WHERE ARE THE DEAD?
On the State of the Soul
Between Death and the Resurrection
Maurice A. Meredith
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CHURCH OF CHRIST, BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND, U.K., BT4 1AQ
Lavina Elizabeth Hobson-Smith
Departed this life, March 9, 1923
Whom having never met, yet I love and I shall hope
to greet "over there," since her love has greatly
blessed and enriched my life through her
daughter - my wife, Laveta.
"There is no death! What seems so is transition." As a lad, those words from Longfellow's "Resignation" used to puzzle me. Inscribed as they are on a tombstone not far from the old family burial lot, I often read them when we visited the little cemetery in my native Kansas. At first, I thought someone had a rather perverted idea about death, for to me death seemed like something real and ugly. But as we grow older the experience of living unfolds to each of us the wisdom of that sentiment. And this is especially true if only we will pause and reflect on the teaching of the Scriptures in the matter. I have little doubt that after we have passed through the gorge of gloom we will look upon this life with about the same feeling that we now view prenatal life. It will be only then that we will have really begun to live.
All of us have at some time or another wondered about the mystery of what it will be like beyond death's door. "Human life is the most excitingly romantic adventure in the Universe," says J. Paterson-Smyth, "going on stage after stage till we are older than Methuselah and then on again through the infinite eternities and yet men pass into the unseen as stupidly as the caterpillar on the cabbage leaf, without curiosity or joy or wonder or excitement at the boundless career ahead."
Death is not a door that opens to a trap, set to close upon us and shut out all conscious existence. It is a door, indeed, through which we must pass. But awaiting us on the other side are boundless vistas and exciting life. Not until the morning of the resurrection will we enter our eternal destiny of bliss or woe. But that does not mean that the souls sleep between death and the resurrection. In the pages that follow I have clearly demonstrated the fact of life in the intermediate state, proving it by no less of an authority than the Son of God and His inspired apostles. Heaven is our goal, as we shall see it was with the apostle Paul. But he could see that he would not reach that goal immediately at death.
Possibly the reason that most Protestants have ignored the fact of life in the intermediate state is because they have felt the Catholic doctrine of purgatory repulsive and were afraid that if they should admit the Bible teaching it would be giving the Catholic dogma a leg to stand on. Therefore, most Protestants have taught that the soul goes immediately to its reward. More careful students of the word have arisen, like the Adventists and so called "Jehovah's Witnesses" who have clearly demonstrated that the soul does not go to its reward at death. However, these teachers have not been content to stop there they have gone on to adopt the Arabian doctrine of psychopannychia or soul-sleeping.
In this work I have not paid particular attention to the Protestant idea of immediate rewards because it is not seriously taught anymore by those who know much about the Bible. What need would there be for a judgement if such were true? A judgment scene would be a farce indeed when you think of bringing the saints back from glory to stand trial. And why a resurrection if the saints have already gone to their eternal home? Christ went into the Hadean world, and so will we - unless we are alive at his coming. Christ was very much alive between death and resurrection, and so shall we be.
In the bibliography at the close of this work, I have enumerated a list of works that I have consulted on the subject, and for the benefit of anyone who may wish to study the matter more at length.
In sending forth this humble treatise I want it understood that I have not tried to be sensationist. I have found great comfort in it's study, and have found that others are also comforted by its study. It is for the comfort that it may bring to you, its reader, that has prompted me to publish it. Controversial questions have been reviewed, but it was not because we sought them. I pray that the God of all grace may use it to cause some sinner to carefully consider the error of his way. May all be reminded as we read that the hour when we shall each loose anchor approaches. If we want the Captain of our Salvation to stand at the helm of our frail crafts and pilot us through those shadowed waters we must let Him take command now, by surrendering the wheel into His capable hands.
Where Are the Dead?
In presenting a subject of this nature to either the reading or listening public there is a tendency with some to appear sensational. While one feels that this may sometimes be true of certain types of preachers and teachers, yet it does not explain the reason why most people are interested in the subject. Anyone who has lost a loved one or a friend (and who has not?) comes to study the subject because of the hope and comfort to be found therein. It is because these publicity seeking teachers realise this universal desire to know what the Scriptures have to offer in this vein that they have capitalised upon it to their advantage. I have not elected to write on this subject in order to create vapid sensation, nor to satisfy anyone's passing curiosity. But my sole and solemn purpose is to set forth the teachings of the Bible for the hope that it might bring; believing that anything other than that is a sandy foundation and a refuge of lies.
There is little purpose to ask the question, "Where is he or she"? Or what is the solemn mystery which those white, sealed lips may not disclose?" These are questions you may have asked yourselves a hundred times over. That is if your experience has been similar to that of millions of others who have lived before, and as many who are living now. Men have sought to answer this question in numerous ways, and that thousands of years before God chose to unlock the door that held back these mysteries. Some of these answers were really very accurate guesses, but many of them were very much astray. Some were so near the truth that it would almost make one believe that back of them there must have been divine illumination or revelation of some sort.
But, like the original doctrines from whence they sprang, not all the teachings on the subject today correct. It seems a bit strange that with the ancients - the Sadducees for instance -, who had the Old Testament revelation, were farther from the truth of the continued existence of the soul through death than the Greeks. Whatever other faults the Greeks had, and some of them were grievous, a materialistic scepticism could not be numbered among these as it was among the Jews. And it is this same literalistic interpretation of the Scriptures that is to be found among those who believe and teach soul-sleeping today. It is an admitted fact that Adventists and "Jehovah's Witnesses" try to prove this theory by the same text used by the Sadducees.
Man is more than a beast. God created him with reason, conscience and will. Why does it seem strange to our materialistic friends that these things should pass through the grave and live in another world? Man would be little better than the animals if he loses all consciousness at death. And where the sense of such remarks as ''it is far better'' Phil. 1:23), if the doctrine of the Adventists be true? Is a death of silent and numb slumber better than living and working for Christ? Certainly not! There is something about man that positively does not die along with that which composes his fleshly nature.
The New Testament plainly teaches that at death the soul of man departs from the body and enters a state of conscious existence, there to await the resurrection.
In order for one to come to an understanding of this subject it is necessary to know somewhat of the nature of man. And very closely related to that comes the question what do we mean by ''death''?
When God created man, placing him in the garden of Eden, He told him to eat of every tree but one. Of this one He said ''In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die'', Gen. 2:17). You will notice that God indicated that death would come in that very selfsame day. Man died a death of some kind that very day; or else God's Word is broken.
After teaching on this subject one time down in Oklahoma a man told me that I was preaching the devil's lie. He insisted that I taught that man did not die, since I affirmed that man's soul continued to exist after death. This I freely admitted, but I did not admit that I was preaching Satan's lie. On the other hand, I asked him, "Do you believe that man died any kind of a death on the day of his transgression?" He replied "Absolutely not." I said, "'Then you are the one teaching the devil's lie. I'm not, since I freely admit that he died a spiritual death and on the very day that God said he would."
This good man, together with all Materialists, makes the devil tell the truth. For they insist that God had reference to physical death. And if we understand it in this manner then Satan did tell the truth, and it is God who deceives us.
With God, however, there is a side of man that is far more important than his material well-being. Although He is careful for man and his material needs, yet man's soul is the thing that He sent His only begotten Son to save. If God was concerned solely with man's physical nature when He pronounced that fearful warning, then Christ certainly understood differently when He came to redeem the human soul.
Separation Is Death
When Jehovah withdrew His presence from the scenes of Edenic beauty, and refused to walk longer in the shade of Paradise's bowers, man suffered a death far more horrible than the hour when called by death to pillow his head in the dust. Man has never outgrown nor gotten away from a yearning for that sweet fellowship. He has sought in myriads of ways to pave a way into God's august chamber through worship. He has sought even to build a tower into heaven in order to satisfy this hunger, but all to no avail. This separation was utterly complete until God Himself chose to make a remedy for it, that would reconcile man with his Creator. This awful monster that consummated such dire devastation in God's plan is sin. Sin, entering in, drove the Lord out of that home which He had prepared as a trysting place where He could hold sweet concourse with man. (Need I add that it does the same today?) Isaiah affirms as much, when be said, "your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear" (Isa. 59:2).
Spiritual Separation Means Spiritual Death
Sin produces spiritual death. We can see this more clearly when we study the progress of sin, as pictured by James in the following words: "Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is fullgrown, bringeth forth death" (James 1:15). One cannot help but notice how very definite and singular James is. Of course those who use the King James Version miss some of the high points of this Scripture. The Apostle James is using very pointed language when he says, "the sin" (he hamartia); just one sin, not a life of sinning: and "when it is fullgrown," not when a soul is rotted away in sin, "but rather completeness of parts or functions as opposed to rudimentary state like the winged insect in contrast with the chrysalis or grub" (Robertson's Word Pictures).
