heavenly glory, revolts again, and rallies around the great Deceiver who, no doubt, will hold out something better than Millennial bliss; some new form of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” more to man’s taste than a “reign of righteousness” (Ps. 62:1-10) with plentitude for man and beast. Swift and condign vengeance, without mercy, ends this last rebellion. “Fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them” (Rev. 20:10) is the brief but awful record of Divine judgment upon the devil-deceived billions—in number “as the sand of the sea”—gathered from all lands to give battle to the glorified King, and to assail “the beloved city.” Their leader, “the Devil that deceived them,” then meets his final doom, in “the lake of fire.” Awful end to a career, which may be traced from heaven’s heights, through Eden’s garden, by Judea’s wilderness, Golgotha’s cross, through ages of hostility to God, and enmity towards His people, struggling always to ascend, to exalt himself, now at last dethroned, despised and doomed to final punishment, the most guilty and most miserable Being in the universe. Then follows the final judgment of those whom he deceived, who took his side and cause, and now share his doom in eternity. Consigned to that doom after heaven and earth are fled (Rev. 20:15), they are seen having “their part” in it, when the Eternal State is described, which state continues in all its fixed conditions “for ever and ever” (chaps. 20:10; 22:5), alike for the saved and the lost. Then it is, that the new heaven and the new earth, whose beauty exceeds the old, as the glory of the last Adam exceeds the glory of the first, shine forth in all their splendour. They stand secure “in Him,” and in the power of His redemption, and all that is in them is “incorruptible, undefiled and unfading” (1 Pet. 1:4). This is the “eternal glory” to which the saints have been called (1 Pet. 5:10). In this is their abiding home. Here “God Himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev. 21:4).

            “God and the Lamb shall there

                The light and temple be,

            And radiant hosts for ever share

                The unveiled mystery.”

 

 

THE PUNISHMENT OF THE WICKED

An extensive circulation of literature, in various forms, dealing with this subject, much of which is calculated to mislead the untaught and deceive the simple, calls for a plain statement of the teachings of Scripture on the solemn and awful truth. It is only by knowledge and acceptance of the testimony of God, whose revelation alone is of authority, that we can be preserved from the entanglements of error. The leaven of false doctrine, when accepted by a true Christian, soon manifests its workings in a lowered spiritual condition, leading to a worldly life and companionship with others holding the same errors, irrespective of whether they are born of God or not; while upon the unconverted the result of such error is that they usually become wholly indifferent to eternal things, and utterly hardened against the Gospel of God, and the salvation which it proclaims.

Amongst those who oppose the testimony of God’s Word on Man’s Future State, and the punishment of the impenitent, are to be found avowed infidels who blaspheme God, and wholly deny His revelation; Church dignitaries, in high places, who hold forth their views in the hearing of the rich and great, in Cathedrals and State Churches, men beneficed and pledged to proclaim and defend the faith, which, by their utterances and writings, they seek to overthrow and destroy. Principals of Universities, and Professors of Theology, who have the future ministers of most denominations under their tuition, poisoning their minds and shaking their confidence in the veracity of Scripture on this and other fundamental truths, with the result that few present day preachers ever mention “eternal judgment” (Heb. 6:2) in their preaching. In popular pulpits it is openly denied. Many have cast “ordination vows” to the winds, and trample the “creeds and confessions,” they profess to own, in the mire. Even among “evangelicals” there is a growing tendency to “keep silence” on the truths which evangelists of former times proclaimed with no uncertain sound, and which were used of God in the awakening, conviction, and conversion of thousands. The “up-to-date,” and would be popular preacher, if he believes in “wrath to come,” takes care not to warn his hearers to “flee from it,” lest he give offence, and scatter the crowd.

The enormous amount of false profession, rootless religion, and shallow Christianity of the present time, may largely be accounted for in the lack of that preaching which brings sin, its character, its judgment, and its punishment home to sinners’ consciences, and them into the presence of that righteous God, before whose judgment throne they must one day stand to give an account.

Converts made by sentimental story-telling, soothing solo singing, and soft preaching, are easily found, and just as quickly disappear, for, like the seed sown on the rocky ground, they have “no root,” the hard rock beneath never having been blasted by the Word which produces that conviction of sin, which precedes true conversion. It was not such preaching that God used to awaken sinners, either in apostolic times, or in the great Revivals of the last two centuries. Paul on Mars’ Hill led his hearers to the judgment (Acts 17:31) as Peter at Caesarea had done (Acts 10:42). Edwards, Whitefield, Wesley, Spurgeon, Moody, and others, used of God in arousing sinners, proclaimed judgment to come with no uncertain sound, and God used it, although they were sneered at by Moderates in the churches, and caricatured by platform and press. Let all who preach the Word give a clear and certain sound on the judgment, as well as the grace of God, and while holding forth a free and present salvation “in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:12), fail not, and fear not to warn all Christ-rejecters of that coming day of judgment and wrath, in which the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven “in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:8).

 

The Testimony of Scripture

The Word of God is the supreme standard of appeal on this transcendent subject. Human reasonings and arguments are of no value whatever. Men are not capable of adjudicating on their own guilt, or the punishment it deserves. In human law, any man involved in a case would be disqualified from acting as a juryman, but in the matter of giving a verdict on sin, and what it deserves, men claim to be both jury and judge, while their true place is that of culprits in the dock.

Here, the Word of the Eternal God, which is the final appeal, must stand for ever, and stand it shall, whether man receive or reject it.

It is remarkable with what frequency, and awful force, the punishment of sin, here and hereafter, is stated in Scripture. In the Old Testament, where the records of swift judgment overtaking transgressors are chiefly found, such as the primal curse and expulsion from Eden, the judgment of the flood, the destruction of Babel, the doom of Sodom and Gomorrah, the death of the first-born throughout Egypt, the extermination of the Canaanites by the sword, and the judgment on, and final scattering of Israel, there is a solemn witness to the righteous retribution and “severity of God” (Rom. 11:22) against wilful and prolonged transgression. All this has been reasoned against, and rendered void in warning to sinners by the unwarranted assumption that such judgments had no existence in fact, or that if they occurred, no such penalties being inflicted upon nations or individuals now, the methods of God’s dealings must have changed, and severity having failed, mercy has now asserted her rule. Some argue that seeing that God is Love, He cannot inflict such punishment. Others say that whatever the sinner endures, is in the way of chastisement, and for his ultimate salvation. But the testimony of the Word is that God has already manifested His love in the gift of His Son (1 John 3:16), and commended it in His death on Calvary (Rom. 5:8). To all who accept and confess Him as their Saviour and Lord, the grace of God is “exceedingly abundant” in their justification and salvation, but there is no hint given of any reserve of mercy for those who despise Him.

