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; 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 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; Paulís desire to depart; Stephenís 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 views 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 256-277 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. 12: 23, 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. 2: 20, where it is said, "They are dead which sought the young childís life to destroy it." The word life is from psuche also in Matt. 6: 25--"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 become dead? The loss of its life. How might it be made alive again? By restoring its 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 into him again, and he"--the child--"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 its life had gone out, and in answer to the prophetís 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 its 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 its blissful home and compelling it to reinhabit its "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 childís 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 go 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 lifeís 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" (Numb. 31: 28). Here the reader is bound to see that the word means creature or being, both man and beast. In Job 12: 10 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 its 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 sometimes 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 Ex. 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 of the great value of the soul in view of its supposed immortality. A little thought, however, will show that such a theory was far removed from the Saviourís 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 is 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 25 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 will 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 its 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 its 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 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 Saviourís 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 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 Donneganís 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 Saviourís 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 soul! 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, immaterial, 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 menís 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 the things 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 work from Johnís time down to the fulfillment of the promise, "Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give to 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 Judah, the Root of David, had prevailed to open the book and to loose the seals thereof" (chapter 5: 5). Thus by signs he is shown what would take place--not in heaven, Godís holy habitation, but in the earth and the political heavens thereof. To signify what would be the treatment his brethren would receive at the hands of Roman persecution, of whose cruelty he was himself a victim, the Spirit causes a panoramic view to pass before his vision, showing him that faithful souls would be slain upon the altars of Romish superstition, whose blood would cry to heaven for just vengeance upon the enemies of God, His truth and His people. To show John that there would be a grand sequel to the dreadful drama that was being performed before his eyes, as the canvas, as it were, passes, a vision appears of those souls being given white robes, indicative of the glorious reward of immortality, to be bestowed upon them by Him who declared, "Behold I come quickly and my reward is with me, to give every man (or every soul) as his work shall be."
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 the 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 Eccles. 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 its 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 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 given. It is 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 277-283. 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 goes 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 Adamís nostrils. Neither is it a conscious entity when it returns to God who gave it.
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" (
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 re-surrection (anastasis--standing again) will take place to "receive the things in body according to that he hath done, whether good or bad" (II. Cor. 5: 10).
STEPHENíS DYING PRAYER
What we have said in the foregoing will fully prepare the readerís 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 a false tradition, it is very easy to understand. When Stephenís 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 Stephenís 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 came (Numb. ; 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 Saviourís 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 "breathe 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, its 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.
PAULíS 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 its 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 motherís 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 Adamís 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--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 its 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 letter (chapter 3: 10, 11). That Paulís 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 our 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, 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" (Eccles. 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 Paulís 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 its meaning. The word is analusia, and the other place where it is found is in Luke 12: 36--"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 the word return for the word 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 Saviourís 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 Saviourís 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 Paulís 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 apostleís 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 return 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 its 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 speakerís 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 Paulís 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." (1)
(1)It is asserted by certain immortal-soulists, who profess to be scholars, that the language of Paul will not bear the grammatical construction required by the above explanation. Perhaps it would not unless we recognize that the third thing which "is very much to be preferred" is parenthetical, and should be in parenthesis, as it is in the Diaglott. This makes all perfectly correct. There were certainly three things mentioned by Paul: to remain as he was, suffering but continuing to labor in behalf of the brethren; to fall asleep to peacefully await the resurrection; and something far better--the immediate return of Christ. Paul was in no strait whatever about this third thing; for how could one be in a strait or "hard pressed" to decide as to the desirability of something which is "far better," or "very much to be preferred"?
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. 15: 47). 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 his 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 the grave whither thou goest" (Eccl. 9: 10). 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" (Eccl. 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 manís 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 doth not inherit incorruption" (I. Cor. 15: 50). He clearly shows that manís 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
We groan beneath the load:
Waiting the hour that sets us free
And brings us home to God."
that when the soul unclothed
Shall from the body fly,
ĎTwill animate a purer frame
With life that cannot die."