It was a single sin that produced the separation between God and man in the garden of Eden and it is one sin, when it has been completed, that results in a like effect between us and God. Dr. F. J. A. Hort says, "The birth of death follows of necessity when one sin is fully formed" (Commentary on James). Along the same lines of thought, we hear the Apostle John saying, "there is a sin unto death . . . there is a sin not unto death" (I John 5:16, 17). The Lord recognised that it would be only through the preaching of His Gospel that souls could be resurrected from this state of spiritual separation from things holy, and though He spoke of the final resurrection in the same connection, yet the following words refer to a spiritual resurrection from spiritual death: "the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25).
"Death" Means Separation
In every instance where the word "death" or any of its equivalents is found in the Bible, we can read "separation" without doing violence in a single case. In fact, it will make for understanding. However, it makes for havoc to read "annihilation," as may be seen in some of the following instances, in each of which separation is spoken of as being a death. The father of the prodigal said he was dead, and yet, he was alive all the while. He simply meant he was separated from his father and brother (cf. Luke 15:24-32). Paul says Christians are dead to the law. This does not mean that we are annihilated, but rather that we are separated from the law as surely as a woman is separated from a dead husband (cf. Rom. 7:4, 6; Gal. 2:19). Likewise we are dead to (separated from) sin by our obedience to the Gospel (Rom. 6:11). James used the separation of body and spirit in death as an analogy to prove that any time you tried to separate works from faith you had a dead faith (Jas. 2:17, 20, 26).
In the same vein Christ said, "Let the dead bury the dead" (Matt. 8:22). All must admit that the word "dead" is used in two senses here. It is the same as if the Lord had said, "Let those who are separated from God by sin perform the task of burying those from whom you are separated only for a time." Like Jesus, Paul used the term with a double meaning when he said, "She that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth" (I Tim. 5:6). She is dead and alive, all at the same time. In fact, the trouble with these young women was simply that they were too much alive, physically. In their love for pleasure they had allowed sin to enter in and separate them from Christ and His church.
Spiritual death always means separation from God. That is the reason Paul said, "Arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon thee" (Eph. 5:14). But physical death means a severing of physical ties, yet it has no effect upon spiritual ties. That is the reason David could say, "If I make my bed in Sheol, behold thou art there" (Psalm 139:8). Paul had even greater assurance of a continuation of these spiritual ties when he said he desired "to depart and to be with Christ." And how, may I ask, could either of these statements be made, if the Bible taught that the soul entered a sleep at death? No one has yet found the place in the Bible where it ever speaks of soul sleeping. This is something assumed by "soulsleepers." While the Scriptures do speak of one sleeping, yet this can only refer to "the remains." The body enters upon its slumber, and there moulders back to dust from whence it came. But such materialism is grossly blind if it cannot see that the conscious personality, called "I," retains it's identity in death just as surely as it does when we repose in slumber here and now. Why should one be any more mysterious than the other?
Where Do They Go?
It has sometimes been assumed by some that the departing spirit ascends directly to heaven. It seems to me that this is clearly refuted by Jesus when He said "no one hath ascended into heaven" (John 3:13). Doesn't the New Testament teach the same today as it taught when it was written? If it does, then we must conclude that the departed are still not in heaven.
The Language of Jesus
While they were both hanging on crosses, the thief had besought Jesus for mercy and remembrance. Christ answered, "Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise" Luke 23:43). I once heard an Adventist preacher solemnly assert that the Lord was asking the thief a question. This is absurd or to say the least, a pretty slim dodge. But it illustrates the fringe of lunacy a person will follow in order to salvage a dogma. Anyone who knows anything about grammar knows that "thou" and "shalt" transposed as they are here, become emphatic. Moffat's translation comes closer to the original: "I tell you truly," said Jesus, "you will be in paradise with me this very day." Can anyone, without a theory to prove, imagine the Lord Jesus Christ pushing aside a pitiful plea like the thief's with a question that is tinged with sarcasm? The Saviour that the New Testament reveals does not pour salt and vinegar into the sores of humanity like that; but as the Great Physician, He uses oil and wine. Jesus told the thief, "What we do will be done together, and you will have me as your companion throughout the ordeal of this day."
"Anywhere with Jesus I can go to sleep,
When the howling shadows 'round about me creep."
Jesus went to Paradise, that very day; for He said He would. Yet, three days later, we hear Him telling Mary Magdalene. "I am not yet ascended unto the Father" (John 20:17). Hence, we are forced to the conclusion that Paradise* and heaven are not one and the same place but rather two distinct places. It was not until His ascension that He went to heaven. [* It is conceded that in one instance Paradise signifies Heaven. But here it is indicated by a qualifying phrase: "The Paradise of God" (Rev 2:7). (cf. Trench, Comm. Epp. to the Seven Churches)].
At the time of the translation of the King James Version, the word "hell" did not carry with it the meaning it holds today. It was much more general, and far less specific in its definition. The old English word "hell" ("the hole") simply meant an unseen place, or a place that was covered. Authorities state that even yet in South
England a "hellier" is the name given to a thatcher, or one who covers a house. It is also said that in the old English game of forfeits, on the village green, that "hell is the hidden base where the girls run away to escape being kissed." Canon Cook says, "In earlier English to "hele" meant to hide. "Helling" is used colloquially for covering in Lancashire and Cheshire" (Bible Comm., on Acts 2:27). These facts demonstrate how that when the Version of King James was made, the word "hell" could mean all that they used it to mean. However, in the language of today it is only used to designate the final abode of the wicked. Therefore, since there were three words in the Greek New Testament that those translators translated "hell" it becomes necessary to single each out and see just how it is used in the original.
There is only one way in which we can correctly use the word "hell" now because of its evil connotation; and while we are not at this time dealing with the subject of rewards and punishments, yet a word may be in order that we may know how to discriminate between this place and the one called "Hades." Only with reference to that which the Bible calls "Gehenna" can we apply the word "hell" correctly. This term is found 12 times in the New Testament,* [* Matt 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6. ] and in each case the American Standard Version renders it as "hell" in the text and adds "Gehenna" in the margin. In every instance where it is found it can only refer to the final abode of the damned. Jesus spoke of the punishment here as being eternal, and used precisely the same term that He used to describe the duration of bliss in glory (cf. Matt. 25:46). It is unmitigated infidelity to compromise the Son of God's word of warning by saying the punishment will last for only a few, short moments.
The next word that we shall notice, found in the King James Version, and translated "hell," is the word "Tartarus." This literally means "a dark place", "a prison"; and is found only once in the N. T. Peter uses it to designate the charnel house in which the fallen angels are "reserved unto judgment" (II Pet. 2:4). That this refers to the place of their imprisonment before the judgment, and not after, is evident by the language used. Jude (v.6) also alludes to the fact that they are awaiting judgment.
While this is stated of the fallen angels in particular, I see no reason why it would be wrong to assume that this is the common receptacle of all the wicked dead.
There is nothing in the Bible that would infer a different condition existing. Hence, this is the state of all the wicked after death and previous to the resurrection, and not after the resurrection. As we have indicated on our chart, you will see that Tartarus* forms one side of Hades. [*Anthon has an interesting note on Tartarus (Classical Dictionary, p. 1292).]
The third and most important word translated "hell" in the Revision of 1611, is "Hades". This term is formed in the Greek from "alpha" (with the rough breathing), which means "not," and "deo", derived from the verb, "see." Hence, "Hades"** literally means "unseen" or "hidden". [** Hades appears in the New Testament 11 times: Mat 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; I Cor. 15:55; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14. ]. There is no thought of pain, nor displeasure that inheres in the word itself. It simply signifies a state, or condition, undiscernible by the human eye. Christ went into (eis) Hades (Acts 2:27, 31), but not to hell, as the so-called "Authorised Version" reads. It is blasphemy for any one to say He went to hell. Any creed or version that says He did, is guilty of just such malediction. People need to awaken to these faults in their dilapidated creeds and antiquated versions of God's Holy Word. Such an idea is a mockery of the God of the Bible and shocks anyone's faith when they read such an idea for the first time. No one ever seriously advanced such an idea, unless it be the lone exception of John Calvin, who actually did teach that Christ went to hell (Inst. II, xvi, 10). But then, Calvin always was unpredictable. If Hades means hell, then the Apostle John was guilty of a poor grade of nonsense, for he saw hell cast into hell (cf. Rev. 20:14). Christ did not descend into Tartarus or Gehenna - but He did die and enter the unseen realm of disembodied spirits previous to His resurrection.
