Southern Baptists inherited the most compelling aspects of all the Baptist Calvinists that preceded them. James P. Boyce summarized this well. He encouraged every preacher to get theological education in some way, even if it could not be at the Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina. If no other means were available, he advised, “work at it yourself.” The fathers of the convention did this, Boyce claimed; “They familiarized themselves with the Bible, and Gill and Andrew Fuller, and they made good and effective preachers. God is able to raise up others like them.”1 The irony of Boyce’s appeal to the grassroots for support of theological education was this: the seminary would not interrupt, but would perpetuate, the work of pastoral ministry, preaching and theology consistent with the Gill/Fuller tradition.
But this is the very difficulty that we face at this moment in Southern Baptist history. God indeed is raising up others like them, that is,….
Read the entire article here.
James P. Boyce was born January 11, 1827, in Charleston, S.C., of Mr. and Mrs. Ker Boyce, considered the wealthiest man in South Carolina. He was of Scot-Irish and Presbyterian descent on his father’s side, his mother’s family being the Johnston family which produced many lawyers, judges and statesmen in the Carolinas. Charleston was the most cultured American city of that day, and young Boyce entered the best homes and had the best education available at Charleston College, Brown University (R.I.) and Princeton Seminary (N.J.)
As a child, the good natured and rotund Boyce was always inclined toward books rather than athletics. He was raised hearing some of the greatest preachers in America: Basil Manly, Sr. (under whom Boyce’s mother was converted and became a Baptist in 1830), Richard Fuller (whose preaching influenced Boyce’s conversion while home from Brown) and James Henley Thornwell, that great Presbyterian preacher and theologian. While a young man, Boyce once attended a Presbyterian church because he was enamored with a young girl. However, Boyce recalls that Thornwell preached so powerfully that he was held spellbound for one hour, forgetting about the girl. Boyce and Thornwell evidently became friends later during Boyce’s first pastorate in Columbia, S.C. Boyce was greatly affected by Thornwell’s Discourses on Truth published in 1854.
(from Abstract of Systematic Theology, James P. Boyce)
How came it (the Bible) to be written?
God inspired holy men to write it.
Did they write It exactly as God wished?
Yes; as much as if he had written every word himself.
Oughtn’t it, therefore, to be believed and obeyed?
Yes; as much as though God had spoken directly to us.
James P. Boyce
First President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
President, 1872-79, 1888
From A Brief Catechism of Bible Doctrine
Source [Reformed Reader]
The Final States of the Righteous and the Wicked
IN the last chapter, nothing was said specifically of the awards of the judgement day. Yet is the public bestowal of these the culminating point of interest in that occasion. Judgement, without the expression of its results, in rewards and punishment, would be empty and vain. Hence the Scriptures do not leave us ignorant of what sentences will be pronounced upon the righteous, and wicked, and of what will be the final state of each. Of necessity, these must, in some respects, resemble those of the intermediate state; of which the condition of the righteous and wicked after judgement will be an enlargement and a culmination. It is not strange, therefore, that the Scriptures teach more fully, and emphatically upon these subjects.
I. THE FINAL STATE OF THE RIGHTEOUS.
There is upon this point little dispute as to the meaning of the Scripture statements. As they are numerous, they will best be presented under several classes of description.
1. The sentence of the judgement day may be stated.
Our Lord declared that “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. 25:34. This is called “eternal life” in v. 46. As this is, probably, a description of the nature of the blessings to be attained, rather than a declaration of the literal language that will then be used, other statements may here be added which are of the same nature. One that is given in the parable of the talents, in which his lord said to him of the five talents, “Well done, good and faithful servant:thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things:enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Matt. 25:21, (cf. Matt. 24:27). The righteous are spoken of as “wheat,” and it is said that the householder at the harvest time will say to the reapers, “gather the wheat into my barn,” Matt. 13:30. Our Lord, in his explanation of this parable, says of those thus represented by the wheat, “then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” v. 43. Corresponding to this language, is the declaration of Peter, that, “when the chief shepherd shall be manifested, ye shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away.” 1 Pet. 5:4. There may be added, also, the promises made in Revelation to “him that overcometh,” viz.: to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God,” (Chap. 2:7); “That he shall not be hurt of the second death,” (2:11); “That he shall be given of the hidden manna,” and “a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written,” (2:17), and given authority over the nations, (2:27,) to “rule them with a rod of iron,” (2:27); to “be arrayed in white garments,” (3:5), and “walk with me (Christ) in white,” (3:4), to be made “a pillar in the temple of my God, the new Jerusalem, and the new name of Christ, written upon him,” (3:12); to sit down with Christ in his throne, 3:21; “to inherit these things,” with the promise, “I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” 21:7. These declarations, however figurative, are descriptive of the condition of the saints in glory, and may, therefore, be appropriately added to the sentence of their Lord.
2. The future state of the righteous, is also stated, with reference to his past condition on earth, as “salvation,” (Mark 16:16; 1 Thess. 5:9; 2 Tim. 2:10); deliverance :from every evil work,” (2 Tim. 4:18); “redemption,” (Rom. 8:23; Eph. 4:30); “liberty,” (John 8:36; Rom. 8:21); “rest,” (Heb. 4:10; Rev. 14:13); deliverance from earthly sufferings, such as hunger, thirst, tears, etc., (Rev. 7:16, 17); “no night,” (Rev. 21:25; 22:5); “no uncleanness,” Rev. 21:27.
3. It is also described, in contrast with present possessions, as blessedness, (Matt. 25:34); perfect knowledge, (1 Cor. 13:12); holiness, (1 Thess. 3:13; Rev. 21:27); glory, (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 2:10; 1 Pet. 5:4); life, (Mark 8:35; 9:43, 45, 47; John 5:29; Rom. 8:13); crown of life, (James 1:12); eternal life, Matt. 19:29; 25:46; John 6:27, 47, 54; Rom 2:7.
4. Declarations are made which connect the believer with Christ, viz.: As of his being with Christ, (1 Thess. 4:17); in the presence of his glory, (Jude 24); holding his glory, (John 17:24); conformed to the body of Christ in his glory, (Phil. 3:21); Christ showing him the riches of his grace, (Eph. 2:7); Christ glorified in them, (2 Thess. 1:10); entering into the joy of their Lord, (Matt. 25:21, 23); reigning with Christ, 2 Tim 2:12, etc.
5. Statements are made about their activity in the heavenly life. The rest of heaven is not a state of inactivity. This is pointed out in the very passage which speaks of the rest as a particular blessedness: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours (toil, trouble, suffering, pain, weariness); for their works (deeds, works, especially those of necessity or duty,) [see Lexicon of Liddell-Scott,] follow with them.” Rev. 14:13. Here we are taught that, while they rest from onerous and painful toil, they continue to be actively employed. We may not know what all of these employments shall be. They will be such as will be suited to their intellectual and moral nature and position. The statements of the book of Revelation give us an insight into what some of them may be. The servants of God are there depicted as serving God, Rev. 7:15; 22:3; as giving praises in song, Rev. 14:2, 3; 15:3, 4; 19:5, 6; as engaged in prayers of adoration, Rev. 6:9-13; 7:11, 12; of thanksgiving, Rev. 11:17; and in acts of humiliation, Rev. 4:10.
6. The blessedness of the future state of the righteous, is also set forth in connection with the place of their abode.
This is usually called heaven. It is readily admitted that the word “heaven” is used otherwise than for the abode of God, and Christ, and angels, and the future dwelling-place of the saints. But in numerous places it has only this special signification. The following selection of passages will suffice. Matt. 5:12, 45; 6:20; Luke 6:23; 15:7; 22:43; John 3:13; 6:38; Rom. 1:18; 1 Cor. 15:47; 2 Cor. 5:1; Eph. 1:10; 3:15; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; 4:16; 2 Thess. 1:7; Heb. 9:24; 1 Pet. 1:4; 3:22.
The plain teaching of these passages, and of others that might be mentioned, is that heaven is a place, and not merely a condition of happiness.
The same fact is justly argued from its being the abiding place of Christ. His human body must occupy a specified place in space. It has been replied to this argument that, “since deity and humanity are indissolubly united in Christ’s single person, it is difficult to consider Christ’s body as limited to place, without vacating his person of its divinity.” But this objection is made in forgetfulness of the fact that Christ, in his divine relation, is not limited by his human nature, much less by his human body. This was shown by him, while on earth, when, in conversation with Nicodemus, he spake of himself as being in heaven, (John 3:13), although his body was manifestly on earth. Was his ubiquity as God interfered with by his location then in space as man? It was in like manner that Christ saw Nathanael under the fig tree, when he was not bodily present. John 1:48.
The idea of ubiquity of the body of Christ has been abandoned, however, while still it is denied that his human soul is limited to space. Thus it is said that “since deity and humanity are dissolubly united in Christ’s single person, we cannot regard Christ’s human soul as limited to place without vacating his person of its divinity.”
But this is equally erroneous. Divine attributes are not conferred on Christ’s soul because of its union with a divine person. But ubiquity, or omnipresence is a divine attribute. It is much more difficult for us to understand how the unity of Christ’s person did not convey to the human soul all knowledge belonging to Christ as God. Yet we are distinctly told (Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32), that there was such a limitation of knowledge as to the time of Christ’s second coming, as could only be true of Christ in his human nature, and not of him as God. The perfect humanity of Christ, which is his as truly as his perfect divinity, makes necessary such location in space as is suitable to a human soul. Whatever superiority may accrue to either the human body or soul of Christ can never place either of these beyond the excellence of created existence, or confer upon either the nature or attributes of God.
No similar objection, however, can be made to an argument to the same effect, drawn from the bodies of the saints. Heaven cannot be regarded as only a state in which they have communion with God, but must be accepted as the place of their abode in their glorified bodies, in which they dwell with each other, and rejoice in the state of happiness and glory which is also theirs.
We have no means of ascertaining the location of heaven. That this earth, in its renewed condition, may be the future heaven is favoured by Rom. 8:19-23; 2 Pet. 3:5-13, and Rev. 21:1-3. But these passages are entirely to indefinite and doubtful to give any certainty, or even very strong probability, on this point.
Heaven is spoken of in certain descriptive terms. It is called “a better country, that is a heavenly.” Heb. 11:16. It is the place which we shall have a “a building from God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” (2 Cor. 5:1, 2); and “a place” among the “many mansions” in the “Father’s house;” John 14:2. It is called “the kingdom,” Matt. 13:43; 25:34. It is possible that heaven is also meant by the “Jerusalem that is above,” (Gal. 4:26), and “the new Jerusalem which cometh down out of heaven,” (Rev. 3:12), and “the holy city Jerusalem,” (Rev. 21:10); as well as by Paradise, Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7, (cf. Rev. 21:10-27).
7. The blessedness of this state of the righteous is made supreme by the fact that it will last forever. It will never end; it will never be diminished. If there be any change, it will be from its increase; because of better intellectual perception and knowledge of God, and of divine things; because of a constantly and increasingly endearing communion with God in Christ; because of an increased capacity to behold the glory of Christ; and because of a greater exaltation of the spiritual nature in the worship and service of the Lord. There is no reason why there may not be such increase in beings whose natures can never attain the infinity of excellence and the complete fulness which belong only to God.
This perpetuity of the happiness of the saints is stated in various ways.
(1.) It is called “eternal life,” and “everlasting life” in the King James version, which are translations of the same Greek words. They are translated “eternal life,” or “life eternal” in Matt. 25:26; Mark 10:30; John 3:15; 10:28; 12:25; 17:2; Acts 13:48; Rom. 2:7; 5:21; 6:23; 1 Tim. 6:12, 19; Tit. 1:2; 3:7; 1 John 1:2; 2:25; 5:11-13; Jude 21. They are translated “everlasting life,” or “life everlasting” im Matt. 19:29; Luke 18:30; John 3:16, 36; 4:14; 5:24; 6:27, 40, 47; Rom. 6:22; Gal. 6:8; 1 Tim. 1:16. The Greek should have been translated in all these places by the same word; and the better word would have been everlasting, because only a relative eternity, or what is called eternity a parte post, belongs to created things. God alone has true eternity. [See pages 68-70.]
(2.) It is declared to be “for ever,” John 6:51, 58; and “for ever and ever,” Rev. 22:5.
(3.) Similar expressions are also used, as “everlasting tabernacles,” Luke 16:9; “eternal weight of glory,” (2 Cor. 4:17); “glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever,” (Eph. 3:21); “eternal comfort,” (2 Thess. 2:16); “Salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory,” (2 Tim. 2:10); “eternal salvation,” (Heb. 5:9); “eternal redemption,” (Heb. 9:12); eternal inheritance,” (Heb. 9:15); “eternal glory,” (1 Pet. 5:10); “eternal kingdom of our Lord, and Saviour Jesus Christ,” 2 Pet. 1:11.