That “grace now reigns” (Rom. 5:21), and that “mercy rejoices against judgment” (Jas. 2:13) in this Gospel age, is blessedly true. Were it otherwise, those who now blaspheme God’s Holy Name, despise His Christ, and corrupt His Word, had long ago been where Sodom sinners, Korah, Belshazzar, Judas, Herod, and other rebels against God and His Christ now are. But it must not be forgotten that this long-suffering of God will have an end (2 Pet. 3:9), and that the “acceptable year of the Lord,” now running its course, is to be followed by “the day of vengeance of our God” (comp. Isa. 61:1-2, with Luke 4:18-20). Then, sins long forgotten, but recorded in “the books,” will come up for judgment at the “great white throne” (Rev. 20:11-15). Then, the long delayed “righteous judgment of God,” which men who have despised the “riches of God’s goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering,” which might have led them to repentance, must at last meet, revealing to them, then no longer deceived by human reasonings, and blinded by Satanic lies, that awful “wrath” which in their impenitence they have “treasured up” against themselves to await that coming day (Rom. 2:4-5).

 

 

FINAL DOOM OF THE LOST

In the New Testament, and especially in the words of the Lord Jesus, as recorded in the four Gospels, the punishment of the lost is stated in the fullest and clearest terms. On no less than fifty-two distinct occasions in the course of His ministry did the Son of God refer to the doom of the lost, either in the Intermediate or in the Eternal state. The words in which he describes and warns sinners against “hell fire” are so plain and definite, that only those who want to get rid of them by “handling the Word of God deceitfully” (2 Cor. 4:2) to obscure or pervert their meaning, find any difficulty in apprehending their force and application. In the opening pages of the New Testament, we find for the first time the dreadful words, “the wrath to come” (Matt. 3:7). It is revealed from heaven (Rom. 1:18), and cometh on “the children of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6). In the Book of Revelation we hear the wail of those who in the midst of awful judgments cry, “the great day of His wrath is come” (Rev. 6:17). Then it is poured out without mercy upon the ungodly (Rev. 14:10-19; 19:14).[22]

In Luke 16:19-31 the curtain that hides the after-death condition is drawn aside by the hand of God, and we are permitted to see the condition, and to hear the actual words of one who had lived in luxury and forgetfulness of God in the present world, now a disembodied spirit in hades, after death, and before resurrection, with living brethren on earth whom he wishes some one to warn lest they share his woes in that “place of torment.” Whatever may be the full import of the dreadful words, “in torment,” “tormented in this flame,” with the certain knowledge of a “great gulf fixed” between the lost and the abode of the saved, they do not, and cannot mean less than conscious and awful suffering, and hopeless woe. And when in describing the final and eternal doom of the lost the Lord of Light and Love, who only spoke to the world the words which He had heard from God (John 8:26, 28, 38), uses such terms as “eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46, R.V.), “the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:44, R.V.), it is without a single hint of mercy mingling with the punishment, or a ray of hope that it may end, or that those who endure it shall eventually escape by a last great death, or experience a final restoration to Divine favour.

In the Third of John—that great Gospel charter, in which is unfolded to the fullest God’s love to the world in the gift of His Son, the death of that Son to give life, and the simple way in which the sinner receives it—the present and final results to both receiver and rejector are plainly recorded in the weighty closing words as follows:—“He that believeth on the Son HATH everlasting life”—hath it now, and for ever (John 10:27-28), and “he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). This last solemn declaration of our Divine Lord leaves no place either for the plausible theories of the Restorationist[23] or the Annihilationist—for if he “shall not see life,” he can never be restored to God and heaven, and if “the wrath of God abideth on him” he can never cease to be, for wrath cannot be said to “abide” on a nonentity.

 

The Doctrine of the Epistles

The teaching of the Epistles is explicit and definite regarding the penalty of sin, and the future punishment of those who despise the remedy provided by God in Christ, and proclaimed in the Gospel. Concerning those who will be alive on earth when the Lord returns in judgment, we read, “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:1-9, R.V.). This judgment on the living is also described in 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9 and Revelation 19:11-20, where Antichrist and his followers are overthrown. This is not by extermination—which meaning has been read into the words, “everlasting destruction”—for we find the two leaders in this last revolt, who are caught red-handed in their rebellion and hurled alive into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20), still existent in that lake of fire after a thousand years, when the devil, who led them on in their unavailing opposition, is cast in beside them—a trinity of hell, co-partners in rebellion against God, the first tenants of that burning lake. In the judgment of living nations by the Son of Man, those condemned to “everlasting punishment,” are told that it was “prepared for the Devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41), which connects it with Revelation 20:10, and leaves no ray of hope regarding its termination. The words, “everlasting,” “eternal,” “for ever,” “for ever and ever,” “the worm that dieth not, the fire that shall not be quenched”—all of which are used to describe the duration of the punishment of the wicked, can never under any honest system of interpretation, be made to teach annihilation, extermination, or non-existence. The same words, “eternal” and “everlasting,” are used to describe the salvation (Heb. 5:9), life (John 3:16), and glory of the redeemed (2 Tim. 2:10), as are used to warn of the doom of the lost (see 1 Thess. 1:9; Jude 7; Matt. 25:26). And the same words are used to express the eternity of God Himself (Deut. 33:27) and His glory (1 Pet. 5:10). If they mean unending in one case, so must they in the other. Their awful force and solemnity must appeal to every reverent reader of God’s Holy Word, as conveying nothing less than that unending, undying, unmitigated woe, and wrath to come, out of which the Son of God died to deliver (1 Thess. 1:10), and from which He lives to save (Rom. 5:9) all who confide in, and confess Him as their Saviour and Lord. These solemn and awakening truths should not be ruled out from our testimony to the world, but they should be spoken with a deep sense of their awful reality, and with tender hearts, in fellowship with Him who wept over sinners, while He foretold their impending doom.