Greek Idea of Hades
The origin of the term, as we have already shown, springs from the Greek. This does not mean that we accept the Grecian concept of Hades. The New Testament is still our final criterion in all such matters, and a thing must be expressly taught, or at least inferred therein, before we can countenance it as a Scriptural doctrine. However, there were some ideas behind certain words and phrases in the Bible and the first readers of these Sacred Writings understood the language of these men of God better because of the allusion to such. Thus may a similar understanding facilitate our knowledge of what Divinely Inspired men spoke and wrote. One can get a broader view of the background of the New Testament on the subject of our present investigation by reading some of the works referred to in the Bibliography (Appendix A). While they will be rewarded by finding much of interest, probably the most illuminating is the following statement found in Anthon's "Classical Dictionary": "Hades, the place of departed spirits, according to the Grecian Mythology ..., the lower or invisible world. Its divisions were Elysium and Tartarus, the respective abodes of the good and the bad" (p. 566).
The Jewish Conception of Hades
The belief in an intermediate state between death and the resurrection among the Jews did not materially differ from that of the Grecian view, only that most of the Jews believed there would be a final resurrection when the disembodied spirit would he clothed with a body of some sort. They gave to this place the title of "Sheol"; however, as the Greek became the common tongue, they used the word "Hades." And while it is admitted that the Greek term could not carry Greek notions into Hebrew Theology, yet they did use this term in translating the Scriptures into the Septuagint version.
In order to demonstrate that the Hebrews, generally speaking, did not regard the grave to be the end of all sentient and intelligent existence, Prof. S. C. Bartlett, in "Smith's Bible Dictionary" (Amer. Ed.), lists seven reasons, which are: "a four hundred years residence of the Israelites among a people proved to have held the doctrine of a future life; the Hebrew doctrine of the nature of the soul; the translation of Enoch and Elijah; the prevalent views of necromancy, or conjuring by the spirits of the dead (a practice prohibited by law, and yet resorted to by a monarch of Israel); the constant assertion that the dead were gathered to their fathers, though buried far away; the explicit and deliberate utterance of many passages, e. g., the 16th, 17th, 49th, 72nd Psalms, Eccles. xii. 2, 8; and the known fact that the doctrine of immortality existed among the Jews (excepting the small sect of Sadducees) at the time of Christ" (Vol. II, p. 1039). In Oehler's "Old Testament Theology", this learned professor sums up all the arguments on the matter in these words: "We may say indeed that man's existence after death is treated in the Old Testament so much as a matter of course, that the reality of it is never the subject of doubt" (p. 172).
Did Christ Accept This View?
That Christ, the apostles, and the inspired writers of the New Testament did accept the idea of an immortal soul we shall show presently. That their conception of life after death was very similar to that of the Grecian and Hebrew view we shall also see. However, this does not mean that they received all the error taught previously but it does show that they accepted the general view. There is nothing in their utterances to teach otherwise. To say that they were simply adapting their instruction to popular conceptions which were untrue, is nothing short of saying that they lent themselves to the dissemination of error. Hence, we are driven to the conclusion that the belief in the Hadean existence, as entertained by Jews and Greeks, is a belief founded on reality, for the simple reason that it is sanctioned by Christ and other inspired men of the New Testament.
The Teaching of the Early Church
When we consider the words of the Oracles of God on this doctrine, as we shall in the following pages, the conclusion that we reached in the previous paragraph is invincible. However, a fact that even adds weight to that truth is the testimony that the early Christians believed in the Intermediate State. Justin Martyr (A. D 147) says: "we affirm that the souls of the wicked, being endowed with sensation even after death, are punished, and that those of the good . . . spend a blessed existence" ("Apology" I, ch. xx). "The souls of the pious remain in a better place, while those of the unjust and wicked are in a worse, waiting for the time of the judgment" ("Dialogue with Trypho", ch. v). In passing, we can hardly refrain from noticing that there was no apparent disagreement between Justin and Trypho (a Jew) on this subject, which would tend to prove that the Jews of that time did accept these views on the spirit living after death.
Justin is just as emphatic in pointing out that those who die do not go directly to heaven. He states that those who teach such can not even be called Christians (cf. Dial. ch. LXXX).
It is to be admitted that there were certain in the early church who advocated the theory of soul-sleeping (psychopannychia). However, Tertullian (A. D 200) spends no less than eight chapters of his "De Anima" in refuting them. To the question "Shall we sleep?" He answers, "But souls do not sleep even when men are alive: it is indeed the business of bodies to sleep, to which also belongs death itself, no less than its mirror and counterfeit sleep" (ch. 58).
We need not become tedious by a recitation of all the names that can be cited to show that the early church did accept the doctrine of the soul being conscious between death and the resurrection. A full list of names and references may be found in Schaff's Church History (Vol. II, p. 600).
The Doctrine of Christ
Jesus taught that a certain rich man went to Hades at death, and in that state suffered torment (Luke 16:13-30). This is a fact that is disputed by no one. Even those who deny that we can prove anything by this fact admit as much. They insist, however, that this is a parable, and that it speaks of conditions after the judgment. That the latter can not be true is obviously seen by the significant fact that the rich man had five brothers still upon the earth.
Is It a Parable?
Teachers of logic tell us that we should always agree with an opponent as far as we possibly can. It has always seemed to be an effort to take an unfair advantage of those who believe in soul-sleeping to say that the account of the rich man and Lazarus was not a parable. I wonder if the idea that it is not a parable does not arise from ignorance of the true nature of parables. When we admit that it is a parable, it has no neutralising effect upon the argument in question. Furthermore, it strengthens it. The fault may be that some think a parable is a fable. The latter also teaches a lesson, but the action was sometimes impossible. Fables gave the power of speech and reason to trees and animals. A parable could and did happen. It is always based upon fact and never on fiction. A parable is severely true to life, and was never based upon action that was out of harmony with nature.
A parable is a narrative moving within the sphere of ordinary life, teaching a lesson of spiritual truth.
The little girl who said, "It's an earthly story with a heavenly meaning," did not miss it too far. For it must be a story that is true to life, or else it could not be a parable. However, in the case of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, it can hardly be said that this is an earthly story, since the things that Christ relates happened away from this earth. But it is true to nature, just as surely as the action in every parable is true to nature. Christ did not base a parable upon the superstition of His time without refuting their ignorance.
"We read the parables," says George Buttrick, "and the poor homes of that little land are before our eyes. We see the baking of bread and the patching of garments; we see even the emergency of a friend borrowing a loaf at midnight for his sudden guests. Rich homes are drawn with a pencil equally shrewd - barns bursting with fatness, labourers not daring to eat until their master has broken his fast, and the unseemly scramble for the chief seats at the feasts of the mighty. The glaring contrasts of our earth are drawn in dramatic line - chosen Jews and despised Samaritans, sumptuous Dives and abject Lazarus, householders and thieves, compassionate parenthood and the rascally steward who feathered his nest against the well-merited retribution. The whole gamut of human life is sounded - farmers at the plough, fishermen at their nets, a wedding procession moving through the dark with dancing torches, builders rearing towers, kings marching to their wars, and a widow pleading her cause in the persistence of despair before a heartless judge.
"Over all there is the mystic glamour of Palestine. Behold a sower tramping weary furrows. Soon the fields will be 'white unto harvest.' On the high hillside flocks are grazing beneath a watchful shepherd's eye. In the distance there is a vineyard on a favoured slope, or a deep defile where brigands lurk. That dry watercourse is a raging torrent when a storm breaks in the mountains, and on its golden summer sand a foolish man once built his house" (Parables of Jesus, p. xviii).
In addition to the above, we could mention the children playing in the marketplace, a boy leaving home, and many of the characteristic happenings of life as Christ met It. But why continue the list? The remarkable thing about every one of His parables is that it hits dead center in describing life. Every one of them throbs with life, and is true to life. He painted life as He found it, and His touches are taken from real life. Has anyone found a single point in any of them that is impossible? I challenge anyone to produce such.
The story of Abraham, Lazarus, and the Rich Man is a parable. But a parable is based upon actual life. It is not a fabrication spun out of thin air. When Christ speaks of the place called Hades He recognised the existence of such a place. When He gave countenance to the fact that they were conscious after death we can do no better than do likewise. And when He mentions the Rich Man having five brothers on earth, we know the conditions of which He speaks do not find these men in their final destinations, since the judgment has not taken place.
The Teaching of Paul
The Apostle Paul added some very significant statements to this subject. Some of which are the most valuable to be found in the New Testament as illustrating the fact that there is a habitation of the disembodied spirits and that those spirits are conscious between death and the resurrection.