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; or out of 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 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 Colosse bodiless; and since "the body without the spirit is dead" (James ), 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 himself 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 body at
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 all together: "fools," "beside ourselves," "out of the body," "in the body," and the one will explain the other. What the apostle says in chap. 12: 1-6 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 wonít argue that question with you. You have said I was beside myself, out of the body; that I will leave to God. This, however, I will glory in, that such an one was so favored of God as to be caught up to the third heaven--to paradise, and was favored with a revelation of Godís grand purpose to restore paradise, and with a view, in vision, of what that paradise will be in all its 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 Paulís 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 Godís 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 Godís anger; the second is unrighteous and will be burned up with the fervent heat of Godís wrath; 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. Its glory and splendor were so great that it was, in its 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: 13, 14),
showing that he predicated all upon the 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
In this present state of things, "which is temporal" or temporary (II. Cor. 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 Christís "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 Paulís 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. 3: 21). 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 words in the sense they do, he said "Not that I would go to Christís 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; II. Cor. 5:3). 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. 6: 30). 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 pre-existence 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 souls! 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 did so 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 was the gospel preached also to them that are dead." Not that they were dead when the gospel was preached to them; for "the dead know not anything"--Eccl. 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 3: 19 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 to hell to preach to spirits who--if they were in such a place at all as hell is supposed to be--were there as a punishment for disobedience in this life, their destiny therefore having been 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 anything." 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 Christís 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, 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 manís 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 2: 31. 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 15: 55). 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 the Word of God, which 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 Godís 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 20: 17). 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 Lordís 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 words 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 its deceptive influence, let us carefully examine the narrative of "the thief on the cross," and see whether it is not fully in harmony with manís 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 Saviourís answer to the thief we must keep in view the latterís 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 C. 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, to-day 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 thiefís 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 Jamesí 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 to-day, 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, 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 will render double unto you." The "even" and the "to-day" give emphasis; and instead of "to-day" 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 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 sorrow" 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--"heaven or hell"--thinks 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--a mistake that many make unconsciously--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 its 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 goeth forth, he returneth to his earth and in that very day his thoughts perish" (Psa. 146: 4) and "the dead know not anything" (Eccl. 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"--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" (Eccl. 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 kingdom of God" (Luke 13: 28, 29). It is then that the righteous will "sit down with Abraham and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 8: 11); and therefore it is then, if you must have it literal, that Lazarus and his class will be "carried by angels into Abrahamís bosom."
"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 2: 31)? Will not all these 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. 15: 55)? 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 not 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.
1. The beggar and the rich man died. What is death?
Ans. "His breath goeth forth; he returneth to his earth; and in that very day his thoughts perish."--Psa. 146: 4.
2. After they died they were dead. Is man conscious when dead?
Ans. "The dead know not anything."--Eccles. 9: 5.
3. The beggar, after he died, was carried by angels into Abrahamís bosom. When will angels gather the righteous?
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 angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather his elect"--Matt. 24: 30, 31.
4. When will the righteous be with Abraham, or "in Abrahamís bosom?" and when will the wicked suffer torment?
Ans. "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."--Luke 13: 28.
5. When will Abraham and all the righteous be in the kingdom of God?
Ans. "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. * * * Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world"--Matt. 25: 31, 34.
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 manís 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 its literality 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 16: 14--"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. 13: 34). 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. 13: 11. And when they were alone he expounded all things to his disciples"--Mark 4: 34. 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 5: 31, 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 peopleís heart is waxed gross and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed," etc.--Matt. 13: 14, 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 8: 44, 45. "He was a murderer from the beginning" are words, no doubt, referring to the first lie 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 upon all 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 "Abrahamís 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 Israel as it then existed in Judea. They were puffed up over having Abraham as their father and as being Godís favored people, having "no dealings with the Samaritans" nor with the Gentiles. All such to them were "dogs." They alone were the great and the mighty, the holy and favored people. Inflated with a degree of pride and vanity unbearable they derided the Son of God. He turns upon them and proceeds to paint a picture of them, using familiar national colors to identify them, and seizing upon their theory of a future state to show them that "pride cometh before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." A rich man is pictured upon the canvas, as it were, clothed with purple and fine linen, the priestly robe of the nation they represented (Ex. 25: 5; 39: 27-29). He is faring sumptuously every day, representing the nation that had been "blessed in basket and store," in things temporal and spiritual, and separated from all other nations. He is a son of Abraham, and prides himself in being so, and cries out, "Father Abraham!" Who can this peculiar man be? One who can recognize in the familiar picture of "Uncle Sam" a representation of the American republic will not fail to see that this rich man is a fitting symbol of the nation of Israel, or that part of it represented by the rulers of the Jews, the Pharisees whom our Saviour is addressing.
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 childrenís bread and to cast it to dogs." The woman knowing that His words expressed the Jewsí estimation of Gentiles, replied, beseechingly, "Yes, Lord; yet the dogs under the table eat of the childrenís 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 Abrahamís 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 "Abrahamís 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. 11: 15)? As, according to the belief of the Pharisees--a belief that made them the children of the devil-- wicked men when they died went to "hades," to them a place of torment, so the nation of Israel, upon its 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 Abrahamís 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 Christís they are "Abrahamís seed and heirs according to the promise" (verse 29), and are, in the words of the parable, in Abrahamís bosom, a phrase expressing the favored position in the reclining posture of Eastern custom, as shown in the case of John (Jno. 13: 23). Also in Jno. 1: 18--* * * "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 its 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 13: 46. 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 its 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.