(4.) In John 4:14; 8:51, 52, and 10:28, it is declared of believers that “they shall never thirst;” “never taste of death;” “and never perish;” by which is taught the same everlasting condition expressed in the three preceding classes. Reference is made in these passages to the spiritual life of the soul.
The numerous declarations of everlasting life and happiness, thus classified above, make certain what might have been inferred from the scriptural statements of the natural immortality conferred upon spirit, which forbids its annihilation; and from security, against the spiritual; death of the soul, arising from the gracious work of Christ wrought out, for, and in the believer, through which he is forever delivered from the condemnation, and presence of sin, and clothed in the unfailing righteousness of God. The same blessing is unquestionably attained through the relation borne to Christ by the saints, as constituting the church of first born ones, which is his bride, Eph. 5:23-33, and also that body, of which he is the head, which is declared to be “the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Eph. 1:23. The vital connection between Christ and his people has no elements of dissolution, and, therefore, everlasting must be that cause of their existence announced by him when he said, “because I live, ye shall live also.” John 14:19.
II. THE FINAL STATE OF THE WICKED.
The judgement day is no less signally to be marked by the punishment decreed against the wicked, than by the blessings conferred upon the righteous. These, also, are set forth in the Bible, and in fearful words of warning; and should be effective for driving men to Christ for salvation, while the day of probation continues.
1. We have here the sentence to be uttered against those who are still in sin. It occurs in the same chapter with that of the righteous. Christ tells us that “Then shall he (the King) say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels, . . . and these shall go away into eternal punishment.” Matt. 25:41, 46. A similar sentence occurs in Luke 13:27, “I tell you, I know not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.”
The different elements, included in this sentence, are also taught of the wicked elsewhere in the Scriptures; some examples of which may be here added.
(1.) Punishment. “He that disbelieveth shall be condemned,” Mark 16:16; “the resurrection of judgement,” John 5:29; “rendering vengeance to them that know not God . . . who shall suffer punishment,” 2 Thess. 1:8, 9; “keep the unrighteous under the punishment unto the day of judgement,” 2 Pet. 2:9.
(2.) Pain: (a) as expressed by fire. (Matt. 13:42, 50; 18:8, 9; Mark 9:43-48; 2 Thess. 1:8; 2 Pet. 3:7); (b.) fire and brimstone, (Rev. 14:10; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8); (c.) flame, (Luke 16:24); (d.) “the unquenchable fire,” (Mark 9:44, 48; cf. Luke 3:17); (e.) “tribulation,” Matt. 24:21, 29; Rom. 2:8, 9.
(3.) Deprivation: severed from among the righteous. Matt 13:49; “outer darkness,” Matt. 25:30; “cast forth without,” Luke 13:28; “shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Cor. 6:9; “no rest,” Rev. 14:11; “blackness of darkness hath been reserved forever,” Jude 13.
(4.) The punishment and suffering are recognized by those punished and that recognition is shown by their “weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” Matt 8:12; 13:50; 25:30; Luke 13:28. The Rich Man is represented as acknowledging his torments. Luke 16:24.
2. The nature of this punishment.
(1.) It is unwarrantable to take for granted that it will not be in part physical. The wicked will go from the judgement seat with the bodies which belong to them in their resurrection state. We know not what will be the nature of these bodies, and, therefore, have no right to affirm that they may not be capable of physical pain. That the language of Scripture, as to fire and brimstone, is figurative, is true. But men are not authorized, on that account, to deny that some physical pain, and, that of a most excruciating and agonizing character, will form a part of the agony and woe of the hereafter of the sinner. So far from men drawing comfort from any conviction they may have that there will not be literal fire, they should only the more be filled with dread and apprehension of some fearful condition, which the Scriptures here attempt to describe by terms which express the severest anguish men can endure in the body; the statements made evidently falling far short of telling the nature of a punishment which our present condition forbids that we should understand. In the range of animal life here on earth, we know that the higher the organism the more keenly is it alive to suffering as well as enjoyment. This teaches us to expect that the bodily enjoyments of the saints will far surpass anything ever experienced on earth. If the resurrection bodies of the wicked are, in any degree, higher than those of this world, the only result will be to make them capable of anguish utterly inconceivable by men in their present state.
(2.) The spiritual agony, then to be endured, is equally beyond the possibility of present expression. We may say that it will necessarily consist in certain evils; but who can tell how great those evils will then be realized to be. Some of them may be suggested: as; consciousness of an unclean and unholy nature; when there is no way to cleanse or escape it: conviction of the nature and ill desert of sin; when sinful habits have such prevalence and control that sin must still be committed willingly, yet with horror of what is done;– indications of which are seen in men in this life, who, by debauchery, or drunkenness, are driven forward to evil even against their will–: remorse for past indulgences, for neglected opportunities, for rejections of Christ;– especially as then will be seen how nigh unto each one had come the kingdom and grace of God–: knowledge of banishment perpetually from the presence of Christ, and deprivation of the favour and love of God:– these, and evils like unto them, with the mutual reproaches of the damned, for the influences of each other by which such evil has come, will make a Hell compared with which all the torture men have ever known in this life will be looked back to as though it were heaven itself.
3. The place of this punishment.
There are three words used in Scripture which are translated “Hell” in the King James version, viz.: Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna. Hades is simply transferred in the Canterbury Revision. It is used for the general place of departed spirits, both righteous and wicked. In no place is punishment, or torment, associated with it, except in Luke 16:23, in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. This is to be explained, in accordance with the use of the word in all other passages, by the fact that, as Hades contains the wicked, as well as the righteous, and as the wicked there are in a state of sin and suffering, so the rich man in Hades was tormented, while Lazarus who was in the same general abode, was enjoying the blessed state expressed by his being in Abraham’s bosom.
The word Tartarus appears only as a participle [tau]a[rho][tau]a[rho][omega][sigma]a[varsigma] (tartarosas) of the verb [tau]a[rho]a[upsilon][rho][omicron][omega] (tartaroo), which means to cast down to Tartarus. The place in which it is found is 2 Pet. 2:4, which is translated “For God spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to hell, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved unto judgement.” The Revisers point out in the margin that the word Hell is expressed in the Greek by Tartarus. This passage evidently has respect to the condition of these angels before the judgement day.
The places in which Gehenna occurs are Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5, and James 3:6. All of them refer to torture and punishment hereafter. This is distinctly associated with the punishment of the judgement day, in Matt. 18:9, by the preceding verse where “eternal fire” is used as the equivalent term to Gehenna; in Matt. 23:33, where Christ asks the Scribes and Pharisees, “How shall ye escape the judgement of Hell (Gehenna)”; in Mark 9:43, where the language is “to go into Hell (Gehenna), into the unquenchable fire,” and in Luke 12:5, in which Christ says, “Fear him which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into Hell (Gehenna).”
It has not been inaptly remarked that Gehenna is used by Christ himself in all of the twelve passages in which it occurs in the New Testament, except James 3:6.
4. The duration of this punishment.
The New Testament Teaching upon this subject is that it will endure throughout all the infinite future. This is expressed in various ways.
(1.) By the term [epsilon][iota][varsigma] [tau][omicron][nu] a[iota][omicron][omega][nu]a (eis ton aiona), “forever.”
This occurs about thirty times in the New Testament. An earnest and learned opponent of the doctrine of Eternal punishment, (Oxenham in “What is Truth as to Everlasting Punishment?” p. 101), has been able to point out only one place in the New Testament where he thinks the meaning of “forever” cannot be applicable to this form of words. It is the language of Paul in 1 Cor. 8:13, translated “I will eat no flesh forevermore.” For any other use, Oxenham is obliged to refer to the Septuagint, where he claims that it is used of “duration, throughout the age of the Mosaic dispensation,” “of the world,” “of a family,” and “of the political condition of slavery.” But this application accords with that very derivation, made by the best lexicographers, that makes a[iota][omega][nu] (aion), equivalent to the Latin aevum, which word, however is the basis of the very idea of eternity which is the sole meaning of [epsilon][iota][varsigma] [tau][omicron][nu] a[iota][omega][nu]a (eis ton aiona), in the latter Hellenistic Greek of the New Testament.
This term is applied to the punishment of the wicked, in Jude 13.
2. Other similar expressions to the first are used where plural forms of a[iota][omega][nu] (aion) appear, as [epsilon][iota][varsigma] [tau][omicron][nu][varsigma] a[iota][omega][nu]a[varsigma] [tau][omega][nu] a[iota][omega][nu][omega][nu] (eis tous aionas ton aionon), “forever and ever,” in Rev. 19:3, and 20:10, and [epsilon][iota][varsigma] a[iota][omega][nu]a[varsigma] a[iota][omega][nu][omicron][nu], (eis aionas aionon). Rev. 14:11. The plural forms only intensify, and certainly do not diminish the duration.
3. The word a[iota][omega][nu][iota][omicron][varsigma], (aionios). This word occurs about seventy times in the New Testament, and invariably in the sense of eternal or everlasting duration. Just as the English word “eternal” refers to the true eternity which is in God alone, so is this word applied to God in Rom. 16:26; and to the Holy Spirit or to the divine nature of Christ, in Heb. 9:14. In like manner, as we inadequately divide eternity into eternity a parte post, and eternity a parte ante, meaning by each indefinite, unlimited and illimitable duration in the past or in the future, from the present, or some fixed period of time; as from the time of Christ’s appearance on earth; so this word is used for each of these two kinds of eternity. It has no other application in the New Testament than to one or other of these three forms of eternity. As applied to the endless life of the righteous or wicked, it signifies the future eternity, or eternity a parte post.
Those who oppose the doctrine of eternal punishment suppose that there are many ages, or periods of the existence of man, and they attempt to explain the language used accordingly. But while the phrases upon which this opinion is based, might as a matter of language mean this, there is no evidence from Scripture of the existence of any such several periods. The only distinction clearly made is between the dispensation prior to the time of Christ, and that since his day; the Scriptures evidently regarding that as the central point, unto which all things tended in the past, and from which all things proceed in the future.
It is not to be overlooked that these words, which express the eternity of the punishment of the wicked, are those by which the eternal life of the righteous is also made known. As that is unending in its happiness, so this is in its punishment and suffering. These words express as strongly as the Greek language can, the everlasting duration of the destiny assigned to each at the judgement day.
This is questioned by Oxenham, who says, p. 114, “There are several ways in which Almighty God could have expressed this endlessness of future punishment, if he desired to tell us that it would be endless; ways, about the meaning of which there could be no mistake; ways, in which, in Holy Scripture, he has expressed the endlessness of things which will be endless: e.g., of his own dominion God declared by the prophet Daniel that it was ‘and everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his Kingdom that which shall not be destroyed,’ Dan. 7:14. Of the endless life of the blessed, our Lord declared, Luke 20:36, neither can they die anymore. By the angel Gabriel, Luke 1:33, God announced that of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ there shall be no end. Where is any language used of the Kingdom of Darkness, or of future punishment, or of the wicked? Where is it said of the lost that they can live no more? Where of future punishment, that of it there shall be no end?”
To this it may be replied,
(a.) That, if no similar instances can be given relative to future punishment, and the wicked, yet so far as any of these expressions are used of the righteous, they are explanatory of the kind of eternity ascribed to their happiness; and, as this is described by the same words as that of the misery of the wicked in all other cases, these instances teach us the meaning of these common words, when applied to the wicked, by thus explaining them when applied to the righteous.
(b.) That the same ingenuity, and quibbling, which attempts to deprive the expressions used of their true meaning, would be applied in like manner to such terms as these.
If a similar passage to that from Daniel could be presented, we should immediately have pointed out to us that it was to the Son of Man that the kingdom was given, and that, of this very kingdom which “shall not pass away,” we are told that “then cometh the end when he shall deliver up the kingdom of God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule, and all authority and power.” 1 Cor. 15:24.
(c.) But there are like instances which may be adduced. In Luke 20:36, “neither can they die any more,” the impossibility of dying is expressed by [omicron][upsilon]d[epsilon] d[upsilon][nu]a[tau]a[iota] (oude dunantai.) Corresponding to this is the language used by our Lord to the Pharisees in John 9:21, “Ye shall seek me and shall die in your sin: whither I go ye cannot come,” [omicron][upsilon] d[upsilon][nu]a[sigma][theta][epsilon] [epsilon][lambda][theta][epsilon][iota][nu] (ou dunasthe elthein).