In the second Corinthian epistle we seem to feel the very throbbing of that great heart of the Apostle. In it Paul looked at death, and saw that when he should die he would likely go to the place of disembodied spirits. Although this was not the desire of his heart, yet he saw in it a step in the direction of his heart's desire, namely to be clothed upon with immortality. In fact, the Apostle speaks of all three states through which most mortals must pass, and used himself as the example. Notice these three states, as set forth in his words:
(1) "we that are in this tabernacle" ie., the fleshly body on earth.
(2) "that we should be unclothed" ie., go to the place of the disembodied spirits, or Hades.
(3) "but that we should be clothed upon" ie., with our immortal body in the resurrection.
Now, notice his words in their entirety: "For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens. For verily in this we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For indeed we that are in this tabernacle (marg.: bodily frame) do groan, being burdened; not for that we should be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon, that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life" (II Cor. 5:1-4).
This language should make it clear enough to anyone that the resurrection body is not put on at death. Some ignore this Scripture and teach that the body spoken of in Paul's first Corinthian epistle (ch. 15) is received at the moment of death. However, the apostle clearly indicates an intermediate state with such words as "naked," "unclothed," and "clothed upon." All will receive that immortal body, even those who are now in Hades, but not until the "waiting time" is over. It is only "at the last trump" and in the second coming of Christ that there is any promise of a resurrection. Nor is there any hint in this language, nor in any other part of Paul's writing, that any will receive the resurrection body at death; that body is reserved "in the heavens."
To the Apostle Paul, death was simply a dissolution of an old earthly body. It in no way destroyed the conscious personality of an individual: the mind, will, conscience, memory, etc. There is nothing but an empty house left behind. The real person moves out, even though it be to a state of nakedness. Yet a disrobed spirit is no more unconscious than the removal of one's clothes would cause his body to become senseless. Paul says, "Even though this be the case, yet I shall be satisfied, if it is God's will that I must await my new home in this intermediate state. My real joy is found in anticipation of that resurrection hour when all shall be clothed with an immortal body."
Paul Visits Paradise
This great apostle was no stranger to this intermediate state, for we find later in this very epistle that he records an account of a visit made to those ethereal regions. There is no good reason for denying that Paul referred to himself as being the "man in Christ" who was transported to Paradise. Particularly is this true if we recognise the bearing of his statement on the defence of his apostleship. Another person's ''visions and revelations" could not have proved that he was an apostle. But notice his words: "I must needs glory though it is not expedient; but I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I know not; or whether out of the body, I know not: God knoweth) such a one caught up even to the third heaven. And I know such a man (whether in the body, or apart from the body, I know not: God knoweth), how that he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter" (II Cor. 12:1-4).
There are some things that we do not know about this visit to Paradise. We do not know where Paul's vision took place. Neither do we know when it took place. It was fourteen years before writing this epistle, but that still leaves it pretty much a mystery, since there are still a number of undecided factors in New Testament chronology. It may have been at any one of a number of different occasions. The point is wholly irrelevant to the question.
There are some things that the great apostle did not know about it also. He did not know whether it was while his spirit was still clothed with a mortal body or not. He recognises the fact that it could have been that way, or it could have been that his spirit soared away into Paradise in a disembodied state, leaving mortality behind. His words would indicate that either condition was entirely possible. Soul-sleepers say that he was using words. They insist that there is no conscious entity that can exist apart from the body. In other words, they know more than the Apostle Paul did, in that they know that the soul is unconscious on departure. Think of such blatant blasphemy from uninspired men who admit that Paul was inspired!
That this Paradise is not heaven is clearly evidenced by two incidents in the life of Christ, as well as some facts we shall present. You will remember that Jesus told the penitent thief he would be with Him in Paradise "Today". Three days later the Lord told Mary Magdalene that He had not as yet ascended to heaven, or to the Father. Therefore, we conclude that Paradise and heaven are two distinctly different places.
This fact is further born out in the language of Paul simply by noticing the two prepositions that he uses in speaking of his visit to those regions. Carefully observe how he says he was caught up "even to the third heaven," and "into Paradise." Some have taught that Paul spoke of two visits, but they fail to notice how precisely he selected two different prepositions in describing the one visit. In the first instance he uses the unusual particle "heos" which carries an altogether different meaning to the preposition "eis", with which we are all so familiar.
Liddell and Scott define "heos": "in the New Testament, up to a certain point." The same thought of being brought up to a given space without entering it is also expressed by Pickering, Alford, and Robertson. In Thayer, this idea is even more clearly portrayed: "Heos, a particle marking a limit. Employed of the local terminus ad quem, unto, as far as, even to." In all the hundred or more grammars, lexicons, and critical commentaries that I have examined, I have failed to find one scholar that understands "heos" to mean "into." Among the translations we find this distinction indicated even as early as Wycliffe (1388), who put Paul's language into these words: "that siche a man was rauyschid til to the thridde heuene . . . that he was rauyschid in to paradis." Living Oracles, Rotherham's, and Ferrar Fenton's versions all render it: "as far as the third heaven," and "into paradise."
Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Jerome, Bengel, et al., have contended that the third heaven and Paradise were two different places. Many late scholars of true critical acumen may be pleaded on behalf of this fact. However, to some of these the idea arose that Paul must be relating two visions, occurring on two different occasions. Some even asked why he was allowed the vision of the higher heaven first. But if Paul meant to recount two visions it seems strange that he would not use the same preposition in describing both. Why did he reach back into his vocabulary and select an unusual preposition that was so little used, when he had a much more familiar one at hand? And add to that the fact that they are not the same by any means of interpretation. Isn't one revelation as good as two in proving his apostleship?
In defence of his office as an apostle, Paul uses this vision as his climaxing proof. He has been driving in some heavy spikes in the previous chapter, but now he is clinching them on the other side with this. In the entire record of the New Testament there is no account of such a singular privilege as that which the Apostle Paul enjoys in this instance. John saw great visions within the veil of heaven when it was opened, and the wonders of history yet unwritten; but in all his majestic book of mysteries there was only once when a hand was laid upon his shoulder and he was restrained from recording the utterance of the seven thunders. But Paul told nothing of his vision. They were "sacred secrets which no human lips can repeat" (Moffat's Version).
Neither is the rabbinical number of heavens of any consequence to the study of this question. Some Jewish Rabbis said two, some three, and others as many as seven. But whether one or a hundred makes no difference, as far as we are concerned Paul recognises three, which figure places them in the same category with the number in the Godhead. In another place, the same apostle speaks of "all the heavens" (Eph. 4:10). But since neither he nor any other inspired writer went beyond the number three, we will do well to leave it there. Apparently, the third was the highest. Paradise then could be looked upon as being next to that. The latter is a word that has an interesting history. It is of Eastern origin, and means a park or an enclosure adorned with shrubs, trees, flowers, and such; all of which was far more beautiful than the ordinary grounds on the outside of the enclosure. Bishop Christopher Wordsworth has an interesting comment on Paradise in his "Greek New Testament": "It means a Royal Park, and though the Park leads to the Palace, yet the Park is not the Palace. So, likewise, in its figurative sense, Paradise means a place separate from, and much more delightful than, Earth: but it is not the Heavenly Palace of the Great King." Alfred Plummer in his excellent commentary on Luke (ch. 23:43, 16:22) says: "The word, said to be of Persian origin, is used in various senses in Scripture: 1. a park or pleasure ground (Neh. 2:8; Cant. iv. 13; Eccl. ii. 5); 2. the garden of Eden (Gen. ii. 8; etc.); 3. Abraham's Bosom, i. e. the resting-place of the souls of the just until the resurrection." "'Abraham's Bosom' does not contain this. It is not a synonym for paradise; but to repose on Abraham's bosom is to be in paradise, for Abraham is there."
Is Paradise Now Empty?
Some accept all that we have said up to this point, but they insist that with the resurrection of Christ Hades was abolished, Paradise was emptied, and all the Old Testament worthies were taken on into heaven.* [* (cf. Craven's "Excursus on Hades" in Lange's "Commentary on Revelation", Briney's "Sermon and Addresses", Zollar's "The Commission Executed".)] Most of those who accept this view find their greatest strength in two passages of Scripture: "When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men" (Eph. 4:8), and "to the spirits of just men made perfect" (Heb. 12:23b). They reason that when Christ went into Hades He delivered all the just from the captivity under which they were held - this being the great work that He had come to accomplish, and which was accomplished by His death on the cross; He, thereby, made them perfect.
There are some serious objections that we may lodge against such reasoning.
(1) Paul did not say that this occurred when Christ descended into Hades. It was when He ascended.
(2) Even though we grant, which we readily do, that these just men were made perfect, the Scripture has yet to be produced that shows they were taken on into heaven.
(3) There is nothing in either Scripture to show that these just men were made perfect in body, thereby prepared for God's august presence. That will be in the resurrection: not before. It is their spirits that are now made perfect.
