As Revealed and Elaborated in the Scriptures of Truth
Designed to show that "Christendom" has forsaken the way of life,
and to assist honest hearts in returning to the purity of the Gospel of Christ.
Preface to 1973 Edition
The publication of this edition of six thousand copies of "The Great Salvation" completes the total printing of one hundred and five (105) thousand copies since itís first appearance in 1893.
It was prepared by the author, Thomas Williams, in connection with "The World's Columbian Exposition" held in Chicago in that year at which time thirteen thousand copies were distributed at a booth set up at the "World's Congress of Religions" held at the Chicago Art Institute.
Since that time the work has continued in steady demand as the purposes for which it was prepared: "to present the only true plan of salvation in as clear and concise a form" as the circumstances called for, "and itís merits as a means of heralding the gospel to the perishing, aiding young students of the Word, and assisting parents and teachers in teaching the Scriptures" are still as vital and necessary as they were seventy-nine years ago.
It is republished in the same hope as was originally expressed by the author; "May God's blessing go with our little book in itís continuance of the good work it has done in the past, to the honor of His Name and to the salvation of many sons of Adam's fallen race."
The Christadelphian Advocate Publishing Committee
Reprinted December 1995
The Great Salvation
What It Is and How to Obtain It
Reader, we earnestly appeal to you. We have an important subject to talk to you about Ė not about making money, either for you or for me, but about a matter of much greater importance, that which every man needs Ė about what people call religion. You perhaps will answer, "Away with it; look at the confusion there is in the religions of the world. What is the use for me to trouble myself when wise men cannot agree?" That is just the reason I want to talk with you just now Ė to show you that the wisdom of the wise is foolishness with God; and that the religion of the Bible is not found in the "wisdom" of theological schools, but is revealed, so that plain, homespun people may understand it and be saved by it Ė in fact I want to show you Ė donít get angry Ė that for to learn the religion of the Bible is to discard the popular religion of Christendom. Now, "come and let us reason together".
Perhaps you will have done like many others Ė concluded that it does not make any difference what our religious belief is if we are honest and sincere; but it is the hopelessness of reconciling the many religious creeds with themselves, and nearly all of them with the Bible that has driven many to say, "Well, it makes no difference." But your common sense will tell you that it does make a difference whether you believe the truth or believe a falsehood, whether you believe God or notí and the religious world, by itís actions, shows that it makes a difference what is believed, for they send missionaries to change the belief of the heathen, and also to the Jews to change their belief, so that they may believe that Jesus is the Christ.
If it makes a difference what we believe, then we can see why the Bible has been given Ė to guide us into the Truth; and the Bible itself says that our salvation depends upon our belief of the gospel as revealed in itís pages.
I Thes. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Jude 3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
Rom. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation TO EVERYONE THAT BELIEVETHÖ
Mark He that believeth (the gospel) and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
Now, reader, do not run away with the delusion that one man can believe one gospel and another can believe another gospel; for -------
That is, the gospel our Saviour commanded to be preached; the gospel Ė not a gospel; not any gospel you please, but the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. And think of this:
Gal 1:6 "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel; which is not another; but there be some that trouble you and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you THAN THAT WE HAVE PREACHED UNTO YOU, LET HIM BE ACCURSED."
"Now he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6); and it is life eternal to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (John 17:3); and therefore it will not do to believe in any other God or in any other Christ, for that would be idolatry.
A TRIUNE GOD
Is what the religious world believes in, which is the same as to believe in a trinity of Gods, which, further is the same as to believe in three Gods; for they say that each is co-equal and co-eternal, and how can there be three co-equals and co-eternals unless there are three Gods? Reason, reader, you have a right to. God has invited you to reason, and it is only a false way out of a difficulty to say "it is irreverent to pry into these matters."
Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29 Ė Hear O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD.
I Cor. 8:6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things.
Eph. 4:6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true GodÖ
Jesus Christ Is Not A Third Part Of A Triune God, But The Son Of God By Begettal Of The Holy Spirit, and Son of Man By Birth
Son of God
Luke The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power o/the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called THE SON of GOD.
Matt. This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased
John The Father loveth the Son,, and hath given all things into his hand.
SON OF MAN
Acts Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles.
I Tim. 2:5 One mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
Gal 4:4 God sent forth his Son, made of a woman.
I Cor. By man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
Rom. The gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
Jesus was not God, very God, as the creed of the religious world claims; for He Himself disavows any such claim. How could God be tempted like as we are? How could God die and be buried? Do not allow yourself to be deceived by the sophistry that it was His humanity that was tempted died and was buried, as if He Himself was not; for that would be admitting that He escaped temptation and death and that the "Christ" of popular religion did not die--could not die, being immortal; that only His body--not He--died. The Bible says Christ died, Christ was buried, etc.; and what is the use of perverting such language to suit a religion that is far astray from the Bible? Instead of Christís being "co-equal and co-eternal with God," "God very God," He
Was of Man's Nature and Depended Upon God
Heb. ; In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren. * * *' He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
John I can of mine own self do nothing.
John I go unto the Father, for my Father is greater than I
Heb. 5:7, 8 He was heard in that he feared; though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.
The Holy Spirit Is Not a Person, But It Is The Effluence That Proceeds From God, as the Light and Heat of the Sun Proceed from the Sun.
The Holy Spirit is not a third part of a Triune God, but God's power, effluence and influence. It is said that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power." Now, reader, we appeal to your common sense. If each -- God, Christ and the Holy Spirit -- were "God very God, co-equal and co-eternal, how could the first be said to anoint the second with the third in order to impart "power" from the first to the second through the third? If they were co-equal, the imparting of power from one to another would destroy the "co-equality". If they were co-equal what "power" would one have to impart to. another that the other was not already in possession of? Will your common sense allow you to believe that one of three co-equals anointed a second co-equal with a third co-equal? Can you think for a moment that one person anointed a second person with a third person? Note the following testimonies:
Psa. 104:30 Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created.
Job 33:4 The Spirit Of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.
Luke The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Acts God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with powerÖ..
There is, therefore, only one God and Father of all; and Jesus Christ is the Son of God, having been begotten of God through the Holy Spirit. God was the one who begat; the Holy Spirit was the power or influence emanating from Him under the direction of His will in the begettal; and Christ was the Son of God begotten, who, alter growing in wisdom and stature, was made perfect by the things which he suffered (Heb. 2:10).
Now, dear reader, I want to appeal to you upon another subject. You know that it is the belief of the religious world that man is an immortal soul, and that when death takes place the real man does not die -- he simply forsakes his body and continues to live without a body. If he has been a good man, he goes to heaven to live in happiness; if he has been a bad man, he goes to hell (supposed to be a place of torment) to live in misery. Now, just think for a moment. The Bible says there is to be a day of judgment.
Eccl. I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked; for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.
II Cor. 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things in body, according to that he hath done, whether good or bad.
This judgment, you must know, is not at death, but at the second coming of Christ:
II Tim. 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God and the. Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom.
Matt. 25:31 When the Son Of man shall come in his glory, and all his holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.
Here is proof that the judgment of good and bad is to take place when Christ comes back to the earth. So it follows they have not yet been judged. Now, then, to return to the point. If it be true that the good go to happiness when they die (and have to die to get there)! and the bad go to misery when they die, what is the judgment for? I appeal, reader, to your reason. Can you believe that God will reward and punish good and bad men for thousands of years and then call them to judgment? You will possibly say, "O well, God knows where to put them when they die as well as He will at the judgment day." Granted; but if it is a question of His knowledge, why has he provided a day of judgment at a set time? Do you not think there is something wrong with a theory that represents God as arranging in His plan for a day of judgment in which He will reward every man according as His work shall he (Rev. 22:12), and yet rewarding some for hundreds of years before that day of judgment arrives?
Now the Bible will help us out of this difficulty, and the first step is to believe that man is mortal, a creature of the dust.
I Cor. The first man is of the earth, earthy.
Gen. 2:7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.
Gen. 3:19 For out of it (dust} wast thou taken; for dust thou art and unto
dust shalt thou return.
Job 33:6 I also am formed out of clay
Gen. 3:23 Therefore the LORD God sent him (Adam) forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground, from whence he was taken.
Gen. 18:27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord which am but dust and ashes.
Job Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker?
Job 10:9 Remember, I beseech thee, that thou has made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again?
Psa. 103:14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
Now do not forget that all this is said of man--not of the house that man is supposed to dwell in for a time, as if man were one thing and his body another. It was the man that was formed out of the dust.
It is the man that is of the earth, earthy. It is the man that is formed out of clay. It is the man that is dust and ashes. Now the second step out of the difficulty presented is to believe that
Job 30:13 For I know that thou bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living.
Job 7:1 Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?
Psa. 89:48 What man is he that liveth and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul (himself) from the hand of the grave?
Eccl. , 20 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them. as the one dieth so dieth the other; * * *∑ all go to one place; all are of the dust and all turn to dust again.
Isa. 40:6 All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field; the grass withereth, the flower fadeth; because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it; surely the people is grass.
Eccl 9:10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave whither thou goest.
Isa. 6:5 In death there is no remembrance of thee, in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
Eccl. 9:5 For the living know that they shall die; but the dead know not any thing.
Psa. 146:3, 4 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help; his breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; IN THAT VERY DAY HIS THOUGHTS PERISH.
Isa. 38.18, 19 The grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
Now, you see, the Bible having taught us that, instead of death being a continuation of life somewhere off the earth, it is the cessation of life; and instead of men going to happiness or misery when they die, they go to the grave, we are helped out of the absurdity of believing that good and bad are rewarded and punished before they are judged. It is clear now that, instead of the faithful dead having gone to heaven to continue to live, these all died in the faith, not having received the promises (Heb. 11:13).
Now, dear reader, do not, like many, get angry and denounce this as "materialism", and say, "If a man in death is no better than the beasts--is as dead as the beasts are--there can be no future life;" for that is just what some in Corinth said; and Paul said they were fools for doing so.
Paul argued with the Corinthians that the dead were dead, and proved that if there was no resurrection even those who had died in Christ had perished (I Cor. 15:18), gone for ever--an impossibility if they had gone to a heaven of happiness.
Now if there is to be a resurrection of the dead and a "gathering", of those who are alive at Christís return to judge the quick and the dead, then our difficulty is gone, the wisdom of God shines brightly and the Bible is a book of consistency and beautiful harmony.
Job If a man die shall he live again?
Job 19:25, 26 1 know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth, and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.
Psa. 49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave.
Isa. 26:19 Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall their arise. Awake and sing) ye that dwell in dust.
Dan. 12:2 And many of them that deep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Phil. 3:10, 11 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, * * * if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
I Cor. , 18 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised; * * * then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ ARE PERISHED.
While it is clear from the testimonies given that man is mortal and absolutely destitute of immortality, and that in death he is dead and therefore unconscious, our hope of immortality must be through the resurrection, and immortality is therefore a matter of hope for the righteous only, and not an inherent possession of saint and sinner alike. Immortality is Gods nature. He is "The King eternal, immortal, invisible" (I Tim. ), "who only hath immortality" (I Tim. ). It is therefore a holy nature befitting righteous beings only; for God would surely not impart His own holy nature to wicked and depraved beings.
II Pet. 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the DIVINE NATURE, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
I John 3:2 Beloved now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Phil. 3:20, 21 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned ONTO HIS GLORIOUS BODY.
Luke 20:35, 36 But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
I Cor. 15:51-54 Behold I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
Now the word "immortality" is found only
six times in the Bible, and never once is used as a prefix to the word soul in
the oft-repeated form we hear from men Ė "immortal soul". First, it
is said that God is immortal (I Tim, ). Second,
that God only hath immortality (I Tim. ). Third,
that Christ abolished death (in Himself), and brought life and immortality to
light through the gospel (II Tim. ). Fourth,
that we must by well doing seek for immortality (
Job 14:1, 2 Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.
Psa. 39:5 Behold thou has made my days as a handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.
Psa. 103:15 As for man, his days are as grass; as the flower of the field so he flourisheth.
Psa. 144:4 Man is like to vanity; his days are as a shadow that passeth away.
I Pet. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower Of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away.
Jas. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away.
I John And this is the promise that he hath promised us, EVEN ETERNAL LIFE, through Jesus Christ.
II Tim. 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God according to THE PROMISE OF LIFE which is in Christ Jesus.
Tit. 1:2 IN HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE, which God that cannot lie promised before the world began.
Tit. 3:7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE.
Rom. 2:6, 7 Who will render to every man according to his deeds; to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, honor and immortality, eternal life.
Col. 3:3, 4 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God; and when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, THEN shall ye also appear with him in glory.
John , 29 All that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life.
Gal. 6:8 He that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting.
Luke 20:35, 36 They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
A false theory forces many to attach an erroneous meaning to the phrase eternal life, making it stand for eternal happiness. While eternal happiness is the sequence of eternal life, the one must not be confounded with the other. Since the testimonies given prove that eternal life is the gift of God to the righteous only, it follows that those who obtain the precious gift will enjoy a happy state of being. If wicked men live for ever, they live everlastingly; and surely to live everlastingly is eternal life. The place where they live can make no difference as to the duration of life. If we ask those who are unreasonable enough to believe in the eternal conscious existence of all wicked and depraved men, Do you believe the wicked will be tormented eternally,? they will answer yes. Then do you not believe they will live eternally in torment? Yes. Then if they live eternally, will not that be eternal life in torment? The difference, therefore, between the righteous and the wicked is only one of place and state in which they live eternally--both having eternal life, the one in happiness and the other in misery. Compare this theory with the testimonies given above, and it will be seen that it is far astray from the Word of God, which teaches that "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Everlasting life for those who believe. No everlasting life for those who do not believe; but they perish.
Psa. 49:12, 14, 20 Man being in honor abideth not; he is like the beasts that perish. ∑ * * like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them, and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling. * *∑* Man that is in honor, and understandeth not, is LIKE THE BEASTS THAT PERISH.
Isa. 26:13, 14 O LORD our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us; but by thee only will we make mention of thy name. They are dead, THEY SHALL NOT LIVE; they are deceased, THEY SHALL NOT RISE; Therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them and made all their memory to perish.
Prov. The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the DEAD.
Jer. 51:39, 57 In their heat I will make their feasts, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not awake, saith the LORD. ∑* * * And I will make drunk her princes, and her wise men, her captains, and her rulers, and her mighty men; they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not awake, saith the king, whose name is the LORD of hosts.
Obadiah 1:16 For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.
If these testimonies are accepted a question that has baffled the understanding of many will be solved. What will become of the heathen? has troubled those who have received from their forefathers and their theological "fathers" the tradition that every human being is an immortal soul, that must either bask in bliss or writhe in pain to all eternity. Consistency will not allow the belief that the thousands of wretched beings in human form go to heaven; for that would make the supposed future abode of the saints unfit for decent people. To preserve them in torture, on the other hand, would be no more just and reasonable than to do the same with the beasts of the field. How can you, dear reader, believe that the savage is possessed of God's holy nature? which he is if he has an immortal soul. To reason with the belief that every human being once alive is always alive is to be driven to the conclusion that the vast majority of the human family is to be preserved in misery, and thus perpetuate a monstrous evil in Godís fair universe. It can never be harmonized with the wisdom, goodness and power of God.
Accept the testimony, then, both of Scripture and reason, that those who have lived the life of mere animals also die the death of the beasts of the field and all is clear.
Acts 24:15 And have hope towards God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.
II Cor. 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things in body according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Rom. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Ezek. I8:4 Behold all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, IT SHALL DIE.
Prov. There is a way that seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death.
Psa. 37:10, 20 For yet a little while and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place and it shall not be. * * ∑ But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs; they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.
MaI. 4:1, 3 For, behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leaves them neither root nor branch. * * * And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet.
Matt. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the tire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
Matt. Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will bum up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
II Thes. 1:7-9 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when 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.
Now, a great many people will, when they are confronted with testimonies to prove that man is mortal, that he dies and is unconscious, and that the wicked are destroyed, proceed to theorize that such testimonies refer to the body only--not to the soul or real man. But, reader, can you satisfy yourself in the belief that God has taken so much pains to tell us that the body, as a mere house in which the man resides, dies? that when the Scriptures speak of the dead knowing "not any thing" it is simply the body that is unconscious, while the real man continues alive and conscious? Can you be fully persuaded that when it is said the enemies of the Lord shall be consumed like the fats of lambs and burns up root and branch it means that it is the body only that is consumed and destroyed, while the man, the responsible man, is not? Such a position would place the punishment upon that which, according to the theory held, is in no way responsible, while the responsible man would be exempt. If the soul is the man separate from the body, and the body is not the thinking part of man, why should it be said that the body becomes unconscious? Is it not that which is conscious when it is alive that becomes unconscious when dead? Is it not that which is responsible for sins committed that suffers destruction as punishment? It is the man, which is a being of bodily form, made and kept alive by the Spirit of God, which gives life to all living beings, that dies, becomes unconscious in death, is raised from the dead, judged according to his deeds, given eternal life if worthy, punished with eternal death--the opposite of eternal life--if unworthy.
You will, however, ask, What is the soul? Why is it that it is claimed that the soul is immortal? And so we will briefly deal with the question of the soul.
This proposition gives the primary meaning of soul as used in the Bible; but the word is also used for life and mind, and it is applied to animals as well as to man.
We quote the following from the Emphatic Diaglott:
"The Hebrew word nephesh, of the Old Testament, occurs about 700 times, and is rendered soul 471 times, life and living about 150 times; and the same word is also rendered a man, a person, self, they, me, him, anyone, breath, heart, mind, appetite, the body (dead or alive), lust, creature, and even a beast; for it is 28 times applied to beasts and to every creeping thing. The Greek word psuche of the New Testament corresponds with nephesh of the Old. It occurs 105 times, and is rendered soul 50 times and life 40 times. The same word is also rendered mind, us, you, heart, heartily, and is twice applied to the beasts that perish. Psuchicas, an adjective derived from psuche, occurs 6 times, and is translated natural and sensual; it is properly translated animal in modem translations. Perhaps it may be worthy of notice that in all the 700 times which nephesh occurs, and the 105 times of psuche, not once is the word immortal or immortality or deathless or never-dying found ,in connection as qualifying the term.
Animals Are Called Souls and the Word Soul Is Applied to the Life of the Beasts
Num. 31:28 And levy a tribute unto the Lord of the men of war which went out to battle; one soul of five hundred, of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses and of the sheep.
Gen. 1:20 (The very first place where the word nephesh, the word rendered soul occurs) And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life (nephesh, soul, see margin), and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
Gen. 1:30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth wherein there is life (margin living soul) I have given every green herb for meat.
Gen. 2:19 And Adam called (named) every living creature (Hebrew nephesh, soul).
Gen. 9:10 And I will establish my covenant with every living creature (Hebrew nephesh, soul) that is with you of fowl, of cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you. See also verses 15, 16.
Job l2:10 In whose hand is the soul of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.
Souls Die and Are Destroyed
Josh. And that day Joshua took Makkedah, and smote it with the edge of the sword; and the king thereof he utterly destroyed, them, and all the souls that were therein. See also verses 30, 32, 35, 37, 39.
Judges 16:16 And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death.
Job So that my soul chooseth strangling and death rather than my life.
Psa. 33:19 To deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine.
Psa. 78:50 He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death.
Isa. 53:12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong because he hath poured out his soul unto death.
Ezek. 13:10 And will ye pollute me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live.
Ezek. 18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
Verse 27 Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.
Matt. My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.
Jas. Let him know-that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death.
Rev. 16:3 And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man; and every living soul died in the sea.
Souls Destructible and Destroyed
Psa. 35:17 Lord how long wilt thou look on? Rescue my soul from their destructions.
Psa. 63:0 But those that seek my soul to destroy it shall go into the lower parts of the earth.
Acts And it shall come to pass, that every soul which will not hear that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people.
In the following testimonies the Hebrew word nephesh and the Greek word psuche, which are so frequently rendered soul, are rendered life. Substitute the word soul for life in the reading of these and it will be seen that, instead of soul being indestructible and immortal, it is the opposite.
Go, return into
Matt. For they are dead which sought the young Childís life.
Mark 3:4 Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill (life or soul)?
Rev. 8:9 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life (soul) died.
Rev. 12:11 And they overcome him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives (souls) unto the death.
Souls Go to and Are Delivered From the Pit, or the Grave
Job 33:18 He keepeth back his soul from the pit (grave) and his life from perishing by the sword. Also verses 28, 30.
Psa. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (the grave), neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Psa. 30:3 0 Lord, thou has brought up my soul from the grave; thou hast kept me alive that I should not go down to the pit. The pit and the "grave" are here synonymous; also "my soul, and "me" and "I"
Isa. 49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave; for he shall receive me.
Isa. 89:4S What man is he that liveth and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul (himself) from the hand of the grave?
Isa. 38:17, 18 Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption; * * * for the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee; they that go down to the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
Act He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell (grave),Ö. same word as is translated grave in I Cor. .