Parallel to the expression in Luke 1:33, “there shall be no end,” [omicron][upsilon][kappa] [epsilon][sigma][tau]a[iota] [tau][epsilon][lambda][omicron][varsigma] (ouk estai telos), is “the endless genealogies,” [gamma][epsilon][nu][epsilon]a[lambda][omicron][gamma][iota]a[iota][varsigma] a[pi][epsilon][rho]a[nu][tau][omicron][iota][varsigma] (genealogiais aperantois), in 1 Tim. 1:4; for, although different words are used to express endlessness in the Greek, they are of substantially equal force. Oxenham is himself authority for the strong meaning of a[pi][rho]a[nu][tau][omicron][iota][varsigma] (aperantois), for he refers to a[pi][epsilon][iota][rho][omicron][nu] (apeiron), aand [pi][epsilon][rho]a[zeta], from which a[pi][epsilon][rho]a[nu][tau][omicron][varsigma] (aperantos) is likewise formed, as meaning “without a limit,” and says of it and others “by these and by several other words and expressions of unmistakable meaning, Almighty God could have expressed the endlessness of future punishment if he had desired to do so,” p. 115. Yet, had he used this word, or others of the same form, how quickly should we have been referred to the endless genealogies as exegetical of them.
With respect to the two final questions of Mr. Oxenham, the passage in 1 Cor. 6:9, may be suggested as one that fully meets them. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God,” (see also verse 10). The same expression occurs in Gal. 5:21. The insincerity with which such questions are asked is seen in the fact that, when these and similar passages are presented, these opponents resort to the assumption that the unrighteous will not always be unrighteous, and that only so long as unrighteous shall they not inherit; but that they may do so after their unrighteousness has passed away. They will attempt to maintain the possibility of this in the face of such a passage as Rev. 22:11, “He that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still: and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still.”
(4.) Here may properly be added three other expressions as to the unending nature of the punishment of the wicked.
(a.) ‘A[iota]d[iota][omicron][varsigma] (aidios), which appears in the “eternal Godhead” of Rom. 1:20, and in the everlasting chains of the angels which kept not their first estate in Jude 6. As the wicked are to be sentenced to the “eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41), this passage has probable reference to the duration of the punishment of both devils and wicked men.
(b.) ‘A[sigma][beta][epsilon][sigma][tau][omicron][varsigma] (Asbestos), unquenchable fire. Oxenham claims that all that is involved in this word is that the fire “is unquenched,” and that the language does not forbid a time when it may be quenched. This word occurs in three undisputed places in Scripture, Matt. 3:12; Mark 9:43, and Luke 3:17, and in three others, Mark 9:44, 45, 46, which Westcott and Hort omit from their text, and which are also omitted in the Canterbury Revision. Mark 9:48 has a different form of the same word. Oxenham objects to the translation “unquenchable,” and insists upon the meaning, “is unquenched;” but the duration of the punishment and the propriety of the translation “unquenchable” is shown by the words, “where their worm dieth not,” used in connection with the expression in verse 48.
(c.) [Omicron][upsilon] [tau][epsilon][lambda][epsilon][upsilon][tau]a[iota] (Ou teleutai), “does not end,” “ceases not,” is declared of the worm in Mark 9:48. [Tau][epsilon][lambda][epsilon][upsilon][tau]a[iota] (Teleutai) corresponds exactly in meaning, as well as in root, with the [tau][epsilon][lambda][omicron][varsigma] (telos) in the [omicron][upsilon][kappa] [epsilon][sigma][tau]a[iota] [tau][epsilon][lambda][omicron][varsigma] (ouk estai telos), in Luke 1:33, which Oxenham regarded as so strongly expressive of endlessness as to challenge the finding of such a term applied to the future punishment of the wicked.
5. Objections and opposing theories.
The objections to this doctrine of eternal punishment, and the opposing theories, may be briefly stated and replied to.
First, the objections.
(1.) It is objected, that the punishment is disproportioned to the sin. But,
(a.) No one but God can know what is the real desert of sin, and if he has plainly taught us that it deserves eternal punishment, we may be sure that the infliction of such punishment must be right, and in accordance with what it merits. The question is simply, What does God say? and upon this point he has taught us plainly.
(b.) The objection is based upon the idea that all the sin that will be punished is that committed in this life. It is true that men will be only judged for the deeds done in the body. But these will not constitute all the sins in the life to come. The Scriptures teach that there will be sinful acts and habits after death. Rev. 22:11. Ever-continuing sin will deserve ever-continuing punishment. If sin is worthy of any punishment at all, and if, at every moment sin is committed, punishment may be forever, without assuming that any one or more sins will cause everlasting infliction.
(c.) Mark 3:29 tells of “an eternal sin.” [See Greek text of Westcott and Hort.]
(d.) The objection supposes that the punishment of the damned is something actively inflicted by God, and not the working out and result of the natures of men. It will doubtless consist, in great part, in their sinful and corrupt natures, which will still work out sin, and thus continue to separate from the favour and complacent love of God. The only probable exception will be “remorse,” arising from the memory of past sins and neglected opportunities; and these are not active inflictions of God, but the results of former sin.
(2.) It is said that God is too merciful to inflict everlasting punishment. But,
(a.) God, in declaring that he will inflict it, thus declares that he is not too merciful to do so.
(b.) God teaches us that, while he takes no delight in such punishment, it is demanded by justice, which is as unabounded an attribute of his nature as mercy.
(c.) God has given signal exhibitions in his providential government that he can and will punish severely. As a moral Governor, his punishment must be proportioned to the offense. His merciful disposition cannot interfere with his righteous action. Even in the salvation of those saved through Christ, it is necessary that he should be just in justifying the believer in Jesus.
(3.) It is claimed that provision has been made in Christ for the certain salvation of all men.
If this be so, there is no difficulty in God’s justice in the bestowment of salvation upon all. But that such is not the case is manifested,
(a.) By the fact that salvation is offered only on the condition of repentance and faith. None, therefore, can have part in that salvation except those who fulfil this condition.
(b.) Regeneration is declared to be essential to entrance into the kingdom of Christ. Those who are not thus born again can, therefore, have no part in his salvation.
(c.) Not only is holiness declared to be essential to admission to heaven, but it is foretold, expressly, that certain classes of unholy men shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; and at the head of the list given are “the fearful and unbelieving.” Rev. 21:8.
(d.) While the value of Christ’s work is indeed ample for all, we are taught that its benefits are not bestowed upon all. There are special sins mentioned which will exclude those who commit them from all hope of salvation. Matt. 12:31; Luke 12:10; Heb. 6:4-6, (cf. verse 9); 10:26, 27, (cf. verses 28-31). But the assertions made about the certain punishment of those who commit these particular sins are not stronger than the declarations of the certain damnation of all the finally impenitent and unbelieving.
(4.) Inasmuch as it is asserted in 1 Tim. 2:3, 4, that “God our Saviour . . . willeth that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth,” it is even claimed that it is the purpose of God to save all.
That the word [theta][epsilon][lambda][epsilon][iota] (thelei), translated “willeth,” often involves purpose or determination on the part of God is readily admitted, as well as that, if it mean this here, all men will be saved according to that purpose. But such purpose cannot be concluded from this passage alone, unless it accords with what is elsewhere taught; much less when it is in direct opposition to the general tenor of the Bible, as well as to distinct statements to the contrary. The reason for this is that this word does not always mean “will,” in the sense of purpose, but is sometimes used in that of a mere “wish.” There are many cases in Scripture in which God is said to wish what not only he does not purpose to accomplish, but what actually fails to take place.
There are numerous examples in which this word has only this meaning of “wish”: thus as used in general of men only, Matt. 7:12; 12:38; 15:28; of Christ, Matt. 23:37; Mark 14:36; Luke 13:34; John 17:24; and of God, 1 Cor. 15:38; Heb. 10:5, 8. [theta][epsilon][lambda][eta]ua (thelema), the corresponding noun, is used as expressive simply of this “wish” of God in Mark 3:35; Rom. 2:18; Eph. 6:6; and in other places.
(5.) It is further objected that God must forgive those who are truly penitent, and that the wicked, in the full knowledge of God and sin afforded by the next world, must certainly repent.
(a.) This objection arises from a misconception of the nature of the repentance acceptable to God. It is not mere sorrow for sin, especially for its effects, of which probably hell will be full; it is reformation of character, turning away from sin and seeking holiness. Sorrow accompanies it, but does not constitute it. It is not awakened by the painful effects of sin, but by conviction of its evil nature. How can such sorrow arise in those who have learned to love sin? or such reformation in those who are confirmed in habits of sin? Remorse for the past, loathings of their then condition, even desires to overcome the power which enchains them, may abundantly exist, but, as often occurs in this life, where passion and appetite get the mastery of men, pleasure will be taken in sin, and evil appetites indulged, even when it is hated with all the bitterness of a despairing soul.
On the other hand, what is the teaching of Scripture as to God’s readiness to accept the penitent after the day of opportunity has passed away? What does the case of Esau teach, Heb. 12:16, 17? What is meant to be taught by the language of Wisdom, Prov. 1:24-28? Did Christ accept, did God forgive the wretched, sorrowing, remorseful Judas? or was his penitence permitted to plunge him into the further sin of suicide? Even here on earth, where the day of probation ordinarily ends only in death, such rejection of such sorrow for sin is possible. Who shall dare to say that it is impossible in the hereafter? “For if they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” Luke 23:31.
(b.) “Punishment appears to have very little, if any, tendency to work reformation in offenders. It often deters from crime, but it rarely brings one to genuine repentance.
(c.) “During the middle state, if at any time after this life, a return to God might be expected; yet the language of Scripture does not permit us to expect it then.” Hovey’s Manual of Sys. Theol., p. 362.
(d.) The experience of this life shows that, for any violation, even of physical law, the penalty attached to it must be endured, and that no sorrow for what has been done, nor determination to avoid such action in the future, will release from the evil which follows. Why should it be supposed that, after the judgement, law will be less inexorable than now, or that penitence and reformation will then, of themselves, avail any more than they do now? Even in this life, repentance and faith have no value nor power in themselves, but are only effective as conditions upon which salvation in Christ is offered. But the Bible carefully warns men that this offer, on these conditions, is only made in this life. To suppose it is possible in the hereafter requires not only the possibility of repentance and faith then but also that salvation through Christ will then be still attainable. This can only be upon the supposition that men will have a future probation, and the same or other means of grace than those here afforded.
(6.) In further objection, therefore, it is assumed that another probation will then be enjoyed. The strongest form in which this objection is urged, is that, inasmuch as despite the positive threatenings of God to our first parents that they should die, he had purposed to provide redemption for at least a part of mankind; therefore, despite the positive statements as to the future condemnation and punishment of the wicked, there may still be mercy in store, and final deliverance from the presence and taint of sin, as well as its punishment.
The replies afforded to this are obvious.
(a.) The case quoted affords a warning to those who teach contrary to what God teaches. Our first parents were even then, before their sin, assured that the threatened sentence would not be executed. But this came from Satan, who is declared by Christ to be “a liar and the father thereof.” John 8:44. Those who, upon any other authority than God, call in question any statement which he makes, should fell that they do it at the peril of their own souls and that of those whom they teach. Matt. 15:8, 9, 13, 14; 23:13, 15, 16; Luke 6:39. Those who deny a doctrine which they know is taught in God’s word, or attempt by any subterfuge or mere supposition to induce others to reject it, act precisely the part of Satan in the transaction of the fall.
(b.) The penalty which God threatened has actually been inflicted upon all mankind. Even the death of the body has only thus far been escaped by two of the race. But spiritual death, the death of the soul, manifestly the especial death of the curse, for this alone was inflicted upon the day of transgression, has, in the corrupted and sinful nature, become the so-called “natural” state of mankind. The objection evidently supposes that eternal death was also threatened against Adam. But this is not true. It becomes part of the penalty only because it is the consequence of moral corruption and depravity, which must continue to deserve punishment, and also to work out sin deserving of still further punishment, unless some means of deliverance from this corruption shall arise. Eternal death, therefore, was not a penalty threatened against Adam, but only a consequential penalty, resulting from what was threatened, and which, therefore, may be escaped through the deliverance in Christ.
But eternal death is threatened against the finally impenitent of the present probation. The case of Adam, therefore, teaches us that it will assuredly be inflicted upon them. As God did not withhold the flood of corruption and misery, which the corrupted nature has brought upon mankind,– the deliverance of any from which demanded the gift and the sufferings of his own Son,– we may be assured that, in like manner, he will inflexibly allow eternal punishment to come upon all against whom he has threatened it.
(c.) When all suspicion that God may intend something different from what he says in his threats to prevent sin, has been removed by perceiving that he has, to the letter, fulfilled his threat against Adam; we are prepared to give due weight to what he teaches about the possibility of future probation.
To the question of one asking, “Lord, are there few that be saved?” Christ replied, “Strive to enter in by the narrow door, for many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in and shall not be able.” Luke 13:24. [See the context, which shows reference to entrance into the kingdom in the future world]. The exhortation of Isaiah 55:6, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found” implies a time when he may not be found. This exhortation has reference to the new and everlasting covenant of the sure mercies of David. [See verse 3]. How distinctly does the hortatory question of Heb. 2:1-3 apply here; when we see, not merely how steadfast has been the word spoken by angels, but how literally fulfilled has been that uttered by God. Well may all ask, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” The intimate connection between this passage and the exhortation against the hardening of the heart in the present moment in Hebrews 3:7-11, are worthy of especial note, as well as the warning of verse 12, and the continued exhortations and warnings, as far as and beyond chapter 4:7, which declares of the present period of probation, “He again defineth a certain day, saying in David, after so long a time To-day, as it hath been before said, To-day, if ye shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” The declaration, “Behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation,” 2 Cor. 6:2, with the context, in like manner teaches that the present is the only period of probation.