In regard to my last objection, I might further say the same epistle shows that those who have gone before are still not made perfect. After recounting the heroes of faith and their valiant deeds, the apostle closes the previous chapter with these words: "apart from us they should not be made perfect." Has Paul chosen to contradict himself? Hardly, if we will bear in mind a coming event in which all the living and the dead will he raised with a perfectly glorious body. It is only then that Christ will present to Himself a glorious church without spot, wrinkle, blemish, or any such thing. Man's spirit is made perfect in death, for it is then that he is delivered out of temptation, trials, and all the sin that he is heir to in this life (cf. II. Pet. 2:9). But only in the resurrection will his perfection be complete in that his spirit will be clothed with a perfect body.
As we have pointed out in our first objection, it was in the ascension that Christ "led captivity captive." Paul has the same thing in view that Daniel saw in his night visions (Dan. 7:13, 14); at which time Christ entered His coronation scene through the lifted gates as seen by David (Psalm 24:7-10). For it was then that He was seated on the throne of His father David, given the keys of death and Hades, and began to exercise all authority in heaven and on earth. But a premillennialist, like Craven, cannot see these facts which are implied in Paul's words. They must be forced to teach something that will not antagonise a cherished theory. Hades has not been destroyed, nor will it be until after it is emptied (cf. Rev. 20:13, 14). In the early church it was the heretic Marcion who taught that Christ delivered the dead out of Hades and took them on to heaven (cf. Fisher, History of Christian Doctrine, p. 59).
The Apostle Paul says there were two things that took place when Christ ascended: (1) "he led captivity captive," and (2) "gave gifts unto men." Those gifts are the subject of the remainder of the paragraph. Even a superficial examination will convince anyone that these gifts were the ones that came by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Therefore, I conclude that He led captivity captive at the same time.
Speaking of the day of Pentecost: there is a fatal objection in Peter's sermon on that occasion to the idea that the good were transported to heaven in Christ's visit to Hades. The Apostle Peter states emphatically that "David is not ascended into heaven" (Acts 2:34, Living Oracles). His reference is to the fact that if David had ascended, it could only be by a resurrection. But that David's body has not been resurrected is clearly shown in that his sepulchre is undisturbed. If David was in heaven, as Craven, Briney, Zollars, Eugene S. Smith, et al. insist, then Peter was certainly deceiving them in failing to state it; or else he was not infallibly led of the Holy Spirit. But Peter argues from the undisturbed sepulchre to the conclusion that David was not raised, therefore not in heaven. Hence, this prophecy of a resurrection applies to One whose sepulchre has been disturbed.
Christians are many times taunted by unbelievers with the statement: "You hate to die just as much as anyone else." They seem to think that brings them some consolation. Little do they realise that the seat for our dread of departure is within them. Knowing that they are unsaved, we fear that death will bring a separation that will last forever. On the other hand, if we have the faith of the Apostle Paul we will see that the dread of that separation is more than compensated for in the presence of Christ just beyond death's door. "I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is far better: yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake" (Phil. 1:23, 24). Greek scholars tell us that Paul forms the highest superlative possible to be formed in any language in the phrase, "it is far better." Bishop Lightfoot calls it a "triple comparative" (Comm. in loco). MacKnight renders it, "by much far better," and adds, "From what the apostle saith here we may infer that he had no knowledge nor expectation of a middle state of insensibility between death and the resurrection. For if he had known of any such state, he would have thought it better to live and promote the cause of Christ, than by dying to fall into a state of absolute insensibility."
Those who insist that the righteous soul passes immediately to heaven, find in Paul's statement one of their strongest arguments (cf. The Eternal Home, by Eugene S. Smith). But this Scripture no sooner sustains such a theory than a similar statement did in the Old Testament. Solomon said, "the dust returneth to earth as it was, and the spirit returneth unto God who gave it" (Eccl. 12:8). Paul did not teach that the soul went to heaven any more than Solomon did. "To depart," as used by Paul, signifies to return to port, and is the same term he uses, when he said, "the time of my departure is at hand" (II Tim. 4:6). It is a nautical term by which he expresses the figure of his soul as a ship returning to its haven of peace and rest. It has no reference to the return of Christ, but speaks of that time when each one of us must push out into the boundless deep. May Christ be our pilot when the crossing must be made.
To David the gorge of gloom lost its terror through the presence of his Shepherd (Psalm 23). The dying thief found consolation in the blessed assurance that Jesus would be with him on the other side of death's door. Will He not mean as much to each faithful Christian as He did to David and the thief? Christ dispels the dark shadows at the river by His bright countenance. Nor does this mean that they will have to wait until they pass to heaven to be with Christ. To be in fellowship of Paradise with the Lord will far surpass anything we can possibly enjoy in this life, even though here He says, "Lo, I am with you always." Since this presence brought joyous anticipation to David and the dying thief, why should we read any more than this into Paul's words? I might add further that David saw the presence of the Lord, not only in the shaded valley, but also in Sheol (Psalm 139:8), of which he seems to picture that valley as being the entrance to the latter.
In speaking of being "absent from the body", and being "present with the Lord"; without stipulating a resurrection as having occurred beforehand, the Apostle Paul stated a condition that soul-sleepers assert could not exist. To them, such is an impossibility, since there is nothing that can exist separate and apart from the body. However, the apostle did not seem to know this when he said, "whether in the body, or apart from the body, I know not." He recognised either condition as being entirely possible. Only one is possible with those who teach soul-sleeping (psychopannychia) .
Mrs. Ellen G. White, the founder of the Seventh-Day Adventists, claimed she had the same vision that Paul enjoyed, but with her it had to be in the body. It could he no other way. In other words, she knew more about her vision than Paul knew about his. To further prove her superiority over Paul, she came back and told all about what she saw and heard, but Paul couldn't. Nor does she bother about explaining why she was licensed to do what Paul could not do. We suppose it was because it was unlawful for a man to utter such things, but a woman could exercise her God-given prerogative in such matters. And since this vision proved Paul's apostleship, Mrs. White leaves us in darkness as to just what it proves her to be. However, since she was granted greater privileges in relating the same vision, the logical explanation would seem to be that she was a prophetess greater than the apostle.
The Testimony of Peter
On the memorable occasion of Peter's confession of the Lord, Christ responded by affirming that Peter's statement contained a truth upon which He would build His church (Matt. 16:18). To add warrant to His guarantee, Christ gives further assurance by solemnly asserting that even death would not prevent His building this institution, when He said, "The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Robertson (Word Pictures in the New Testament) says, "It is not the picture of Hades attacking Christ's church, but of death's possible victory over the church." To which he adds the words of McNeile: "The ecclesia is built upon the Messiahship of her master, and death, the gates of Hades, will not prevail against her by keeping Him imprisoned. It was a mysterious truth, which He wilt soon tell them in plain words (v.21); it is echoed in Acts 2:24, 31." McNeile further shows that "In the Old Testament the 'gates of Hades' (Sheol) never bears any other meaning than death."
It was a bitter experience that the apostles had to endure before the significance of this truth came home to them; but it did come home to them, and on the day of Pentecost Peter declared the fact with a clear and forceful perception of its significance. He showed then that death was not a hindrance to the establishment of Christ's kingdom, but was a contributing factor toward its foundation. God over-ruling the wrath of man to His own glory and the salvation of lost mankind. In the prophecy that Christ made of building His church, He said that He must enter Hades through its gates, but those gates could not close against Him and prevail against the supreme will of God. Christ could easily see that His death would chill all the aspirations of His apostles, but He is trying to tell them what He repeated so often; that His soul would not be left in death's dark charnel house. Hades did not stop Him from building the house of God, and it's gates did open up and let Him pass through. It was then that He, as one of the sons of Jacob, wrestled with Satan, wrenching the key of death and Hades from his satanic grasp. How those regions must then have rung with the shout: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors: And the king of glory will come in." There is no gate nor door through which He could not now pass, and this He proved when He ascended to His throne room on high, having already entered the strong man's house and bound him, spoiling his goods.
Ethan, the Ezrahite, asks if there was a man to be found who had ever been delivered from the power of Sheol (Psalm 89:48), and the Apostle Peter answers him on Pentecost by showing that God had kept His covenant with David by raising David's Son from the grave in fulfilment of David's own prophecy about the matter. In speaking of the Lord's submission to death, Peter admits the charge. The One we worship did die. But the matter does not end there. Peter points out that it is the Son of God of whom we speak, and though He encountered death yet it was death that came off second best after the smoke of battle had cleared away. Immanuel has ultimately triumphed in every engagement, even though at times things may look dark. And this is certainly the way it looked when death overtook the Son of Man. And it is this fact that throws the resurrection against such a sharp contrast, and forms such a beautiful picture. It is a brilliant burst of sun against a backdrop of black velvet. And even though the Lord warned them of His descent into Hades and final victory, yet His disciples lost heart very much as we sometimes do today.