Now, dear reader, by these testimonies you will see that the various ways in which the soul is spoken of in the Bible leaves no room whatever for the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Think a moment. Is it not strange that in all the instances in which the word soul occurs it is never once spoken of as immortal? To find the phrase "immortal soul" you must close your Bible and open theological books; and these will direct you to the words of heathen philosophers as the authors from whom the phrase came. You do not hear popular teachers in our times speaking of souls dying, being destroyed going to the grave and coming out of ,the grave. They say the soul is "never dying", immortal, does not go to the grave and is not delivered from the grave. Take, for instance, the word life in Matt. 6:25, where the Greek word is psuche -- the word which in other places is rendered soul -- and try if you can make it suit the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. It would read, "Take no thought for your (immortal) "soul".
Try it again in Matt. 16:25, 26, of which Dr. Adam Clarks says: "On what authority many have translated the word psuche in the 25th verse "life" and in this 26th verse "soul" I know not." If, as is claimed, that the word psuche means "immortal soul", then these verses would read, "For whosoever will save his immortal soul shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his immortal soul for my sake shall find it" etc.
Ponder over the following questions and see the folly of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul:
Since the Bible speaks of a living man (Gen. 2:7) as a living soul, and a dead man as a dead soul, (Num. 6:6; ) (the word body in these verses is from nephesh), and since Paul defines a living soul to be a natural body (I Cor. , 45), how can you speak of the soul as immortal, deathless?
The phrase 'living soul" occurs fourteen times in the original Scriptures and twice it is applied to man (Gen. 2:7:I Cor. ); once to fish (Rev. 16:3) and eleven times to the beasts of the field (Gen. 1:20, 21, 24, 30; ; , 12, 15, 16; Lev. , 46). In view of this can you persuade yourself that living soul means "immortal soul"?
If the word soul signifies immortality, why is the word immortal added to it by those who use the phrase "immortal soul"? This is the same as if they were to say immortal immortality.
If to have a soul is to have immortality, then the beasts have immortality; for they are said to have souls, as you will see by the verses already quoted and the following:
Num. 31:28; Job 12:10; Prov. 12:10. (The word life is from nephesh, soul.)
Popular teachers say the soul is immortal. They cannot give you their description of man without using the words "immortal soul" and yet Moses, the prophets, Christ and His apostles never used the words in all the nearly one thousand times they use the word soul. Immortal was never a prefix to the word soul with them.
The Bible speaks of soul being born (Exo 12:19);of souls dying Rev. 16:3); of souls being in the grave (Psa. 89:48); of souls being raised from the dead (Acts 2:31); of souls having blood (Jer. 2:34); of souls breathing (Josh. 11:11); of souls being slain with the sword (Josh, 10:28, 29); of souls eating and drinking (Lev. 7:20); Isa. 32:6); of souls committing carnal abominations (Lev. 18:29); of souls expiring (Job 31:39 margin); of souls being burnt with fire (Isa. 47:14 mar-gin); of souls fasting (Psa. 35:13); of souls having flesh (Lev. 17:15, 16); of souls having hands (Lev. 22:6); of souls having mouths (Psa. 103:2,5); of souls having lips (Lev. 5:4); of beasts having souls (Deut. 12:23, Hebrew nephesho; of souls being put in fetters of iron (Psa. 105:18, margin); and of fish having souls (Rev. 8:9, Greek psuche, soul). In view of such Bible descriptions of souls, how is it possible, nay, is it not preposterous, to talk about souls being immortal and immaterial?
Dear reader, you may think that all "great and good men" are against us upon this question, and this may-have weight on your mind, as it has with many; and they say, "O well, if great men believe in the immortality of the soul it is no use for us to deny it, for they ought to know." This is by no means a proper view to take. We must allow God to be true though all may there-by be proved liars. However, to show you that all "great men" have not believed in the doctrine and that some have protested against it, I will reproduce a list of quotations from the "Declaration".
Herodotus, the oldest historian, writes as follows:
The Egyptians say that Ceres (the goddess of corn). and Bacchus (the god of wine), hold the chief sway in the infernal regions; and the Egyptians also were the first who asserted the doctrine that the soul of man is immortal.-Herodotus, page 144.
Itís first promoters argued from that known doctrine of the Platonic school, which was also accepted by Origen. and his disciples, that the divine nature was diffused through all human souls. Ecclesiastical History, Volume 1, page 80.
Justin Martyr (150 A. D.) said:
For if you have conversed with some that are
indeed called Christians and do not maintain these opinions but even dare to
blaspheme the God of Abraham and the God Isaac and the God of Jacob, and say
that there is no resurrection of the dead, but that the souls, as soon as
they leave the body, are received up into heaven, TAKE CARE THAT YOU
DO NOT LOOK UPON THESE. But I, and all those Christians that are really
orthodox in every respect, do know that there will be a resurrection of the
body and a thousand years in
An extract from a canon which was passed under Leo X. by the Council of Lateran shows that the doctrine of an "immortal soul" that lives when the man is dead was supported in those days, as it Generally has been since, by the authority of creeds rather than the Word of God:
Some have dared to assert, concerning the nature of the reasonable soul, that it is mortal; we, with the approbation of the sacred council, do condemn and reprobate all such, seeing, according to the canon of Pope Clement the Fifth (not according to the Bible) the soul is immortal; and we strictly inhibit all from dogmatizing otherwise; and we decree that all who adhere to the like erroneous assertions shall be shunned as heretics.- Caranga, page 412, 1081.
Martin Luther, ironically responding to the decree of the Council of the Lateran held during the pontificate of Pope Leo, says:
"I permit the pope to make articles of faith
for himself and his faithful-such as the soul is the substantial form of. the human body, the soul is immortal, with all those
monstrous opinions to be found in the Roman dunghill of decretals."
--Luther's Works, Volume 2 folio 107,
In an old work printed in 1772, entitled
Historical View of the
William Tyndall declares that--
In putting departed souls in heaven, hell and purgatory-, you destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection. * * * The true faith putteth the resurrection, which we be warned to look for every hour. The heathen philosophers, denying that, did put that the souls did ever live. And the pope joineth the spiritual doctrine of Christ and the fleshly doctrine of philosophers together Ė things so contrary that they cannot agree. * * * And because the fleshly pope consenteth into HEATHEN DOCTRINE, therefore he corrupteth the Scriptures to establish it. * * * If the souls be in heaven, tell me why they be not in as good case as the angels be. And then what cause it there for the resurrection? This translator of the Scriptures into English suffered martyrdom in 1536.
Gibbon declares: "The doctrine of the immortality of the soul is omitted in the law of Moses." -Gibbon, Volume 1, page 530-1.
George Combs says: "No idea can be more erroneous than to suppose that man is an immortal being, on account of the substance of which he is composed." -System of Phrenology, page 595-7.
Parkhurst says: "As a noun nephesh hath been supposed to signify the spiritual part of man, or what we commonly call his soul, I must confess that I can find no passage where it hath undoubtedly this meaning." - Hebrew Lexicon.
Now we have given proof that even men highly esteemed among men deny and give good reasons for denying the theory of the souls immortality. Some, however, will turn to the word spirit, and claim that the Scripture use of this word will sustain that which they are forced to concede is not supported by the use of the word soul. So we will ask you to accompany us while we examine the subject under this heading.
Now, reader, you may be under the impression that spirit is only applied to man in the Scriptures; and truly, if it is a word that signifies immortal entity, it ought never to apply to the beasts in any sense. If we show you testimonies in which spirit is spoken of as belonging to the beasts as well as to man, then you will see at once that it cannot have the meaning commonly attached to it.
Now there are different words in the original Scriptures that are rendered in our translation spirit. It will therefore be well for me to give these and a brief statement of the facts as to their meaning and use. To do this I will quote from the alphabetical appendix of the Emphatic Diaglott a statement whose correctness you can, with little trouble, test yourself.
The Definition and Use of the Word Spirit as Found in the Scriptures
"The Hebrew world ruach occurs 400 times in the Old Testament, and is rendered spirit 240 times; breath 28 times; wind 95 times; mind 6 times; and the balance in 18 different ways. The Greek word pneuma has been chosen by the inspired writers of the New Testament as the equivalent in meaning of ruach. It occurs 385 times, and is the only word rendered spirit, (with two exceptions, Matt. ; Mark 6:49). Pneuma, like ruach of the Old Testament, has four significations: 1. It represents primarily the air that we breathe. 2. It denotes a being, as angels. 3. It represents an influence from a being. 4. It indicates a state of feeling. It is believed that there is not a passage where these words rendered spirit occur but what may be classified under one of these significations."
Now when it is said in Gen. 6:17, "I do bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh wherein is the breath (ruach, the Hebrew word often rendered spirit) or life, we see that "immortal soul" or "immortal spirit' is out of the question; for "all flesh" included the beasts of the field.
When the wise man declares of man and beasts in Ecc. 3:19, "For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them; as the one dieth so dieth the other; YEA THEY HAVE ALL ONE BREATH (ruach), you would certainly not read, yea they have all one "immortal spirit. So, also, when it is said in Jas. , "For as the body without the spirit (pneuma) is dead, the meaning is, as you will see by the word breath in the margin, "the body without the breath (or life) is dead. And surely this is true of all flesh wherein is the breath or spirit of life.
It was the breath of life that God breathed into man to make him a living man. Before that he was a lifeless man. When God takes away the breath of life or the spirit of life, which all creatures possess, the man becomes as lifeless as he was before he received the breath of life. Hence Solomon says in Ecc. 12:7, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was and the spirit shall return to God who gave it." The word rendered spirit here is the same as is rendered breath in chapter 3:19, where it says of man and beasts, yea they have all one breath (ruach).
The fact that our translators have rendered the same word (ruach) breath and spirit does not change the fact that the inspired writers used the same word. A good way for you to test whether the inspired writers believed as theologians do now -- that spirit means "immortal spirit" or soul -- is to read "immortal spirit" in the verses where the words rendered spirit, breath and wind occur. Try in the following:
I Kings 2:9 And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.
Job He will not suffer me to take my breath ( ruach ).
Job In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.
Job 27:3 All the while my breath is in me, and the Spirit of God is in my nostrils.
Job 33:4 The spirit of God hath made me and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.
Eph. Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.
Num. O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh.
Num. 27:16 Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation.
Josh. 5:1 Neither was
there any spirit in them any more because of the children of
I Kings 10:4, 5 When the
Psa. 104:29, 30 Thou takest away their breath (spirit of the beasts, see context) they die and return to the dust.
We say, a proud spirit, a haughty spirit, a rebellious spirit, a meek spirit, etc.; but we use the word for disposition or state of mind, and not for immortal entity. We say a horse is in good spirits or is a spirited creature; but we do not use the word as theologians do.
Understanding spirit to be used for life, we can understand the words, "Lord Jesus receive my (not me) spirit and Stephen fell asleep (Acts ); and, Jesus, when he had cried with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost," spirit or life (Matt. 27:50). But Jesus died. The spirit was not Jesus; it was that which gave Him life. When He yielded up the spirit He yielded up His life and then He --Jesus Himself--died. If the spirit that He yielded up was Jesus, the Christ, then He did not die, to claim which would imperil our salvation.
When you seek the meaning of a Scripture word it is not safe to take the theological meaning; for Scripture words have been made to serve in giving expression to heathen doctrines. If you take the radical meaning of spirit as given in the dictionary you will find it accords with the Scripture use in the primary sense. The meaning given by Webster for spirit is breath. The meaning the lexicons give of the Greek and Hebrew words pneuma and ruach--the words which stand for spirit--is breath. The noun in each case is derived from a verb meaning to breathe. So when God formed man of the dust of the ground He made him alive by causing him to breathe His spirit, which all the creatures that went into the ark possessed (Gen. 7:14, 15). When man dies "his breath (ruach, spirit) goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, and in that very day his thoughts perish" (Psa. 146:4). The spirit of God is everywhere Ė in the air that surrounds us. That portion of it which God enables us to appropriate to our use in respiration (by breathing) is called breath; and as it is by this process of breathing that we live, it is called the breath or spirit of life. It is the same with all creatures; for, as we have seen, "they --man and beasts-- have all one breath" (Ecc. ). So our breath or spirit of life comes from God to make and keep us alive; and when we die the breath or spirit of life returns to God who gave it. The giving of it makes us alive, and the taking away of it leaves us dead.
With these facts before you, that man is mortal, and that the soul and spirit of man are never spoken in the Scriptures as immortal, we may now ask you to listen to the use of the word immortal, so that you may more fully see that immortality is in no sense man's present possession, and that therefore "immortal soul" and "immortal spirit" are invented phrases--not scriptural.
Now immortality is spoken of in the Scriptures in various ways. We have already shown (Proposition 11.) that it is a gift of God to the righteous only; but let us now look at the use the Bible makes of the word. Following are all the instances where it is found:
I Tim. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.
I Tim. 6:15, 16 Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light, etc.
II Tim. But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and IMMORTALITY to light through the gospel.
Rom. 2:6, 7 Who will render to every man according to his deeds: tothem who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, honor and immortality, eternal life.
I Cor. 15:53, 54 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must PUT ON IMMORTALITY. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have PUT ON IMMORTALITY, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
Now, dear reader, look at this without prejudice, and see, first, that the word immortal or immortality is never applied to man in his present state. Then consider that in the first verse quoted immortality is God's nature. Do you think God would bestow His divine and holy and indestructible nature upon wicked and depraved beings? Do you think it is reasonable to believe that beings possessed of Godís holy nature could be tempted to sin and that God would torture eternally millions of beings possessed of His own divine nature? Is not such a thought revolting to a mind that regards God as being holy, just, wise and good, His nature being the very essence of these attributes?
But now look at the four verses where the word is used in relation to man. First, immortality is brought to light through the gospel. Second, it is that which we must seek for by well doing. Third, we shall put it on at the resurrection. Fourth, when it is put on death is swallowed up in victory. Thus you will see that such a boon as to be made partakers of the divine nature is only for those who prove themselves worthy of it. (Remember that you never read in the Bible the words immortal soul" or "immortal spirit"). The same is true of eternal life, as we shall next proceed to show.
I John And this is the promise that he hath promised us EVEN ETERNAL LIFE, through Jesus Christ.
Il Tim. 1:1 Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the PROMISE OF LIFE which is in Christ Jesus.
Tit. 1:2 IN HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE, which God that cannot lie promised before the world began.
Tit. 3:7 That being Justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to THE HOPE' OF ETERNAL LIFE.
Rom. 2:6, 7 Who will render to every man according to his deeds, to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, honor and immortality. eternal life.
Col. 3:3, 4 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God; and when Christ who is our life shall appear, THEN shall ye also appear with him in glory.
John , 29 All that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life.
Gal. 6:8 He that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting
Luke 20:35, 36 They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
Your mind will possibly run to a few texts which say, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (John ). Many quote these to prove the immortality of the soul; but you will notice that it is added, "He that hath not the Son, hath not life" (I John ). If the first means, He that hath the Son hath an immortal soul or spirit, then the last part means, He that hath not the Son hath not an immortal soul or spirit. Eternal life, therefore, whenever it is possessed, is possessed by the righteous only. Now if you will compare scripture with scripture you will see what is meant by the words hath life. Think of this: "He that believeth on the Son hath the witness (not the thing witnessed) in himself; he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life and this life is in HIS SON" (I John , 11)--not in us yet. We have it in the Son so long as we have Him in our minds and hearts; but the time when we shall have it in ourselves is seen in the words. "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life SHALL APPEAR, THEN shall, ye also appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:3, 4).
You will be told by theologians that eternal life means eternal happiness --not eternal living existence. It is true that all who shall be accounted worthy of eternal living existence will, as a necessary result, enjoy eternal happiness. Hence by obtaining the former we enjoy the latter: but "eternal life" means to live without end; and "eternal happiness" means to be always happy.
Now if the wicked live without end, it matters not where they live; they have eternal life. If you ask theologians, Will the life of the wicked ever end? they will answer you, No; they will live in torment as long as the righteous live in happiness; the difference is only in the place and state where they live. So that you will see there is in this a denial of the gospel of eternal life, which says, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not, perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:10). There is a "strait gate" and a "narrow way" that "leadeth to life" Ė life is at the farther end; not at this end, in us---and there is a "broad gate" and a "wide way" that leadeth to destruction--not to life in misery.
This will prepare your mind for the reception of the Scripture teaching concerning the destiny of the wicked, which we will now consider.
Job 20:5-8 The triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment. He shall perish for ever like his own dung; they which have seen him shall say, Where is he? He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found, yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night.
Psa. 37:38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together; the end of the wicked shall be cut off.
Psa. 37:10 For yet a little while and the wicked shall not be; yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.
Psa. 37:20 But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs; their shall consume; INTO SMOKE SHALL THEY CONSUME AWAY.
Psa. 145:20 The LORD preserveth all them that love him; but all the wicked will he destroy.
Psa. 104:35 Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more.
II Pet. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption.
II Thes. 1:9, 10 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.
Those who cling to the terrible theory that God will preserve the wicked eternally in torment try to evade these plain statements of Scripture by saying that the meaning is not literal destruction; but that the word destroy must be understood in the sense we speak of a man who has become a reprobate--his character is destroyed, he is ruined. You will see that this is not reasonable, because it is the wicked who are to be destroyed. They are already ruined in the sense referred to, from the fact that they are the wicked; and it is the destruction of these that the Scriptures are speaking of.
Then, again, there is a play upon the words "from among the people" (Acts ), as if they did not mean absolute destruction, but banishment to another region. A comparison of scripture with scripture will show you how unreasonable this is. Notice the application of the word "destroyed" in these texts: "And every living substance was DESTROYED which was upon the face of the ground, both man and cattle and the creeping things, and the fowl of heaven; and they were DESTROYED FROM THE EARTH" Gen. 7:23). If "destroyed" here as applied to man means "banished to another region," then it must mean the same for all the creatures named, for the one word is made to serve for what happened to them all.
From force of education you will now possibly wonder, in view of the foregoing, what is the meaning of 'hell in the Bible. For if the wicked are to be destroyed, such a place as have been taught to believe to be will not be needed. If the wicked are not to be preserved alive the popular hell will be of no use. So let us examine this subject next.
The use the inspired writers make of the Hebrew and Greek words rendered in our translation '`hell" must be allowed to determine what they mean by these words. You must remember that in the Greek there are two words in the original Scriptures--hades and Gehenna that are translated by the one word hell. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word answering to hades is sheol. Now this word is often rendered grave; and itís use in such cases shows that the prophets never understood it to mean a place of torment for "disembodied spirits".
Sheol-Grave or State of the Dead
Gen. 37:35 He (Jacob) refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave (sheol) unto my son mourning.
Gen. 42:38 If mischief befall him in the way by which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave ( sheol).
I Sam. 2:6 The LORD killeth and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave (sheol) and bringeth up,
I Kings 2:6 Do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not his hoary head go down to the grave (sheol) in peace.
Job O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave (sheol), that wouldest keep me secret until thy wrath be past.
Job If I wait the grave (sheol) is mine house; I have made my bed in the darkness.
Psa. 30:3 0 LORD, thou has brought up my soul from the grave (sheol); thou has kept me alive that I should not go down to the pit.
Psa. 49:14 Like sheep they are laid in the grave (sheol), death shall feed on them.
Hos. I will ransom them from the power of the grave (sheol); 0 grave I will be thy destruction. (Compare with I Cor. 15:55).
Ecc. There is no work nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave (sheol), whither thou goest.
Psa. 31:17 Let them be silent in the grave (sheol).
Ezek. 32:27 And they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone down to hell (sheol) with their weapons of war; and they have laid their swords under their heads. (Hell here is shown to be the grave, by the fact that the mighty lie there with their swords under their heads, it being a custom to bury warriors with their swords under their heads).
Psa. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (sheol), neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (Peter uses this to prove that Christ was raised from the grave.--Acts 2:27, 30-32).
From these testimonies it is clear that the inspired writers had no idea of a place of eternal torment being represented by the word sheol. Just substitute "the place of eternal torment" for the word sheol in these texts and you will see how absurd is the theory of modern theology. It would make Jacob say, "I refuse to be comforted; and I will go down to the place of eternal torment to my son mourning." It would make David say, :Let not his hoary head go down to the place of eternal torment in peace." as though it were possible to go to such a place in peace. It would make Job say, "O that thou wouldest hide me in the place of eternal torment until thy wrath be past, which would be praying to be taken from bad to worse. It would make David and Peter say that Christ went to the place of torment but was not left there. Now if you keep in view that the final end of the wicked is to be punished with eternal death--to be cast into the darkness of death and the grave--then you will easily understand the use of the word sheol when the translators have rendered it "hell"; such, for instance, as "The wicked shall be turned into hell (sheol), ,and all nations that forget God (Psa. 9:17).
The word that the writers of the New Testament used as meaning the same as sheol is hades.
Hades---Grave or State of the Dead
The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses the word hades as the equivalent of sheol. Therefore the texts quoted above apply to the use of the word hades in the Greek in the same way as they do to sheol in the Hebrew. The word hades only occurs eleven times in the New Testament. As to itís meaning and whether or not it is properly translated by the word hell we submit the following:
"The Hebrew word sheol is translated HELL, properly as a general thing, if intended to mean the same as the old Saxon word hell, the covered receptacle of all the dead, where the good and bad repose together in a state of UNCONSCIOUSNESS; but very improperly and SHAMEFULLY IF intended to be a symbol of the Ďorthodox' and traditionary hell as a place of conscious torment for the wicked only. But we, without the slightest reservation, condemn the translators; for they have evidently endeavored to observe the true sense of the word Sheol, and to uphold the traditional meaning of hell at the expense of truth and uniformity. Had sheol been uniformly translated pit or grave or the state of the dead, or even the mansions of the dead, no such absurd idea as that of a place of conscious torment could ever have been associated with it." Bible versus Tradition, page 188.