 

 

APPENDICES

NOTE A: SPIRIT, SOUL AND BODY

Christadelphianism—that is the system founded by Dr. Thomas, of which the writings of Mr. Roberts, of Birmingham, are the chief exponents in Great Britain—not only denies the tripartite nature of man, and his endless being, but in it nearly every fundamental truth of the Scripture is either corrupted or denied. Although they boast their belief in the Inspiration of the Bible, there is not a remnant of the Christianity it teaches to be found in their system. The Eternal Deity of the Son of God is flatly denied. In His Manhood, they say He inherited “the human sin-nature of His mother.” The Personality of the Holy Spirit is denied. “Spirit is an element of the atmosphere,” according to Dr. Thomas; and in the view of Mr. Roberts, is “as much on the list of material forces as light, heat and electricity.” There is no personal devil, no present salvation, no possession of eternal life. Holding such views, it is not surprising to learn that with them “the body is the whole man’; that “Dust thou art” expresses what man is in his entire being. And yet Paul speaks of the body being but a “tent” which may be dissolved, from which the tenant may be “absent” (2 Cor. 5:1, 8), and which has so little share in the apprehension of spiritual and heavenly things, that when he had “visions and revelations,” he did not know whether he was “in” or “out” of it at the time he received them. Peter speaks of it as a “tabernacle,” which he may “put off,” or out from which he may make his “exodus” (2 Pet. 1:13-14).

The same gross Materialism is found in the doctrine of most “Adventist” writers, who in varied ways deny the survival of the soul and spirit beyond death, and advocate Annihilation, or Extinction of Being. In these, and other such systems of error, it is openly confessed that there is no “combination of body, soul and spirit, as constituting the whole man.”

Dr. Bullinger, who in time past was regarded by many as one who contended “for the faith once delivered to the saints,” has evidently gone over to the camp of Annihilationists. His recent teaching, that man consists of two parts: body and spirit, and that the union of these two makes a third thing, which is called “soul,” followed by the amazing deduction, that “hence the word soul is used of the whole personality.” Then as a consequence, when spirit and body become separated at death, and the soul ceases to exist, there is an extinction of the man’s entire being. He is “no more.” This is what comes of reasoning on the Word of God.

 

NOTE B: DEATH, NOT EXTINCTION OF BEING

Joseph Cook, in one of his famous Boston Lectures, gave a word of wise counsel when he said, “Look well to your definitions.” The careless and indiscriminate application of terms, by some who have written on the subject of Man’s Future State, has done much to confuse men’s minds, and render it easy to lead them into error. Such words as life, death, eternal life, immortality, on the one hand, and destruction, perdition, punishment, on the other, have been treated as if they were synonyms, whereas in the Scriptures of truth, each has its own precise and definite meaning. When this becomes known, the arguments of Annihilationists and others, vanish.

In a popular book entitled “Life in Christ,” by Edward White, an English Congregationalist, he claims that the wages of sin being death, and death the “utter destruction” of man’s nature, that absolute extinction of being is therefore the sinner’s doom. In Adam’s case this “literal, immediate, and final dissolution of the nature of Adam as a man”—the death “threatened to Adam, and which he was to suffer on the very day of his sin,” and which “was the absolute extinction of his being,” was averted by “the operation of Redemption,” which he avers God brought in as a temporary provision, and that the “sentence of death is postponed, not repealed.” This is “another gospel,” of which Scripture knows nothing. The death that was threatened upon Adam, came upon him as the Lord God had said it would, on the “day” of his fall. It was a separation from God, a changed relationship toward his Creator, in which his posterity were involved (see Rom. 5:12-14). And redemption did not undo this. It brought in a remedy, and those who accept it, as it is set forth in the Gospel, have already “passed out of death into life” (John 5:24), while the Christ-rejecter “hath not life” (John 3:36). Yet he will not become extinct, for the verse goes on to say, “the wrath of God abideth on him,” So that death is not extinction: nor is existence a synonym of life: nor eternal life the same as immortality. The sinner is dead in sins (Eph. 2:1). Yet he exists, “walking according to the course of this world,” active in disobedience; “dead” while he “liveth” (1 Tim. 5:6). The believer has already passed out of this death into life: he “hath eternal life.” But not immortality. For this he waits. He will “put it on” (1 Cor. 15:54), if among those who are “alive and remain” unto the coming of the Lord (1 Thess. 4:11); and if among “the dead in Christ,” he will put on incorruption (1 Cor. 15:53-54). Such are the words used by the Spirit, and we shall be wise if we keep close to them.

 

NOTE C: CONDITIONAL IMMORTALITY

Those who contend for the annihilation, or bringing to non-existence, of the ungodly, do so on different grounds.

Christadelphians, Seventh Day Adventists, and other Materialists who teach that the body is the man, say that “dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” expresses what becomes of his entire being, and that the dead body “is the man, the person, the self.” This ends all.

The more common view is that which is advanced in a pamphlet, “How we get Immortality,” from which I quote. The writer says:—“Adam, and all of us, have by disobedience lost immortal life, or endless existence, for which man was originally fitted, and which was to have been ours, if obedient—such existence, or immortality, being restored to us only in Christ, and becoming ours when He becomes ours.” Here life, existence, and immortality are dealt with as if they were one and the same, which they are not. Existence all men have, and ever will have, because they are the “offspring of God” (Acts 13:28). Into man’s nostrils the Lord God breathed the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). He has what none can either kill or destroy (Luke 12:4). The fall deprived Adam and his race of that life which is life indeed. “Alienated from the life of God,” “and dead in trespasses and in sins” (Eph. 4:17; 2:1), is now the sinner’s condition until “eternal life” as the free gift of God in Christ Jesus (Rev. 6:23, R.V.) is received and possessed (1 John 5:13). But sinners who despise that life, who have not that life, and “shall not see” it (John 3:36), exist now, and shall exist for ever. There is not an atom of Scripture to show that any crisis or change will terminate man’s existence. Those who say there is such must produce the evidence.

A third school adopt the Destructionist view. They build on the fact that God “is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28), and assuming without the least evidence that God will do all that He is well able to do, they conclude that He will annihilate the lost. But “destruction” is not Annihilation. The word is never used in Scripture to teach extermination, but to express the ruin to which sin has sunk, and judgment will fix the sinner. The words used are applied to bottles which burst and were marred (Mark 2:22), they ceased to serve the purpose for which they were formed; sheep which became lost to their owner (Matt. 15:24); trees that cumber the ground (Luke 13:7). But the word is never used to express putting out of existence, or annihilation.

 

NOTE D: THE HOPE OF OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS

The patriarch Job, looking forward to death, speaks of what lay beyond it as “the land of darkness and the shadow of death” (Job 10:21). He had resurrection as his ultimate hope (chap. 19:25); but the disembodied state in Sheol was less known. Contrast with this the triumphant “desire” of Paul (Phil. 1:23) to depart and be “with Christ.” Redemption accomplished, Christ risen, death annulled, made the difference. Glimmerings of light there had been before the Cross, expressed in such words as 2 Samuel 12:23 and Psalm 68:24. Enoch and Elijah had gone without dying. But the hope of saints before the Cross was a rest for the weary (Job 3:17), followed by a resurrection on the last day, as expressed by Martha in John 11:20.