In the epistles of Peter he gives us some information about the intermediate life not to be found anywhere else in the words of Inspiration. When he tells us of the righteous being delivered out of temptation (II Pet. 2:9), we knew he is not talking about life on earth, since such a condition here is impossible. So long as we live, we are tempted. When tempted, the Lord offers us a way of escape, thereby delivering us from sin and the devil; but complete deliverance from trials and temptations is something entirely foreign to life in this world. It is only a corpse that is impervious to such. Even the dark ages, which produced such holy (?) men, never gave birth to one who was not tempted and tried. Nor do any of their hero-worshipping advocates, in all their credulous traditions, attribute any such thing to them.
It becomes even clearer that Peter refers to this when we take the verse in its entirety: "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment unto the day of judgment." One is forcibly struck with the thought that at the time that the godly are out of temptation, the ungodly are under punishment. Add to this the obvious fact that Peter informs us that this is before the day of judgment, and you have the consternation of the soul-sleepers spelled out in large capital letters. How could the unrighteous be under punishment, if they are unconscious? How could they be conscious of any punishment, however severe, if they were suspended in a state of insensibility? Peter certainly used strange words to describe the godly if they know absolutely nothing. "Out of temptation" would certainly be a mild phrase to describe a condition that would be better termed "out of all sense." But a candid mind will have no difficulty in seeing that Peter was no soul-sleeper. In these words any faithful child of God can find comfort in facing the gates of Hades. Peter intended them for just such a purpose, knowing that many of these Christians and those who should come after, would be called upon to pay the supreme sacrifice for their faith in the Lord, just as we believe he did. He found hope in death. Hope, not of an early coming of the Lord with its attendant resurrection; nor of immediately passing to the presence of God in heaven; but the hope of being freed from all trials, tribulations, and oppression in the Edenic bowers of Paradise.
Abode of the Evil in Tartarus
It is the other side of the Hadean realm that Peter refers to when he uses the word made famous by Greek Mythology, called "Tartarus." He says, "God spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment" (v.4). One should not fail to notice that Peter does not believe these angels have reached the judgment yet. Hence, Tartarus and Gehenna are NOT one and the same place. They occupy the same relative position that Paradise and Heaven enjoy. Heaven and Gehenna are the two final destinies of man that await him after the resurrection and the judgment. Paradise and Tartarus represent the two sides of Hades into which mortals enter at death, where they await the resurrection. Tartarus is the charnel house, or jail, where those culprits who have despised their Creator in this life, are chained awaiting their trial. After the jail, which is a temporary hold for them, they are then brought to trial. In their trial they are sentenced to serve the rest of their time in the penitentiary. In the case of Gehenna this means eternity.
Jude's language (See Jude 6) should be mentioned here because of it's similarity with that of Peter's. Both state that these angels are bound in their dungeon. And both show that they have not been judged. Both point out that their imprisonment is temporary, indicating that their punishment will come after the judgment.
The Spirits in Prison
It is the common consensus of opinion among Bible scholars that about the thorniest subject in the study before us is the one contained in the following language of the Apostle Peter: "Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, that aforetime were disobedient, when the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water:" etc. (I Pet. 3:18-22).
Prof. Moffatt follows Rendel Harris in cutting the Gordian knot. They seem to think that the name of Enoch actually belongs here, and has been deleted from the text because of repetition. The next four letters in the Greek will, when translated, form the phrase "in which," but when brought together in the original will also form the name of Enoch. I readily admit that this is what I want to believe. But this makes it too easily obtained. I mean that there are too many Bible scholars who are ready to resort to such jugglery of the text whenever it will serve their purpose. An act of legerdemain poorly becomes one who stands before the people as an expounder of God's Word. Of what profit to us is all the years of research in Biblical Criticism, if we can throw away their rich screenings in a moment of time? I have no prejudice against the results obtained, but I hereby register my protest against the method used to obtain it. If there was just one scrap of a manuscript that contained the name of Enoch in the text here, I would be more than glad to accept it, but until then I will continue to take the hard way of trying to explain it.
The obvious sense of Peter's words would seem to be that Christ went and preached to Noah's contemporaries between His death on the cross and His resurrection. He says they were aforetime disobedient, not that they were disobedient while the preaching was in progress. B. W. Johnson (People's New Testament with Notes) says, "It (this view) furnishes no comfort to those that have an opportunity and reject it in this life. It only shows that one opportunity is given to all." But Mr. Johnson loses sight of the fact that they had an opportunity when Noah preached to them. In fact, their opportunity was an extended one, lasting for one hundred and twenty years. It is to be admitted that in the elementary stages of the investigation of this subject that one can very easily agree with the Restorationist principles, as associated with such names as Origen, Olshausen, F. D. Maurice, Plumptre, Farrar, and others.
However, as one goes deeper into the study of Peter's epistle this idea can hardly be the one that the apostle had in mind. The doctrine of Restoration is an easy answer, but in accepting it one runs into insurmountable obstacles that run counter to plain passages of Scripture. Prof. S. D. F. Salmond gives voice to some of these difficulties, in his work, The Christian Doctrine of Immortality (p. 376). He wants to know why Peter selected Noah's generation as the subjects of Christ's preaching in Hades, when "the thing that is set in the foreground in the paragraph itself is that God waited for these men with much long-suffering, giving them unmistakable tokens of His will by the agency of Noah and the spectacle of the ark, and ample opportunity of repentance during the years the vessel of deliverance was a-building."
"Further," Prof. Salmond continues, "it is difficult to see the point of connection between the exhortation which Peter addresses to these tried Christians and the mention of a preaching to the dead of the generation of the Flood, and more difficult to understand what encouragement to a life of godliness and patience under injury can lie in the statement that the disobedient children of the Deluge, or men of kindred perversity, have the gospel proclaimed to them in Hades, the ministry itself remains one of which nothing is said beyond the simple fact that it took place at a certain time. No hint is given of its results. What effect it produced then, why it took place at that time, whether it continues now, and what its issues are to be all that is left untold. The whole question, therefore, of a ministry of Christ in Hades remains as vague and indefinite in respect of the nature, the purpose, and the results of His action there, as it is burdened with difficulties in the matter of relevancy and grammatical probability."
Mr. Salmond then proceeds to give a view that has been accepted in one form or other by Augustine, Aquinas, Hugo of St. Victor, Bede, Beza, Gerhard, Turretin, Besser, Wichelhaus, Fuller, Hofmann, Schweitzer, and others. To this he adds a paraphrase which gives the tenor of Peter's words: "Be content to suffer. There is blessing in so doing, provided you suffer for well-doing and not for ill-doing.
Look to your Lord's example, how He did good to the most unworthy and died for the unjust. Think what the issue of injurious suffering was to Him; if He suffered even unto death as regards the mortal side of His being, He was raised as regards the spiritual to a new life with powers. Look back on the remote past, ere He had appeared in the flesh. Reflect how then, too, He acted in this gracious way, how He went and preached to the guilty generation of the Flood, making known to those grossest of wrong-doers, by the spectacle of the ark a-building, the word of His servant Noah, and the varied warnings of the time, His will to save them. And consider that He has still the same graciousness of will - of which baptism is the figure; that He can still save oppressed righteous ones as He saved the believing souls of Noah's house; that all the more can He now save such, seeing that in His exalted life He has all the powers of heaven subject to him."
One difficulty that no Restorationist has answered yet is how Peter can be consistent in telling his readers to be patient under suffering, and at the same time inform them that the ante-diluvians had a second chance to hear the gospel. This idea of a second chance is similar to the one found in Premillennialism. Both of which are but refined forms of the same idea found in the purgatorian idea of Roman Catholicism. They are revamped to appease some of the infidels who have felt ill at ease, knowing they have spurned the one opportunity that God has given them.
What About Purgatory?
The doctrine of purgatory is absolutely foreign to anything found in Holy Scripture, tradition, or the early church. Edgar (Variations of Popery) cites no less than a dozen important theologians of the Roman Catholic church who admit the silence of God's Word on the subject of purgatory. He quotes Barns as declaring "purgatorial punishment a matter of human opinion, which can be evinced neither from Scripture, fathers nor councils." Even those rabid controversialists who think they can find the doctrine of purgatory in the Bible disagree on the Scriptures used. You can select almost any two at random and find where they cross each other up. One discounts the Scripture references that the other uses, and the latter pays back in the same coin. But it isn't often that you will find them going as far as Pope Gregory the Great, who contradicts himself, after advocating the idea of purgatory for years, he says, in his annotations on Job, "Mercy, if once a fault consign to punishment, will not afterward return to pardon. A holy or a malignant spirit seizes the soul, departing at death from the body, and detains it for ever without a change."