"Hades means literally that which is darkness. A careful examination will lead to the conclusion that no sanction to the intermediate state is afforded by these passages where hades occurs; but they denote the grave, both of the righteous and wicked. Dr. Kitto, Cyclopedia.
"The original word hades, from a, not, and idien, to see-the invisible receptacle or mansion of the dead, answering to sheol in Hebrew. The word hell, used in the common translations conveys now an improper meaning of the original word, because hell is only used to signify the place of the damned. But as the word hell comes from the Anglo-Saxon helan, to cover or hide, hence the tiling or slating of a house in some parts of England (particularly Cornwall): heIing to this day, and the covers of books (in Lancashire), by the same name; so the literal import of the original word hades: was formerly well expressed by it.-Dr. Adam Clarke, Commentary.
"The gates of hades
may always allusive to the form of the Jewish sepulchres,
which were large caves with a narrow mouth or entrance, many of which are found
Following are the passages where the word hades occurs in ∑ the New Testament:
Matt. And thou
Upon this Dr. Adam Clarke says:
This prediction of our Lord was literally
fulfilled; for in the wars with the Romans and the Jews these cities were totally
destroyed, so that no traces are now found of
To be brought down to hell, the grave, was therefore to be destroyed.
Matt. And I say unto thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church; and the gates of hell (hades, the grave) shall not prevail against it.
"The gates of hades," says Parkhurst, may always be allusive to the form of Jewish sepulchres."
The gates of the grave will not prevail, because the church will be delivered, and exclaim: "O grave (hades), where is thy victory?" (I Cor. 15:55).
Luke Same as already referred to in Matt. .
Luke And in hell (hades) he lifted up his eyes.
Acts , 31 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (hades), neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
I Cor. O death, where is thy sting? O grave (hades), where is thy victory?
Rev. 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and. behold, I am alive for evermore, amen; and have the keys of hell (hades) and of death.
Rev. 6:8 And I looked and behold, a pale horse; and his name that sat upon him was Death. and Hell (hades) followed with him.
Rev. 20:13, 14 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell (hades) delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell (hades) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
These passages will all be clear to you as
applying to the grave, except, perhaps, one -- that in which the rich man is
said to lift up his eyes in hell (hades). We
purpose devoting a chapter to this further along, but will say here, that the
parable of the rich man and Lazarus was addressed to the Pharisees (Luke ), who, having received traditions which made the Word of
God of none effect, had become believers in the heathen dogma of the conscious
existence of disembodied souls. To find a receptacle for these after death they
invented a place where good and bad souls were preserved awaiting the judgment
day; and to that place they gave the name of hades.
In this parable our Lord used their theory to represent the national
calamity shortly to come upon them in the destruction of
Gehenna -- What and Where Is It?
Gehenna, the other word translated hell in the New Testament, has an entirely different meaning from hades, and never ought to have been translated by the word hell. The following from the Emphatic Diaglott is a good explanation:
"Gehenna, the Greek word translated hell in the common version occurs 19. times. It is the Grecian mode of spelling the Hebrew words which are translated "The Valley of Hinnom" This valley was also called Tophet, a detestation, an abomination. Into this place were cast all kinds of filth, with the carcasses of beasts and the unburied bodies of criminals who had been executed. Continual fires were kept to consume these. Sennacheribís army of 185,000 were slain here in one night. Here children were burnt to death in sacrifice to Moloch. Gehenna, then, as occurring in the New Testament, symbolizes death and utter destruction, but in no place symbolizes a place of eternal torment."
The Jews having come to look upon Gehenna as a place of horror, it was associated by our Lord with the destiny which awaited those who shall be the victims of the wrath of God in the day of just retribution. The testimonies in which the word is used indicate that, not only was Gehenna a place of judicial punishment in the past, but in that same place will the righteous judgments of God be poured upon the transgressors. The worms that preyed upon the carcasses in the past have long since devoured them; the unquenchable fire that burned has devoured itís victims. So when the worms shall again prey upon the bodies of the wicked and the fire burn, destruction will be the inevitable result. You will see, dear reader, that the meaning of the words "The worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched" is not that the bodies upon which the worms prey are preserved alive--not that they will burn and yet never burn. The fact that worms are represented as preying is proof that their victims have been put to death and that to be totally devoured is the certain end; and the fact that the fire is not quenched is proof, not that itís victims will be preserved, but that they will be devoured.
Following are the passages where the word hell in the common version is from Gehenna:
Matt. 5:22 But I say, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the Judgment; and whosoever shah say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say, Thou fool. shall be in danger of hell (Gehenna) fire.
Matt. 5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be east into hell (Gehenna).
Matt. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell (Gehenna).
Matt. 18:9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell ( Gehenna ) fire.
Matt. Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell (Gehenna) than yourselves.
Matt. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell (Gehenna)?
Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5. These are the same as given from Matthew.
Jas. 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell (Gehenna).
Now you will see from these testimonies that no
support is given by them to the theory of eternal preservation in hell fire as
popularly believed. The Jews knew that to be "in danger of Gehenna" was to be in danger of an
ignoble death, a devouring of worms or a consuming of fire in the detested
Dr. Parkhurst remarks on Mark 9:43: "Our Lord seems to allude to the worms which continually preyed on dead carcasses that were cast into the valley of Hinnom (Gehenna), and to the perpetual fire kept up to consume them; a place of abominable filthiness and pollution. Greek Lexicon.
Now, dear reader, we come to the question of the devil--a question that you may think of trivial importance, but which we must insist is of great importance. It is very important that we believe no doctrine that will dishonor and blaspheme God. If there is such a personal monster as is popularly believed in-one that is immortal and possessed of power to tempt weak humanity in all parts of the world at the same time, and that has the power of an endless life to continue his rebellion against God--the question is, Where did such a being come from? Did God create him? Did God give him immortality--His own nature and the nature we are commanded to seek for by well-doing? Did God give him power to be everywhere present performing his wicked work? Is it God's purpose to allow such a monster of wickedness to live eternally in open rebellion against Him? If so, why so? Can you believe these things without dishonoring God, who is wise, just, all-powerful and good?
If we believe that the devil is immortal and has eternal life, how can we believe that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life" (Rom. )? If we believe that the devil is to be an eternal enemy of God and man, how can we believe that Christ through death will "destroy him that hath the power of death, that is the devil" (Heb. )? and that Christ will destroy the last enemy (I Cor. )? Is not man naturally weak enough in resisting the enticements of the carnal mind? Why should God create, or even allow to exist, a being possessed of such a tempting power over man who is already so weak? Why should there be a "hell" larger and more thickly populated than "heaven," and why should there be a devil more powerful for mischief than God is for good? Is it not blasphemy against God to believe such things?
Now, the word devil, like that of "hell", is quite deceiving in the manner of itís use in the New Testament, for it is made to represent two different words in the original Scriptures. These Words are, in the Greek, daimon and diabolos. The first is a word which the heathen applied to supposed departed spirits. With them, when a person was afflicted with a disease of any kind, especially disease affecting the mind, it was a disembodied spirit, or, as it would now be called by their disciples, an "immortal soul", had entered the body of the person to punish him. To cure the disease was to cast out the demon, spirit or soul. Thus, if one was affected with seven different diseases and was healed it was the casting out of seven spirits or immortal souls. Religious people who have given heed to doctrines of devils (demons) still hold the heathen dogma of disembodied spirits, but they have abandoned the ancient theory of transmigration. The language of Scriptures is the language of the times in which they were written; but it does not commit our Lord and His apostles to the heathen theory, any more than our use of the word lunatic commits us to the belief that an insane person has been 'moonstruck', or that our use of erysipelas means that we believe in "St. Anthony's fire".
The following from Yate's "History of Egypt, which we quote from Diabolism, will illustrate how the use of words and phrases may mean one thing to a heathen and another thing to one who has escaped the darkness of heathenism:
"It would seem that the same diseases prevailed
"I have known the Rev. Mr. Wolff ridiculed
for stating that one evening when he was passing between
The work of the Saviour and His apostles in this particular was the miraculous cure of disease, the account being given in the idiom of the times. The heathen and those who believed their doctrines of demons took a heathen view of the matter; just as a religious heathen in our day would look upon a ease of erysipelas as a fire from St. Anthony, while a rational mind would know better.
The word which most concerns us is diabolos; because a failure to understand the meaning of this word will hinder one from comprehending the plan of salvation. Christ came to destroy the diabolos and his works; therefore a wrong view of diabolos interferes with a correct view of the mission of Christ.
The meaning of diabolos as given by Dr. Young is accuser, calumniator. The word is rendered devil in the New Testament thirty times, where itís use sustains the meaning above given. It does not stand for one supernatural being, as is commonly supposed; for in three instances it is used in the plural. In these cases, however, the translators of the common version, seeing, no doubt, that the word could not mean the supposed supernatural being, have not used the word devil. It would not do to make Paul say. "Even so must their wives be grave, not "supernatural devils". So they gave us a correct translation, which furnishes a key to the true meaning of the word. Hence it is:
I Tim. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers (diaboloi).
II Tim. 3:3 Men shall be * * * without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers (diaboloi).
Tit. 2:3 The aged women, likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers ( diaboloi).
If they had been slanderers or false accusers they would have been devils in the sense that "devil' is used in the New Testament from diabolos.
Literally the word diabolos means that which causes to cross over. Hence that which tempts men to cross the line from right to wrong, or to sin. That which causes man to sin, as well as sin itself in all itís various phases is personified in the Scriptures in the same way that riches are called the god this world and mammon; and this principle of human nature is what tempts to do wrong. Hence it is the diabolos which causes men to cross over the line. There are what we call riches; there are what we call sins. Take the Scripture personification of these and call the first Mammon and the second Diabolos. Then we can say Mammon tempts us; Mammon is our enemy, Mammon will destroy us. And we can substitute Diabolos and say the same things. No one would be foolish enough to think mammon a supernatural, personal monster because we use the word in this personal sense. Why should not the use of the word diabolos be allowed in the same way? Obedience and sin are personified: "Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness" (Rom. 6:16)? Here are two masters represented by the pronoun his; but nobody supposes they are really two persons. Sin is either a wicked thought or act of a person, obedience is a good thought or act of a person. And it probably is because neither can exist without a person that they are personified. It was diabolos that put it into the heart of Judas to betray Christ (John 13:2); and thus he became a devil (diabolos)óJohn 6:70)
Now Christ came to take away the sin of the world--that is, to ultimately remove sin and all itís effects from the earth. When this is done the diabolos will be no more.
Christ to Take Away Sin
John Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.
I John 3:5 He was manifested to take away our sins.
Rom. 8:3 God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.
Christ to Destroy the Devil and His Works
Heb. 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that hath the power of death, that is the devil (diabolos).
I John 3:8 For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil ( diabolos ).
When the devil and his works are destroyed, all evil will be removed from the earth, paradise will be restored and everything will again be very good. To believe, therefore, that the devil is a supernatural being that is to live as long as God lives, and whose works in a supposed "hell" are to continue as long as "heaven" continues, is to deny the truth concerning the work of redemption through Christ.
Think not, then, that God maintains the existence of such a monster and that our temptations come from him. "Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed". (Jas. 1:14)
Satan is frequently used in the same sense as diabolos. Indeed, diabolos is the word which the Septuagint employs for the Hebrew word satan. While the word mostly means the same as diabolos, there is this difference----that satan does not always stand for an opposer of right. It is frequently rendered adversary; and the angel of the Lord that stood in the way of Balaam is called a satan. On the whole, however, what has been said under the heading of diabolos will apply to the word satan. Any person who is an opposer of right is a satan. Hence our Lordís words to the Apostle Peter, "Get thee behind me, satan"; from which no reasonable person would infer that Peter was the being superstition supposes the devil to be.
When the grand mission of Christ is completed there will be no satan, diabolos nor demon, for he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet; the last enemy shall be destroyed--death.
Sin, the transgression of law, made man a satan--an adversary of right. Lust conceived and brought forth sin; and sin, when completed, brought forth death. To bring forth death sin took effect in manís nature in the form of disease or mortality; disease multiplied into various forms, and these forms were by the heathen called demons. When our Redeemer brings the time when there will be no sickness or pain there will be no "demons." When our "vile body is changed and fashioned like unto his glorious body", "mortality will be swallowed up of life and there will be no more lust in our natures; hence no more diabolos or satan in us. Being free from lust, we shall not sin and therefore not become diabolos or satan. Then Christ will have fulfilled His mission in "destroying him that hath the power of death, that is the devil". There being ,no more death, no more demon, no more diabolos, no more satan, the LAST enemy will have been destroyed. Yes, DESTROYED; and then "God shall be all IN ALL". In this, dear reader, you have a prospect that exalts and honors Jehovahís name, in that it shows us that, while He has permitted man to sin and thus blight and curse the earth for a time, His wisdom, power and glory will put an end to all evil. Such a God-honoring, glorious prospect is shut out from your view by the heathenism that would perpetuate the existence of a personal, omniscient, omnipresent, immortal, fire-proof devil, with countless millions of hopeless and helpless victims.
To obtain the great salvation it is necessary that
we understand and believe the things concerning the
It is the general belief that this earth is to be burnt up, and that all good men and women will finally be taken to heaven to enjoy eternity. This theory represents God's work, so far as the earth is concerned, as a failure; for if there is not a future for it better than the past--if the evils of the earth's past and present are not to be made to yield ultimate good--what else is it but a failure?
Numb. But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.
Psa. 72:l7-19 His name shall endure for ever; his name shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed. Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever; and let the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Isa. 11:9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
Hab. For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
Matt. 6:9, 10 After this manner pray ye: * ∑ * Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
Luke Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
You will see that these promises have never been fulfilled. In these testimonies we have God's Word concerning the future of the earth. Can His Word fail? Listen to what He says:
Isa. 55:10-13 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, ∑ so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
According to these promises the earth is to be restored to the beautiful state it enjoyed before sin cursed it; and in that restored beauty and fertility will be an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off --- a sign of the wisdom, goodness and power of God in removing the curse and giving blessings without end.
The Earth to Abide Forever
It is by failing to observe the different ways in which the earth is spoken of that the mistake is made in believing in the destruction of the literal earth. That it is not to be destroyed is not only clearly implied in the above testimonies, but is declared in the following:
Ecc. 1:4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh but the earth abideth for ever
Isa. 104:1-5 Blessed be the LORD. * * * who laid the foundation of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.
Psa. 119:90 Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.
Now those Scriptures that speak of the earth passing away also include heaven. If the destruction of the literal earth and the literal heaven is meant we may well ask:
"When heaven and earth are fled and gone, Oh! where shall I appear?"
The following passages will show you that the earth sometimes represents the inhabitants of the earth and the heaven the rulers, a figurative use of these words drawn from the fact that the literal heaven rules the literal earth.
Heaven and Earth, Figurative and Symbolic
Deut. 32:1 Give ear O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
Isa. 1:2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD hath spoken.
Isa. 49:13 Sing, O heavens, and be joyful, O earth
Jer. O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD
Hab. Let all the earth keep silence before him.
These testimonies will show that the words heaven and earth frequently apply to the rulers and ruled upon the earth; and they enable us to see that the Scriptures that speak of the passing away of the heavens and the earth are not a contradiction of those which declare that the heavens and the earth are never to be removed
You may find a difficulty, however, as some have, in the fact that the Apostle Peter says that the earth and the works therein shall be burned up (II Pet. ). The question is sometimes asked, What are the works therein, if the word earth refers to the people? The answer is, The earth represents the social system as a whole, and the works are the various productions of the people which feed their vanity and pride.
The figurative and symbolic use of terms in relation to the heavens and earth finds a good explanation in the following from Dr. Adam Clarke's introduction to Isaiah's prophecy:
"By images borrowed from the world natural, the prophets frequently understand something analogous in the world politic. Thus the sun, moon and stars and heavenly bodies denote kings, queens, rulers, and persons in great power; their increase of splendor denotes increase of prosperity; their darkening, setting or falling denotes a reverse of fortune, or the entire ceasing of that power or kingdom to which they refer. Great earthquakes and the shaking of heaven and earth denote the commotion and overthrow of kingdoms; and the beginning or end of the world their rise or ruin.
"The cedars of Lebanon, oaks of
Sir Isaac Newton also says:
"In attempting to understand the prophecies, we are in the first place to acquaint ourselves with the figurative language of the prophets. This language is taken from analogy between the world natural and an empire or kingdom as a world politic. Accordingly the whole world natural, consisting of heavens and earth, signifies the whole world politic, consisting of thrones and people, or so much of it as is considered in the prophecy. Great earthquakes and the shaking of heaven and earth are put for the shaking of kingdoms, so as to distract or overthrow them; creating a new heaven and earth and the passing away of the old one, or the beginning and end of the world for the rise and wane of the body politic signified thereby. The sun and moon are by the interpreters of dreams put for the persons of kings and queens; but in sacred prophecy, which regards not single persons, the sun is put for- the whole series and race of kings in the kingdoms of the world politic, shining with regal power and glory; the moon considered as the kingís wife; the stars for subordinate princes and great men.
Now with these explanations we shall escape the folly of believing that God will destroy the heavens and the earth, which declare his glory and show forth his handiwork (Psa. 19:1), and shall be able to see in such texts of Scripture as speak of heaven and earth passing away and the creating of new heavens and earth wherein dwelleth righteousness (II Pet. 3:4-13; Isa. 65:17-19) the destruction of the kingdoms of men and the establishment in their place of the kingdom of God, in the former of which there is unrighteousness---hence the reason they pass away--and in the latter ,of which "dwelleth righteousness; hence the reason they represent a kingdom that shall never be destroyed (Dan. 2:44).
Now that we have seen that the earth is to abide for ever, we can safely proceed, feeling we are on solid ground.
Gen. 1315 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed for ever.
Rom. For the promise that he (Abraham) should be the heir of the world was not to Abraham, or to his seed through the law, but (it was) through the righteousness of faith.
Psa. 37:9 For evil doers shall be cut off; but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
Verse 11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
Verse 22 For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off.
Verse 29 The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell therein for ever.
Verse 34 Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the /and; when the wicked are cut off thou shalt see it.
Psa. 115:10 The heaven, even the heavens are the Lord's; but the earth hath he given to the children of men.
Prov. Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth; much more tile wicked and the sinner.
Dan. And the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.
Matt. 5:5 Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.
Rev. 5:9, 10 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth.
Now, dear reader, it is impossible for testimony to be clearer than this. Where is there room now for the theory that finds expression in the following fanciful words?
"Beyond the bounds of time and space, Look forward to that heavenly place, the saints secure abode."
How can heaven be the eternal abode of the righteous, when it is so positively said that the meek shall inherit the earth and dwell therein for ever? If good men go to heaven at death why did not David go there? If he did not go there why should we expect to go? He did not; for the Apostle Peter declares: "For David is not ascended into the heavens" (Acts ); and it is said further, "And no man hath ascended into heaven, but he that came down from heaven" (John ).
Now the everlasting inheritance in the earth, when God shall have blessed it and all nations upon it is the one gospel, which gospel was preached to Abraham: "And the Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." Hence we may safely take another step.
In regard to the covenants of promise in the gospel the Apostle Paul says: Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, * * * that at that time ye were without Christ, BEING ALIENS FROM THE COMMONWEALTH OF ISRAEL AND STRANGERS FROM THE COVENANTS OF PROMISE, HAVING NO HOPE, AND WITHOUT GOD IN THE WORLD" (Eph. 2:11, 12).
You will certainly see from this that whatever the commonwealth of Israel is and the covenants of promise are it is of vital importance that, instead of being aliens to them, we should become "fellowcitizens'' (verse 19). Let the Word of God now decide what they are.
The Promises to Abraham
Gen. 12:1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred, and from thy fatheríshouse, unto a land that I will show thee.
Verse 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shall be a blessing.
Verse 5 And Abram took Sarai
his wife and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had
gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in
Verse 7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land.
Gen. 13:14 And the LORD said unto Abram, after
Verse 15: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed for ever.
Verse 16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth; so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.
Verse 17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
Gen. 15:18 In the same
day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given
this land, from the
Gen. 17:1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine; the LORD appeared to Abram and said unto him, I am the Almighty GOD; walk before me and be thou perfect.
Verse 2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
Verse 4 As for me behold my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
Verse 5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
Verse 6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
Verse 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
Verse 8 And I will give unto thee and to thy seed
after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the
Gen. 22:15 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,
Verse 16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son.
Verse 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of HIS enemies.
Verse 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.
The same promises were made to Isaac and to Jacob, as you will see by the following references: Gen. 26:2 - 4:28:3, 4, 13, 14.
Now you cannot fail to see that these promises assure to the fathers an inheritance in the earth --not a word in them of a promise of heaven. There is no use to deny these promises and you cannot misunderstand them. God made oath that He would fulfill them. Has he fulfilled them?
Since God has made oath that He will give Abraham
and his seed the
Micah Thou wilt (not thou didst) perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.