The following from the pen of William Kelly, which appeared in The Christian Annotator of Nov. 1855, will be read with interest. Commenting on 2 Timothy 1:10, he says, “In this Scripture, our Saviour is represented as having abolished death—here personified as is sin in Romans 6. Of course, this does not mean that men no longer die as a fact, but that He annulled the title of death as regards His own. In Hebrews 2, it is declared that He took part of flesh and blood, that through death He might destroy (katargeo, the same word is here used) him that had the power of death, that is the devil.’ But He has done more: He has brought to light, life and incorruption (the body being in question, and not the soul only), through the Gospel. It is not said nor meant, that either was absolutely hidden, for enough was suggested for the faith of God’s elect, to show that resurrection and heaven were in His mind, and not earthly blessings only, as Matthew 22:23-33 and Hebrews 11 abundantly prove. . . . The Gospel does not speak of life and incorruptibility as utterly unknown before; on the contrary, it supposes them to have been partly seen, gleaming here and there through the darkness; whereas now they stand out in bold relief, the grand theme of evangelic testimony.”

 

NOTE E: DEATH ABOLISHED AND DESTROYED

At the Cross the Lord Jesus “abolished” death (Heb. 2:14); He stripped it of its power, rendered it inoperative, nullified it, for all His own. The same word is used in 2 Timothy 1:10, rendered “abolished,” and in 1 Corinthians 15:26, “destroyed.” But the latter, as the context tells, will not take place in fact, until Christ has “put all enemies under His feet.” Not by grace as now He subdues sinners through the Gospel, but by His power in judgment. And death is one of these, the “last enemy” to be actually destroyed. But it too must be put under His feet. How? Revelation 20:13 tells us that when death delivers up the bodies of the lost, and hades their souls, to be reunited for judgment before the great white throne, then both are cast into Gehenna, the lake of fire. Death will never more have power over the bodies of either the saved or the lost. Of the redeemed it is said, “Neither shall they die any more” (Luke 20:26), they have put on immortality—deathlessness; and of the lost in the lake of fire, “this is the second death.” And the lake of fire is not extinction, but “for ever and ever”—for the ages of ages.

 

NOTE F: SLEEP, NOT USED OF THE SOUL OR SPIRIT

There are those who hold that the soul exists as apart from the body, that it is not destroyed at death, that it will be reunited with the body at resurrection, but in the meantime, in the interval between death and resurrection, it sleeps. In a recent book entitled—Bible Light on Holy Sleepers, the following statements are made:—“The earliest of all allusions to the resurrection of the body, gives the idea of spirit-slumber between death and resurrection.” And again, “Sleep, which is a state of suspended consciousness, involving inactivity, silence, painlessness, and repose, is the word used to describe the separate spirit’s present condition.” In order to soften the thought that Abraham, Moses, David, and others, who, for thousands of years, have been in this “state of suspended consciousness,”should be losers, and that Paul who reckoned that to die was “gain,” had miscalculated, it is said that although the time in which these sleepers are thus unconscious may extend to thousands of years, it will be to the sleeper like “falling asleep in the evening and awaking in the morning.” Where they get this information, they do not tell us!

To all this sentiment and reasoning—for there is not a vestige of Scripture warrant for it—we reply: Sleep is never used to describe a condition of the soul or spirit, as absent from body. Nowhere in Scripture is the disembodied soul or spirit said to sleep. The word is used of man as identified with the body. “Many bodies of the saints which slept arose” (Matt. 27:12); “David . . . fell asleep, and was laid to his fathers, and saw corruption” (Acts 13:35), prove that it is of the body that the figure is used. And if stronger proof were required, it is found in the statement, “Christ is risen from the dead, and become the Firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). Will any say, that He, in the interval between His death and resurrection, was in “suspended consciousness”? As is the First-fruits, so is the harvest. And if “the spirits of the just” are not asleep, no more are those of the lost. The rich man of Luke 16 had memory and consciousness both awake, when he prayed for mitigation of his woe, and asked that warning might be sent to his brethren on earth not to come to that place of torment. And we are told that the unrighteous are reserved “under punishment” unto the judgment (2 Pet. 2:9). This cannot mean non-consciousness. This teaching of “the sleep of the soul” is only the first step toward annihilation, and few, if any, halt short of the goal. When the truth of God is tampered with, the severance of one part leads to the loss of more. And thus it is, that step by step, “the depths of Satan” are reached.

 

NOTE G: DO THE DEPARTED SAINTS HAVE BODIES NOW?

In 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 three conditions are named in which the believer may be found. First: as “in the tabernacle,”—“at home in the body”—elsewhere spoken of by the same writer as “the life that I now live in the flesh” (Gal. 2:20). Second: as “unclothed”—“naked”—“absent from the body”: elsewhere described as being “with Christ which is far better” (Phil. 1:23, LV.). Third: “clothed upon with our house which is from heaven”—“mortality swalled up of life,” elsewhere spoken of as “putting on immortality,” “bearing the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:49-53). The first two conditions are contrasted in the words, (1) “to live,” “to die” (Phil. 1:21): (2) “to abide in the flesh” (Phil. 1:24), and to be “absent from the body”: (3) “to be in this tabernacle,” and to “put off this tabernacle” (2 Pet. 1:13-14). But here another form of error meets us. It is expressed as follows—“The blessed sleepers, although absent from the body, are clothed spirits. They wear white night-robes while reclining in heavenly places. Our nature shrinks from disenvelopment, and perhaps when severed by death from its corporiety, needs the isolation of clothing to retain its identity.” This strange theory is built up on a mis-translation and false interpretation of the words of 2 Corinthians 5:1 which are rendered and applied as follows—“For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, an abiding place, not made with hands.” And this is said to be the “white robes” worn by the martyred saints in Revelation 6:11. This is Swedenborgianism in slightly altered phraseology, only here the intermediate body is “given,” it is “sent down from heaven,” while Dr. Enoch Pond, the representative of the “Church of the New Jerusalem” tells us the spiritual body in which the man rises to heaven is contained within the one in which he lived below. Of all this, Scripture knows nothing. “There is a natural, and there is a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:44): a mortal body to be quickened (Rom. 8:11): the body of our humiliation, which is to be conformed to the body of Christ’s glory (Phil. 3:21). This entirely precludes all idea of an intermediate body as an “abiding place” between death and resurrection.