It was Gregory who is generally credited as being the one who introduced purgatory into Romanism. However, it was not original with him, inasmuch as Plato anticipated him by a full millennium in his "Phaedo and Gorgias", Virgil has interwoven the same Platonic figment of the imagination into his immortal "Aeneid". Cicero has embellished it with all the beauty of Human eloquence and poetry in his "Dream of Scipio". This is but one of the ways in which the papacy has blighted the fair form of Christianity with it's diseased paganism. But even at that, this festering sore does not appear until late in its history. The council of Aix la Chapelle, in 836, decided in direct opposition to any such dogma. It was not until 998 at Cluny that there seemed to be an extensive practice of masses for the departed inaugurated.
Here are some of the facts that seem to relegate' against the doctrine of purgatory, showing that it is neither reasonable nor Scriptural:
1. It attributes to fire a peculiar purifying quality.
2. It attributes to human works the power to shorten punishment.
3. It recognises that mortal beings have the power to forgive sins.
4. It destroys all motives to repentance drawn from the brevity and uncertainty of life.
5. It ignores the fixation that death casts over every character (cf. Eccl. 11:3; Rev. 22:11).
6. It bridges the Great Gulf that Christ said was fixed and impassable (Luke 16:26).
7. It opens the door that Jesus says will be shut (Matt. 25:10).
8. It vitiates the atonement of Christ, by asserting that man can accomplish what God's plan failed to do.
9. It gives to men a second chance.
10. Its companion dogmas place within the hands of a human priesthood the keys of Hades.
11. It forms no part of the teaching of Christ, the apostles, or any other inspired individual of the New Testament (cf. McClintock & Strong, Vol. IV, p- 622).
The doctrine of purgatory, with all its associated tenets, forms one of the must highly commercialised schemes in the history of man. Pause, and think for just a moment of what great sacrifices you would go to, if you could be made to believe that your money, the masses said by some priest, and such, could alleviate the sufferings of a loved one. Would you stop at anything less than the last cent you could scrape up, if necessary? You are something less than a human being, if you would.
But let us have another look at the other side of the picture. What about the priests? They solemnly inform us (and all modern Roman Catholic theologians support this statement) that they have supreme power to forgive sins. If such were true, and I were a Roman Catholic priest, I would spend every waking moment in forgiving such sins. If I could be made to believe in the sacrament of Holy Orders, again I would be something less than a human being did I not seek the salvation of every person that has ever lived. The same holds true, by the way, for the Mormon superstition of baptism for the dead.
About the only Scriptural statement that has ever troubled anyone, is the one where the Lord was speaking of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. He said this sin "shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come" (Matt. 12:32b). However, this troubles no one who knows enough Greek to recognise in the word translated "world" the same word that is translated "age". Christ lived in the Jewish Age, as we are living in the Christian Age. And He is saying that such a sin will not be forgiven to an individual in the Christian Age, even with all the grace and mercy that will accompany that dispensation. A person is either ignorant of the Greek, or else a confirmed heretic who will misuse such a Scripture. Every other effort to use the Word of God to teach purgatory is even more remotely removed from the truth than this one is.
Are They Conscious?
A recapitulation on this subject would hardly be necessary were it not for some statements of Divine Inspiration that seem to lend support to the idea of soul-sleeping. Those who insist on this lack of any quality of consciousness as attributed to the soul after death, base their teaching on the many times that death is described as being a sleep (cf. Matt 9:24; I Cor. 15:51; I Thess. 5:10). That it has this literal meaning no one can safely deny. However, the difference arises over what part of the individual does the sleeping. The materialist says that it refers to the soul. But he is still looking for the passage of Scripture that applies sleep to the soul. Were he ever successful, he would only contradict plain passages that teach the opposite.
It is this mortal clay that reposes in sweet slumber, with every nerve and muscle relaxed, that suggests sleep to our minds. What better word could be used to describe it? It's very appearance on the face of a person suggests that idea. Christ would never pour salt and vinegar into our sore hearts picturing death as a black-robed skeleton. He soothes our sorrow with the oil and wine of His love by telling us that our loved ones are at rest. The word as He uses it implies also an awakening. This is truly implied in Jesus' comforting word to the household of Jairus. The Apostle Paul refers to the same fact of the promised resurrection in connection with every instance where he refers to death as a sleep. In one instance (I Cor. 15:51), he goes at great length in discoursing on the subject of the resurrection.
Many of the statements in the New Testament are worse than gibbering nonsense if souls are insensible between death and the resurrection. Jesus said, "whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die" John 11:25). Paul says "whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him (I Thess. 5:10). Whether the body is alive and active or reposing in the dust, it in no way affects the real existence of that entity called, "I." The soul is not dependent upon a house of clay for its existence. We live in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Abraham, in Paradise, reasoned and talked with the rich man, who did as much in the nether region of Hades. Paul was caught up into Paradise, and in which state he heard, saw, and understood (II Cor. 12:1-4). The martyrs underneath the altar, who, John says, were "the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held," cried with a loud voice (Rev. 6:9, 10). This could hardly be a nightmare, in which they were talking in their sleep. The Lord says that Moses and Elijah had not yet ascended into heaven (John 3:13), yet they carried on an intelligent conversation with Christ (Matt. 17:1-8). Luke says they "appeared in glory." He even goes so far as to say that the subject of their conversation was the decease of Jesus, "which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem" Luke 9:30, 31). Peter tells us that the spirits of certain disobedient characters are in prison - that is, under constraint or guard (II Pet. 2:4, 9). There would be little need of putting unconscious spirits under guard. Prof. Hovey (The State of the Impenitent Dead) says, "Restraint implies power of action, and suffering implies consciousness." Hence, we have souls in the Underworld who think, talk, hear, speak, and feel.
That the departed spirits are truly alive and conscious hardly needs any further confirmation. When God said, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," Jesus interpreted His meaning to be, "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matt. 22:32). In turning back to Genesis, we find the death of the last-named of these worthies recorded for us. "And when Jacob made an end of charging his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the spirit, and was gathered unto his people" (ch. 49:23). Some argue that this last phrase simply means that Jacob was buried, and he was thusly gathered to his people. Those who contend for this insist that the word "Sheol" can only be understood as referring to the grave. That this language can not have any such meaning is clearly indicated when we notice that Jacob was not buried for some time after this. And Moses certainly used peculiar language to describe a burial in the old family cemetery. "Gathered unto his people" would be more appropriate as applied to a family reunion than to a funeral. But Christ says Jacob was living, and that should be the voice of finality for anyone.
The only real difficulties on this subject lie within the realm of the Old Testament. Candidly, there are three statements that might make one question the soul's consciousness after death. However, that question mark falls when we consider the full context of their utterance. Two of these are quite similar, one being from David, and the other from King Hezekiah. They are each utterances of despair, and bespeak the mind of one who is wrestling with a fear that arises with the guilt of sin. David says, "For in death there is no remembrance of thee: In Sheol who shall give thee thanks?" (Psalm 6:5), and from Hezekiah: "For Sheol cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee; They that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth" (Isa. 38:18). John Calvin had the right view when he said this language is that of extreme agitation and distress. In each instance these men felt the condemnation of Jehovah resting upon them. And while "Sheol", like "Hades" (it's Greek equivalent), has a good and bad side, it is used in the latter sense in both these statements. This hardly sounds like the same David who wrote, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . . thou art with me" (Psalm 23:4) and who also said "If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou art there" Psalm 139:8). David certainly did not believe one thing at one time, and its opposite at another. The same may be said of the prophet Isaiah, who in another place, said, "The righteous perisheth" and "entereth into peace" (Isa. 57:1, 2). From these utterances we can see that God will not permit the ungodly to praise Him; as if they would want to, since the idea prevails that they want to forget all his goodness and love. But God does want the righteous to praise Him, and in one instance it seems that the prophet Isaiah calls on those in Sheol to render Him the praise that is due Him (cf. Isa. 44:23).
The statement in Ecclesiastes 9:10 will also lose all value in teaching soul-sleeping when taken in it's context. Anyone who will study this paragraph (vv. 7-10) in it's entirety will be rewarded with the knowledge that he is listening to a dramatic poem. This is true of the entire book, including the preacher, who appears from time to time. But the words of the paragraph before us can hardly be the words of an inspired man. First of all they encourage one to eat, drink, and he merry. Secondly, to find the pleasure that comes of wearing clean clothes, and keeping oneself well groomed. The third injunction in the pursuit of happiness is to "Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of thy life of vanity" (v.9). This is certainly the philosophy of many a selfish home today, where gratification of the sexual appetite takes precedence over the desire to fill it with sweet cherub faces; and where the bark of a pup is a shabby substitute for little lisping tongues. The fourth point is to be industrious since that also contributes to happiness, and this is the only life we will ever know. Are soul-sleepers ready to accept all this as their philosophy of life? Have they no more purpose in life than to find pleasure such as this sensual cynic advocates? This gentleman certainly could not have chosen more appropriate words to describe the average man today. But it seems to me that Christians ought to live somewhat above that plane.