Rom. For the promise that he (Abraham) should be the heir of the world was not to Abraham, or to his seed through the law; but THROUGH THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH.
Rom. 15:8 Now I, Paul, say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers (the fact that Christ confirmed them proves they were not fulfilled).
Luke , 55 He
hath (prospectively) holpen his servant
Luke 1:68, 73 Blessed be
the Lord God of
Heb. 11:13 These all died in the faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
Heb. 11:8, 9 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should afterwards receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.
Acts 7:5 And he (God) gave him (Abraham) none inheritance in it, no not so much as to set his foot on, yet HE PROMISED THAT HE WOULD GlVE IT TO him for a possession.
We have shown that the promises made to Abraham are called the gospel (Gal. 3:8). The gospel cannot be preached unless Christ is preached. In what sense was Christ preached in these promises to Abraham? Is it not Christ that is to possess all nations of the earth"? Is it not to Christ that the "uttermost parts of the earth are to be given (Isa. 2:8)? But let us be sure that Christ is the very essence, as it were, of the promises made to the fathers; then, since He is the very essence of the gospel of the great salvation, we shall see that the covenant with Abraham and the gospel are identical.
Now read carefully Gen. 22:17, and you will see that we can safely make the following proposition:
This is proved beyond a doubt by the words, Thy seed shall possess the gate of "his enemies." Who else but Christ can be represented by this singular pronoun His? No one else, for inspiration says:
Gal. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of ONE, And to thy seed, WHICH IS CHRIST.
Gal. And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before (the law) of God in Christ ( typically in the offering of Isaac), the law which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
Gal For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham BY PROMISE.
Gal. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added (to the promises) because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.
Gal Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.
You will remember that Paul, in declaring that while we are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise we are without hope (Eph. 2:12), speaks of covenants - plural. Now the covenant with Abraham we have seen provides for an everlasting inheritance of the earth by Christ and all who shall be worthy to share the inheritance with Him. The nations are to be given Him for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession (Psa. 2:8) in order that He might bless all nations. How may all nations be blessed? May we not safely say, by the establishment of a kingdom that will insure righteousness, peace and good will universally. It is to this end that God has made a covenant with David.
II Sam. And when thy days shall be fulfilled, and thou shall sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee which shell proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.
II Sam. He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
II Sam. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee; thy throne shall be established for ever.
II Sam. 23:3 The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be ruling in the fear of God.
II Sam. 23:4 And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.
II Sam. 23:5 Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; and this is ALL MY SALVATION AND ALL MY DESIRE although he make it not to grow.
Psa. 132:11 The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.
Now these promises were not fulfilled in the days of David and Solomon. They remain yet to be fulfilled after the resurrection of David and all the faithful. This you will see by the fact that it was when David should "sleep with his fathers (II Sam. ) that the promised king would be raised up; and yet it says, "Thy house and thy kingdom will I establish for ever before thee," or in thy presence (verse 16); so that it would be subsequent to Davidís resurrection. In this light David understood it; for he says: But thou hast spoken also of thy servants, house for a great while to come (verse 19).
Ezek. -27 And
thou profane and wicked prince of
Jer. 33:15 In those days, and at that time will I cause the BRANCH OF RIGHTEOUSNESS to grow up unto David and he shall execute Judgment and righteousness in the land.
Zech. 6:12, 13 Behold the man whose name is the Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD; Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne, and the counselor peace shall be between them both.
Isa. 9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Luke 1:31-33 And, behold thou shall conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the THRONE OF HIS FATHER DAVID; and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye
which have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit
upon the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging
the twelve tribes of
Matt. 25:31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory and all his holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.
Acts After this (the visiting of the Gentiles) I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David WHICH IS FALLEN DOWN; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up.
Acts 2:30, 31 Therefore (David) being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins according to the flesh he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ.
Now from these testimonies you will see that the
Jer. 31:27, 28 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I
will sow the house of
Jer. 33:4 Behold the days come, saith the LORD,
that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto THE
HOUSE OF ISRAEL, AND TO THE HOUSE OF JUDAH. In those days and at that time will
I cause the Branch of Righteousness to grow up unto David, and he shall
execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days
Jer. 31:0 Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel WILL GATHER HIM, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.
Isa. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble
the outcasts of
Ezek. 37:21, 22 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they have gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.
Ezek. 36:22 Thus saith
the Lord GOD: I do not this for your sakes, O house of
Ezek. 36:24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. See also verses 31-38.
Micah 4:7 And I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast off a strong nation; and the LORD shall reign over them in Mount Zion, from henceforth even for ever.
Rom. And so
Now, dear reader, we are well along in our search for the truth in relation to the things concerning the kingdom of God It will be well for us to remember now, that in preaching the gospel to the Samaritans Philip preached Christ (Acts 8:5). So that to preach the gospel is to preach Christ. The result of preaching Christ was that they believed the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, and were baptized (verse 12). Now to preach these things was to make known the purpose of God in relation, not to the moon or any of the planets we are not so specially concerned about, but to the earth. We may therefore briefly summarize the matter as follows:
The Future Abode of Righteous Is Not Heaven, But the Earth
Isa. 115:16 The heavens, even the heavens are the LORD's; but the earth hath he given to the children of men.
Prov. 11:31 Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in THE EARTH; much more the wicked and the sinner.
Matt. 5:5 Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.
Psa. 37:11 But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
Rom. 4:13 For the promise that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
Rev. 5:10 And has made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth.
Dan. 7:27 And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom UNDER THE WHOLE HEAVEN shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High
When These Promises Are Fulfilled the Kingdom of God Will Be Established in the Earth
II Tim. 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at tab appearing AND his KlNGDOM.
Matt. 6:l0 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Rev. 11:15 The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
The Kingdom of God Will Consist, First, of the Whole Earth as It's Territory
Num. 14:21 But as truly as I live all the earth shall be filed with the glory of the LORD.
Psa. 72:19 And let the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Psa. 2:8 Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of THE EARTH for thy possession.
Second, the Jews Restored to the Holy Land as the Subjects
Micah 4:8 And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.
Ezek. 37:21, 22 Behold I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on avert side, and bring them INTO THEIR OWN LAND; and I will make them one nation in the LAND, UPON THE MOUNTAINS OF ISRAEL; and one king shall he king to them all, and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.
Third, all Nations as the Subjects of the Dominion
Isa. 2:4, 5 ..And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Psa. 72:8, 17 He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth * * * all nations shall call him blessed.
Fourth, Jerusalem as the Seat of Government
Matt. 5:34, 35 Swear not by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
Zech. 2:12 And the LORD shall inherit Judah, his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.
Micah 4:2 For the law shall go of Zion, and the word of the FROM JERUSALEM.
Isa. 62:1 For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.
Isa. 62:4 Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.
Fifth, Christ as the King
Zech. 14:9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth; in that day there shall be one LORD and his name one.
Rev. 11:15 The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our LORD and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.
Dan. 7:13, 14 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, THAT ALL PEOPLES, NATIONS, AND LANGUAGES, SHOULD SERVE HIM: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
Sixth, the Redeemed Saints as the Associates of the King
Dan. 7:18, 22, 27 But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. And the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdoms and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
Rev. 5:9, 10 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindreds and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.
The Kingdom of God Will Destroy All the Kingdoms of Men from the Face of the Earth
Dan. 2:44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be Left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
Psa. 2:8, 9 Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen (nations) for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
Isa. 149:2 Let Israel rejoice in him that made him; let the children of Zion be joyful In their king.
Isa. 149:8 Let the saints be Joyful in glory; let them sing aloud upon their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance upon the heathen (nations) and punishments upon the people; to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron.
The Curse Will Be Removed from the Earth and It Will Yield Its Bountiful Increase
Isa. 55:12, 13 For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before yon into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
Blessedness, Peace and Prosperity Will Be the Grand Result
Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:8 And in thee (Abraham) shall all families of the earth be blessed.
Psa. 72:17 HIS name shall endure for ever; * * * and men shall be blessed in him.
Zech. 9:10 And he shall speak peace unto the heathen; and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.
Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Psa. 85:10 Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other;
Psa. 85:12 yea the LORD shall give that which is good, and our land shall yield her increase.
It will be seen from the numerous testimonies on the various subjects treated that the return of Christ to the earth is a necessity in the fulfillment of the promises that compose the gospel. Hence we submit irresistible evidence of this truth.
Matt. 25:31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all his holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.
Luke 19:l2-15 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. And it came to pass that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him.
John 13:33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me; and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come.
John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you (here, not there) unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also.
Acts 1:9 And when he had
spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received
him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly
toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, which
also said, Ye men of
I Cor. 1:7, 8 So that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall confirm you (at his coming; not at their going) unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Cor. But every man in his own order; Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christís at his coming.
Phil. For our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Col. 3:4 When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
I Thes. 1:9, 10 Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven.
II Thes. 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him.
II Thes. 2:8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.
II Tim. 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom, preach the word.
II Tim. 4:7, 8 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that (not this) day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Tit. 2:12, 13 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Heb. 9:28 Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto whom that look for him shall he appear THE SECOND TIME without sin unto salvation.
I Pet. 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
I John 3:2 Behold now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Rev. 1:7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him
Rev. 16:15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth.
Rev. 22:7 Behold, I come quickly; blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of this book.
Rev. 22:12 And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
Rev. 22:20 He that testifieth these things saith, Surely, I come quickly. Amen. Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.
Not only do these testimonies prove clearly that Christ is personally to return to the earth, but they show that there is no reward for the righteous till He does come. What a blessing it will he, dear reader, to be among those to whom the invitation will then be extended, " to you who are troubled rest with us, when 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" (II Thes. 1:7, 8). Remember that it is to them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation" (Heb. 9:28).
What Must I Do to Be Saved?
NOW, dear reader, it will be evident to you from the Scriptures we have presented that man is mortal--a perishing creature, as the result of sin. That, by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men (Rom. ). Sin having taken effect in the nature of our first parents, and that nature having been transmitted to us, we are dying creatures, and are therefore by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). Our first parents having been cast out of Eden and from all itís blessings, and having become alienated from God by sin, they have left us outcasts from paradise and aliens from the glorious promises of God which we have been reading about: Hence the Apostle Paul says, "Wherefore remember, that ye being in times past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands, that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world "(Eph. 2:11, 12).
Our need of the great salvation is now apparent, and the question arises, To whom shall we go to obtain it?
In the Bible we read of the first Adam and the second Adam. In the first there is death; in the second there is eternal life. Our birth of the flesh gives us relation to the first only; but God in His goodness has opened up a way by which we may change our relationship from Adam the first to Adam the second, and thereby become now heirs of eternal life, and in the future possessors of that boon with all itís glorious consequences.
John For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Acts Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Matt. The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Rom. 5:6 For when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
Rom. 5:8 God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Rom. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
Eph. l:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
Eph. But now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Col. 1:14 1n whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.
Tit. 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
From these testimonies it will be seen that out of Christ there is no reconciliation with God and consequently no salvation. The question therefore is, How may we pass out of Adam into Christ? This will lead us to the subject of baptism.
Mark 1O:15, 10 And he (Jesus) said unto them, Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
Acts Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sin.
Acts , 48 Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized, seeing they have received the Holy Spirit as well as we. And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot
All Believers of the Gospel Were Baptized
Acts Then they that gladly received his (Peter's) words were baptized.
Acts 18:8 And many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized.
Acts And when they believed Philip * * * they were baptized, both men and women.
Acts Phillip baptized the eunuch.
Acts The keeper of the prison was baptized, he and all his family straightway.
Acts 19:5 When they (twelve men at
Baptism Is for the Remission of Sins
Acts Be baptized for the re mission of your sins.
Acts Be baptized and wash away thy sins.
I Pet. Baptism doth also now save us by the answer of a good conscience.
II Pet. 1:9 Purged from his old sins.
Eph. The washing of water by the word.
Baptism Into Christ Requires Water
Acts See here is water: what doth hinder me to be baptized?
Acts 10. 47 Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized?
John John was baptizing in enon near to Salim, because there was much water there.
Baptism in Water Is to Be Buried or Immersed Therein
John 3:5 Born of (Greek, out of) water.
In other cases where the word baptism is used, it is with the idea of complete covering over with the thing or element it is related to.
Acts 1:5; 2:2 Baptized with the Holy Spirit * * * it filled all the house where they were sitting.
I Cor. 10:2
Luke Christ's baptism of suffering: it overwhelmed him.
What Good Will Water Do Me?
None in the sense of your inquiry. It is a question of conforming to the ordinances and appointments of God. He has appointed and commanded baptism. It is part of His will, and we know what Jesus has said: He that doeth the will of my Father, the same is my brother and sister and mother."
Much has been written on the meanings of the word baptize, while really there is no room for dispute. If religious people were not wedded to hoary tradition and unscriptural practices, the texts that speak of baptism as a burial and a birth would be sufficient to decide the meaning the inspired writers attached to the word. If it were seen that, in stead of going to heaven or hell at death we go to the grave, and that resurrection is necessary to a future life, and that baptism is a symbol of death, burial and resurrection, the idea of sprinkling would be seen in itís real absurdity and immersion in itís true and beautiful significance. Since, however, there has been so much play upon the word we will produce the evidence of scholars.
The Word Baptize Means to Immerse
Emphatic Diaglott---"Baptize, bapto, baptizo. Bopto occurs 3 times (Luke ; John ; Rev. 19:13), and is always translated dip in the common version. Baptizo occurs 79 times; of these 77 is not translated at all, but transferred; and twice (Mark 7:4; Luke ) it is translated wash without regard to the manner in which it was done. All lexicographers translate it by the word to immerse, dip or plunge, not one by sprinkle or pour. No translator has ever to render these words by sprinkle or pour in any version. In the Septuagint version we have pour, dip and sprinkle occurring in Lev. 14:15, 16 He shall pour the oil, he shall dip his finger in it, and he shall sprinkle the oil. Here we have cheo, to pour; raino, to sprinkle, and bapto, to dip. Baptisma, baptismos. These words are never translated sprinkling or pouring in any version. Baptisrma occurs 22 times and baptismos 4 times."
Dr. Adam Clarke (Commentary) on Col. 2:12 "Buried with him by baptism, alluding to the immersion practiced in the case of adults, wherein the person appeared to be buried under the water as Christ was buried in the heart of the earth. His rising again the third day, and their emerging from the water was an emblem of the resurrection of the body, and in them of a total change of life."
Now, dear reader, you will see that it is not possible for us to enter the only name given whereby we can be saved in any way except by baptism. Baptism only will introduce a believer into the one name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christ, having over come sin and gained the victory over death and the grave, became the manifestation of the Father by the Spirit, and therefore the fullness of the Godhead bodily. He is therefore the name of the Lord which is a strong tower, into which the righteous may enter and be saved (Prov. ).
You will remember that we found that the Apostle Paul called the promises made to Abraham the gospel. The promises all centered in Christ; They were confined to Abrahamís seed, which Paul says is Christ and all who form part of His body. We are not the seed by nature. How may we become such? Note the answer: "For ye are all the children of God y faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on, Christ." * * * And if ye be Christís, then are ye Abrahamís seed and heirs according to the promise (Gal. , 27, 29). If you are led by the Spirit, which we now have expressed in the word, to thus believe and obey, you will then have the one faith, without which it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6); which faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17); and then will you be a child of God and be able to cry, "Abba Father", the Spirit itself as now expressed in the word, bearing witness with our spirit (mind) that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:14-17. Then, dear reader, will your heart be filled with the love of God and your whole being be thrilled with the hope that will at last bloom into the glow of immortality, and in the words of the Apostle John you will exclaim, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we would be called the sons of God (I John 3:1).
Luke And he called his ten servants and delivered them ten pounds, and said, Occupy till I come.
John If ye love me keep my commandments.
John If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come in unto him, and make our abode with him.
John 15:13-19 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends; for all things that I haw heard of the Father 1 have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit; and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another. * * *∑ Ye are not of this world, but I have chosen you out of this world, therefore the world hateth you.
Rom. 2:7 To them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, honor and immortality (God will render) eternal life.
I Cor. 11:23-27 For I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take eat; this is my body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood; this do ye as often as ye drink it in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lordís death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup unworthily shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
Heb. 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering (for he is faithful that promised); and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.
II Pet. 1:3-11 Ö. (God) hath called us to glory and virtue; whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We have now before us the way of the great salvation. You will conclude that if this is the only salvation and the only way of salvation set forth in the Bible, then Christendom has gone far astray; and you will possibly stagger before the question, How can so many be wrong? Remember that the same question might have been asked by Noah and by the faithful in the days of Jesus. But the many were wrong and only few were right. Truth is truth regardless of whether few or many believe it. It is your privilege to believe and obey the Truth and then to walk worthy of itís glorious end. You have been shown "what is good", and now what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?".
Should you, dear reader, feel that the flesh is weak, do not despair if the mind is willing; for the God of Israel loves mercy. In His great mercy He has provided for us a high priest who has been touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). In that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted (Heb. ); and he ever Iiveth to make intercession for us. Affectionately we are addressed in the words, "My little children these things I write unto you, that ye sin not.
And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". Thus we find that God is the God of truth, righteousness, love and mercy. Let us therefore respond to His gracious appeal, "Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me. * * * Incline your ear and come unto me; hear and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you;, even the sure mercies of David (Isa. 55:1-3).
Now, dear reader, it is very probable that you, like the writer, have been trained up from infancy in the popular belief; and, after reading what we have written and the many Scripture proofs given, you will probably say to yourself, "Well, this appears clear enough and it seems to be well sustained by testimony from the Scriptures, but there are some passages that occur to me that seem to teach the opposite view. What is to be done with these?" Now come let us reason together a little further.
You cannot help but see from the numerous texts we have given that the general tenor of-the Scriptures is set forth in what we have placed before you. This being the case, if there are a few texts that seem to you to contradict the evident teaching of the many texts given, what would be a wise course for you to pursue? Of course you are not prepared to believe that the Bible contradicts itself. If it has the appearance of doing so, you may depend upon It the reason is to be found in taking a wrong view of the few passages that seem to oppose the many. In solving the difficulty it would be very unwise to ignore the general tenor of Scripture teaching and risk your eternal destiny upon a superficial view of a few texts. I have heard some foolishly say, "Well: I cannot decide this question; but the old belief was good enough for my forefathers, and what was good enough for them is good enough for me." The folly of this you will easily see; for if we go back farther in the line of our "forefathers" we shall not go very far till we find them all in a wild, barbarous state; and surely no sane person will seriously say, What was good enough for them is good enough for me." Beside, the prophet, in speaking, of the latter days, says that "in the days of affliction the Gentiles shall come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit" --Jer. .
Now just pause and think and ask yourself the question, How many passages are there that seem to oppose the multitude of testimonies quoted in this little book? to which, remember, many more might be added. You will find that they can all be counted on your fingers. Here they are: Elijah restoring the soul of the child, "Her soul was in departing", the "spirit shall return to God who gave it", "cannot kill the soul", "souls under the altar", the rich man and Lazarus, the thief on the cross, Paul's desire to depart, Stephen's prayer.
Now when you come to read these just as they are you will be surprised to find how far they are from teaching the popular notions of "immortal soul" and "heaven going at death". But even if they were as strongly in favor of these notions as some think them to be it would not do to risk our eternal destiny upon these nine cases in an utter disregard of the general tenor of the Bible.
Let us therefore examine the few texts that are supposed to teach opposite vlbws from those we have set forth.
Elijah Restores the Soul of the Child
I Kings 17:21-And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this childís soul come into him again.
You will see from what we have said on pages 10 and 15 that the Word nephesh, which is in this text rendered soul, is frequently used for life. The word is translated life in the following places: Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:11; Deut. 19:93, where you will see it cannot have any other meaning. The Greek word psuche, which means the same as nephesh in the Hebrew, occurs in Matt. 9:20, where it is said, "They are dead which sought the young child's life to destroy lt." The word life Is from psuche also in Matt. 6:25ó"Take no thought for your life." In these cases, as in all others, the context shows how absurd it is to attach the meaning of "immortal soul" to the words. Just imagine the Saviour saying, "Take no thought for your immortal soul", and you will at once see that believers in the popular notions have not thought out the subject. Soul in these texts clearly means life.
Now let us return to Elijah and the child with this Scripture information on the use of the word soul, and by comparing Scripture with Scripture a proper conclusion -- the only possible conclusion the premises admit of -- will be easily reached. What was the trouble with this child? It was dead. What had caused it to be-come dead? The loss of itís life. How might it be made alive again? By restoring itís life to it. Was this what Elijah did? Yes; for he prayed that the childís soul (life) might "come into him again", and "the soul of the child came unto him again, and he" -- the child Ė "revived". Now remember that it was not the child that had departed; neither was it the child that returned. The child was there all the time, but itís life had gone out, and in answer to the prophet's prayer the childís life was restored. So here we have a child that was once alive, then dead, then alive again.
Now another thought. Did the prophet do a good thing or a bad thing in restoring, life to this child? Popular tradition strangely claims that when a child dies it does not die, but leaves itís body and is sure to go directly to a place of bliss. According to this it is a fortunate thing for a child to die and a very unfortunate thing to compel it to come back to life again. If this child had, by death, escaped the mortal coil at a time when It was sure of eternal bliss, how can we regard the prophet as doing a good thing in calling back the child from itís blissful home and compelling it to re-inhabit itís "mortal coil", in which it might, grow up to years of accountability and thus place in jeopardy the possibility of ever getting back to those realms of joy it had only had a taste of? You must see, dear reader, there is no soundness in this theory. The case simply stands thus, as expressed in the Septuagint rendering of the verse: "And when he had breathed on the child three times * * * he said, Let this child's life be restored to him."