 

NOTE H: THE SAINT’S DEPARTURE TO BE WITH CHRIST

The word analuien, rendered “to depart” in Philippians 1:23, the meaning of which as given in Lexicons is “to break up, to depart,” and very often in Greek writers, “to depart from life.” It is used here by the apostle to express the same event as he had previously named in verse 21, “to die is gain.” Its substantive analüsis is found in 2 Timothy 4:6, rendered “the time of my departure is at hand,” which unmistakably refers to Paul’s death. But those who teach the “Sleep of the Soul” of the saved between death and resurrection, and the extinction of the wicked after death, have an amended translation and interpretation of their own of these passages, which manifestly is to support their theory. Dr. Bullinger, Seventh Day Adventists, and others, see in this a third thing, and translate the words, “having a desire for the returning, and being with Christ.” But this cannot be accepted: it is at variance with all that the context teaches. Dr. Handley Moule commenting on the words of 2 Timothy 4:6 says:—“We have here another aspect of the death of the servant of the Lord, ‘The season of my departure is come upon me.’ The word rendered ‘departure’ is analüsis, the Greek original of our ‘analysis.’ An analysis means a setting free, a detachment, a separation of things or thoughts from one another. The original noun here, like the kindred verb in Philippians 1:23, denotes the undoing of a connexion, as it were, the untying of a cord, the weighing of an anchor, so as to set the voyager free to seek the further shore. To the Philippians in that early day, St. Paul had owned his ‘desire’ was to unmoor, and to be with Christ’ (Phil. 1:23). And here the desire is about to become fact: ‘the season of his unmooring is upon him.”

Calvin says (Phil. 1:23)—“This passage is of value in setting aside the mad fancy of those who dream that souls sleep when separated from their bodies: for Paul openly declares that we enjoy the presence of Christ on being set free from the body.” So that “dreamers” on such subjects were evidently as busy in his day as they were in Jeremiah’s time (Jer. 23:25-26), and in ours.

 

NOTE I: SAMUEL AND THE WITCH OF ENDOR

The narrative of 1 Samuel 28, in which is given the story of Samuel’s return from the state of the dead, his appearance to Saul, and the pronouncement of his doom, is a remarkable exception to the rule that the spirits of the dead do not return to earth. It was a special interposition of God in judgment. The circumstances are briefly as follows:—King Saul was in sore straits. The Spirit of God had departed from Him, and an evil spirit had taken possession (1 Sam. 16:14). For his disobedience God had rejected him (1 Sam. 15:26). He had disobeyed God’s prophet, slain His priests, and persecuted His chosen king. He received no message from God, and in his distress, with the Philistines in battle array against him, while “his heart greatly trembled,” he went to consult a witch, a woman with a familiar spirit, in league with demons, at Endor. He asked her to bring up Samuel, and according to her usual custom, she entered into communication with “the familiar spirit”—the Ohv, with which she was in league (see 1 Chr. 10:13), whom she expected would appear and personate Samuel. But to her dismay, Samuel actually appeared, and spoke direct to Saul, telling him that on the morrow he and his sons would be with him, not necessarily in “the same state,” but in Sheol, the spirit world. When the woman recognised Samuel, she was terrified: her divination ceased, she recognised that something unusual had occurred, and she was afraid. She was in the presence of God, not of demons, and the message was of awful judgment, not like general “revelations” from the spirit world, giving comfort and false hopes to those living in sin, who consult demons through necromancers, and spiritualist mediums, “speaking lies in hypocrisy” (1 Tim. 4:1). We may rest assured that no disembodied spirit, either saved or lost, ever so returns to earth, or has intercourse with any living human being on it, through such godless means as modern Spiritualism. Those who pretend to bring such are indwelt by, or in league with, demons, who have knowledge of and impersonate the dead. To suppose that men and women of such character as so-called mediums generally are, whom God calls “consulters with familiar spirits” (Deut. 18:10-14), have power to control the spirits who are “with Christ,” is monstrous. That some of these deluded victims of Satan’s craft may be convicted of their sin and in Divine mercy may be saved we learn from Acts 16:16-18, where one with “a spirit of divination,” or what is now called “a medium”—a link between men and hell—was delivered, but then her relation with demons was instantly broken, and the “gain” she brought to her masters was “gone.” So it will always be where there is true conversion. Where there is any traffic with demons, there can be no relation with Christ or God.

 

NOTE J: “SHEOL” IN CONTRAST WITH THE GRAVE

It is continually asserted by those who deny the existence of the soul as apart from the body, that the Hebrew word Sheol, which occurs some seventy-five times in the Old Testament, means “the grave.” In the A.V. it is translated “hell, grave, the pit.” The Revisers say in their preface of Sheol, “it does not mean the place of burial.” And a reference to “Young’s Analytical Concordance, or “Wigram’s Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance,” will confirm their statement, and show that the word is used for the place to which the soul goes in contrast to the grave, where the body is buried (see for example, Gen. 37:35; Ps. 9:17; Jon. 2:2, where the word Sheol is used, and which the context proves is not of the body, but of the soul). In Psalm 16:10, which is used in Acts 2:29, in reference to the Lord Jesus, His soul is said to have been in Hades—which is the New Testament equivalent of Sheol—and His body in the grave, in Joseph’s tomb. At His resurrection, they were united. Yet in the face of this, Dr. Bullinger and others of the same school affirm that Sheol is the grave—“the place where corruption is seen.” Whereas where the grave is spoken of, Kehver, quite a different word is used, as in Genesis 50:5, where Jacob says, “My grave which I have digged in the land of Canaan,” and in Isaiah 53:9, “He made His grave with the wicked.”

 

NOTE K: THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS

The united fire of Christadelphians, Annihilationists, Adventists—holders of Conditional Immortality, Soul-sleep, Millennial Dawn, and others, is directed against this momentous unveiling of the unseen world, as it existed at the time this revelation of it was made by the Lord. All sorts of quirks are resorted to to get rid of its teaching. It is “a parable,” a “tradition of the Pharisees, therefore fictitious,” that “it is an allegory of the Jew and the Gentile.” That it is “only a parable,” we do not admit. When the Lord says, “There was a certain rich man,” we may rest assured the man actually lived and died. That our Divine Lord endorsed a tradition of the Pharisees, which He knew to be false, and used it in His teaching, none who own His perfection will admit. Did the Son of God, who always spake the words taught Him by the Father (John 8:28), endorse in this case traditions which at other times he mercilessly condemned? (see Mark 7:8-13). They incur a solemn responsibility who impute to our Divine Lord a mode of reasoning and argument which no honest man would adopt. But why all this? Simply because the uplifted veil here discloses what they deny, that the after-death condition of both saved and lost, while apart from the body awaiting resurrection, is one of conscious bliss for the righteous, and of conscious woe for the wicked. Not the full measure of either no doubt, for that is beyond resurrection. Figurative, the language is; for of a state concerning which man in mortal flesh con apprehend so little, such figures are necessary. Words are borrowed from what we do know, and are able to grasp, to represent things unseen. But the things themselves are real.