The rich man was somewhat like the Spiritualists of today, in that he thought Lazarus could very easily pass back to this life and appear to his five brothers; thereby accomplishing what the Old Testament Scriptures were unable to do. For one to think that spirit-rapping's can save souls when the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ falls listlessly upon their ears, is high-octane nonsense. Abraham refused to let the rich man entertain the idea for a precious moment of eternity. "Here, then," says the great Gospel preacher, Benjamin Franklin, "is the clear proof that God does not permit the dead to return to convince the living" (The Gospel Preacher, Vol. I, p.468). If God can do this, He lacks good sense in not turning the whole job of preaching over to the spirits in Hades. I am positive that no one could do a better job against the "no-hell" doctrine than some of those in Tartarus. And I am also sure that the testimony some of the famous names among atheists would give could weigh more heavily with their successors than the word of Gospel preachers.
Saul, too, was like modern Spiritualists, in that he thought he could commune with the dead. He had rejected Jehovah and His law, both in his life and his reign. Among other things, he had failed to put every witch to death, as that law commanded. When he consulted this familiar spirit of Endor it was only one in a long chain of acts of disobedience. Like many of the others this shows the depth of shame to which he had gone. That this was no ordinary case of spirit-communication is evidenced by the consternation with which the witch of Endor reacts. She was startled and uttered a loud cry. The longsuffering of God comes to the front in that something happened here that has never been duplicated in any other seance. God had a particular reason in actually bringing Samuel's spirit back from yonder's world, just as surely as Moses and Elijah came back when Christ was transfigured. Samuel's prophecy should have been enough of a jolt to jar Saul into a change of mind. However, it seems too late as his will was bent on another course of action.
The wiles of wizardry and witchcraft are condemned under both Old and New Testaments. Hardly a soul will think of questioning this fact under the old Covenant but some brave soul may dare to question it under the New since there is not as much said in condemning the practice as there was before. However, it is only fair to remind one that the sinful nature of such a practice was so much taken for granted that it was hardly necessary to say much about it. But some of the Apostle Paul's sermons must have had something of a derogatory manner about such, inasmuch as some of his hearers at Ephesus staged a ''Carrie Nation'' to the tune of nearly ten thousand dollars with some books that covered this subject (cf. Acts 19:19). Then, too, the same apostle did not forget the practice of consulting familiar spirits when he penned the phrases that describe the works of the flesh (cf. "sorcery" in Gal. 5:20).
After we have accepted the Scriptural teaching on the subject of future consciousness the question of future recognition is easily settled. On the latter topic George MacDonald asks the question, "Shall we be greater fools in Paradise than we are here?" This is a good question but it is a little beside the point. It hardly appears to me that our values will be the same there as they are here. There is no question but that we shall know one another there, but possibly it will be more in what we really are, not for what we seem to be. Disrobed of some of the subterfuge we can hide behind in this life, our knowledge will have to be along the lines of spiritual values.
Abraham seems to have had no difficulty in recognising the rich man. He was also acquainted with both his position and the position of Lazarus in this life before they had died. The three apostles; Peter, James, and John had no trouble in identifying Moses and Elijah. At least, Peter was ready to honour them in his program for constructing tabernacles and said as much. This was even before God interrupted him. And when He did interrupt him, it was not to tell him that be had mistaken their identity: but rather to remind him that he had failed to exalt Christ to His rightful position (See Matt. 17:1-5).
A related question to this one is whether or not those who have gone before know what we are doing. The rich man knew the state of his five brothers, but that is probably in remembrance of what it was when he left them. However, there may be an affirmative answer to this question in that the martyrs (Rev. 6:9, 10) seemed to know that the Lord had not yet avenged their blood.
The good God that reigns in heaven above loves us. That is the reason He gives such "blessed assurance of glory divine" It never was His plan that man should perish. But when man rebelled against His Divine will it became necessary to open up another avenue of deliverance And in order to encourage him along the road God has gradually revealed, bit by bit, a picture of what awaits us beyond the grave. It is His will that we have that picture held before us at all times. Even that part of it that deals with the intermediate life is important. If we are faithful here that life will be bright and cheerful. Christ will meet us as we sink from action here, and His glorious presence will dispel every shadow at the crossing.
However, there is a very serious call that comes to each of us now and that is the call of Christ that bids us believe and obey Him now. God does not give us this brief glimpse beyond the veil to have us sit down, think of that and do nothing, hoping it will come to us. The pathway that leads to that home of the soul is the pathway of duty in this life. If you have never been saved Jesus says, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). If you have accepted Christ by obedience to His gospel, He urges you on with "he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved" (Matt. 10:22b).
For the chart used in this work, I am in the main indebted to J. C. Glover, in Limerick's "Charts and Sermons" (pp. 196, 199).
A note or two might be in order about some of the following works I have consulted. One of the finest sermons preached on this subject was by Benjamin Franklin in his "Gospel Preacher" (vol. I, p.457). One of the earliest and best essays is by George Campbell in his "Dissertations on the Gospels" (vi, 2). Other works of merit are those articles by Gloag, Plummer, Strong, Wordsworth, and the articles referred to in the dictionaries and encyclopedias. Maurice, Farrar, Plumptre, Paterson - Smyth, and Heard teach the Unitarian doctrine of "wider hope," which is a modified form of the pagan (later, papal) doctrine of purgatory. Prof. Salmond ably answers them in his "Christian Doctrine of Immortality." The Mormon doctrine of baptism for the dead is another limb on the same tree which has proved to be such a fruitful source of revenue for Rome.
To those who may still want to believe the soul departs at death to its reward, he will find some efforts to bolster the theory by J. B. Briney, "Sermons and Addresses" (p.132), F. V. Zollars, "The Commission Executed" (p.247), and Eugene Smith, "The Eternal Home" E. R. Craven's "excursus" in Lange's "Commentary on Revelation" is a similar effort to prove this, in which he hinges all his argument on one verse of Scripture (Eph. 4:8). Since there was nothing craven about his premillennialism it would be impossible for him to see that Paul referred this to the ascension, coronation, and establishment of the kingdom instead of His descent into Hades. A premillennialist could hardly offer any other view of Paul's words.
Other Works Consulted Include:
Anthon: Classical Dictionary, art. Hades, Tartarus.
Blunt: Dictionary of Doctrinal and Historical Theology, art. hell, intermediate state.
Briney: Sermons and Addresses, ch. 7.
Bulfinch: Mythology, or Age of Fable (Klapp's edition). 39
Campbell, George: Dissertations on the Gospels, vi. 2.
Franklin Benjamin: The Gospel Preacher, sermon xix.
Gloag, J. P.: Commentary on Acts, vol. I, p-105.
Hastings: Dictionary of the Bible, art. eschatology, Hades, Paradise, Tartarus.
Hastings: Dictionary 0f the Apostolic Church, art. eschatology, Hades, Paradise.
Hastings: Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, art eschatology, Hades, Tartarus.
Hastings: Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, (cf., Index Volume under headings-: eschatology, hell, Underworld).
Heard, J. B. F.: The Tripartite Nature of Man, ch. xv.
Holmes and Austin: Debate on Endless Punishment.
Josephus: Discourse on Hades.
McClintock and Strong: Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, art. Hades, intermediate state, purgatory.
Merrill: The New Testament Idea of Hell.
Miley: Systematic Theology, vol. II, part vi, chs. i, ii.
Mullins: The Christian Religion In Its Doctrinal Expression, ch. xvii.
Neander: The Christian Religion and Church, vol. I, p. 654.
Neander: The Planting and Training of the Church, pp. 481-3.
Plummer: Commentary on Luke, I. C. C. Series, pp. 393, 397, 536.
Smith: Dictionary of the Bible (Hackett ed.), art. hell, Tartarus.
Smith: Classical Dictionary, art. Hades.
Strong: Systematic Theology, part VIII, chaps. i, ii.
Thayer: Greek - English Lexicon of the New Testament, art. aides, paradeisos.
Trench: Parables of Our Lord (Rich man and Lazarus).
Trench: Comm. on the Epistles to the Seven Churches, pp. 49-51, 95-98.
Wordsworth, Chr.: Greek New Testament, Comm. on II Cor. 12:2-4.