"Her Soul Was in Departing"
Gen. 35:18 is sometimes quoted for the same purpose as the text we have just considered; but what we have said applies also to this text. You have only to remember that it is said, "for she died".
Some, however, will ask the question, Where does the life when it departs? as if it must be a conscious entity after it has gone. To see that because it speaks of the life departing it does not follow that it is an entity, you have only to ask, Where did our life come from when it entered our being? Was it an entity before it entered? If not, then why should it be an entity after it has gone out into life's great ocean whence it came? Life is a condition of being; when that condition is destroyed we say the life is gone. The light of a candle is a condition. Blow out the light and you destroy the condition; and when you say the light is gone out you do not suppose that it exists as a light separate and independent of the candle. So in the use of such terms as "my sight is gone", "my hearing is gone".
Illustration of How Soul Is Used
It may be well for me to illustrate here how the meaning of the word soul in the Bible can be determined by the context. We find it says: "And levy a tribute unto the Lord of the men of war which went out to battle, one soul of five hundred, of the persons and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep" (Num. 31:28). Here the reader is bound to see that the word means creature or being, both man and beast. In Job. it says: "In whose hand is the soul of every living thing and the breath of all mankind." In this case it must be seen that soul applies to the life of the beasts; so that in one instance it stands for the animal itself and in the other for the life of the animal, it being impossible to misunderstand itís application; and no one thinks of attaching the meaning of immortal entity to the word. Now carry the same reason to cases where the word stands some-times for the man and at other times for the life of the man and the texts are clear to a mind willing to be reasonable and scriptural that immortal entity is out of the question. It is said that Zilpah bare unto Jacob sixteen souls (Gen. 46:18); and here "souls stands for the persons, while in Exo. 4:19, where it says, "All the men are dead which sought thy life" (nephesh, soul) it is clear that it means life, and the translators so rendered it, as they did also the Greek word psuche in Matt. 2:20, where it says, "They are dead which sought the young childís life." If the translators had given soul here, as they have in many places, the reader would have seen by the very nature of the case that the word stood for life.
In Matt we have a striking case where the translators have shown their bias in favor of this theory, and yet it only exposes the fallacy of it: What Is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Many quote this in support the great value of the soul in view of itís supposed immortality. A little thought, however, will show that such a theory was far removed from the Saviour's mind, and make clear that the word psuche here rendered soul means life.
The context in this case enables us to easily see this: for the fact that in verse 25 the same word as is rendered soul in verse 26 is rendered life. The way those who contend for the popular theory would like to read the 26th verse is this: For what shall a man profit if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own immortal soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his immortal soul? To suit this contention they have to add the word "immortal". Now since the Saviour used the very same word in verse 26 that He did in verse 26, and since the theorist is determined to have "immortal soul" in verse 26 we have only to read it the same way in both verses to see the fallacy of the popular view. This is how it would read: "For whosoever shall save his immortal soul shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his immortal soul for my sake shall find it."
This at once condemns the popular meaning of soul and shows that the Saviour uses it here for life.
It happens that the famous commentator, Dr. Adam Clarke, bears testimony to the truth upon this portion of Scripture. He says: "On what authority many have translated the word psuche in the 25th verse life, and in this verse (26th) soul I know not; but I am certain it means life in both cases."
In the Revised Version, too, life is used in both verses.
"Cannot Kill the Soul"
Of all the texts in which the word soul occurs, Matt. 10:28 is the one most confidently relied upon in support of the immortality of the soul. It is thought that this text fully refutes the idea of the soul being destructible and sustains the theory of itís never dying and indestructible nature. The phrase "cannot kill the soul" is seized and loaded down, as it were, with the claim that it is not only out of the power of man to kill the soul, but that it is, by reason of itís nature, absolutely indestructible and must live for ever. Now, dear reader, you have only to take heed to one word in this verse to see that since the soul here is not the supposed immortal, indestructible soul of popular belief. That word is destroy. "Fear him that is able to destroy both body and soul in hell" (Gehenna). Please notice that the one word destroy is used to describe what God will do with the body in Gehenna and what He will do with the soul in the same place. Gehenna was known by the Jews to be a place of destruction--destruction of life and destruction of carcasses or bodies after, they had been deprived of life. When the great day of Godís judgments and wrath comes Gehenna will again be a valley of slaughter, where God will destroy His enemies and those who are unworthy. The life that will be given to those who are raised from the dead to appear before Christ as the Judge of the quick and the dead will not be in the power of men to take. The life of the condemned will be in the hands of the judicial power of God who will administer "few or many stripes" according to deserts, and at the last destroy totally and eternally every vestige of the life of the unworthy and every particle of the body in Gehenna, when the words of the Psalmist will be fulfilled, "The wicked shall not be; yea thou shalt diligently consider his place and it shall not be" - Psa. 37:10.
Different views are taken of the sense in which soul is used in this verse; but even if the real sense in which our Saviour used it is never known, we can be sure that a soul that is as destructible as the body, as this is, is not the "immortal soul" of the Platonic theory.
We think a careful observance of the context in this case, with an understanding of the meaning of the two words in the verse in question---"kill" and "destroy"--will disclose the true meaning of our Saviour's encouragement to His disciples. He had been foretelling them of the persecutions His true followers would suffer at the hands of enemies. They would be as "sheep" in the midst of wolves; they would be delivered up to the councils and be scourged." "The brother," he says, "shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child; and the children shall rise up against their parents and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my nameís sake; but he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (verses 18-22). Read also verses 23-27. From this it will be seen that our Lord was preparing His disciples for the ordeal they were to pass through, so that in the persecution and to torment they would, endure they might keep their minds stedfastly fixed upon God and the hope set before them. In other words, that though they would be subjected to great bodily pain and suffering they must maintain that composure of mind that can be sustained only by a strong and unswerving faith.
Now with these thoughts let us examine the two words "kill" and "destroy". The word "kill" is from the Greek word apokteino, which Donnegan's Lexicon defines to kill, torture, torment, render miserable or wretched, to destroy, condemn to death. The word "destroy" in the verse is from apollumi, and this word is defined by the same author to mean to destroy totally, to be lost, to perish; and by some authors the word annihilated Is added as a meaning. The word destroy is therefore from a word which is much stronger than that from which the word kill comes.
Again let me remind you that the word psuche, rendered soul in this verse, is sometimes rendered mind. For example: Acts 14:2; Phil. 1:27; Heb. 12:3. And now, with these facts in mind, we hear the Saviour saying: Fear not them which torture, torment, render miserable the body (as the persecutors did by thumbscrews, etc.), but are not able to torture, torment, render miserable, the psuche, mind. For the mind would be fixed upon the hope of the gospel even when the body was being tortured by the many wicked devices the tormentors of the Christians invented. The case of Polycarp is an illustration of this, when he assured his persecutors they need not tie him to the stake, for he could stand there to be burned and yet maintain that composure of mind that a faith such as his only could exemplify. It was a mind such as this, burning with confidence, hope and joy in the promises of God, whose fiery zeal could not be quenched by all the bodily torture they might inflict. Therefore fear not them who will torture the body but cannot torture or harass the mind. Fear not men in the sufferings you will be called upon to receive at their hands. Be faithful, be calm and steadfast. Then He tells them whom they should fear. "Fear him who is able to destroy"---here is the stronger word, meaning to destroy totally, to be lost, to perish, to be annihilated. Fear Him who is able to thus destroy both body and mind--the entire being --in Gehenna.
This view of the matter brings out in full the encouragement and the warning of our Saviour's words to those whom He knew stood in need of much fortitude to withstand the terrible sufferings they were to pass through.
The Souls Under the Altar
Rev. 6:9, l0 are the only texts that remain to be examined as a stronghold of the popular theory of the immortality of the soul--that is, of those texts in which the word soul is found; others we shall examine under their proper headings. Superficial, indeed, must be the mind that cannot see that, instead of this portion of Scripture favoring the immortality and immateriality of the soul, it is directly opposed to such a theory. One would think that the fact of these souls being under an altar, and of them having blood would be sufficient to show that they are not immortal or immaterial. Suppose the words are taken in the most literal sense, we should, standing beside the Apostle John, see a heathen priest place a person on an altar, slay the person or soul, who In the struggles with death falls from the altar and under it cries out, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge, our blood (which we see running from the wounded soul) on them that dwell on the earth?" What? Slay a soull cries out the astonished immaterialist. How can you slay that which is immaterial? If it has no size, weight or dimension; if it cannot be seen or felt, how can it be put on an altar and slain and how can it be said to have blood? We grant the force of the questions; but they are all based upon "if the soul is immortal or immaterial;" and if that were true the texts would be inexplicable. But that is just where the evil is--in reading the verse with the preconceived dogma in the mind, and therefore allowing a distorted imagination to take the place of reason and Scripture. The apostle was not speaking of immortal bloodless souls. Such souls were only found in the myths of those who slew upon the altar souls that were real and substantial. Why be astonished at the idea of souls being slain, when it is said that "Joshua took Makkedah, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof he utterly destroyed, them and all the souls that were therein" (Josh. , 39)? Why should It be thought incredible that souls have blood when the prophet Jeremiah says: "In thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents" (chapter )? To a mind in harmony with and familiarized with the Word of God the texts in question present no difficulty whatever in the way of the materiality, and mortality of the soul. Neither is there anything in the fact of their crying out to prove that they were disembodied entities. We would ask the immaterialist, Have the souls of your theory blood? Can they be slain upon an altar? and the answer is, No. Then you have nothing to do with Rev. 6:9, 10--in fact you have nothing to do with the souls, of the Scriptures. Your sphere is in the realms of pagan and Roman myths, whose heavens are filled with imaginary dead men's ghosts.
Now as to the real meaning of the verses in
question, we have to take our stand along with the Apostle John before we can
discern it. We must remember that that the John is seeing are "signified'
to him--that is, they are shown by signs. In this way he is shown things
before they actually come to pass. "I will show thee things which
must be hereafter", says the Spirit to John (chapter 4:1). In this way he
saw the resurrection of the dead, and heard the redeemed sing the song of Moses
and the Lamb after they had been raised; and he saw them live and reign on the
earth with Christ for one thousand years (chapters 5:7-12; 20:4). So in the
verses in question he is relating the signs of what was to take place under the
fifth seal, when the Roman persecution and martyrdom of the saints filled to
overflowing the pit, as it were, under the altar with the blood of the
innocents and faithful. John himself knew from experience that the cruel hand
of persecution and death would be imbrued in the blood of his brethren, and his
anxiety was to know the outcome. He first sees the scroll sealed with seven
seals; and when he hears that no man is worthy to open the book, he says:
"I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the
book" (chapter 5:1-4). Now the actual breaking of the seals and unrolling
of the scroll are to be seen in the actual events that have transpired and will
yet transpire in the world from John's time down to the fulfillment of the
promise, "Behold; I come quickly and my reward is with me, to give every
man according as his work shall be" (chapter 22:12). John, hoping to be
one of those to be rewarded, and knowing that the reward could not be received
till the coming of the Lord, it is no wonder he was so anxious to know the
course of events during the interval. His anxiety is soon ended by the
information that the "Lion of the tribe of
The only shadow at which the believer in the immortality of the soul can snatch in this case is, that the souls are represented as crying out. "Can dead souls speak?", they triumphantly ask. To which it would be excusable to retort, "Can blood speak" (Gen. 4:10; Heb. )? Can the earth sing? Can fir trees and cedar trees rejoice (Isa. 14:7, 8)? The common sense that can see in a parable or a symbol how blood can speak, the earth sing, trees rejoice and clap their hands, will have no difficulty in understanding how souls, though dead, can be represented as crying out for to be justly avenged of the cruelty of which they have been the victims.
There are some however, who are possessed of common sense in common things, but who seem to be destitute of it when their cherished myths are in question. So long as men allow themselves to be intoxicated with the spirits of pagan and Roman beverages they can see nothing in this Scripture except disembodied souls in a conscious state -- alive and conscious because they are represented as speaking. But when the attention is called to the fact that John saw the "dead, small and great, stand before God" at the judgment day; and that he heard them sing the song of Moses and the Lamb (Rev. 20:12; 5:9), they are able to see that men can be represented as having real bodily existence and as singing while they are dead--some of them, too, before they are born; for in the view that John had of the resurrection there must have been a representation of all that would die up to the time when the resurrection takes place.
Those who so stubbornly resist Truth and so tenaciously cling to hoary superstition may be asked, Where Is this altar under which these souls are seen? If you say heaven, then we ask, Is there an altar in heaven upon which souls are slain and under which they cry for vengeance? Perhaps, if reason and Scripture will not persuade you of the folly of such a foolish thing, the prestige of a famous "orthodox" commentator might have some weight. Dr. Adam Clarke, in commenting upon this text, says: "A symbolical vision was exhibited in which he saw an altar, and under it the souls of those who had been slain for the Word of God, martyred, for their attachment to Christianity, are represented as being newly slain as victims to idolatry and superstition. The altar is upon earth, not in heaven."
The Spirit Shall Return to God Who Gave It
The words of Ecc. 12:7 are relied upon to sustain the belief in the flight of the spirit to heaven at death, where it is supposed to enter upon itís eternal inheritance; although it seems always to be forgotten that "we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether good or bad" (II Cor. 5:10). What such a judgment could be for if men go to their rewards and punishments at death is inconceivable to a rational mind.
Now the first thing we would call the readerís attention to in the verse in question is the fact that Solomon makes no difference between good and bad men, but speaks without qualification of the spirit returning at death to God who gave it. Whatever the spirit here spoken of is, all will agree that all men good and bad, are in possession of it, and that at death the same spirit forsakes, the good and the bad alike; and since it is said it returns to God who gave it, it follows that it came from God.
The fact that the spirit here spoken of is given to all men alike and that at death it returns to God whence it came, clearly shows that it is not the man himself, good or bad; for no believer in the popular theory will admit that the supposed spirit entity of bad men goes to God at death. For this text to be made to suit the theory of disembodied conscious existence and heaven-going at death it must be changed considerably. Solomon must be reminded that he made quite a mistake in not guarding his words so as to say that at death the spirit of the good man only goes to God, while that of the bad man goes in an opposite direction --not to God, but to the devil.
You, dear reader, will not be willing to allow that Solomon made a mistake. You will rather be disposed to conclude that the popular theory is so much out of harmony with inspiration that Scripture words, must undergo much changing in order to make them appear to suit the dogmas of theological schools.
Please take notice, that the spirit here spoken of
returns to God who gave it. God gave it. It is an "it" that
God gave to something or some being. It Is that which
was given to the being, and it is not the being to whom it was therefore not
the man but something that was given to the man, which at death leaves the man
to whom it was given and returns to Him who gave it. Now let me ask you, dear
reader, to read again what we have said and the texts we have given on the
question of the spirit on pages 15, 16, 17. You will then see that the word
spirit is frequently used for life--both with reference to man and beasts. The
word spirit in the verse in question is from the Hebrew word ruach. Solomon used this same word in this
same book in chapter 3:19; but our translators gave us "breath" there
and "spirit" here. There it is said of man and beasts, "Yea,
they have all one breath" (ruach). Now
what did God give to man when He made him alive? The answer is given in Gen.
2:7: He "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." What
takes place when a man dies? "His breath goeth
forth; he returneth to his earth; and in that very
day his thoughts perish"-- Psa. 146:4. When we
breathe we inhale the air that surrounds us, which God has, in his mysterious
ways, impregnated with the principle of life. When by disease or accident, we
are prevented from breathing, our breath goes out, life goes out and we are
left as lifeless as Adam was before God breathed the breath of life into his
nostrils. God is the only source of life--the life of all living creatures.
Life came from Him. When death takes place it returns to Him. The life that God
gave to Adam was not an immortal entity. Surely it was not a conscious entity
that God breathed into
Moreover, the spirit or life of all men and all animals comes from God; but man came out of the dust. "The LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground" Gen. 2:7). "The first man is (out) of the earth, earthy" (I Cor. ). The man came out of the dust; his life, or spirit of life or breath of life came from God. When death takes place there is a returning of things. The man that came out of the ground returns to the ground, and the life that was given to make him a living man returns to God who gave it. To make a living man, formation and impartation of life took place. For that same man to die is for the life to be withdrawn and for the man to be left for dissolution.
This is what our text says of death: "The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit (life) returns to God who gave it." And what is true in this respect of man is true of the beasts; for Solomon says of both: "As the one dieth so dieth the other; * * * all are of the dust and all turn to dust again" (chapter , 20). Men that are no better than the beasts "are like the beasts that perish; like sheep they are laid in the grave" (Psa. 49:12, 13, 20). But the man that ascends above the beasts in the intellectual and moral scale and becomes responsible to God will come forth to life again--a resurrection (anastasis Ė standing again) will take place to "receive the things in body according to that he hath done, whether good or bad" (II Cor. ).
Stephen's Dying Prayer
What we have said in the foregoing will fully prepare the reader's mind to understand the words of Stephen as regarded in Acts 7:59. Under this heading therefore little need be said.
Suppose we read this verse as theorists would have it, it would be: "Lord Jesus, receive my immortal entity." This would not suit the theory, for it would not prove that Stephen continued to live after he was dead, since the next verse says: "He (Stephen) fell asleep. Reading the verse just as it is, with the mind freed from false tradition, it is very easy to understand. When Stephen's spirit had left him he was a dead man; but he is in the resurrection to be made a living man again. To make him a living man his spirit will be returned to him. Left without the spirit he is a dead man; because the body without the spirit (breath, see margin) is dead' (Jas. ). In the possession of the spirit he will be a living man again.
Now, to state the same facts in other words, when Stephen's life returned to God who gave it he died. When the time arrives to raise him from the dead to live again his life will be returned to him. Stephen, therefore, in the hour of death, with the hope of living again, commended his life into the hands of Him who is the resurrection and the life, and who said, "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.
From God the spirits of all flesh come (Num. ; Job 34:14), and in death to God they all return; for it is in Him all creatures "live and move and have their being." Spirit, therefore, in the text under consideration stands for life, without which thought the words cannot be properly understood.
"Into Thy Hands I Commend My Spirit"
The same is true also of our Saviour's dying words, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke ). Having uttered these words it is said, "He gave up the ghost." To give up the ghost is defined by lexicographers as to "breath out", to "gasp out", or "to expire". When Jesus had given up His spirit or life He was dead, having "poured out his soul unto death". But God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts ), and therefore returned to Him His spirit or life.
With the understanding that the word spirit in the Bible represents, influence, disposition, mind, state of feeling, air, breath and life, itís meaning in any particular text can readily be seen by keeping in view the context; and in those we have been considering it is clear that life is meant.
Paul's Desire to Depart
Phil. 1:21-23-"For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor; yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better."
With the sense in which the word "depart" is used by those who view death as a release of the person from the body, this verse, as it appears in the Authorized Version, seems to support the theory of heaven-going at death. Since there is so much dependence put upon the word "depart", let us, dear reader, consider itís use in connection with other words related to it. I need not tell you that no language has a separate word for each thought. Thoughts are so numerous and of such various shades and degrees that it is impossible to have a separate word for each thought, shade or degree of thought. One illustration will suffice to impress this fact upon our minds. Take the word raise. You sometimes say, Raise that chair, raise that stove, raise the carpet. The act represented by the word raise in these cases would be capable of instant literal performance and would not be misunderstood. Now suppose you were to say to a person, You shall go on my farm and raise a crop this year, would not the word convey quite a different thought? So with the phrases, "raise a garden", "raise a family", "raise stock", etc.
In the first use of the word you have the chair right before your eyes before it is raised the same as it is after it is raised; but not so with a crop, a family, etc. In these cases the raising involves bringing them into existence.
Now suppose you say, That comfortable chair I used to have is gone--some one stole it. In this case the word "gone" represents the fact that the chair has been taken from one place to another and it may still exist as a chair. But suppose when your crop is ripe a cyclone or a fire destroys it, and you say, O dear, my fine crop is all gone! would not the thought here be quite different? If you were asked of the chair, Gone where? you might be able to say gone to such a place; but if asked the same question in relation to the crop you could only answer, Gone to destruction, or ceased to be.
Now we speak of ourselves as having come into this world! but we do not thereby mean that we existed in some other world and literally and bodily came into this. If we were asked the question, Where were you before you came into this world, we could only answer, Nowhere. The meaning of the phrase "came into this world" is that we were begotten, formed and born--a process that took place in this world; but we as conscious beings are the result, and of this we say, We came into this world. Now suppose we reverse this and contemplate death, in which we lose our life, dissolve or waste away and thus cease to be, is there not a return to non-being? and in such a case, since we say we came into this life, may we not say that in death or dissolution we go out of this world or out of life and still not mean that we exist after we have gone, any more than we mean that we existed before we came.