(d.) It may be questioned whether very many persons who die impenitent do not come under some one of the forms of sin which are specifically declared unpardonable, viz.: wilful sins, (Heb. 10:26); falling away, (Heb. 6:4-6); and the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, Matt. 12:32. Certainly they all come under the declaration of Christ of everlasting punishment.
(e.) Nor should such passages be forgotten here as Luke 16:26, which teaches that, even in Hades, there is an impassable gulf between the righteous and the wicked; as John 8:21, in which Christ told the Pharisees that they could not come to him in the future world; and Rev. 22:10, 11, which teaches the continued unrighteous and unholy condition and conduct of the finally impenitent. The language of Christ about Judas, (Matt. 26:24), is not quoted against all, because spoken of one man only, though none can tell how many others it may be true. But there are doubtless very many liable to the similar woe denounced by Christ; that “it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea.” Matt. 6:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2.
Second, the opposing theories.
There are different forms in which the objections to the eternal punishment of the wicked take the shape of doctrinal theories.
(1.) The theory of annihilation. This does not deny that the punishment will be eternal; but only that there will be eternal conscious pain. It supposes, however, that the death of the sinner is absolute annihilation of being, and that in this sense only is it an eternal punishment. This theory admits that the soul may suffer hereafter, for a longer or shorter time, according to its deserts, but that there will be a time when existence will absolutely cease. The object of those who hold this theory, is not opposition to everlasting punishment, on the ground that God cannot justly punish so severely, or is too merciful to do so, but to escape the idea that sin and misery will always exist under the government of God.
This theory claims Scriptural support from the use of such words as speak of the condition of the wicked hereafter. One of these is a[pi][omega][lambda][epsilon][iota]a (apoleia), translated sometimes “perdition,” and sometimes “destruction,” in both the King James version and the Canterbury Revision. It appears, in reference to the future punishment of the wicked, among other places, in John 17:12; Rom. 9:22; Phil. 3:19; Heb. 10:39; 2 Pet. 3:7.
But this word is very far from having the idea of annihilation. It is simply an equivalent to our English words destruction, loss, ruin, misfortune. In Matt. 26:8; and Mark 14:4, it is used of the ointment poured upon Christ’s head, and translated “waste.” In all other passages it apparently refers to the future condition of the wicked. But these two show that it does not mean annihilation, as indeed it does not elsewhere, either in the Classic or Hellenistic Greek. The verb a[pi][omicron][lambda][lambda][upsilon]u[iota] (apollumi) signifies no more than to destroy utterly, and is chiefly used in Homer for death inflicted in battle. [See Liddell-Scott’s Lexicon].
Another word is [omicron][lambda][epsilon][theta][rho][omicron][varsigma] (olethros). This occurs in connection with the punishment of the wicked, in three or four places in the New Testament, viz.: in 1 Thess. 5:3; 2 Thess. 1:9; and 1 Tim. 6:9. In none of these does it mean more than destruction, by which word it is translated, not only in these places, but also in 1 Cor. 5:5. This last place is that in which Paul directs the Corinthians to “deliver” the incestuous man “unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Surely, no one imagines that the annihilation of the flesh is meant.
Neither does this word mean any greater destruction than is involved in death.
Another expression is “the second death;” “And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire.” Rev. 20:14.
The lake of fire, the casting into which is here said to be the “second death,” is expressly set forth as the place in which “the beast and the false prophet” are, and in which “they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever,” verse 10. There is certainly no annihilation here, for annihilation is inconsistent with torment continued forever.
It may be stated in general, as to all the places which speak of the destruction and death of the soul, that reference is made to its spiritual loss of God’s favour and of holiness, and not to the extinction of its being. This extinction would be contrary to the natural immortality conferred on spirit. It is not even true, so far as we can know, that even matter will ever be annihilated. What is called its destruction is simply such change of form as makes it unfit for the uses for which it had been so formed. Thus we speak of the utter destruction of a house, of machinery, of an animal, not being the annihilation of the matter which composed it; but the destruction of the form in which that matter appeared, and which was essential for its use. In like manner, the death of the soul means its becoming unfit for the uses for which it was made; viz.: for happiness, for holiness, for the service of God, for the complacent love of God and for the reflection of his image. Such an utter deprivation of all the faculties for which the moral nature of man was made, may well be called its death, even its utter destruction.
This is based upon three different grounds, each of which may be held separately, or any two, or all of them together. Two of these have been sufficiently considered in the replies already made to the objections against Scriptural doctrine.
One of these is that reformation of life will hereafter take place among some, at least, of the condemned, through natural ability and sufficient grace and the influences of the Spirit; and that thus these will be made holy, and therefore acceptable to God.
The other is that the benefits of the work of Christ, will, after this life, also be for the first time imparted to many men, and if this is done salvation must ensue.
It is to be noticed, however, that when the objections, previously answered, are put in the form of a theory, the idea that there can be no everlasting punishment, is modified so as to assert only that all but a few will be saved. This is done to escape the cases of Judas and others already mentioned. But in so doing, all the principles, upon which the possibility of such future salvation is based, have to be abandoned, and the theory becomes a mere supposition, without any support, presented in the face of positive declarations of the Word of God to the contrary.
The third ground upon which Restorationism is imagined, is that the Scriptures speak of such restoration. The chief passage supposed to teach this is Acts 3:20, 21, “that he may send the Christ who hath been appointed for you, even Jesus: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things.” The passage itself fixes the period of the time of the restoration, which is at the second coming of the Lord. This precedes the judgement, and thus necessarily that of the restoration supposed by these parties.
Another passage is Eph.. 1:9, 10, which speaks of God “having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth.” The fulness of the times here is probably the present dispensation, and has nothing to do with some new period. See Gal. 4:4, “When the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, etc.” cf. Heb. 1:2; 9:10; 1 Pet. 1:20. So, again, in Col. 1:19, 20, it is said to have been the good pleasure of the Father, “through him (Christ) to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him I say, whether things upon the earth or things in the heavens.” This place is also quoted to show that all will be finally saved.
This use made of these two passages, Eph. 1:9, 10, and Col. 1:19, 20, to build up a doctrine, without other support from the Word of God, and so contrary to so much that is therein taught, is a warning against the pernicious manner in which isolated passages of the Word of God are separated from their contexts, and used to establish preconceived theories. Both of them occur in epistles written exclusively to professed Christians. The subject of both of them is the Church of Christ. The all things in heaven, or earth, mentioned in each of these epistles, are those only which are connected with the church. So far as persons are referred to, they are those who constitute “every family in heaven and on earth,” Eph. 3:15, called also “the general assembly and church of the first born who are enrolled in heaven,” Heb 12:23. They have, therefore, not the remotest reference to any future restoration to holiness, and happiness, and God, of those condemned at the judgement.
Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887
The Final Judgment
THE partial processes of God’s judgements are not only constantly occurring, but are often distinctly manifested. Hence many expressions of Scripture, in which his judgements are spoken of, have no certain reference, and others, no reference at all, to the final judgement of all men. But, in numerous other places, such a judgement is made known. We are taught the appointment of a time when there will be a public, general judgement of all the righteous, and the wicked.
I. A SPECIAL TIME APPOINTED FOR IT.
It is expressly declared that “He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness.” Acts 17:31. The numerous designations of the day of the coming of Christ, and of his judgement of men, were pointed out in the preceding chapter. Among those peculiar to the judgement are “the day of judgement,” (2 Pet. 2:9); “the great day,” (Jude 6); “the great day of their wrath,” (Rev. 6:17); “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God,” (Rom. 2:5); and “the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.” Rom 2:16.
The duration of the time thus appointed cannot be determined. The indefinite meaning of the word “day” forbids any statement of even its probable length. It has been argued that, from the vast numbers to be judged, and the many events connected with the life of every man, it will comprise a long period of time. But the rapidity with which, in some conditions, the mind will run over the course of a long life, in a moment of time, shows that a period of even exceeding brevity may suffice for a full revelation and judgement of all persons and events. The indefiniteness of the word should, however, caution us against the assumption that the day must be of only a few hours duration.
II. THE JUDGEMENT WILL BE PUBLIC AND GENERAL.
This has been denied by some who think that the judgement of each man occurs at death. These hold that to confine the judgement to that at death only, is not contrary to the real meaning of Scripture, which they suppose is not to be found in the literal language used, but in such an interpretation as will accord with the fact that the destiny of each man is fixed, and that consciously to himself, at death. They think that the indefiniteness of the word “day” permits a continuous process of judgement extending over the whole period connected with the deaths of men.
The chief basis of this theory is that the certainty attained at the death of each man, as to his position towards God, makes unnecessary any further judgement, because his case has thus been already judged. But we have very little knowledge of the amount of that certainty, especially in the case of the wicked. The righteous man, because of his presence with Christ, doubtless knows that his salvation is secure; but who can tell what alternate hopes and fears may constitute a part of the torture of the wicked in the intermediate state? But, even if he is also certain of his fate, there may be weighty reasons for a public manifestation of his position. Even “the angels, when they sinned,” whose condition in this respect is certainly equally ascertained, are said to be “reserved unto judgement,” as well as unjust men whom the Lord keeps “under punishment unto the day of judgement.” 2 Pet. 2:4, 9. It may be that the day of judgement is appointed, in order that the full sentence, as to the reward or punishment of each man, may be uttered, when he stands clothed in the resurrection body, in which these are to be suffered, or enjoyed during all the future. Other purposes will be subsequently suggested in connection with the vindication of God, and the manifestation of the causes and circumstances of his action, which, independently of any relation of the judgement to any individual man, make a public judgement day not unsuitable. The certainty of that publicity will appear from the person of the Judge. But, in addition to all other considerations, the Scriptures use language about the judgement day, and its events, which cannot be justly interpreted otherwise than as teaching it to be public in the sight of all, and general to all, not particular to each man. The declarations of its universally sudden appearance, of the angels and the glory which shall attend the descending Judge, of the convulsions of nature, of the burning up of the world, of such a gathering of all nations as permits a separation before all into two distinct classes, and the fact that some will rise up in special condemnation of others; these, and other statements, are utterly inconsistent with only a particular judgement of each at death. Especially is it impossible to reconcile the statement, that the resurrection of men will precede the final judgement, with any theory which makes this occur at death. All of this is independent of the further reply which may be urged, that no indefiniteness of the word “day” would permit the idea that a time, appointed within the life of mankind, should extend throughout the whole period of that life. It ought at least, to be a somewhat limited portion of the time which contains it.
III. THE PERSON OF THE JUDGE.
God alone is competent to perform this office of Judge in the great day. He alone has the right to Judge. He alone has the necessary qualifications. Chief among these is that perfect rectitude of character by which only can justice be exercised with due regard to the law and those under it, according to strict principles of equity. Equally important, however, is that complete knowledge of the law which leaves unknown neither its requirements, nor its penalties, nor its rewards, nor its possible relaxations. He also has that omniscience by which all things are known to him, even the innermost secrets of men; not their actions only, but their inward thoughts and hidden motives, even their natures and the possibilities of those natures. This, which is essential to due judgement, can be found only in him who searcheth the reins and hearts, and can make due application of the law, in all its aspects, to the whole conduct and character of those to be judged; and his the infinite power to execute that law, as well in the bestowment of its rewards, as in the infliction of its punishments.
Hence the Scriptures speak of God as “the judge of all,” (Heb. 12:23); and of his judgement according to truth and righteousness, which cannot be escaped, Rom. 2:2, 3, 5. In the Apocalyptic vision, John “saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne” when the books were opened for judgement. Rev. 20:12, 13.
But this judgement is not by God, as God. Jesus told the Jews that “neither doth the Father judge any man, but he hath given all judgement unto the Son.” John 5:22. The cause of this is that the Son is not only divine, but human, and that his relation to humanity endows him with peculiar qualifications for this office, which, like those for the salvation of man, could not be possessed by one only divine. Christ, therefore, taught his disciples that the judge would be the “Son of Man,” (Matt. 16:27, 28; 25:31-34), and declared to the Jews, that the Father “gave him [his Son] authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man.” John 5:27. Indeed, it would seem that the judgement is to be exercised peculiarly by Christ as man; for it is at least especially announced of him in his nature. Peter preached to Cornelius, concerning Jesus of Nazereth, “that this is he which is ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead.” Acts 10:42. Paul wrote of “the day when God shall judge the secrets of men according to my gospel by Jesus Christ,” (Rom. 2:16); and encouraged the Corinthians by declaring that “we must all be made manifest before the judgement seat of Christ,” (2 Cor. 5:10) and, on Mars’ Hill, announced that God had “appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained.” Acts 17:31.