 

NOTE L: THE LORD’S PASSAGE THROUGH HADES

The words of the Apostle’s Creed, “descended into hell: the third day He rose again from the dead,” repeated by thousands without much thought of what they mean, while not precisely Scriptural in their form, are in substance taught in Psalm 16:10, and interpreted in Acts 2:26-27, that while our Lord’s body lay in the tomb, His soul did enter Hades—always clearly distinguished from Gehenna, the place of punishment and final retribution—accepting its essential conditions, this Scripture informs us. But His soul was not detained in Hades, nor His body in the grave. Having abolished death, He passed through as a Conqueror. Now He has the keys of both Death and Hades (Rev. 1:18). A vast body of teaching and interpretation has gathered around the period of our Lord’s passage through the state of the dead, much that is traditional and non-scriptural being mixed up with it. Such passages as 1 Peter 3:18-20 and 4:6, with the many strange teachings imported into them, of probation and evangelisation beyond death, connect with this period

In the second and third centuries, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement held that during His descent in Hades, the Lord proclaimed His triumph to those who had looked for Him in former times; others, that He announced the Gospel to antediluvian sinners, and others who had not heard it. And many who reject the thought of probation or salvation in the spirit-world, connect the Lord’s descent and passage through Hades, with such Scriptures as Hebrews 2:15 and Ephesians 4:8-10, in which they read a deliverance wrought upon those who had been detained therein, and their transmission to the higher bliss of Paradise. This view is taken by the late Henry Dyer, in his excellent book on “Paradise.” Commenting on this, he says:—“It is only natural to suppose that the Saviour’s victory by dying, would as surely and as really add to the joys and blessings of His departed saints, as we know it did, and still does, to His living saints. To us, the living, it is by the ‘gifts to men’ at Pentecost; to the departed, it was, and still is, by ‘captivity being led captive.’ It would appear, therefore, that Christ did immediately upon His death, pass through Hades, claiming as His own all those who had from the beginning ever believed in Him, and bore them at once with Him to the Paradise He had gained by dying.”

 

NOTE M: PAUL, CAUGHT UP INTO PARADISE

By comparing the date of 2 Corinthians 12 (A.D. 60), with what took place at Lystra, A.D. 46 (Acts 14:19-20), “about fourteen years” before, some conclude that it was when Paul was stoned and drawn out of the city, supposed “to be dead,” that his spirit was “caught up” into Paradise. Then “as the disciples stood around him,” by an act of Divine power, he was raised to life and sent back to complete his course of service. Certainly the words of verse 20 seem to indicate this, or some such miracle, for we read he “rose up,” went into the city, and started off on a preaching tour next day. Men stoned and battered until they are supposed to be dead do not usually recover so quickly. That there was a “miracle” wrought somehow is clear. Paul could not tell after considering the matter for fourteen years whether he had been “in” the body or “out” of it at the time. What he did know was that he had been “in paradise.” And this is not “the renewed earth” as some teach, but the present abode of the spirits of departed saints. And it was “as a man in Christ” (2 Cor. 12:1) that Paul was favoured with this rapture. Not as an apostle or as one called to honoured service, but as being “in Christ,” which is the common standing of all the saints of this dispensation. His rapture was thus a sort of representative experience, showing us the place and state in which the spirits of the saints of this age, while absent from the body, await the Lord’s coming.

 

NOTE N: SPIRITUALISM, A WORK OF DEMONS

The rapid spread of Spiritualism, especially amongst those who are in quest of knowledge concerning the spirit world, such as God has withheld from man, and forbidden him to seek, and the alliance of it with what bears the Christian name, calls for Scriptural and solemn warning from all who stand before men as ministers of the Word of God. While there may be and is much connected with the practice of it that is mere trickery and deception, as wrought by so-called conjurors, hypnotists, and thought-readers, yet it is a solemn fact that living men and women on earth are indwelt by demons who are able to personate the dead, and so deceive those who come under their influence. Spiritualism is the modern name given to that form of divination in which demons are consulted and act through mediums. In Bible language it is known as necromancy and “consulting with familiar spirits”, and concerning all who engaged in it God said, “I will set My face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people” (Lev. 20:6). In the New Testament “sorcery” is found among those sins of which it is said, “They that do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21). And “sorcerers” are classed with murderers and idolaters as having their part in the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8). The Scriptures warn us that, “The latter times will be characterised by those who have abandoned the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies” (1 Tim. 4:1-2, R.V.); and it will be by “signs and lying wonders” wrought by the Lawless One, “whose coming is according to the working of Satan” (2 Thess. 2:9), that the last great delusion will hasten those who have despised the Gospel, to perdition. Let all who fear God stand clear of everything that savours of this. Whether it appear in the form of entertainment or religion it is “from beneath,” and its object is to lead all who become entangled in it thither.

 

NOTE O: PRAYERS AND MASSES FOR THE DEAD

Under the sanction of the Primate of the Church of England, prayers for the dead, and masses for the dead and the living, Mariolatry, Confessional and priestly absolution, are openly celebrated by Ritualistic clergymen in what professes to be the Church of the Reformation. And a section of the Established Church of Scotland—the Church of Knox and the Covenanters—is following them, with crucifixes, altars, candles and vestments. An extract from the Union Review of forty years ago, from the pen of an English churchman, will not be thought so strange as it was when issued. He writes:—“It is most refreshing to find that the doctrinal differences which separate the Roman and Anglican Communions disappear, when viewed in the light of impassioned inquiry.” Since then what progress has been made in the Romeward movement! Let all who desire to know what is at work secretly within the pale of the so-called Reformed Church, read Walsh’s History of the Oxford Movement. Let all who “belong to Christ” see that they are clear of all complicity with such perfidy. A single cord attaching a boat to a sinking steamer may drag it to the same depths. Separation, clean and clear, from all such error, is the only safe course.