Now instead of the word gone we may use the word departed; to go out of life might be expressed by the words depart out of life. This thought is expressed in the words of Job, when he says, "Naked came I out of my mothers womb, and naked shall I return thither." The original "womb" of the race of Adam is the dust, and this is the womb to which we return in death, which fact is expressed in the words, "Out of it (the dust) wast thou taken and unto dust shalt thou return." Before we came out of the dust we had no personal existence in the dust, and when we have returned to the dust we shall have no personal existence; the one is our coming, the other is our going. Thus we come and thus we depart. Literally speaking the coming, of Adam. into the world was his formation and animation, causing him to become a being; and his going out was the dissolution of his being. He thus came and departed, and many of his descendants came and have departed for ever. ''They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased and they shall not rise, therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them and made all their memory to perish" --Isa. 26:14. On the other hand, some of Adam's descendants who have departed will return; for the same prophet exclaims: " Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise; * * * the earth shall cast out the dead"- verse 19. When Abraham was gathered to his fathers" he departed out of life into death; but he will return to life again when resurrection takes place. So we may say to depart from life is to go into death, and to depart from death is to return to life.
With this in view we can understand the words of Paul when he says, "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand"--II Tim. 4:6. When the apostle would be a subject of this "departure" dissolution would take place, and, indeed, dissolution is the word used in the Diaglott instead of departure. That Paul did not use the word here in the sense it is used by those who believe in departing from earth to heaven at death is clear, from the fact that he says in the same connection, "Henceforth there is laid up for me. a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day" (not this day, the day of my death); "and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing"--II Tim. 4:8. You will see, dear reader, that Paul expected no reward before the appearing of Christ as the righteous Judge, of which he had made mention in the first verse in the words, "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom." At this appearing the Lord would find some dead Ė not "quick" or alive and others he would find "quick" or alive. When Paul would take his departure (verse 6) he would pass from the "quick" to the "dead", knowing which he said his desire was to be "found in him (Christ), * * * that I might know him, and the power of his resurrection, * * * if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from among the dead"'--Phil. 3:10, 11.
Now let us return to Phil. 1:23. Supposing that the word "depart" here is a proper rendering; if Paul means the same here that he does by the word "departure" in II Tim. 4:6, it would only express his desire to depart, from life (with itís extreme suffering he was then experiencing) and. go into death, to await his desired resurrection from among the dead in which he expresses his hope in this same (chapter 3:10,11). That Paul's hope was not in death, but in the coming of Christ, you will clearly see from these testimonies; the first of which is in this very letter
Phil. 3:20, 21 "'For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body that it may be, fashioned like unto his glorious body etc.
Col. 3:3, 4 "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life SHALL APPEAR, THEN shall ye also appear with him in glory."
To these testimonies many more might be added; but as we have shown from II Tim. 4, that when Paul was about to die the coming of the righteous judge to give him his crown of righteousness was his only. hope through resurrection, this is sufficient.
But perhaps the reader will ask, Why did Paul say he desired to depart and be with Christ? It would seem that the being with Christ would immediately follow his departure, it will be urged. In what we have said so far we are admitting that "depart" is the proper word in this text; but this admission is only for the sake of showing that even making such allowance the words do not sustain the theory that Paul expected to go to heaven when he died. When Paul said he desired to depart, that was one thing; and that he desired to be with Christ, that was another thing; for, as we have seen, many have departed never, to return, being dead, never to live, and deceased, and gone into the depths of eternal oblivion never to rise. Though the two things are spoken of together, it does not follow that the one immediately follows the other. This same apostle says: "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment''; but he shows elsewhere that the judgment in some cases is hundreds of years after the death. When we depart from life and pass into death our "thoughts perish" (Psa. 146:4), ,and "the dead know not anything" (Ecc. 9:5). Knowing not anything thousands of years is to them but the flash of a moment. So far as their experience goes they close their eyes in death and the same moment open them in life, though as an actual fact thousands of years pass between the death and the life. Had Paul meant, then, a desire to die and to be with Christ, the two events would be to his consciousness facts of a moment, while in reality they are facts separated by hundreds of years.
From Paul's general teaching we may therefore paraphrase his words in the text in question thus: I have a desire to depart out of this life into death; for such would be gain to me, since I am a prisoner in bonds and continually suffering almost beyond endurance. My desire is, too, to be with Christ when He shall appear as "the resurrection and the life" and cause me with others who shall then have departed out of life into death to return out of death into life.
While what we have here said explains the meaning of depart as applied to death, and leaves no room for the popular theory of heaven-going in the verses in question, we do not believe that depart is the proper word here, and we will give our reasons; for without a good reason our opinion would be worthless.
Now, dear reader, let us go to the verse and see whether this word "depart" is the proper word here. The Greek word of which this purports to be a translation is only found in one other place in the New Testament, and by comparing the two places we shall be able to decide itís meaning. The word is analusia, and the other place where it is found is in Luke -- "And (be) ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he shall return from the wedding, that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Here our translators have given us tile word return for the analusia, while in the text under consideration they have given us depart.
Let it not be forgotten that the translators of the Authorized Version were believers in the popular theory, and in many instances they have shown a strong bias in their translations, so much so that even men of their own school have been compelled to condemn their work in many cases. Now in Luke 12:36 it was impossible for them to use the word depart, for the context would in no way allow of it. The word return is the most important word in the text. Substitute the word depart and you make the Saviour's command ridiculous. Look, dear reader, at the situation. The lord of the servants has gone from home to marry and return with the bride of his choice. What could possibly escape the eye of his lordship when approaching and entering his home in company for the first time with her whom he delighted to honor and please? This return of the lord Is the most extraordinary return, and what servant would be lax in preparing for such an event as this? Now what is the point of the Saviour's words? Was it not that, since He was to "call his servants together" and as "the nobleman" take leave of them and go "into the far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return", He wished them to obey His command, "Occupy till I come (Luke 19)? Was it not that, since He, their lord, would return and call His servants to account, He wished them. to prepare for His return as faithfully and as anxiously as servants would prepare for the return of their lord from the wedding in company with his bride? Are not the two most important thoughts of the command expressed in the words "return" and "be ye like"? which mean, "Be ye ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." "Return" (analusia), then, can mean nothing else here but return--the return of Christ, which, as we have seen, was Paul's inspiring hope.
Now It would be strange, indeed, if the word analusia had two opposite meanings one depart and the other return; and is it not much more in harmony with Paulís general teaching to view him in the text in question as desiring the return of Christ rather than death?
Let us examine the apostle's words carefully and see if this is not his meaning. Mark you, dear reader, there are two things between which he is "in a strait", and of which he says, "what I shall choose I wot not". Whatever these two things are they cannot be the thing he says he desired; for he is in no strait about the desired thing which he says "is far better". There are therefore three things in contemplation. First, to live and continue to preach Christ, second, to die and thus be freed from his sufferings; and third, the thing, whatever it was, that he desired. So far as a comparison between the first and second was concerned it would be gain to him to die and be relieved of his bonds and affliction; "nevertheless to abide in the flesh was more needful for them". But about the third thing he was in no strait; it was "far better' than anything else and it was his "desire. What was it? It was the re turn of Christ, when Paul hoped to be with him; yes, with Him in the highest sense of the term. To admit of this meaning, however, we must give analusia the same rendering here it has in Luke, and this is what is done in the Emphatic Diaglott, which translation is as follows:
Phil. 1:19-24 "And I know that this will result in my deliverance, through your entreaty, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed; but with all confidence, as at all times, also now Christ will be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. Therefore for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is to me a fruit of my labor and what I shall choose I do not know. I am, indeed, hard-pressed by the two things (I have a desire for the returning, and being with Christ, since it is very much to be preferred); but to remain in the flesh is more needful for you."
This makes the matter clear and saves us from making Paul contradict himself and the general teachings of the Scriptures. How strange, you will. say, that the translators should give us the word depart instead of itís opposite, return! In answer to which we may remark that the literal meaning of analusia is said to be "loose again"; and it was a word employed in reference to ships loosing anchor and in this somewhat of an apology is offered for the apparent anomaly of rendering the same word depart and return. If the ship is in the harbor of the speaker's standpoint analusia would mean to "loose anchor" that it might depart and go; if it is in a harbor of a foreign land away from the stand-point of the speaker, the word would mean "loose anchor" in order that it might return home; to do which it must depart from the harbor in which it is anchored. Now Paul's hope was in Christ--"anchored within the veil". He was hoping for Him to be "loosed again" from heaven, which would be His departure from heaven and His return to the earth, of which the same apostle says: "To them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.''
In or Out of the Body
The Scriptures clearly teach that man had no existence before he was "formed of the dust of the ground". That when formed that which was formed was the man. That when the breath of life was breathed into the nostrils of the dust-formed man that man, that form became a living soul, a living man, a living form. This is the man and not the house in which the man lives, and which he may vacate and live somewhere else without. It is not the body of man as something separate from the man that the apostle Paul says was "out of the earth, earthy"; but he is very emphatic in saying. "The first man is of the earth, earthy" (I Cor. ). When this man who "is formed out of the earth, earthy" is dissolved in death, he is said to return to the dust: "For out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return" (Gen. 3:19). In other words, "His breath (that was breathed into his nostrils) goeth forth; he (who was formed of the dust of the ground) returneth to his earth, and in that very day h/s thoughts perish" (Psa. 146:4). In this state it is said of him that he has no power for "work, nor device, no knowledge, nor wisdom"; for there is no power to perform any of these "in tho grave whither thou goest" (Ecc. ). The fact is man in death has returned to the dust from whence he was taken; and while "the living know that they shall die, the dead know not anything" (Ecc. 9.5). Man had none of the powers or functions above named before he was a formed, living being. Therefore when he goes back into the formlessness and lifelessness that preceded his creation there is nothing -- there are no organs--from which "work, device, knowledge and wisdom can be manifested. So that man in death has no more personal, conscious existence than he had before he was formed. All that remains of him is the memory his friends may have of him; and, if he was responsible to the law that shall judge the just and the unjust, there remains an impress, as it were, of his character in the Divine memory, which, when re-formation, or resurrection takes place, will be re-impressed upon him, which will either prove him to be worthy of eternal life or of eternal death. Disembodied existence, then, finds no room in Scripture nor in reason.
But what shall we do with II Cor. 12:1-4, where Paul speaks of not knowing whether he was "in the body or out of the body"? the reader will ask. Well, what would you do with it? You certainly would not make a matter about which even Paul himself says, "I cannot tell" (verse 3) of so much importance as to establish you in the belief of a theory that is found in direct opposition to the general teachings of Scripture. Even if you were. compelled to say of the meaning of this small portion of the Word "I cannot tell" you would not repudiate the many clear statements concerning, man, his nature, his condition in life and in death. You may examine the writings of this apostle, in which he speaks in unmistakable terms, and see what he sets forth on the subject of man's nature and the state of the dead. That should settle the chief question, even if you have to conclude that there are a few obscure statements which, as the apostle Peter says, "are hard to be understood. Now we have seen that the apostle Paul teaches that man is out of the earth, earthy. In the same chapter he tells us that, instead of there being. inside this corruptible body an incorruptible soul, as popularly taught, corruption does not inherit incorruption" (I Cor. ). He clearly shows that man's nature is not part spirit from heaven and part flesh from the dust now in this life; but that he is first (in this life) a natural, earthy or flesh and blood being; and afterward (in the future life) he will be "that which is spiritual", that is, when he in the resurrection is "raised a spiritual body". Of those who are dead he says, in verses 17, 18 that if there is no resurrection through Christ all are perished. This shows that he did not believe they were living "out of their bodies" in happiness or misery; for if he had believed that, the non-resurrection of their bodies as houses they could live without just as well as--yea better than--within would in no way cause them to perish. So we see that Paul held no such idea as disembodied existence.
Now the words "in the body or out of the body" to believers in disembodied existence must mean that Paul did not know whether he left his body and went away from his body or not. From their point of view what would it have been if Paul had literally gone out of his body and left it in one place while he was in another place? In other words, by what means could he have left his body? What happens when one leaves his body? The only answer is, Death. Death, according to. popular tradition, is the only thing that can take a man out of his body; and when he is out of his body that is death, they say.
Here is how they express their theory of death in poetry:
with this weight of. clay
Now is it seriously to be supposed for a moment that Paul when he said, "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago (whether in the body I cannot tell; God knoweth)" meant that he could not tell whether he died "above fourteen years ago"? Was it death he had in view when he used the words ''in the body" and "out of the body"? Absurd, you will say. Yes indeed, absurd I say too. But if he meant by "out of the body" what this text is quoted to prove by theologians, then the absurdity is charged to Paul. Whatever the apostle meant by these phrases it is clear from his expressed view of death and from all reason in the case that he did not mean that he did not know whether or not he died "above fourteen years ago" and therefore might have been literally out of his body.
Now this is not the only place where Paul used phraseology of this kind. For instance, in Col. 2:5 he says, "For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in spirit, joying and beholding your order." Who would suppose that the apostle meant by these words that his "flesh" was absent from them; but he--the spirit, as is claimed--was actually present? For this to have been the case literally Paul would have had to forsake his body and go to Colesse bodiless; and since "the body without the spirit is dead" (James 2:26.), Paul would have been dead in the sense of popular tradition. What Paul meant by these words is clear to common sense, namely, that although he was not actually present, in mind or thought he was with them, which literally means that he was thinking about them. He was picturing their conduct, as it were, in his mind. Similar phraseology is in common use among us in these days. When we write friends at a distance, "I am far away from you in body, but I am with you in mind," we are never supposed by reasonable, people to mean that we are literally out of our bodies.
Now that the apostle is not speaking literally in
the verses in question is evident from his prefacing his remarks by "I
will come to visions and revelations of God." On account of some
having spoken evil of him and tried to belittle him it was necessary for him to
defend himself and claim what honor was justly due him. He did not like to
boast of himself in a direct way, and to maintain his rights with as much
modesty as possible he spoke, of him-self as another man--a man he knew above
fourteen years ago". "Of such an one will I
glory", he says (verse 5). In a sense he left himself, and talked about a
man he knew; and yet he was the man. That enemies of Paul were at work in the
Now it is very often said of a foolish person that "he is beside himself". If this were literally construed it would be that he is outside of himself, an impossible thing in the literal sense. Of the prodigal son coming to his senses it is said, "And when he came to himself he said, I will arise and go to my father." Not that he had literally been away from himself; that no one is absurd enough to believe now, although these phrases may have had their origin in the old Egyptian and Grecian theory of transmigration of souls. The words "came to himself" imply that, as we sometimes say, "he was not himself". "He was out of his head." Now it so happens that Paul uses the words "beside ourselves" in this very letter; and that too in reference to the attempt that had been made to make him appear a "fool". He says, in chap. 5:13, "For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God; or whether we be sober, it is for your cause." Now put these words altogether: "fools", "beside ourselves", "out of the body",. "in the body", and the one will explain the other. What the apostle says in chap. 12:-6 is in substance this: Some have belittled me and said I am a "fool", "beside myself",. "out of my body", etc. Well, it is not expedient for me to glory. "I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord." I will show you a man who can glory, because, he has been favored with visions and revelations of the Lord". I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, whether beside himself, as you say, whether a fool, as you say--whether beside himself or not beside himself, whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell,- God knoweth. I won t argue that question with you. You have said I was beside myself, out of the body; that I will leave to God. This, how ever, I will glory in, that such an one was so favored of God as to be caught up to the third heaven Ė to paradise, and was favored with a revelation of God's grand purpose to restore paradise, and with a view, in vision, of what that paradise will be in all itís glory. Of such an one as that I will glory, leaving you to judge from these favors bestowed upon him whether the recipient was a fool, beside himself, or out of the body. Here was a home thrust, a powerful argument in Paul's own behalf that was calculated most effectually to put to silence his enemies and bring those to their senses who were wavering and inclining toward the troublers in their midst. Marvelous tact is manifested in the method Paul adopted in throwing himself, as it were, in the third person and then proceeding to show how that person was favored of God. A destructive blow was masterfully dealt his enemies when he left them to determine whether such a favored person was a "fool", "beside himself", or "out of his body". "God knoweth", he says. As much as to say, It is not likely that God, who knoweth, would so favor one that was a "fool", "beside himself", or "out of his body". In all this we have the work of a master in polemics, one who could justly boast and yet be modest; who could maintain his honor and due justice and yet use cutting irony on those who deserved it; who, in short, could slay his enemies with the very sword they had sharpened for him.
Now, dear reader, you will see that by comparing scripture with scripture a difficult passage becomes clear and wonderfully forcible. And you will now see that the words that tradition uses, or rather misuses, to prove disembodied existence have no reference whatever to such a theory. The words, indeed, "out of the body" and "beside himself" may be fitly applied to the delusive state of popular theologians, evidence of which is not wanting in the fact that they seriously apply such words to a fabulous disembodied state.
You may ask, What about being caught up to the third heaven -- to paradise? Heaven and earth are used in the Scriptures to represent political and social conditions. "Hear, O heavens and give ear O earth" are words addressed to rulers and ruled. "How art thou fallen from heaven?" are words addressed to the King of Babylon upon the occasion of his fall from power and dominion. Now the Apostle Peter divides the history of man on the earth into three parts -- first the antediluvian; second the Jewish and Gentile down to the millennium; third the glorious reign of Christ on the earth, when righteousness will be the stability of the times. The first he calls "the world" (Greek, kosmos, or order of things) that then was," consisting of "the heavens that were of old, and the earth", that by the waters of the flood perished (II Pet. 3:4-6). The second he calls "the heavens and the earth which are now" (verse 7). This world, or order of things political, religious and social, is to pass away with a great noise. The system, with all the works that are therein -- all the details of evils that go to make up the combustible aggregation are to pass away, melt with a fervent heat--the heat of God's just vengeance upon a wicked world; and then will come the third, which Peter says "we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness". The first was an unrighteous world and was swept away with the flood of God's anger; the second is unrighteous and will be burned up with the fervent heat of Godíswrath; but the third will be a righteous ,world wherein everything will be "very good as in paradise before sin cursed and blighted it; and that third heaven will be paradise restored.
In "vision" and "by revelation of the Lord" (II Cor. 12:1) Paul was caught up, or, as the Diaglott better renders it, "conveyed away" and was permitted to see a drama, as it were, of what this glorious future will be. Itís glory and splendor were so great that it was, in itís intensity, "unspeakable" and "not possible for a man to utter" (see margin verse 4). That glorious state is so overwhelmingly grand, that, as another apostle writes, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2).
This third heaven or paradise is what will obtain in the "Lordís day" into which John, when on the isle that is called Patmos, was also caught away in spirit, and which he was allowed to give a revelation of so far as it was possible to reveal to mortal man the effulgent glory of. such transcendant beauty as will bless the day in which the earth will be full of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Absent from the Body and Present with the Lord
The words of the Apostle Paul in II Cor. 5:1-9 are supposed to teach that the apostle expected that when he died he would go into the presence of the Lord in a disembodied state. To those who have the idea rooted in their minds from infancy that every man exists as a conscious entity bodiless after death a superficial view of this scripture would seem to be a support. In determining what the apostle meant in this chapter we must be governed by his general teachings; it will not do to array one part of his writings against all others. If Paul here expected to go to Christ when he died his other teachings ought to show the same expectation. What are the facts in the case? Instead of hoping and striving to go to Christ at death he strove to be worthy of a resurrection from among the dead. He gives expression to his hope as follows: "I count all things but loss, * * * that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings being be made conformable unto his death, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of (or from among) the dead"---Phil. 3:8-11. It is evident from this that Paul had no idea of disembodied bliss in the presence of Christ as soon as he died. Indeed, disembodied existence with Paul was out of the question; for he says that if there is no resurrection of the dead his faith is vain(I Cor. 15:3, 14, showing that he predicated all upon me resurrection and therefore ignored the Platonic theory of a happy state for disembodied ghosts independent of resurrection. Of those who had died he said: "If the dead rise not, then is Christ not raised; and if Christ be not raised your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished"--I Cor. -18. From II Tim. 4:1-8 it will be seen that the apostle expected no reward till Christ would appear to judge the quick and the dead; and that from the time of his death till that appearing Paulís "crown of righteousness" would be "laid up" (verse 8). Having now Paul's own words as to when he expected to be present with the Lord, we shall have little difficulty in under-standing him in the chapter in question.
In this present state of things, "which is temporal" or temporary (chapter 4:18) and in this mortal body we groan; and the desire is for that state to be ushered in that shall be eternal, when we shall be delivered from this "wretched body of death" (Rom. 7:24) by a change into likeness to Christ's "glorious body" (Phil, 3:21). So long as we are "at home in the body"--in our present mortal state--we are absent from the Lord"; and the desire of all who have Paul's hope is to be "absent from the body" --this mortality in which "we groan"---"and to be present with the Lord", when we shall "be like him"; for we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2).
To be "absent from the body" and to be present with the Lord is therefore not be absent from bodily existence, it is, to be absent from the vile body and present with the Lord in the glorious body" like His (Phil. ). This will be realized when "mortality is swallowed up of life" (verse 4). For the present "we walk by faith and not by sight" (verse 7). Wherefore we labor that, whether present or absent (whether now or then, here or there, at the judgment-seat) we may be accepted of him (acceptable to him. Diaglott).