We cannot hope to understand all the reasons for this appointment of Christ, as Son of Man, to the judgement of all. They are connected, in part, with the position of King and Lord, to which he has been assigned for the complete triumph of his kingdom, and the manifestation of God’s power and grace. They are also doubtless associated with the relation which, as man, he occupies to mankind, and especially to the church of “first-born ones.” But it is certain that, by the connection of the office of judge with Christ as man, is removed every obstacle in the way of a public, visible judgement. Since it is the Son of God who is the Son of Man, all that makes it necessary that God be the judge is found in him. But as man, the judge is no longer the invisible God, who can only be seen in the works of his Creation, and Providence; but God in Christ, the Godman, in his visible material form, who, therefore, can be manifested before the eyes of all, in a judgement which is, not simply general, as inclusive of all, but public, as openly manifested before all. It appears, therefore, that the person of the judge adds another reason to those heretofore mentioned why any judgement which occurs at death will be supplemented by, and consummated in, the final judgement of the last day.
IV. THE PURPOSES OF THIS PUBLIC JUDGEMENT.
Still further proof of the same fact will appear from some, at least, of the purposes of this public judgement.
1. In the purpose fulfilled by the revelation of it to men in this life. The conviction of such a judgement to come produces a decided influence for good upon the conduct of men in this life. Doubtless is it on this account that it is taught so plainly, and so frequently, and in so many ways, that none should fail to be impressed with the certainty of its occurrence. This would, indeed, in no small degree, be accomplished by the knowledge of a private and individual judgement at the hour of death. But it is manifest that this effect is greatly enhanced by the terrors and solemnities with which the Bible clothes the scenes of that day. That its publicity is in itself fearful is evident from the extent with which even those shrink from a revelation of their sins, who as believers in Jesus, confidently hope for a favourable sentence from God. The question so frequently asked whether the sins, as well as the good works, of God’s people will then be revealed, is the fruit of this apprehension.
It is probable, however, that the influence of the expectation of this judgement is unimportant, as compared with the purposes connected with it actual occurrence. These are to be found in the manifestations of God, and Christ, and of men in that great day.
2. The purposes that appear in connection with the day itself.
(1.) As to God.
(a.) It will furnish a worthy arena for the display of the attributes of God. A continuous purpose of God, in connection with his intelligent creatures, has been to make known to them the glory of his character. This is assigned as a reason even of his spiritual quickening of his people together with Christ. Eph. 2:4-7. Now, no mention can be made of any one of his attributes, which he has thus far revealed, which will not, at the judgement day, be signally displayed. This will be especially true of his vindicatory justice, the perfection of which has been, in some degree, dimmed, while, because of his forbearance and grace, he has delayed the due punishment of sin. Hence, this day is called “the great day of their wrath,” (Rev. 6:17), and “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God.” Rom. 2:5. Yet, how signally will then, also, appear the wisdom of his purpose, the truth and faithfulness of his promises, his power to accomplish his will, his universal benevolence, his sacrificing love, his unbounded mercy, his delivering power, his conquering grace, and, not to attempt to enumerate further, everything that can be imagined as constituting that holiness which, in one word, embraces all moral perfection.
(b.) The wisdom and equity of God, in his providential and gracious dealings with men, will then, also, be apparent. These often give rise to perplexity, even in those who most firmly believe in God as one who does all things justly, and well. In this life men are called to exercise faith in God in all these matters. That faith will be vindicated by the manifestations at that time both of his character and acts. The inequalities of this life, and the prosperity of the wicked, and the adversity of the righteous, will then be not only equalized, but all will clearly see the wisdom, justice, and goodness of God, in giving them a place here in his providential government. It is more than probable that, in the full exhibition of all his purposes in Creation and Grace, that insoluble problem of this life, — the presence of sin in a world created, and governed by an Almighty, and Holy God, — will become a manifestation of unspeakable glory in God. Then, too, will appear, even more plainly than now, the righteousness of his choice of some to salvation, and condemnation of others for sin; and, also, the full responsibility of men for every sin, even when their circumstances and previous action have rendered certain things which they will do. Then, too, will be seen such sufficiency, in each man, of the light possessed, if he had walked therein, and of his power for good, if he had exercised it, as makes him guilty in the sight of God, and worthy of the punishment which he will inflict.
(2.) As to Christ.
But it is not simply the revelation of God; but of God in Christ.
(a) In that wonderful combination by which the created spirit, and even created matter of human nature were, through the making flesh of the divine word, (John 1:14), enabled to do that work which neither man nor God could separately do. Where, but on the throne of judgement, could this personage be seen by any except those who are made partakers of his glory? How fit is his appearance to fill with anguish those who have rejected him, and with exultation and praise all those who have trusted him. He appears not only as Judge, but as King and Lord, whose dominion as Lord is now shown to be universal, and whose kingship, in the hearts of his people, he now rewards by welcoming them to entrance into his joy, and participation in his glory.
(b) The glory of Christ’s work will also then appear.
In its displays of the divine attributes; of truth, in the fulfillment in him of the threatened curse of sin for all those saved by him; of inexorable justice, which requires that honouring of the law, not only in obedience, but also in penalty, exacted even from the Son of God, from him that is the fellow of Jehovah; and of love and mercy, which demand to be exercised even at the cost of the most fearful sacrifice. Pre-eminently will the glory of that work be seen in the harmony displayed in the exercise of these attributes; of justice in a way of mercy and love; of each of these in a way of justice, and all of them in a way of holiness and truth. The judgement day will clearly exhibit these perfections, and their harmony, to all the intelligences of God.
The glory of that work will also be seen in the manifested conquest of Satan. For the accomplishment of the purpose of God, he has long been permitted to exercise power and malignity. It will, at the judgement day, appear that it was always done by the sufferance of God, who chose not to conquer, and punish him and his angels, except through the Son of Man. The fact that this victory over Satan has not been one of divine power, but has been wrought out by the Son of God in his human nature, renders his defeat more signal and humiliating to him. It is a complete avengement of the temptation of the first Adam.
The delivering power from sin shown in the work of Christ will also exhibit its glory in a peculiar manner.
We can imagine an angel willing to undertake the conquest of Satan at the command of God. But, here was the work which no angel would have attempted, nor even had any hope of accomplishing. There were many problems, in connection with it, which could not be solved. How is the penalty which has been incurred to be endured, or to be escaped? How is the righteousness demanded, to be fulfilled, now that man has become a sinner? How can sin be eradicated, and an unholy nature be restored to its purity and original righteousness? How is another to secure these things in men? And, if not secured in them, how can the sin of a sinner, both in action and condition, be hidden from God? How can God be just and yet justify the ungodly?
Christ has solved all these problems, and more than done all the work which was needed. The sinner, united by faith to Christ, has now an assured safety, an unfailing righteousness, a more than sufficient satisfaction, a covert utterly impenetrable by the wrath or justice of God; and he will stand before the judgement seat of Christ, in the presence of men and angels, to manifest his Saviour’s power in eradicating sin, by the good works wrought out by that Saviour’s disciple in mortal flesh, even under the higher law of Christian duty.
(3.) As to man.
With respect to man especially, the purposes of the judgement day make it fit that it should be general, and public.
(a.) Because then will be revealed the character and acts of men.
It is set forth as a day when “each one of us shall give account of himself to God,” (Rom. 14:12), which account shall comprise “every idle word that men shall speak.” Matt. 12:36. This is to be at that time “when God shall judge the secrets of men.” Rom. 2:16. The object of this trial is not to ascertain what men have done, but to make manifest to those who are judged, as well as to all others, the things which are already known to God. To this end, even the sins unknown to the offenders, and good deeds, forgotten by the righteous, will be brought to light. Matt 25:31-46. We are told that the Lord “will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall each man have his praise from God.” 1 Cor. 4:5.
(b.) Because then will judgement be made as to each individual.
For this cause is it that “we must all be made manifest before the judgement seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:12. The very name of the day shows the object of its appointment, and the nature of the transactions in this direction, which will then occur. The descriptions of the judgement day, however figurative they may be supposed to be, mark this as an undoubted teaching of God’s word. The wicked are condemned, because both of character and conduct. How this may be, can easily be understood. But the righteous are accepted, and rewarded, upon the same grounds. The reason of this is not so apparent. It doubtless is based upon the meritorious work of Christ, through which, by faith, they have been justified by God even in this life. But the references to their own personal acts show, also, a personal justification in that great day. This is the justification by works, seen in them even while on earth. It is the manifestation of the life-giving principle imparted to them on earth in regeneration, and exhibited by them during the processes of sanctification. The good works are the fruits of that vital union with Christ, by which “the life also of Jesus” is “manifested in our body.” 2 Cor. 4:10; (cf. Gal. 2:20, and Rom. 8:1-4).
In the judgement, unto which men will thus be brought in the last day, there will be account taken of the light and knowledge which they have possessed. The heathen will be judged by a different law from that which will be applied to those who have had the light of revelation. Paul plainly teaches that the former have a law under which they live, (Rom. 2:14, 15), in want of conformity to, and violation of which they are “worthy of death,” (Rom. 1:32); and that they are judged only by the law which they have. Rom. 2:12. Christ taught the same truth, generally, as applied to all the various degrees of knowledge, when he spoke of the servants, to be beaten with few or many stripes, according to their knowledge of their Lord’s will. Luke 12:47, 48. He also taught it especially in comparing the degrees of guilt and condemnation of those who enjoy the knowledge of the gospel and those who lived before its proclamation. Matt. 12:41, 42; Luke 11:29-32; (cf. John 12:47, 48).
(c.) That the judgement is public and general is seen in what is said of the public bestowment of rewards and punishments.
The language here may perhaps be figurative, but must mean something, and can mean no less than the publicity of the awards Christ will give. No private judgement at death would account for the statements that all are to be gathered before Christ, and are to be separated by him into those on the right hand and those on the left, (Matt. 25:32, 33); nor for the declaration that, “in the end of this world, the Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity,” Matt 13:41; nor for that further teaching in v. 49, that “the angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the righteous.”
V. THE PLACE OF THE FINAL JUDGEMENT.
It is evident, from what we have already seen, that the judgement scenes will occupy some place in the universe of God. Christ is to appear as the Son of Man, and, therefore, clothed in the body of his human nature, although that body will then have been glorified. The bodies of men, both righteous and the wicked, will have been previously raised, so that they shall be judged in the body for the deeds done in the body. The bodies, then, both of the Lord and of all men, will not only occupy space, but will so occupy it as to be mutually recognized as being in space.
The place may also be believed to be in some connection with our present earth. It is fit that this, which has been the scene of all the events which will culminate in the judgement day, shall also be the place of that final trial. It is natural to suppose that, as the first coming of the Lord was to this earth, to bear sin for the redemption of man, so his second coming in triumph, without sin unto salvation, will be to that part of the universe which has been thus signally distinguished as the theatre of God’s most gracious work. The statements of Scripture are indeed meagre, but they say nothing which may not be interpreted in perfect consistency with this opinion. Yet, after all, the conclusion that the trial will be in connection with this earth, is so much a matter of inference only, as not to forbid that it may be at some other point in the universe. All that we are definitely told is that “we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord,” (1 Thess. 4:17), and that “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” 2 Pet. 3:10. But, while this does not deny, it does not necessarily teach, the destruction of the whole universe. The catastrophe may be limited to this earth and its atmosphere, and yet all the phenomena mentioned may occur. We also know that combustion of matter is not its destruction, but only a change in its form. This accords with the prediction of a new heavens and a new earth, (2 Pet. 3:13), and with those expressions which refer to it as a “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21), and teach “that creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.” Rom. 8:21. But, whether the earth alone is to be purified by fire, or, as seems not so probable, the whole universe; or whether the judgement scene is to be connected with earth, or with some other point in the present, or in the renewed universe, it seems certain that it must be in some place. The place which is most probable is in connection with the point of space now occupied by this earth, and either in the atmosphere above it, during or after the configuration, or on the earth itself before it shall be burned.
Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887
Many are the objections brought against this doctrine. Sometimes the objectors are loud and furious. Alas! that so many of these objectors are in Baptist ranks. To preach this old-fashioned doctrine of our faith as did Bunyan, Fuller, Gill, Spurgeon, Boyce, Broadus, Pendleton, Graves, Jarrell, Carroll, Jeter, Boyce Taylor and a host of other representative men of our denomination is to court the bitterest kind of opposition. John Wesley himself never said harsher words against this blessed tenet of our faith than do some so-called Baptists of today. Arminianism that offspring of popery, has had an abnormal growth in the last decade or two as the adopted child of a large group of Baptists.