 

NOTE P: PREACHING TO THE SPIRITS IN PRISON

Dean Farrar’s book entitled Eternal Hope,which contains five sermons preached in Westminster Abbey, and is dedicated to Dr. Plumptre, whose sermon on The Spirits in Prison, delivered in St. Paul’s Cathedral, was the pioneer utterance on The Wider Hope, has, as might be expected, a good deal to say on this text and its neighbour, in 1 Peter 4:6. But after all has been said, the sum-total of his finding is very indefinite. It is recorded in the preface, and, as he says, may be summed up in the single sentence, “That God’s mercy may extend beyond the grave,” followed by a quotation from Fronmuller, “that the ways of God’s salvation do not necessarily terminate with earthly life.” The manner in which this “unconverted mercy” is to reach sinners who have died without Christ, he thinks will be by evangelising them in hell. This he gathers from the text which says that, Christ “went and preached to the spirits in prison,” and the other which “tells us in so many words, that the Gospel was preached to them that were dead.” And from this he argues that if, “as the Church in every age has held, the fate of those dead sinners was not irrevocably fixed at death, then it must be clear and obvious to the meanest understanding, that neither of necessity is ours.” And on this ground he adds, “My hope is, that the vast majority at any rate, of the lost, may at length be found.” Although in the case of some who do not win the final victory before they die, they “may have to be purified in that Gehenna of fire beyond the grave” (p. 88). And all this is found in the “text,” 1 Peter 4:6 which we suggest has absolutely nothing to say on this subject. The theory is first elaborately worked up; then the text, after misquoting it, is used as a peg to hang all this on. This is its only connection. “The dead” are not those who have died in sin: the “preaching” is not present or future, but past. This forbids all reference to an evangelising of the dead in hades, as “the spirits in prison.” Such a doctrine is not in these texts or elsewhere in God’s Word. 1 Pet. 3:18-20 has been dealt with. A few words on 1 Peter 4:6, will suffice. The context is addressed to saints, exhorting them to judge themselves, and no longer live the rest of their time to “the lusts of men.” Some had evidently done this, and like the Corinthians, suffered death (1 Cor. 11:30-32) by Divine judgment as men in the flesh. But their doom was not eternal, for they had the Gospel preached to them, and they received it. And notwithstanding their sin unto death, they “ceased from sin” by death, while they “suffered in the flesh,” and now they “live according to God in the spirit”—words which have a remarkable similarity to 1 Corinthians 5:5. An alternate interpretation is, that these saints who had judged themselves before God as sinners, were now being judged because of their conversion which came through the Gospel; but while thus judged by men in a fleshly way, they lived according to God in spiritual lives.

 

NOTE Q: THE RESURRECTION BODY OF THE SAINT

“The redemption of the body” (Rom. 8:23) is said to be an “adoption,” which means son-placing. Already this is true of believers (Gal. 4:5) as to their spiritual being: it will be of their bodies when raised and glorified with Christ at His coming. The living will “put on immortality,” the dead in Christ will “put on incorruption.” The “body of their humiliation” will be “fashioned anew,” that it may be conformed to the “body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21). The identity is preserved. The rewards at the judgment seat bestowed upon the risen and glorified saints will be “that each one may receive the things done in the body” (2 Cor. 5:10, R.V.); that is, the things done by its instrumentality in earthly days.

One school of deniers of the resurrection, base their objection to it on the fact that as the body after death becomes decomposed, dispersed, and assimilated with other organisms, identity would be impossible. Our answer is, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). And bodily identity does not consist in sameness of actual particles. In life, the composition of our bodies is continually changing, so that in an adult there may not be an atom of what was in the same person as a child, yet the identity of the person is preserved.

Why should it be different in the resurrection body? Dr. Hodge of Princeton remarks, “The resurrection of our bodies, though a certain fact of revelation, is to us, as yet, an unrealized experience, an unobserved phenomenon. The physical conditions therefore of the identity of our ‘spiritual’ bodies, with our ‘natural’ bodies, we cannot now possibly comprehend, since we have neither the experience, the observation, nor the revelation of facts involved in such knowledge. This much, however, is certain as to the result:—(1) The body of the resurrection will be as strictly identical with the body of death, as the body of death is with the body of birth. (2) Each soul will have an indubitable, intuitive consciousness, that its new body is identical with the old. (3) Each friend will recognise the individual characteristics of the soul in the perfectly transparent expression of the new body.”

SWEDENBORGIANS, or, as they designate themselves, “The Church of the New Jerusalem,” hold that at death the body is done with, but there is a spiritual or luminous body, contained within the natural body or evolved from it, in which the soul is clothed at death, and ascends into an intermediate state, which lasts only for a few years. Then the final state is entered, which Swedenborg says from converse with the angels he learned, is much the same as here, the people pursuing trades and amusments as they did on earth. This, if it were true, would be the very kind of heaven to suit the worldling, who has no special wish to be in the heaven described in God’s Book, or any fitness for it. And Swedenborg’s theory of the ‘spiritual’ body received at death, has been read into 2 Corinthians 5:1-3, in some recent teachings, and may be the thin edge of some new development of heresy on the Intermediate State. A single step into unscriptural doctrine on this may lead to an end which none can foresee. “Heresies of destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1, R.V.) have sometimes very small beginnings.

 

NOTE R: THE BODY OF THE LORD IN RESURRECTION AND GLORY

That certain changes had taken place in the body of our Lord at resurrection, the words of Luke 24:39, with the manner of His appearing in, and disappearing from the presence of His disciples, Luke 24:30-36, warrants us in believing. But that it was the body in which He suffered on the Cross, the pierced hands and side which He showed to His own after His resurrection, leave no doubt (John 20:20-25). His own words which “He spake of the temple of His body”—“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise IT again” (John 2:19-21), tell the same truth. And, glorified in heaven, He is still seen as a Lamb as though it had been slain (Rev. 5:6, R.V.). “The body of His flesh” (Col. 1:22) is an expression connected with His death. “The body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21, R.V.) is the word used by the Spirit to describe His glorified state in heaven. And the latter is that which the “body of our humiliation” is to be “conformed to.” Speculation, in the absence of Divine revelation regarding its substance is worthless, as it is dangerous. That “flesh and blood,” which is the term used for man’s present corporeal condition (see Heb. 9:14; Matt. 16:17) “cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50) Scripture informs us, but beyond this we have no revelation. For the rest we wait.

It has been asked, “Will the glorified saints recognise each other, in earthly relations, as husband, wife, parent, child; fellow-servants in the Lord?” etc. That there will be personal recognition in the glorified state, such Scriptures as Luke 13:29, 1 Thessalonians 3:19, 29, show; but Luke 20:34-36, warns against the thought of fleshly relations being known in heaven.

 

NOTE S: WILL ALL LIVING SAINTS “BE CAUGHT UP?”