The words "not that I would be unclothed" and "we shall not be found naked" are made to serve the purpose of those who teach disembodied existence. They never stop to think that if the apostle used the word in the sense they do, he said "Not that I would go to Christ's presence in heaven." To be unclothed with them is to "shuffle off this mortal coil" and go to heaven, a thing to be desired, surely. Whatever Paul meant by "unclothed" and "naked" it was a condition he did not desire. If he used these terms in the physical sense they represent death; if in the moral sense they represent a sinful state --nakedness being used frequently as a figure of sinfulness (Rev. 16:15; 3:4, 18). In either case it was a thing Paul desired not. The words may apply in the physical sense and yet not imply a disembodied state. Our Saviour speaks of God "clothing the grass of the field (Matt. ). If He could speak of grass being clothed He could also speak of it being unclothed; for the former implies the latter. Who is there foolish enough to think of a disembodied state of grass because the word clothed is applied to it in fact and "unclothed" by implication? For the grass to be clothed is for it to have life; for it to be unclothed is for it to die. Apply this to life and death in relation to man and common sense will readily see the conclusion.
It is not impossible that the apostle used the word in both a physical and moral sense; for physical nakedness, in the sense explained is the direct result of sin. Hence the following paraphrase from the pen of Dr. Thomas seems to embrace what the apostle means:
"For we know that if our mortal body be dissolved in the dust we are to receive a new body and a new habitation, a building from God, a home not made with hands, enduring in the new heavens. For in the midst of the things which are seen we groan, earnestly desiring that our habitation which is from heaven may be clothed upon us; if so be that being raised and appearing before the tribunal of Christ we shall not be found naked or destitute of the wedding-garment. For we that are surrounded by the things seen and temporal do groan, being burdened; not that we desire to enter the death state by being unclothed or divested even of mortal life, but clothed upon by putting on immortality, that mortality may be swallowed up of life. Now he that has begotten in us this earnest hope is God, who has given us the spirit as the earnest of what we shall receive at the coming of the Lord. We are therefore always confident, having full assurance of faith, knowing that whilst we who believe are mortal we are absent from the Lord (for whilst absent we walk by faith, not by sight); we are full of hope, I say, and rejoice rather to be delivered from mortality and to be present, with the Lord.
Wherefore we labor that whether present at His tribunal or absent from it, we may be accepted of Him. For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things in body, according to that he hath done, whether good or bad."
The Spirits in Prison
I Peter 3:18-20
This is a portion of Scripture used, or rather misused, for two purposes: First, to prove the existence of disembodied conscious spirits; and, second, the personal preexistence of Christ. The mistake in regard to the first case grows out of the preconceived idea that the word "spirits" means bodiless entities commonly called "immortal souls". In I John 4:1 the word "spirits" is used as the equivalent, of "prophets": "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world." Now it must be clear to an unprejudiced mind that the word here means persons assuming to be prophets. It is a warning against evil persons; and the same thought is conveyed if we substitute person for spirit in the verse. If Christ had preached to these "spirits" He would have preached to persons of bodily forms, not to disembodied ghosts. Now this understanding of the use of the word "spirits" will enable us to see that "the spirits in prison" who were preached to were real persons. How absurd it must seem to thinking people that Christ would go to the fictitious hell of popular theory to preach to immortal soul! How could poor creatures maddened by indescribable torture and writhing in the pangs and pains of such a place be expected to listen to preaching that would require sober thought and calm obedience? Then again, if this passage is made to apply to such a view, why was the preaching confined to the disobedient of the "days of Noah"? Why not allow all the supposed unfortunate inhabitants of the so-called "infernal regions" to be preached to? If some must be followed even into a horrid hell after this life and be given an opportunity of hearing the gospel, why not follow all? It is only a mind bewildered by pagan delusions of departed ghosts that reads such folly into this passage of Scripture.
The "spirits" or persons who were preached to were the antediluvians, and the time they were preached to was "when once the long-suffering of God waited IN THE DAYS OF NOAH" (verse 20). It does not say that Christ personally visited them, but that He by the Spirit -- "quickened by the Spirit, by which also he went and preached. The Spirit here is the Spirit of God; and since Christ is the offspring of that Spirit by direct begettal, and was filled with it, raised from the dead and "quickened by it" into immortality it is called the "Spirit of Christ, which was in the prophets (chapter 1:11). This Spirit was in Noah when he preached to the disobedient of his time.
Some find a difficulty in understanding the phrase "in prison" but the prison in which the antediluvians were when Peter wrote was the grave. Chapter 4:6 explains the matter: "For this cause preached also to them that were dead." Not that they were dead when the gospel, was preached to them; for "dead know not anything"ó Ecc. 9.5. The gospel was preached to them that are now dead and in the "prison" of death--the grave. But should this view be objected to and it be claimed that they were dead and in prison when they were preached to, it would only follow that they were dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1); and in this sense all men are prisoners till the "law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes them free from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2). First, we know that the gospel was preached to the antediluvians when they were alive, in the days of Noah, and we know they were dead, and not alive, when Peter wrote. With this knowledge we can read chapter 4:6 thus: "For this cause was the gospel preached to them that are (now) dead." And we can ,also read chapter thus: "By which (Spirit) also he went (in the days of Noah) and preached unto the spirits (now) in prison." With this view we can feel sure that we are in harmony, with truth; for the facts sustain us. If, in the second case, they are viewed as "dead in trespasses and sins", and in this sense are in "prison" or bondage, we know that this sense will scripturally apply to those who. were preached to, and that in this view we are in no danger of violating Scripture rules of interpretation. On the other hand, there is nothing to warrant us in accepting the absurd idea that Jesus when he was dead went into hell to preach to spirits who Ė if they were in such a place at all as hell is supposed to be Ė were there as a punishment for disobedience in this life, their destiny therefore having determined as exemplified in the fact that they were there. With this view we should contradict the plainest testimony on all important phases of fundamental truth. We should deny that Christ was dead when the Scriptures say He was dead and buried. We should deny that the antediluvians were dead and that the "dead know not any-thing". These dangerous consequences would follow such unwarranted and assumed premises, to say nothing of the consequent erroneous positions such a view would lead us into on the question of what and where "hell" is and on the baseless theory of probation after death.
In showing how the text speaks of Christ's preaching to the antediluvians--that is, that the Spirit of God is the Spirit of Christ, etc., we have shown that, since He did not visit them and preach to them in person, the theory of His pre-existence as a person is in no way supported by the passage. On account of Christ being the Alpha and Omega of Godís plan in relation to the human race on the earth, all things are said to be done by Him or on account of Him. The Spirit that caused Noah and all the prophets to preach the Truth was the Spirit of God which was to overshadow the virgin, beget the Son of God and dwell in Him, manifesting God in and through Him mentally and morally and by wonderful works performed. Everything that was done in the world before He was begotten had direct relation to Him and centered in Him. He, as the purpose of God was, as it. were, the power that operated in and through all things. His personal existence is no more proven by this than the personal existence of Levi is proven, by his being represented as having paid tithes in Abraham before he was born. In this case what was done by Abraham is shown to have been done, in a sense, by Levi. Yet no one supposes from this that Levi personally pre-existed.
The Thief on the Cross
When the fact that the Scriptures teach the unconsciousness of man in death is shown to those who believe in the immortality of the soul, they generally ask, "What about the thief on the cross?" On account of their preconceived idea of heaven going at death they conclude, without investigation, that the words, "Verily I say unto thee to-day, thou shalt thou be with me in paradise,'' mean that that very day the thief would be with Christ in heaven.
It is very necessary for us to guard against the power of prejudice; it is very apt to influence us to infer that certain texts mean so and so, when upon close investigation they are found to have no such meaning. Remove from the mind the prejudice in favor of the popular theory of man's disembodied conscious existence in death, and then, before a conclusion would be reached as to the meaning of the words of our Lord to the thief, a thoughtful mind would ask, What was the request of the thief? Did the thief die inside that very day? Did our Saviour go to heaven that very day, or did He really die? If his soul is considered apart from Himself, did His soul go to heaven, and if so, how shall I understand the scripture that says "He poured out His soul unto death." (Isa. 53:12)? How could His soul be in heaven, or, supposing paradise to be some other place than heaven, how could. His soul be in paradise, when it is declared that His soul was not left in hell (hades or the grave)? -- Acts . All these questions would arise before a thoughtful mind would be satisfied on the meaning of the text.
The Scriptures teach that Christ died, that He was buried, and that He rose from the dead (I Cor. 15:3, 4); that His soul was "poured out unto death"; that His soul was in hell (hades; the same word is rendered grave in I Cor ). In view of this, how could He be in heaven on the day He spake the words in question to the thief? Consider, dear reader, Did Christ die? To this question the popular teachers of the people, who "cause them to err", answer, "His soul did not die", thus denying declares that "He poured out his soul unto death." Press the question, Did Christ die? and the answer you will receive will be, "His body died"; an answer that means, No, Christ did not die, only his body --the house He dwelt in died, but He did not. This is a denial of the death of Christ; for to say that the body He inhabited died is to say that something else other than Himself died.
It will be seen therefore that the theory that would send Christ to heaven, or to any other place of conscious existence with the thief the very day He uttered the promise necessitates a denial of His death. So that the matter resolves itself into the question. Which is wrong; the theory that says Christ that very day was alive with the thief in paradise, or the Scriptures that declare that He died? The Scripture cannot be broken; therefore the theory must be wrong. Nothing that nullifies the plain statements of God's Word, that Christ really died, and that the same Christ that died was buried, and that if He had not been raised there would have been no living Christ (see I Cor. 15) -- nothing, I say, that nullifies these positive facts can be entertained by a thoughtful, God-fearing person.
That Christ did not go to heaven the day He uttered the promise to the thief is a subject of positive proof. Three days afterwards, upon His resurrection from the tomb, He met Mary, and said: "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father" (John ). The reader will readily see that the theory that sends Christ to heaven with the thief the day of His death is a flat contradiction of the Lord's words uttered at His resurrection three days after His death. The "I" who spoke to the thief is surely the same "I" who addressed Mary. How could this "I" say on one day I will be in heaven this day, and three days after say I am not yet ascended to heaven? The theory that so misrepresents the Saviour, whose word are infallible is, of course, wrong; and now with that theory weighed in the balances and found wanting'', what can we do with it but cast it aside. Free from itís deceptive influence, let us carefully examine the narrative of 'the thief on the cross", and see whether it is not fully in harmony with man's unconsciousness between death and resurrection, and with the teaching that the reward of the righteous is not at death, but at the resurrection from the dead.
To understand the Saviour's answer to the thief we must keep in view the letter's request. He did not say, Lord remember me when thou goest to heaven; but "Lord remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." Was this request in accord with what our Lord had taught His disciples to hope for? It certainly was; for in the parable of the nobleman (Luke 19) He had shown that He would go. to heaven and return; that during His absence the duty of His disciples would be, not to expect to follow Him, but to "Occupy till I come"; and that it would be when He would return; "having received the kingdom, he would call His servants before Him for judgment, reward and punishment according to their works. In unmistakable language he declared, "When the son of man shall come in his glory and all the holy. angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory" (Matt. 25:31); and to those on His right hand at that time he will say, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared", etc. Referring to this time, and in full accord with this teaching, the thief asked, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom" -- the very time when, as the Apostle Paul, says, "Christ shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom (II Tim. 4:1).
Now is it not reasonable to believe that our Saviourís answer to this dying penitent man was in accord with the request and with His teachings as shown above? What is the kingdom but paradise restored? When "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ" (Rev. 11:15) the earth will be paradise restored. The prophet has said, "The LORD shall comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of the LORD"--(Isa. 51:3) The fulfillment of this will be when the kingdom of God is fully established in the earth and "the LORD shall be King over all the earth"--(Zech. 14:9). Christ will then have come into his kingdom and His promise to the thief will be fulfilled.
Now as to the form of the words in the promise as it appears in our translation, It must not be forgotten that the translators were biased in favor of the popular theory, and may therefore sincerely but mistakenly have placed the words in the form in which we find them in the A. V. Punctuation is of comparatively recent date, and translators often differ in their use of it, as well as in the positions of the various words composing a sentence. In the word-for-word translation in the Diaglott the promise to the thief reads as follows: "Indeed I say to thee, today with me thou shalt be in the paradise." In the text of the same translation it reads, "Indeed I say to thee, This day thou shalt be with me in paradise." That is, this day referred to by the thief's request, namely, the day when Christ would come into His kingdom. We would particularly call attention to the fact that here it is "thou shalt" instead of "shalt thou", as in the King James translation. The text therefore is in perfect harmony with the facts and truths of Scripture we have called attention to when read thus: "Verily I say unto thee today, Thou shalt be with me in paradise." It was a hearty and emphatic reply to the request of penitence in a most trying and solemn moment. Hence the "verily" and "to-day", as if one in our times would say ""Mark you Ė I tell you this moment, that measure will prove disastrous to the nation." The "mark you" and the "this moment" give emphasis to the statement. So with the "verily" and the "to-day". The time when the promise is to be fulfilled is defined by the words in the request, "when thou comest into thy kingdom".
A case very similar to this are the words of Zech. 9:12--"Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope; even to-day do I declare I wall render double unto you." The "even" and the "to-day" give emphasis; and instead of "today defining the time when the promise would be fulfilled, it defines the day the promise was made. The "rendering double" would be long afterwards.
Some excuse their disregard of baptism upon the assumption that the case of the thief was one of salvation without baptism; but the inference is all the other way. There is no statement to the effect that he was or was not baptized; but his understanding of the gospel is shown by his request: for in that is implied a knowledge of the resurrection, ascension and return of Christ into His kingdom who will be bold enough to affirm that such a degree of intelligence in the gospel had not yielded obedience in baptism? The blessing of being in the kingdom with Christ is predicated upon baptism based upon belief of the Truth; and since our Lord promised the thief he should be with him in paradise, or the kingdom, it follows that baptism had been submitted to. "But he was a thief!" Some exclaim. Yes; that is against him, his crime being a very grievous one. But, Godís "merciful kindness is great towards us". If it were not so, hopeless would be our case. In this matter it is not in evidence that the man was habitually a thief. As to the degree of his crime the Saviour was a better judge than the Roman government that was and than we can be. In any event there was penitence in the case, and what could be a more beautiful finish to the natural life of the "man of sorrows" than an extraordinary manifestation and exercise of Divine mercy of which He was and is the very embodiment?
The Rich Man and Lazarus
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, recorded in Luke 16:19-31, the believer in disembodied existence after death in torture or happiness Ė "heaven or hell"óthinks he finds positive proof of his theory. It is with this passage of Scripture the same as with the few others that seem, superficially viewed, to sustain the popular dogmas. There are preconceived notions that cause readers to read into the Scriptures what is in their minds but what is not in the texts themselves. Instead of reading the words of the text there is a reading "between the lines". To avoid this mistake Ė a mistake that many make unconsciously Ė it is necessary to have in mind the general teachings of the Scriptures upon the subjects involved. One with the popular theory of the nature of man and the state of the dead in his mind will read into this parable "immortal soul" and "never-dying spirit", without perceiving that no such words are there. "The rich man died", they will read in their minds, "The body of the rich man died." "In hell he lifted up his eyes" to them is, "In hell his immortal soul lifted up itís eyes," forgetting that their theory says the soul is immaterial without parts, and therefore has no eyes to "lift up". Throughout the entire parable there is this same reading in of terms and phrases that are only in the mind of the reader, and thus a false conclusion is reached by a false method of reading. If it were remembered that "immortal soul" is a phrase of pagan invention and not found in the Bible the folly of supplying it in the text would be seen. With the Scripture definition of death in the mind and Platonic fiction out of the mind the words, "The rich man died" and "The beggar died", would be accepted in harmony with the fact that when a man dies "his breath goes forth, he returneth to his earth and in that very day his thoughts perish" (Psa. 146:4) and "the dead know not anything" (Ecc. 9:5)
Feeling very confident that this parable supports their theory, some are very bold to demand that it "be read just as it is, literally", as a statement of facts and not as a parable. To satisfy such that they are mistaken we frequently have to respond, "Come along then and let us read it literally in the light of positive Scripture definitions of the words employed." We will begin with the statement, "The beggar died." Do you believe this? O, it means that his body died, is the answer we receive. It says "the beggar died." Do you believe it? Here we have a beggar who died. Is he dead now or is he alive? Stick to the words literally. Before this beggar died he was alive and not dead; now he is dead and not alive. If he is alive now, what is the difference between his condition now, after he has died, and his condition then, before he died? O, the difference is that before he died he was alive in his body; now he is alive out of his body. Indeed, then he was alive and is still alive, and therefore you deny the first statement we read, "The beggar died." Come, come, stick to your proposition to read this literally, "The beggar died." If you want to define what it is to die you must do it scripturally, not theologically. Here is a Scripture definition of death for you: "His breath goeth forth; he returneth to his earth; and in that very day his thoughts perish" (Psa. 146:4). Now then with this definition let us again read, "The beggar died" Ė that is, "his breath went forth; he returneth to his earth; and in that very day (the day he died) his thoughts perish." Do you believe this?
Now of man after he is dead the Scriptures say, "The dead know not anything" (Ecc. 9:5). The first statement we have read "literally" is, "The beggar died"; and inspiration says "the dead know not anything". So we have before us a dead man that knows not anything. But you are trying to go beyond the testimony to make out your theory that the man is not dead, only his body; that instead of not knowing anything, he knows more when he is dead than he did when he was alive. Stick to the text, "The beggar died."
Now in the same scriptural manner we may also read, "The rich man also died." Keeping inside of the boundary lines of what is literally said in these two statements, we have before us two dead men, who "know not anything"; and we must not assume the right to break over these lines for the sake of sustaining a theory we may have in our minds and not in the texts.
Now what is the next statement concerning this
dead man? It is, "and was buried". Do not add again that
"only his body was buried", and deny the statement that the man died
and was buried. Stick to the text, and we then have a dead man buried, not a
living man in torture. Yes, you will say, but it says he was in torment. While he was dead and buried? It is literally true that
death closes our eyes, destroys the power of sight. When the rich man died he closed
his eyes in death. And does it not say that after he was dead and buried he
"lifted up his eyes"? And what would that be for a dead and buried
man but resurrection, an opening of his eyes in life after having closed
them in death? Now keep this fact before your mind, and you will see that if
you take this scripture literally you have death, burial and resurrection; and
it is in the resurrection that "there shall be weeping and gnashing of
teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in
the kingdom of God, and you (those addressed) thrust out." Abraham will be
there then. And they shall come from the east and from the
west and from the north and from the south, and shall sit down in the
"But the rich man lifted up his eyes in hell," some exclaim. Well, what of that? Was not Christ in hell -- even His soul (Acts 9.:31)? Will not all those redeemed from death and hades -- the grave -- "lift up their eyes in hell (hades) before they will exclaim, "O grave! where is thy victory" (I Cor. )? In the margin of this text you have "hell" from the Greek word hades, which is properly translated grave in the text. Since Christ was in hell, but "was not left" there, could it not be said of Him that when raised from the dead "He lifted up His eyes in hell"; and would that be another way of speaking of His resurrection? It is a mistaken, preconceived idea of what hades is that causes the trouble with the words. The dead are all, good and bad, in sheol, or hades until they are raised; and resurrection means a standing again in life of men who have been dead and buried. With the truth and the facts thus before us there is no trouble, and we may put the matter in the form of questions that the Scriptures will clearly answer.
Ans. "His breath goeth forth; he returneth to his earth; and in that very day his thoughts perish." -- Psa. 146:4.
Ans. "The dead know not anything." Ė Ecc. 9:5.
Ans. "And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his an gels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather his elect"--Matt. 24:30, 31.
Ans. "There shall be
weeping of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob
, and all the prophets in the
From this it will be seen that if we take the scripture in question literally we shall have death and burial, and after that, at the time appointed, there will be resurrection, and then the rich man will be punished and Lazarus will be with Abraham In a happy state. As to how long the torment'' of the rich man will last that must be determined by other scripture, since in the account of the rich man's case no time is given. That it will not be endless we may be sure, from the fact that many proofs are given of the utter destruction of the wicked.
Now if we take this scripture literally and try to make it fit the popular theory, we shall find it will not do. It would represent the "damned in hell" as penitent and prayerful; whereas it is claimed that they continue to curse God every moment of eternity. And this supposed continuous rebellion is what is relied on as an excuse for the eternity of the torture. It would bring "heaven" and "hell" into such close proximity that conversation could be had between the "damned" and the "blessed". It would put tender mothers in eternal bliss and yet in sight of the wretchedness of their children, and within hearing of their groans and moans and hopeless prayers for release. It would therefore represent them in "heaven" as possessed of natures that could take sweet and eternal enjoyment, with their children before their eyes writhing in the most terrible torture, a spectacle no sane person could in this life look upon for a moment without being pained and horrified. How long, my friend, would you enjoy the sight of a spectacle not one thousandth part as bad in this life? Could you enjoy it at all? No, is your answer. Then is your nature in the future to be such as will be capable of enjoying what now is the most horrifying ? Away with such a savage fiction. Hurl it back to the dark recesses of the savage heart of heathenism, whence it came, and "come and let us reason together" on this parable; for a parable it is, as we shall now prove.