1. IT IS OBJECTED THAT OUR VIEW OF ELECTION LIMITS GOD’S MERCY. Right here we criticize the critic, for he who makes this objection limits both God’s mercy and power. He admits that God’s mercy is limited to the believer, and to this we agree; but he denies that God can cause a man to believe without doing violence to the man’s will, and thus he limits God’s power. We believe that God is able to give a man a sound mind (#2Ti 1:7) and make him willing in the day of His power. (#Ps 110:2) At this point we must face two self-evident propositions. First, if God is trying to save every member of Adam’s fallen race, and does not succeed, then His power is limited and He is not the Lord God Almighty. Second, if He is not trying to save every member of the fallen race, then His mercy is limited. We must of necessity limit His mercy or His power, or go over boots and baggage to the Universalist’s position. But before we do that, let us go “to the law and to the testimony,” which says, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion…Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy and whom He will He hardeneth” (#Ro 9:15-18). It needs to be said for the comfort and hope of great sinners, that God’s mercy is not limited by the natural condition of the sinner. All sinners are dead until God makes them alive. He is able to take away the heart of stone. No man is too great a sinner to be saved. We can pray for the salvation of the chief of sinners with the assurance that God can save them if He will. “The King’s heart is in the hands of the Lord as the river of water; He turneth it whithersoever He will” (#Pr 21:1). We rejoice to say with Jeremiah that there is nothing too hard for God. We can pray for the salvation of our loved ones with the feeling of the leper, when he said, “Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean” (#Mt 8:2). When Robert Morrison was about to go to China, he was asked by an incredulous American if he thought he could make any impression on those Chinese. His curt reply was, “No, but I think God can.” This should ever be our confidence and hope when we stand before sinners and preach to them “CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED”.
2. ANOTHER OBJECTION TO ELECTION IS THAT IT MAKES GOD UNJUST. This objection betrays a bad heart. It would obligate the CREATOR to the CREATURE. It makes salvation a divine obligation. It denies the right of the potter over the clay of the same lump to make one vessel to honour and another to dishonour. By the same parity of reasoning it makes the governor of a sovereign state unjust when he pardons one or more men, unless he empties the prison and turns all the prisoners loose. Our view of election is in harmony with what even the Arminians allow to be proper and just for a human governor. All can see that a governor, by pardoning some men, does not harm others, who are not pardoned. Those who are not pardoned are not in prison because the governor refused them a pardon but because they were guilty of a crime against the state. Isn’t God to be allowed as much sovereignty as the governor of a state? Salvation, like a pardon, is something that is not deserved. If it were deserved, then God would be unjust if He did not bestow it upon all men.
Salvation is not a matter of justice but of mercy. It wasn’t the attribute of justice that led God to provide salvation but the attribute of mercy. Justice is simply each man getting what he deserves. Those who go to hell will have nobody to blame but themselves, while those who go to heaven will have nobody to praise but God. #Ro 9:22,23
3. IT IS AGAIN OBJECTED THAT OUR VIEW OF ELECTION IS AGAINST THE DOCTRINE OF WHOSOEVER WILL. But the objector is wrong again. Our view explains and supports the doctrine of “WHOSOEVER WILL”. Without election the invitation to “WHOSOEVER WILL” would go unheeded. The Bible doctrine of “WHOSOEVER WILL” does not imply the freedom or ability of the human will to do good. The human will is free, but its freedom is within the limits of fallen human nature. It is free like water; water is free to run down hill. It is free like the vulture; the vulture is free to eat carrion, for that is its nature, but it would starve to death in a wheat field. It is not the buzzard’s nature to eat clean food; it feeds upon the carcasses of the dead. So sinners starve to death in the presence of the bread of life. Our Lord said to some sinners, who were in His very presence “Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life” (#Joh 5:40). It is not natural for a sinner to trust in Christ. Salvation through trust in a crucified Christ is a stumbling block to the Jew and foolishness to the Greek; it is only the called, both Jews and Greeks, who trust it as the wisdom and power of God. #1Co 1:23,24
Here is a physical corpse. Is it free to get up and walk around? In one sense, yes. It is not bound by fetters. There is no external restraint. But, in another sense, that corpse is not free. It is hindered by its natural condition. It is its nature to decompose and go back to dust. It is not the nature of death to stir about. Here is a spiritual corpse—a man dead in trespasses and sins. Is the man free to repent and believe and do good works? Yes, in one sense. There are no external restraints. God does not prevent but offers inducements through His Holy Word. But the corpse is hindered by its own nature. There must be the miracle of the new birth, for except a man be born from above he cannot see or enter into the Kingdom of God. #Joh 3:3-3:5
It is painful to some of us to see our brethren forsake the faith of our Baptist forbears at this point and join the ranks of the Roman Catholics and other Arminians. If anyone doubts this charge let him read the article of faith adopted by the Catholics at the council of Trent (1563). I quote their statement on the freedom of the human will—”If anyone shall affirm that since the fall of Adam man’s free-will is lost, let him be accursed.” But alas, in this day, such a spirit is not confined to the Roman Catholics. Horatius Bonar makes the following quotation from John Calvin: “The Papist theologians have a distinction current among themselves that God does not elect men according to their works which are in them but that He chooses them that He foresees will be believers.”
Ah, the real trouble with the objector is not election; it is something else. His real objection is to total depravity or human inability to do good. I can do no better here than to quote from Percy W. Heward of London, England. He says, “It seems to me that the majority of objections to God’s sovereign grace, to God’s electing love, are actually objections to something else, namely objections to the fact that man is ruined. If you probe beneath the surface you will find that very few object to election. Why should they? Election harms no one. How can the picking of a man out of doom harm anyone else? The real objection at the present day is not to election, though that word is made the catchword of sad controversy—the real objection is to that fact which is revealed in Psalm 51, that we are shapen in iniquity, that we are born sinners by nature, dead in sins, until, as we read concerning Paul in Galatians 1, “It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace to reveal His Son in me…” Ah, beloved friends, we deserve nothing but doom. Acknowledge this and election is the only hope. Acknowledge that we are poor lost sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, only evil continually; acknowledge that there is in man no natural spark to be fanned into a flame but that believers are born again of incorruptible seed which the Lord places; acknowledge that if anyone is in Christ that there is a new creation, for we are His workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus; -and election must be at once recognized.”
Every real believer on his knees subscribes to our view of election. You cannot pray ascribing some credit to self. Sovereign grace will come out in prayer though it may be left off the platform. No saved man will get down on his knees before God and claim that he made himself to differ from others who are not saved, but with Paul he says, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” And in praying for the lost we supplicate God to convict and convert them. We do not depend upon the freedom of their wills but beg God to make them willing to come to Christ, knowing that when they come to Christ He will not cast them out. #Joh 6:37
A Methodist minister once went to hear a Presbyterian minister preach. After the sermon, the Methodist said to the Presbyterian, “That was a pretty good Arminian sermon you preached today.” “Yes,” replied the Presbyterian, “We Presbyterians are pretty good Arminians when we preach and you Methodists are pretty good Calvinists when you pray.” MORE TRUTH THAN POETRY HERE
4. IT IS ALSO OBJECTED THAT OUR VIEW OF ELECTION IS A NEW DOCTRINE AMONG MISSIONARY BAPTISTS. The fact is that it is so old-fashioned that it has about gone out of fashion . The ignorance betrayed in such a claim is indeed pitiable. In refutation we resort to two sources of information (a) Confessions of faith; (b) Statements of representative preachers and writers.
4a) CONFESSIONS OF FAITH
The Waldenses declare themselves as follows: “God saves from corruption and damnation those whom He has chosen from the foundation of the world, not from any disposition, faith or holiness that He foresaw in them, but His mere mercy in Christ Jesus His Son, passing by all the rest according to the irreprehensible reason of His own free-will and justice.” THE DATE OF THIS CONFESSION WAS 1120 !
The London Confession (1689) and the Philadelphia Confession (1742) read as follows: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined or foreordained to ETERNAL LIFE through Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace; others being left to act in their sins to their just condemnation, to the praise of His glorious justice.”
The New Hampshire Confession (Article 9): “We believe that election is the eternal purpose of God according to which He graciously regenerates, sanctifies and saves sinners; that being perfectly consistent with the free-agency of man, it comprehends all the means in connection with the end; that it is a most glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, being infinitely free, wise holy and unchangeable; that it utterly excludes boasting and promotes humility, love, prayer, praise, trust in God, and active imitation of His free mercy; that it encourages the use of means in the highest degree; that it may be ascertained by its effects in all who truly believe the Gospel; that it is the foundation of Christian assurance; and that to ascertain it with regard to ourselves demands and deserves the utmost diligence.”
4b) REPRESENTATIVE PREACHERS AND WRITERS!
John A. Broadus, former president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: “From the divine side, we see that the Scriptures teach an eternal election of men to eternal life simply out of God’s good pleasure.”
A.H. Strong, former president of Rochester Theological Seminary: “Election is the eternal act of God, by which in His sovereign pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, He chooses certain of the number of sinful men to be recipients of the special grace of His Spirit and so to be made voluntary partakers of Christ’s salvation.”
B.H. Carroll, founder and first president of the Southwestern Baptist Seminary: “Every one that God chose in Christ is drawn by the Spirit to Christ. Every one predestined is called by the Spirit in time and justified in time, and will be glorified when the Lord comes.” Commentary on Romans, page 192.
J.P. Boyce, founder and first president of Southern Baptist Seminary: “God, of His own purpose, has from eternity determined to save a definite number of mankind as individuals, not for or because of any merit or works of theirs, nor of any value of them to Him; but of His own good pleasure.”
W.T. Conner, professor of theology, Southwestern Baptist Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas: “The doctrine of election means that God saves in pursuance of an eternal purpose. This includes all the gospel influences, work of the Spirit and so on, that leads a man to repent of his sins and accept Christ. So far as man’s freedom is concerned, the doctrine of election does not mean that God decrees to save a man irrespective of his will. It rather means that God purposes to lead a man in such a way that he will freely accept the gospel and be saved.”
Pastor J.W. Lee, of Batesville, Miss.: “I believe that God has foreordained before the foundation of the world that He would save certain individuals and that He ordained all the means to bring about their salvation on His terms. Men and women are not elected because they repent and believe, but they repent and believe because they are elected.”
To the above list of well known and honoured Baptists we could add quotations from Gill, Fuller, Spurgeon, Bunyan, Pendleton, Mullins, Dargan, Jeter, Eaton, Graves, and others too numerous to mention. It is sadly true that many of our pastors hold election as a private opinion and never preach it. We personally know a number of brethren who say that election is clearly taught in the Bible, but that we cannot afford to preach it, because it will cause trouble in churches. This is worse than compromise: it is surrender of the truth. It is a spirit that leads preachers to displease God in order to please men. The writer believes that silence upon this subject has wrought more harm than open opposition to it. Those who openly oppose election will, sooner or later, make themselves ridiculous in the eyes of all Bible loving Baptists.
5. IT IS FURTHER OBJECTED THAT OUR VIEW OF ELECTION MAKES MEN CARELESS IN THEIR LIVING. It is said that belief in the doctrine leads men to say, “If I am elect, I will be saved; if I am a non-elect I will be lost, therefore, it matters not what I believe or do.” The same objection has been persistently made against the doctrine of the preservation of the saints. This is bald rationalism. It is the setting of human reason against divine revelation. It takes no account of the operation of the grace of God in the human heart. If Baptists surrender election on such a ground, to be consistent, they will have to surrender the doctrine of preservation on the same ground. Election does not mean that the elect will be saved whether they believe on not, nor does it mean that the non-elect will be damned regardless of how much they may repent and believe. The elect will be saved through repentance and faith, and both are gifts from God as already shown; the non-elect do not repent and believe.
The objection we are now considering is simply not true to fact. Believers in election have been and still are among the most godly. Augustus Toplady challenged the world to produce a martyr from among the deniers of election. The Puritans, who were so named because of the great purity of their lives, with few exception (if any), were believers in personal, eternal, unconditional election, and of course, in the security of the believer. Modernism, that spawn of the pit, is rapidly adding to the number of its adherents, but they are coming from the ranks of Arminianism. Others have challenged the world to find a single Higher Critic, or a single Spiritualist, or a single Russellite, or a single Christian Scientist, who believes in the absolute sovereignty of God and the doctrine of election. Without an exception these awful heretics are Arminians to a man. This is a significant fact that is not to be winked at.
6. OBJECTORS CLAIM THAT OUR VIEW OF ELECTION DESTROYS THE SPIRIT OF MISSIONS. They boldly assert that if unconditional election should find universal acceptance among us that we would cease to be a missionary people. There is an abundance of historical evidence with which to refute this claim. Under God, the father of modern missions was William Carey, a staunch Calvinist. Andrew Fuller, first secretary of the society that sent Carey to India, held tenaciously to our view of election. It did not destroy the missionary spirit of these men. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Belief in election did not destroy the missionary spirit in Judson, Spurgeon, Boyce, Eaton, Graves, Carroll and a host of other Baptist leaders. The Murray church, which Dr. J.F. Love called the greatest missionary church on earth, heard election preached by Boyce Taylor for nearly forty years. The greatest missionary churches among us today are those that have been purged from the heresies of James Arminius.