It has been taught very dogmatically by some that “only watching saints” will be taken to heaven when the Lord comes, and that others will be left to endure the tribulations which will come upon the world after the rapture of the saints. Scripture gives no warrant for such a doctrine. That there will be a distinction made between the faithful and unfaithful as servants and stewards in the matter of reward, at the judgment seat of Christ which FOLLOWS the raising of the dead, and change of the living saints, and the glorification of both in heaven, 2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us. And that some will have “gain,” while others will suffer “loss,” we are taught in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. But it is nowhere said that any part of the true church will be left on earth at the coming of the Lord. “They that ARE CHRIST’S at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:22). “WE which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:15-17), are statements which leave no doubt that all who belong to Christ, all who have been “justified,” will be “glorified” together (Rom. 8:17-30). And in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10, we have a word which bears definitely on this point. “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” The first statement forbids the thought that any saint will share “wrath” either on earth or beyond it: Christ has delivered His own from “wrath to come” (1 Thess. 5:10). This includes the judgments of the day of the Lord on earth. The word rendered “wake” is translated “watch” in verse 6, and is used as the opposite of “sleep.” And this word is never used in Scripture to distinguish the living from the dead, but rather the active and watchful from the drowsy, the spiritual from the carnal among believers. Waking or slumbering, they are “appointed,” not to wrath, but to “live together with Him.” The words “to them that look for Him shall He appear” (Heb. 9:28), and “Looking for that blessed hope” (Phil. 3:20), do not describe a part, but the whole of God’s living people on earth. All may not look, or wait, or watch, with the same expectancy, for many have not been taught the truth of the Lord’s personal and pre-millennial advent, but look for death; yet all who have been justified by faith, who are at peace with God, rejoice in hope of glory (Rom. 5:1-2). Scoffers and Christless professors may ask, “Where is the promise of His coming” (2 Pet. 3:2)? but no truly born again one will join in that sneer.

On this point the following question has been asked, “If the worldly and unwatchful living saints are to be left on earth, why should not the sleeping ones also, who have been worldly or unwatchful prior to death, be left in their graves?” If unwatchfulness constitutes a sin which deprives a living saint of his place in the “gathering together” unto Christ at His coming, upon what ground is the one who lived unwatchful and worldly for years, and dies only the day before the Lord comes, to be “caught up,” while his brother is “left”?

 

NOTE T: EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT AND ITS DENIALS

Although antagonists on almost every fundamental truth of the Bible, Christadelphians, Millennial Dawnists, Adventists, Annihilationists, Restorationists, and many Congregationalists and Churchmen, agree in denying the conscious and endless punishment of the wicked. Dr. Samuel Cox, of Nottingham, in his “Salvator Mundi,” Dean Farrar, of Westminster, in his “Eternal Hope,” and others, with a great display of Greek, tell us, that the word aionios only means “age-lasting,” and not “lasting for ever.” And when Dean Farrar deals with “punishment,” he tells us with great boldness, that “it is a word which, in its proper meaning, has reference to the correction and bettering of him that endures it,” he finds that the torments of Gehenna are of a purgatorial character, and that after being purified in them, “the vast majority” will pass to heaven. This is Rome’s Purgatory, only without masses paid by the living, or prayers to the dead saints on their behalf. His claim to knowledge of Greek need not frighten simple folk. Others far more reliable, alike as scholars and expositors, have reached a different conclusion. The late J. N. Darby, and Mr. Thomas Newberry, both translators of the New Testament from its Greek Text, have written, warning simple readers not to be misled by those who seek to introduce errors on Eternal Punishment, by references to the Greek text. Both assure us that the words “eternal,” “everlasting,” and “for ever,” which are used to express the existence of God, the character of the life and glory of the saved, and the “everlasting destruction” and “eternal judgment” of the lost, cannot by any process of reasoning, be made to teach their extermination, extinction, or ultimate purification and salvation. The doctrine of no eternal punishment is pleasing to natural men: it gives them a license to sin, and whoever preaches it will be popular. But a terrible reckoning will be theirs, who silence the warning voice of God, and by holding forth false hopes to the ungodly, help the devil to receive them. The plausible argument that by removing the doctrine of eternal torment from the Bible, men who are driven to infidelity by it, will be won to a God of love, is a mere sophism. The love of God has already been manifested to sinners fully in the gift and death of His Son (1 John 3:10; Rom. 5:8). Those who reject Christ, and receive not “the love of the truth, that they might be saved,” but have “pleasure in unrighteousness,” will never be turned to God by the hiding or frittering away of His judgment. It is upon such that “strong delusion” will come, to deceive them to their damnation, as the Scripture tells us (2 Thess 2:10-12). And those who deny God’s righteous wrath are leading them on to this end.

 

NOTE U: FINAL RESTITUTION

The theory of Mr. Jukes is, that all will at last be saved, through the mediation and priesthood of the redeemed, who, according to him, are to be busily engaged in the age to come, in obtaining the salvation of the lost. He hopes that by such means, the fearful and unbelieving will at last reach heaven through the lake of fire, and that beyond all, there lies universal blessing for all mankind. The Scripture from which his book takes its title (Acts 3:21) does not speak of a final restitution of all persons, but of all things, and these are limited by the words which immediately follow, “which God hath spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets.” The prophets speak of the times of restoration of Israel to their land (Isa. 61:4-6), and of blessing to the earth (Isa. 11:6-9), but they utter no word of hope for those who die in sin, or in rejection of the Gospel. Nor is there a single text in the New Testament to give any ray of hope that those who live and die without Christ, will be evangelised to repentance in the lake of fire. The power of deception exercised by this system lies in the fact that it seems to magnify the love of God, and set a high value on the atoning death of Christ, claiming that in virtue thereof, all will finally share in the great Reconciliation. But its advocates rule out from their arguments the central fact that unbelievers have refused the love of God and rejected the Sacrifice of Christ. What atonement or provision has been made for such, they do not tell us. And Hebrews 10:29 holds out no hope of salvation for Christ-rejecters, but a “sorer punishment” than the despiser of “Moses’ law.”

J.Ritchie



[1]            See Appendix A

[2]            See Appendix B

[3]            See Appendix C

[4]            See Appendix D

[5]            See Appendix E

[6]            See Appendix F

[7]            See Appendix G

[8]            See Appendix H

[9]            See Appendix I

[10]          See Appendix J

[11]          See Appendix K

[12]          See Appendix L

[13]    See Appendix M

[14]  See Appendix N

[15]  See Appendix O

[16]  See Appendix P

[17]          So Dr. Handley C. G. Moule renders it in his Notes on 2 Timothy.

[18]  See Appendix Q

[19]  See Appendix R

[20]  See Appendix S

[21]          See “The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus” by the same Author.

[22]  See Appendix T

[23]  See Appendix U






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