We have dealt with the subject upon the supposition of itís laterality simply to show that even when so viewed it in no sense sustains the popular theory. But that it is a parable cannot be questioned. In chapter 15:3 we have the parable of the lost sheep; verse 8 of the lost piece of silver; verse 11 of the prodigal son. Chapter 16:1 of the steward; then follows the one in question. Some offer as an objection the fact that the first words are: "There was a certain rich man", claiming that the form of words shows the sense to be a literal narrative; but the objection vanishes when it is remembered that the parable of the steward begins in precisely the same words, and that of the prodigal in nearly the same.
The audience addressed is shown in chapter 15:1, 2 to be publicans, sinners, Pharisees and scribes. That which directly called forth the words in question is shown in chapter -- "And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things, and they derided him.: To the multitude composed of those named He spoke; and of this fact it is said, "And without a parable spake he not unto them" (Matt. ). The Pharisees who derided Him came not to seek information, but to try and entangle Him. He did not, therefore, trouble to enlighten them as He did His disciples. Hence He says to the latter, It is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given" -- (Matt. ). And when they were alone he expounded all things to his disciples" (Mark ). The deriding Pharisees were a self-righteous class who considered themselves "not as other men" (Luke 18:9-13), but as being "whole" and "righteous". Our Lord did not always take the time to tell them what they were, but for the sake of argument granted them their claims and gave them an ironical answer. Hence, perceiving their thoughts when they said, Who is this that speaketh blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God? and when they found fault because He ate with "publicans and sinners", He said: "They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance"---(Luke , 32). The reason why He so answered them and spake to them in parables He said was because "in them was fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see and shall not perceive. For this people's heart is waxed gross and their ears are dull off hearing, and their eyes they have closed," etc.--( Matt. , 15).
The Pharisees had departed from the Truth and
accepted the Platonic and Egyptian theory of the immortality of the soul and of
the existence of disembodied souls in hades, which
they believed to be a place of torment, and in Abrahamís bosom, a place they
supposed to be one of happiness. When denouncing them for their departure from
the Truth our Saviour said: "Ye are of your
father the devil;" * * * he abode not in the Truth, because there is no
truth in him. When he speaketh a lie he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar and the father of it"---
( John , 45). 'He
was a murderer from the beginning" are words,, no doubt referring to the
first he ever told, which caused the death of our first parents, ,and through
them became the "murderer" of the whole race, in that by the first
lie told "death passed men". Now to be children of the devil in the
sense our Saviour speaks when He says, Ye are of your father the devil", is to be the
"seed of the serpent" in a spiritual sense--that is, to believe the
lie the serpent told. What was that lie? It was, Ye
shall not surely die", the very thing the Pharisees believed that made
them of their father the devil. They having accepted the doctrine that men are,
as gods (angels), immortal, or "immortal souls"; believed that
"There is no death, but change"; that men do not die, but go to a place
of eternal life of either misery or happiness. For the
reasons given our Lord did not, when He spake the
parable in question, stop to show them the fallacy of their belief, but used it
against them, in showing what their destiny as a nation was to be. Should
it be claimed that He committed Himself to their belief by using it as a
parable, it has only to be remembered that when He was charged with casting out
demons by Beelzebub, He did not stop to show them that there was no such a
heathen, deity as the "lord of the fly, which they supposed to be supreme
over evil spirits. He left them in the superstition and retorted: "If I by
Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your children cast them out?" If our
Lord could use the terms "Beelzebub", "whole" and "righteous"
without indorsing their views represented by these terms, He could also use
their theory of departed spirits in "hades"
and "Abraham's bosom" without indorsing it. If a man well known
to be a non-believer in the same popular theory in our day were to use that
theory as a parable of some thought he wished to impress he could not
reasonably be charged with believing the theory; he would only be indorsing
that which he would be illustrating, not the thing used to illustrate. Here
then are the very religious Pharisees deriding the Saviour.
They represent the nation of
In contrast with this a poor beggar is painted as being outside the rich manís gate ("outer court of the Gentiles") full of sores (not "whole needing not a physician"), associated with dogs. This is a striking symbol of how the Jews regarded the Gentiles. Dogs they were to them, a fact that is shown in the conversation our Saviour had with the Syrophenecian woman when He said, in answer to her entreaty that her daughter be healed, "It is not meet to take the children's bread and to cast it to dogs." The woman knowing that His words expressed the Jews' estimation of Gentiles, replied, beseechingly, "Yes, Lord; yet the dogs under the table "eat of the children's crumbs". Then He granted her request. In the parable, then, the beggar associated with dogs Is a symbol of the Gentiles.
Now to show these Pharisees that their days of feasting were soon to end and the favor that belonged to Abraham's children was to be bestowed upon the Gentiles, the two men are, as it were, transported into the fictitious future state of the Pharisees, where the rich man is represented as in torment, while the beggar is in "Abraham's bosom". As the rich man of the parable died, so the nation represented by him died as a nation. It is to this national death the Apostle Paul alludes when he says: "For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead'--(Rom. )? As, according to the belief of the Pharisees--a belief that made them the children of the devil in wicked men when they died went to "hades", to them a place of torment, so the nation of Israel, upon itís death, was fearfully tormented in the siege of Jerusalem and have been in torment ever since. Lazarus died and was carried by angels (messengers) into Abraham's bosom, a fitting representation of the death that Gentiles must die when they pass out of Adam into Christ by baptism and thus become children of Abraham (Gal. 3:7). Being Christ's they are "Abrahamís seed and heirs according to the promise" (verse 29), are, in the words of the parable, in Abraham's bosom, a phrase expressing the favored position in the reclining posture of Eastern custom, as shown in the case of John (John 13:23). Also in I John * * * "the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father."
Since the revolt of the ten tribes under Jeroboam
It was not long after this parable was spoken till the rich man nation realized itís dreadful truth in the most horrible experience that history records: and ever since then they have been tormented and kept continually calling out for water to cool the parched tongue; for what has Israel not suffered since the "measure of their fathers was filled" in killing the Prince of Life? After the measure had been filled up the angels or messengers of the gospel, were sent to the Gentile "dogs; and the Apostle Paul, who was specially an apostle to the Gentiles, exclaimed: "Seeing ye put it from you and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting, life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles" -- (Acts ). Thus the words of John, "God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham" (Luke 3. 8) in a sense found exemplification. As a nation Israel are now "cast away", and between them and the Gentiles, of whom Paul speaks when he says, "Ye died (Revised Version) and your life is hid with Christ in God", and who are children of Abraham by adoption, there is a "great gulf fixed" -- the gulf of unbelief in Israel, to whom "blindness in part hath happened till the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" --- (Rom. 11:25).
Taking this view of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, instead of limiting itís scope to a supposed individual destiny of two men, and of forcing the Saviour into a oneness of belief with men who, because of their acceptance of the Platonic fiction of the "immortality of the soul" and the serpentís falsehood that "there is no death", were "of their father the devil", we have a volume of truth condensed into a few words -- a characteristic of the Bible that to the diligent student is seen to be an indelible stamp of divinity.
The question which forms the heading of our address this morning is based upon the words, "caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air", found in the chapter read ó I Thes. 4. Let me read from verses 13-18 in order to get the question clearly before us:
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
Whatever the meaning is of this scripture there is comfort in it, for those to whom it was addressed were told this in the last words given. To derive comfort in the true sense, it is necessary that the words be fully understood, for how can one comfort himself with words he does not understand? The apostle says, we would not have you to be ignorant, brethren." He wished them to fully realize the import of what he was about to say, so that the deepest comfort might be derived therefrom.
The apostle's words are "concerning them which are asleep", about whom, it seems, some were sorrowing. It is evident that the popular theory of heaven-going at death was not in any sense considered here, either by the writer or those to whom he wrote. They all believed that those for whom some sorrowed were asleep in the sleep of death, none of them entertaining the idea for a moment that they were alive and better off in realms of bliss beyond the stars. Members of a modem orthodox'' church would have been viewing the sleep as pertaining to the body only, a trivial matter to them in view of their belief that their dead friends are better off disembodied than they were embodied; and a modern "orthodox'' preacher would be considered a very poor comforter if he did not, in similar circumstance, eloquently dilate upon the rapturous bliss their departed friends were enjoying in or beyond the sky. Death-bed and funeral comfort now, as prepared and administered in the religions of Christendom, is a very different article from that of the apostles. The doctors of divinity have a very different theory as to the nature of the case and they have consequently changed their pills of comfort to suit their changed diagnosis of the case. It is often the case in the domain of physics that disease is an abnormal condition of the mind, and doctors deal with it accordingly, allowing the patient to be deluded. In the religious world it is worse than in the medical; for in the latter there is an effort to restore the mentally affected to a normal state, while in the former the delusion is pampered and comforted in a manner to increase the religious insanity of the afflicted.
What would be thought of a popular preacher appealing to his people on behalf of their deceased friends, in a way to imply that their friends were really asleep in death--really dead and not alive? The people would wonder what had happened to the preacher, and they would inquire of each other, "Do you think our pastor really meant that our departed ones are dead? He tried to console us that they will have a resurrection, but would he have us believe that they lie dormant in death till the resurrection? That's what those people known as Christadelphians believe, and does our pastor propose to impose such a doctrine as that upon us? We must see about this, and if he really does believe that our friends are dead and not 'gone before', and if he has no comfort to give us but a resurrection way in the future, we had better ask for his resignation." This is how matters would run in such a case, and so "like people like priest". The people have been taught and trained to "love to have it so" and the preachers are hired to proclaim it so. Hence the words of the apostle in the verses read would fare in the mouth of a popular preacher something like this: "But I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are 'gone before', that ye sorrow not, even as others who have no hope. For those you sorrow for are not dead, not asleep. They have read their title clear to mansions in the sky, and bid farewell to every fear and wiped their weeping eyes. They are now basking in the bliss of heaven and when you die you shall join the happy band above, mount triumphant there, while those who have no hope devils drag their souls away in infinite despair." Wherefore comfort one another with these words?" In this we have "another gospel which is not another", but a perversion of the gospel of Christ, the preacher of which, even if he be an angel from heaven, we are commanded "let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:6, 8).
Now let us see What real comfort is afforded by the words of the apostle in the case we are considering. Verse 13 -- Your friends are asleep in death. I would not have you ignorant and sorrowful as others without hope. Verse 14 -- Jesus died and rose again, and became "the resurrection and the life". God "raised Jesus of Nazareth from the grave", and in this you have assurance that, since those for whom you sorrow sleep in Jesus, God will bring them forth also. Verse 15 --- Do not suppose that those who are alive remain unto the coming of the Lord shall prevent them that are not alive when the Lord comes, that are dead--asleep in the dust of the earth. They shall not remain dead like those who died without hope. Verse 16 -- For the Lord himself, not by messenger, nor in a "spiritual" unreal manner, but the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, the trump shall sound and the dead in Christ shall rise first -- before those who are alive when the Lord comes shall be caught away. Verse 17 -- Then those who are alive shall be caught up, or away, with those who are previously raised, in clouds, or companies, to meet the Lord in the air; and so, in the state to which you shall ascend when you meet the Lord in the air, or firmament of his new heaven, "wherein dwelleth righteousness", so in that state shall we ever be with the Lord. Here is your salvation and that of those for whom you sorrow. Now do not sorrow any more, as those may well do who have no hope, but (verse 18) comfort one another with these words.
Some have erroneously concluded from this passage that there will be no resurrection of the unjust, because all who are the subjects of the apostle's discourse here are to "be ever with the Lord". This error arises from a short-sighted view, a failure to realize, the fitness of things. There is a time for everything, a time to warn and a time to comfort. At the death-bed side and at the open mouth of the grave are not the places to address sorrow-stricken people upon judgement and punishment. When one calls to comfort the distressed it is not the time to bestow a look of wrath nor to utter words of vengeance. It is a time to speak words of consolation and to give expression to a heart-felt sympathy -- so far as truth and facts will allow, of course. The man who has nothing but vengeance and wrath in his words and looks has no business in the house of mourning. When one is addressing his friends in the language of hope he does not stop to mar itís beauty by interjections of words of judgment and punishment. The apostle Paul "spurned not to declare the whole counsel of God," but no one knew better than he how to speak according to the "eternal fitness of things"--the right words in the right place. This was a time for words of hope and comfort, and because for the time being he drew the curtain and kept out of sight the possibility of some he was writing to and of some of their mourned friends failing of the glorious triumph he held aloft, we must not conclude that he denied what he taught at other times Ė appropriate -- that "there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust."
Now the question is how shall we derive comfort from the words "meet the Lord in the air", "caught up", and "clouds". Our Lord gives us comfort in the words, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5) The Psalmist declares that such as be blessed of the Lord shall inherit the earth". "The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever (Psa. 37:22-30). The wise man also declares that the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth. All of the redeemed unite in the song of salvation, in which they sing, "Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:10). Then again, Christ himself is to return to the earth in like manner as he ascended (Acts 1:11) and "his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Lord shall be king over all the earth" (Zech. 14:4-9). How then are we to understand that we are to "meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall ever be with the Lord"? And in view of the promises that we are to be blessed in the earth and that Lord is to reign on the earth, how can we derive comfort from these words?
It is in sundry times and divers manners that God speaks through prophets, Christ. and apostles. To receive instruction and comfort from His words we must learn to discriminate between the "divers manners" in which he speaks. Literal language must not be confounded with symbolical, figurative and spiritual. With the ordinary care exercised in reading good secular books we shall not find it difficult to determine when we are reading figurative or symbolic language. The context along with a knowledge of the first principles of the oracles of God will guide us in the only channel that will lead to a proper conclusion.
Every book has a right to claim that the reader shall be governed by Itís own meaning of the technical terms it employs, and surely the Bible has the same right. It is but reasonable that we should compare scripture with scripture to arrive at the sense in which certain words and phraseology are employed therein. The literal is, of course, the foundation of all figurative language. There is a literal earth, but the word earth is used for the people of the earth --- "Hear, O earth." There are literal heavens, but the word heavens is also used for exalted position or political power. There are literal clouds, but the word cloud is used for a company of people, threatening trouble, and so on. If we read in ours newspapers that there is a cloud in the political heavens we do not look up to the sky expecting to see it there. If we read "there is war in the air", we do not understand that the writer is referring to the literal atmosphere. In the world natural there are sun, moon, stars, cloud, air, etc. When we use a figure of speech drawn from the world natural we must be consistent. Hence, if we employ the word heavens to represent a kingdom we must, to be consistent, allow for sun, moon, stars, clouds, air or firmament in the heaven of which we are speaking. The sun, moon and eleven stars of Joseph's dream were in the heaven or rulership of the little family kingdom of Jacob; and Jacob had no trouble in seeing the meaning of the words and their application to himself--the father was the sun, the mother as the moon, and the eleven brethren of Joseph as the stars, with all their servants and belongings as the earth ruled.
Now the apostle Peter speaks of the coming
Now it would be difficult for one taught in the Scriptures to receive comfort from the contemplation of going up into the literal air. May we not venture, therefore, to look through the mere literal and try to find that the apostle in the passage in question is applying the words clouds and air to something that has to do with the resurrection of the dead and their change with the living at the Lord's coming, when they shall become elements of the "new heaven" or rulership of the glorious kingdom of God for which they now seek? If anything of this sort can be found in the words by holding the paper, as it were, up to the light and reading the Divine watermarks, then shall we taste the sweetness of the closing sentence -- "Therefore comfort one another with these words."
This same apostle says, "We wrestle not
against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the
rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high
places" or, as in the margin, heavenly places, or heavenlies.
Reference here Is to the civil and religious
wickedness in the Roman and Jewish heavens, the powers which antagonized the
truth and martyred many of itís proclaimers. Now the
Roman heaven would have the elements of the natural heaven, and therefore the
word air would be applicable to it. In the political aerial of that
heaven were the sun, moon and stars, which ruled the Roman kosmos
or world. Hence the apostle says that when the saints at
It is true that when the Saracenic hosts arose out of the Arabian pit, or abyss, the smoke of their warfare literally ascended in clouds and darkened the air, but the object the Spirit had in stating this to John (Rev. 9:2) cannot be limited to this comparatively trivial fact. The object was to show, in symbolic language, the effect the war of the Saracens would have upon the Roman apostasy. Therefore, when it is said, "And the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit;" the Roman sun and air, politically and ecclesiastically, are undoubtedly meant. Then, again, when 'the seventh angel shall pour out his vial into the air (Rev. 16:7), "and there shall come out of the temple of heaven from the throne a voice saying, "it is done", the consequent thunders and lightnings will clear the political air of the heavens that are now, in which dwelleth unrighteousness to give place to "new heavens wherein dwelleth righteousness."
From these testimonies we see that the word air is used for the expanse of political heavens, and now we can better understand the apostle's meaning in the verse in question, and see how the saints in Thessalonica could derive comfort from his words. To be "caught up to meet the Lord in the air is to be exalted as kings and priests to reign with Christ on the earth. It is worthy of note that the apostle does not say "there shall we ever be with the Lord", as if he were referring to a place; but so, in the condition implied by being "caught up to meet the Lord in the air" -- "so shall we ever be with the Lord". Many will meet the Lord to be condemned, cast out, and to be commanded to "depart"; but these do not meet him in the air of the new heaven; for when the door is opened in that heaven only the worthy will be invited to "come up hither' (Rev; 4:1); and such only will be permitted or fitted to "shine in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt. 13:43) as "stars for ever and ever (Dan. 12:3).
These are to meet the Lord in a higher sense than will those who meet him and be commanded to "depart". When it was said to Moses, "And in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee, and there I will meet with thee" (Exo. 25:21, 22), the meaning of the word "meet" is very different from that of the words "a lion met him by the way and slew him" (I Kings 13:24): There is a deeper meaning. It signifies a oneness, a communion. So to meet the Lord in the air is to become one with him in nature, to be "like him, for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2). Those, therefore, who shall meet the Lord in the air are the faithful children of God of whom the apostle John says, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure I John 3:1-3)
As there are clouds in the natural heaven, so are there in the political; and so there will be in the new heaven of righteousness. A company of people is called by the apostle Paul a cloud Ė "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us (Heb. 12:1). The word cloud is used figuratively in various ways, the thoughts conveyed being derived from the natural heavens, in which there are thunder clouds, clouds without rain and clouds with rain. In time of drought clouds that contain no rain inspire hope and then tantalize with bitter disappointment. When the earth is dried up, vegetation scorched and burned and man and beast are parched for water, how anxiously men will wait and watch for a cloud, and if they can catch a glimpse of one, even though it be but "like a man's hand", what hope and joy it brings. Now we speak of "clouds of sorrow", clouds of darkness", "clouds of war", etc.; and the book of Jude (verse 12) speaks of deceptive men as clouds without water, carried about of winds". The groaning millions of our time are looking into the political heavens and watching the clouds, hoping for a rain that will bring relief to a thirsty world; but alas! the clouds have no water to quench their burning thirst, no rain to give life to the withered and blighted fields that are ready for the sickle of the swiftly coming harvest of wrath. But after this clouds will appear in the new heavens, from which there shall come down "rain upon the mown grass and showers to water the earth" (Psa. 72:6).
The goodness of natural
This passage in the epistle to the Thessalonians has special reference to the morning of the resurrection, and it is in connection with this these figures of speech are used, used to adorn and beautify a glorious subject -- one, the one, with whose words we can truly "comfort one another". The prophet Isaiah treats of this subject in the grand words, "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust; for thy dew is as of the dew of the dawn, and the earth shall cast out the dead" (Isa. 26:19). The dew of the morning comes from the womb of the night, and under the rays of the rising sun is drawn into the air to be formed into clouds to give rain upon the earth. So are the true saints to be the dew of the dawn of millennial glory, upon whom the Sun of righteousness shall shine and draw up into the new heavens as clouds to give the latter rain of blessing, and as showers to water the earth.
When thus this cloud is in the air or new heaven, and the glory of the Lord appears therein to the joy of "all families of the earth" whom the Abrahamic covenant promised to bless, it ii then that there will be the glorious fulfillment of the words, "I will set my bow in the cloud" (Gen. 9:13), and the everlasting covenant shall find itís full, glorious and sublime exemplification Ė it is then that it will appear and be a reality in the sense that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard". It is then that these things that are now matters of hope and promise will "materialize" and be a gladsome and gladdening, glorious reality. O, the beauty and transcendency of our hope! what gladness it brings even now in this cloudy and dark day; but "what will it be there" to experience the rapturous joy of realization.
Conditions are necessary for the appearance of the rainbow with all itís prismatic beauty. There must be the shining sun, the cloud and descending rain. For the appearance of the rainbow of the everlasting covenant the Sun of Righteousness is ready, but as yet the dew of the coming dawn is enveloped in the womb of the darkness of death and the grave. The morning is about to dawn, the dew appear, the sun to arise; and then, when "we are caught up in clouds to meet the Lord in the air", the shining sun, the cloud from the morning dew and the descending rain of heavenís blessing will show that God has filled full His promise, "I will set my bow in the cloud", and to the joy of the whole earth the everlasting covenant will shine forth as the sun, pour down blessings as the rain and the appearance of the bow in the new heaven will command the astonishment and admiration of "all families of the earth" blessed in Abrahamís seed. If we are worthy, brethren, if you, friends, prepare yourselves for this great and high calling, we shall all be able to say "so shall we ever be with the Lord" and in reality "comfort one another with these words".
May this be our comfort now in measure and then in itís full fruition. Amen.