Election is the very foundation of hope in missionary endeavour. If we had to depend upon the natural disposition or will of a dead sinner, who hates God, to respond to our gospel, we might well despair. But when we realize that it is the Spirit that quickeneth, we can go forth with the gospel of the grace of God in the hope that God will cause some, by nature turned away, to be turned unto Him and to believe to the saving of the soul. Election does not determine the extent of missions but the results of it. We are to preach to every creature because God has commanded, and because it pleases Him to save sinners by the foolishness of preaching. We believe more in election than the Anti-mission Baptists. We believe that God elected means of salvation as well as persons to salvation. He did not choose to save sinners apart from the gospel ministry. #Ro 1:16
Election gives a saneness to evangelism that is greatly needed today. It recognizes that sinners “believe through grace” (#Ac 18:27) and that while Paul may plant and Apollos may water, God gives the increase. Arminianism has had its day among Baptists and what has it done? It has given us man-power, but robbed us of God’s power. It has increased machinery but has decreased spirituality. It has filled our churches with Ishmaels instead of Isaacs by its ministry of “sob stuff” and with the methods of the “counting house”.
If this little tract need further Scriptural support, the following Scriptures will give it: #Ps 65:4 Ac 13:48 Joh 6:37,44,45 17:1,2 Mt 11:25,26 1Co 12:3 2Co 10:4
Dr. C. D. Cole-The Bible Doctrine of Election-Part I-Bible Doctrine of Election
Christ’s Second Coming, and Resurrection
THE incarnation of the Son of God is not his last manifestation in the flesh to men on earth. The Scriptures speak of another appearing, in connection with which is taught the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgement. Each of these subjects demands special discussion. In some works on theology, the doctrine of the Resurrection is first treated because of its intimate connection with death and immortality; and because it terminates the intermediate state. But, inasmuch as the coming of Christ will precede the resurrection of the dead, it seems best that it be first considered.
I. THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST.
1. The fact is distinctly revealed.
Whatever doubts any may have about the passages sometimes quoted as teaching it in the Old Testament, there can be none that it is clearly made known in the New.
(1) It was taught by our Lord. Matt. 16:28; 24:36-40; 26:64; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27.
(2) It is the teaching of the Apostles and other inspired writers. 1 Cor. 1:7; 15:23; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1, 8; Heb. 9:28; James 5:7, 8; 2 Pet. 3:4; 1 John 2:28.
2. The manner of it is distinctly set forth.
(1) It will be a personal appearance. It is not questioned that Christ may be said to come in other ways than personally. The hour of death is admitted to be the way in which he comes at present to his saints, at what is to them the end of time. But the Scriptures teach such an especial personal final coming as can only be fulfilled in the bodily appearance of Christ to men. Mark 8:38; Acts 1:11; Heb. 9:26-28; 1 Thess. 4:16.
(2) His coming will be “apart from sin, to them that wait for him, unto salvation,” as contrasted with that time in which “he hath been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” and was “offered to bear the sins of many.” Heb. 9:26-28.
(3) It will be an appearance with power and glory; “for the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God,” (1 Thess. 4:16); “in the glory of his Father,” (Matt. 16:27); and “in his glory, and all the angels with him,” (Matt. 25:31); fulfilling to believers their expectation of “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Tit. 2:13.
(4) It will be instantaneous and unexpected. It is indeed to be preceded by signs both spiritual and physical. But, as with those in the days of Noah and Lot, few will recognize these signs. Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 17:28. Even to these the coming will be instantaneous; as a flash of lightning, Matt. 24:27; as a thief in the night, 1 Thess. 5:2; Rev. 16:15.
3. The time of Christ’s coming. This is represented as peculiarly unknown. Christ declared that even the Son knew not when it would be. It is hidden from all men. Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32. Our Lord rebuked the disciples, just before his ascension, for questioning him again upon this subject. Acts 1:7. The apostle Paul indeed wrote to the Philippians, “The Lord is at hand,” (Phil. 4:5), and Jesus Christ announced, “The time is at hand,” (Rev. 1:3), and to the church at Philadelphia sent the message: “I come quickly,” Rev. 3:11. This is again repeated unto his servants in Rev. 22:7, 12, 20. But that these expressions, if they refer, as they apparently do, to his second coming, were not intended to teach what man would call an early coming, is evident from the fact that this second coming has been delayed over eighteen hundred years. The apostle Peter gave those in his day who were troubled about this delay the true solution, writing them: “But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” 2 Pet. 3:8.
4. The aspects in which he will come.
(1) Christ always spake of his coming as that of the Son of Man. By this he himself taught the same truth with which afterward the angel at the ascension reassured the disciples who stood “gazing up into heaven,” namely, that he that shall come then shall be the “same Jesus” which was taken up. It will then be in human form that he will appear, and with the same sympathizing human as well as divine love towards his own which he so wonderfully displayed while on earth.
(2) But the apostle Peter, at Pentecost, said, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:36. Hence the apostles, almost exclusively, speak of Christ as Lord in connection with his second coming. This was their common name for Christ, and thus they recognized the glorious reward bestowed upon him for the salvation wrought for them, and the “all power” given unto him in heaven and earth.
(3) It is as Judge of the whole earth that he shall appear, both as Son of Man and as Lord; thus giving confidence to those who know him and have believed in him, and striking with terror those who have rejected his love.
(4) He also comes as King to take final possession of his kingdom, to share its blessings and glory with all his willing subjects, and to inflict punishment upon all who have refused to have him reign over them.
5. The signal events which that coming will introduce.
These are the resurrection of the bodies of the dead, and the change of those of the saints who are still alive; the judgement of all men; and the bestowment, according to the highest equity, of his due reward or punishment upon every one of mankind.
II. THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY.
The first in point of time of the events which accompany the second coming is the resurrection of the bodies of the dead.
1. This fact is the teaching both of the Old and the New Testaments.
It is admitted that some places in which resurrection is mentioned may speak only of a reappearance upon the stage of being of those who have died, and do not necessarily assert the final resurrection of the body. Thus our Lord’s reply to the Saduccees, Luke 20:37, only involves the idea of continued life. So also his language in Luke 14:14; John 6:39; and that to Martha, and her reply, John 11:23, 24.
It may also be acknowledged that, sometimes, the life and death, in connection with which resurrection is taught, is only spiritual, and that of the soul only. This seems to be the case in John 5:24-26, although the resurrection of the body is not unnaturally spoken of in the verses immediately succeeding.
There are also places in which the resurrection of the body is spoken of, but not the general, or final resurrection. These may be quoted only as showing that such a resurrection is not impossible. Thus, the writer to the Hebrews refers to the faith of Abraham in the power of God “to raise” Isaac “up even from the dead.” Heb. 11:19. We are also told that, after the death of Christ, “the tombs were opened; many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised; and coming forth out of the tombs after his resurrection they entered into the holy city and appeared unto many.” Matt. 27:52, 53. The resurrection of Christ himself is taught to be a fulfillment of prophecy, Acts 2:24-31; 13:34-37, and a proof, not only of the possibility of a resurrection from the dead, 1 Cor. 15:12-18, but even an assurance, and earnest of the resurrection of the bodies of his people. 1 Cor. 15:20-23, 35-45, 48-54.
But there are enough passages, of no doubtful import, both in the Old and New Testaments, which establish a general resurrection of the bodies of all men, as Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2-13; Hos. 13:14; and John 5:28, 29; Rom. 8:11-22, 23; 1 Cor. 15:20-23, 42-45, 48-54; Phil. 3:21; 1 Thess. 4:13-17. the last two passages refer, indeed, to the change in the body only; the last one also to the change in those who shall not die, but remain at the coming of Christ; their appositeness is readily recognized.
2. The resurrection will not be confined to the righteous only; but will include the wicked also.
The New Testament treats sometimes exclusively of the resurrection of the righteous. This is not unnatural; for all hope connected with it is confined to them. So blessed is that hope, that it was fit that it should be frequently held out for their encouragement and comfort. Especially the connection between their resurrection and that of Christ, as the first fruits of them that sleep, tended to lead them into the joys produced by the consciousness of union with him, and their triumph with, and through him. This was not to be confined to their spiritual resurrection with him in newness of spiritual life; and this fact needed to be enforced, lest that of the body should be forgotten in their experience of that of the soul. The objections to it also arose in connection with Christian hope. It is not strange that some should have denied it, even among the people of God, as the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians was true of some of them. 1 Cor. 15:12. The doctrine was too wonderful to believe. Perhaps they had specific objections to it in that day, as there have been in other ages of Christianity, even down to our own times. We are not to be surprised, that others also should have declared that it was passed already, and should have thus overthrown the faith of some. 2 Tim. 2:18. It became necessary, therefore, that it should be especially emphasized to the Christian believers of that day. With the single exception of “those that remain,” who were to be “changed,” it is expressly announced as the joyful destiny of all believers. Thus, Paul wrote to the Corinthians that “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Cor. 15:22. That this assertion related only to believers is evident, not only from the natural construction of the original Greek, but from the fact that his language is limited in the context to them “that are Christ’s at his coming.” 1 Cor. 15:23. In like manner, also, comforting the Thessalonians as to the Christian dead, he assigns as a reason why they should “sorrow not, even as the rest which have no hope,” (1 Thess. 4:13), that “if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him;” asserting the change in those that shall remain on earth, and stating that “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” 1 Thess. 4:14-18.
But, that this teaching about the righteous, was not intended to exclude the resurrection of the wicked, is plain enough from other places. Thus, our Lord said “all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done ill, unto the resurrection of judgement.” John 5:28, 29. What is also especially significant, in view of his teachings exclusively elsewhere as to the resurrection of the just, is that Paul, in his address before Felix, confessed that he had “hope toward God, . . . that there shall be a resurrection both of the just and the unjust.” Acts 24:15. In the vision of John of the day of judgement he saw that “the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them, . . . and if any one was not found written in the book of life, he cast them into the lake of fire.” Rev. 20:13-15. These passages show distinctly a resurrection of the wicked also from the grave, and, therefore, a resurrection of their bodies.
3. The nature of the resurrection body.
We are told nothing as to the nature of the resurrection bodies of the wicked. But enough is said as to those of the saints to show that their change will be most blessed.
The all embracing fact is distinctly declared that they shall be like unto that of their Lord. If we knew the precise nature of his body we should know the nature of those of all his saints. But it is enough to know that he will “fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory.” Phil. 3:21. We are taught many things, however, about the resurrection body; the chief source of information being the fifteenth chapter of 1st Corinthians, where Paul states,
(a.) That it will be incorruptible,
(b.) That it will be immortal,
(c.) That it will be a glorified body,
(d.) That it will be raised in power,
(e.) That it will be identical with the present body. That which is raised is the “it” which is sown. It is “this corruptible” that “puts on incorruption,” this “mortal” that “puts on immortality.”
(f.) Yet is the identity one which exists not without a great change, v. 51.
(g.) Yet with no greater change than occurred in the body of Christ. It is his image which is to be borne instead of that of Adam, v. 49.
(h.) When Paul asserts that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” v. 50, he means only to deny that a corrupt and mortal body can thus inherit, and not to assert that such inheritance is not true of a glorified body of material substance, from which all corruption and mortal elements have been removed.
(i.) We consequently see what he means by the spiritual body in vv. 44-46, where he contrasts it with the “natural,” and declares the resurrection body to be “spiritual.” It is not spiritual in the sense that it is not material; for it is composed of matter. But, it is spiritual, as being fitted for the spiritual life hereafter, as it had previously been natural, as fitted for the animal life of this world. This is the pneumatic body as opposed to the physical. As the first body had been suited to the present life, and could not be used in the life to come without change; so the resurrection body is suited to the life to come, and not to the present stage of being. Hence it is that the change, with or without death, does not take place until the time of reunion in which the pneumatic life is to begin.
4. There shall be a general resurrection of the bodies of the righteous, and of the wicked at the coming of Christ to judgement.
(1.) The rewards of the righteous are especially associated with Christ’s coming in the great day. Matt. 16:27; Luke 12:37; 1 Cor. 1:7, 8; 1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Thess. 1:7, 10; 1 Pet. 5:4; 1 John 2:28; 4:17.
(2.) The suffering and punishment of the wicked are also intimately connected with the day of Christ’s coming to judgement. John 12:48; 2 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:7.
(3.) There are passages also in which both the reward of the righteous, and the punishment of the wicked are set forth unitedly in connection with the second coming of Christ. Matt. 16:24-27; 24:36-51; Mark 13:24-27; Rom. 2:1-16; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Pet. 2:9; 2 Pet. 3:7-9.
(4.) The righteous and the wicked are judged together. Ecc. 3:17; Dan. 12:2; Matt. 16:27; Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:1-16; 2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 9:27.
(5.) The resurrection of the dead occurs at the same time with the judgement. Dan. 12:2; Rev. 20:12, 13.
(6.) The resurrection and the change that occurs in it are also associated with the coming of Christ. 1 Cor. 15:52; Phil. 3:21; 1 Thess. 4:16.
(7.) The judgement and the coming of Christ, take place in immediate conjunction. Matt 16:27; 25:31-46; 2 Pet. 3:7-10.
(8.) The resurrection of both just, and unjust, shall occur at the same time. Dan. 12:2; John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15.
(9.) The unrighteous are kept unto the day of judgement. 2 Pet. 2:9.
(10.) At the time of Christ’s coming, the world is to be destroyed, and the promise fulfilled of “new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.” 2 Pet. 3:8-13. But, that day is also the day of “judgement and destruction of ungodly men;” for which “the heavens that now are and the earth by the same word have been stored up for fire,” v.7.
These statements show that the general teaching of the Word of God is that the Lord will come; that at his coming there shall be a general resurrection of the just and unjust, who shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body. Not only is it not taught that there are two resurrections of the body, the one of the righteous at the second coming of the Lord, and the other of the wicked at the general judgement after an interval of one thousand years; but the judgement and the coming of the Lord are recognized as contemporaneous. The day of both events is called by various names, some of which are repeated more than once: as “the day,” (1 Cor. 3:13); “that day,” (Matt 7:22); “the day of judgement,” (2 Pet. 2:9); “the day of God,” (2 Pet. 3:12); “the day of the Lord,” (1 Thess. 5:2); “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Cor. 1:8); “the day of Jesus Christ,” (Phil. 1:6); “the day of Christ,” (Phil. 2:16); “the day of the Lord Jesus,” (1 Cor. 5:5); “the last day,” (John 6:39); “the great day,” (Jude 6); “the great day of their wrath,” (Rev. 6:17); “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God,” (Rom. 2:5); “that great and notable day of the Lord,” (Acts 2:20); “the day when God shall judge the secrets of men . . . by Jesus Christ,” (Rom 2:16); “the day that the Son of Man is revealed,” (Luke 17:30); “the coming of our Lord Jesus,” (1 Thess. 3:13); “the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Tim. 6:14); “the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 1:13); the “appearing of glory of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ,” (Tit. 2:13), etc.
There is, however, one passage of Scripture which some claim teaches one resurrection of the bodies of the just, and another of those of the unjust; and places them at a wide interval apart, with numerous intervening parts. Those who maintain this view hold that the thousand years of the Millenium succeed the second coming of Christ, and the resurrection of the righteous. This passage constitutes the twentieth chapter of the book of Revelation. It is the record of that vision, in which John saw the angel bind Satan, in the bottomless pit, for a thousand years; during which the souls of the saints lived, and reigned with Christ. “This,” says John, “is the first resurrection.” v.5. On those having part in it, “the second death hath no power.” v.6. When the thousand years have expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and go out to deceive the nations. When the number of the forces which he gathers, which are like the sands of the sea, surround the camp of the saints, these forces will be devoured by fire from Heaven, and the devil cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. Then appears the great white throne, and the judgement of the dead, both small and great, and the judgement of the dead out of the books. And then death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire. “This,” says John, “is the second death.” v. 14.
It is readily admitted as to this passage that whatever is truly taught in it must be accepted as the word of God. But,
(1.) We must be careful how we receive any interpretation which does not accord with the rest of Scripture. Before doing so, we should examine thoroughly both the interpretation we wish to accept, and the views attained from other parts of the Word of God. We know that Scripture cannot contradict itself, when rightly interpreted. All its parts must, therefore, be carefully compared to see in what interpretation they agree.
(2.) If, after the best efforts to harmonize this with the other portions of God’s Word, it should seem to be irreconcilable with them, the apparent interpretation of this passage should yield to that of others; Not so much because it is one only, as compared with a great number; but because it is found in a book of highly figurative prophecy, in which the literal interpretation is not so justly to be pressed, as in others, which are not of this character, and in which the literal meaning is more apt to be the mind of the Spirit.
(3.) The language of this passage, however, is, at least, in some respects, opposed to the idea of two resurrections of the body; the first, that of the saints to reign with Christ for a thousand years, and the second, that of the wicked to judgement.
(a.) Because those who are represented as belonging to the first resurrection, are not spoken of as clothed in resurrection bodies; but, on the contrary, John declares simply that he saw “the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, etc.” v. 4.
(b.) It is not only not said that those who partake of the first resurrection are not among the dead, who are subsequently delivered up by death and Hades to be judged, v. 13, but it is implied that they are among these by the universal terms used when John says that he “saw the dead, the great and small, stand before God,” v. 12. But, if this be true, then there must be either two resurrections of the bodies of the saints, or one of the resurrections at least cannot be of the body.
(c.) Especially is it not taught that the resurrection to judgement is confined to the wicked, nor that the first resurrection is of the bodies of all the saints; because along with the books “which were opened,” “another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works,” v.12; “and if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire,” v.15. This language implies that, among those then raised and judged, there were some whose names were written in the book of life. Consequently, reference must here be made to the general resurrection and judgement, taught elsewhere as contemporaneous, and the first resurrection cannot be that of the body; or only some of the saints partake of the first resurrection; or there must be two resurrections of the bodies of the saints. The first of these is the only interpretation that accords with what is elsewhere taught.
(4.) The interpretation of this passage which makes it harmonious with all other Scripture is,
(a.) That the resurrection is a spiritual resurrection of the soul from the death of sin, of which Scriptures elsewhere speak so plainly as being a passage from death unto life. See John 5:24-26; Rom. 6:2-7; Eph. 2:1, 5; 5:14; Phil. 3:10, 11; Col. 2:12, 13; 1 John 3:14; 5:11, 12.
(b.) That the second death, which has no power over those which have part in the first resurrection, constitutes the punishment of those condemned at the judgement day, which consists in their being cast, both body and soul, into a lake of fire.
(c.) The thousand years of the binding of Satan is a period of time, of unknown, perhaps of indefinite length, possibly from the time of Christ’s conquest of Satan, in his death, resurrection, and ascension, or possibly from some other period, even perhaps of a later epoch in the history of Christianity, during which Satan is restrained from the exercise of the power he might otherwise put forth against man; the thousand years terminating at some time prior to the day of Christ’s second coming; at which time Satan shall be loosed to consummate his evil deeds by such assaults upon the saints as shall bring down the final vengeance of God at the appearing of Christ in glory.
(d.) The judgement and the resurrection, in Rev. 20:12, 13, are general, and are those of the last day which immediately follow the coming of Christ.
Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887
Death and the Soul’s Immortality
WE proceed next to the consideration of the death of man, and other topics which are intimately connected with it. In the present chapter will be discussed death; the immortality of the soul; and the condition of the latter between the hour of death, and that of reunion with the body.
The term death is most commonly applied to that separation of soul and body which is the most manifest form in which the penalty of sin is seen among men. That there is a death of the soul also, and that it is something far more terrible than the death of the body, has been shown in the chapter on the “Effects of Adam’s sin,” pp. 239-247. But, this death of the soul is spiritual in its nature, and does not forbid the continued existence of the soul; and its dread realities will be more plainly evinced in the unseen hereafter. Consequently the separation of body and soul makes a more profound impression among living men, and to it the term death is almost exclusively appropriated.
It is sometimes called “natural,” or “physical” death, to distinguish it from that which is “spiritual;” the death “of the body,” as opposed to that “of the soul;” and “temporal” death, in contrast with that which is everlasting.
This separation of body and soul is the almost universal destiny of men. The Scriptures, however, teach that Enoch did not die but “God took him,” Gen. 5:24, and that he “was translated that he should not see death,” Heb. 11:5; also that Elijah “went up by a whirlwind into heaven,” 2 Kings 2:11. Some have supposed that, in like manner Moses escaped death, but it is expressly stated that he died, and was buried in the land of Moab. Deut. 34:5, 6. But Paul declared that at the second coming of the Lord, “we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thess. 4:17. Even more explicitly he said “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” 1 Cor. 15:51, 52. This is the fashioning anew of “the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory” foretold in Phil. 3:21.
But, while death comes thus almost universally to all, there is a marked difference between its connection with the righteous, and with the wicked.
The death of the wicked is easily accounted for. It constitutes a part of the penalty of sin, to which, the Scriptures teach, all men are liable (Rom. 5:12, 14; 1 Cor. 15:21, 22, 53-56), but from which, as such, the people of God are exempted because Christ has redeemed then from the curse of the law. The “death of the saint” instead of being accursed, is “precious in the sight of the Lord,” (Ps. 116:15), and this because he has redeemed them. Ps. 72:14. His death is a death “unto the Lord.” Rom. 14:8. Death is his. 1 Cor. 3:22. Its sting has been removed. 1 Cor. 15:56. But no one of these things is true of the wicked. He has neglected, or rejected the offer of salvation through Christ Jesus. There is no other method of escape from the penalty; and it rests upon him in all it fulness.
It is not so easy to account for the death of the righteous. As he is no longer liable to the penalty of sin, there is no legal ground upon which he must endure death, and, because of which, he cannot be released. This is confirmed by the fact that some righteous have not died, and others will only be changed. But, while death may not thus be legally necessary, it may subserve many purposes in the gracious providence of God, and is, ordinarily, the best way for the Christian to attain the “change” for which he is destined. This should be believed even if it could in no respect be explained.
It ought not to be forgotten that this is not the only dealing of God with his people, which evidently arises from some wise purpose which he has not fully revealed. They might have been taken out of the world as soon as they were justified. Yet, that this is graciously and wisely prevented, is evident from Christ’s declining to pray for it. John 17:15. They might have been preserved from affliction, and persecution, and similar inflictions from God or man. That these are blessed to them, is no proof that they would not have been more blessed without them, for they are taught to look forward to greater bliss in their exemption from them in heaven. Our Lord prayed that they might be kept from the Evil One, and they are doubtless protected from his power in answer to this prayer, but they are still left subject to his influences, and temptations, and are very far from escaping the presence and pollution of sin. In all of these things, we see some reasons for the action of God, though our knowledge is imperfect and incomplete. It ought not to be thought strange if, in like manner, we can only account partially for the death of true believers.
1. Some have thought that, for the attainment of perfect sanctification, it is necessary that the soul and body be separated, and the body reduced to its original elements. That this is not necessary is manifest from the examples of exemption from death already stated. But it may be admitted to be the ordinary method which God has ordained for such sanctification. For the desired perfection, there must be removal of the passions and appetites of the flesh by which man is tempted not only from himself, but through himself. The “change” at the last day accomplishes this in an extraordinary manner. The more ordinary method of God seems to be through death, in which, by its separation from the sinful body, the soul is freed from these temptations, and enabled to live perfectly the life of holiness for which it longs.
2. Another opinion which has been expressed, is, that death is natural to man, and that it, from its nature, becomes the means of his passing from a lower to a higher condition; in which through a more advanced organism the soul may live a more exalted life.
This opinion may be held either about the original, or the fallen condition of man. If about the original condition, it involves the position that the body of man was created mortal, and that its death, as a penalty, was not something superadded when man sinned; but is simply the natural condition of man’s life used by God as penalty, and so made known to man.
If held, however, only as to man’s present natural condition, it would not necessarily involve an original mortality.
As to this opinion, in either form, as well as to the former, it is necessary that it recognize death simply as the ordinary method of man’s passing into another life; for in respect to each of them the exemption of some shows that the end may be by other means accomplished. It derives some support from the analogy of the necessity of death in the seed for its change to a higher form presented in 1 Cor. 15:36-38.
3. Death is supposed by some to be necessary for a life of faith, rather than of sight, in the Christian. It is thought, that, on this account, it would be injurious to make so marked a distinction between the righteous, and the wicked, as would exist in the death of the latter and the change of the former in some other way. But the reason for this opinion is not apparent. It might be true, were the Christian personally changed in body as soon as he believes. But it would not be, if the change should occur only at the time when, otherwise, his death would take place. Doubtless the translation of Enoch was one fitted to produce a profound impression on his contemporaries. It certainly had had no evil influence on his own life. So, if the Christian should have no other certainty of exemption from death, than he now has of salvation, he could derive no motives from that exemption which would militate against his life of faith. It is much more probably because God does not choose to continue the miraculous testimony to the truth of Christianity throughout all time. But had he done this, the lives of Christians in the later ages would have been no less lives of faith than were those of Apostolic times.
4. It has been more generally stated that death is a means of chastisement. It has been shown that, while suffering is common to both, it is inflicted in punishment, by an angry God, in the way of penalty and in chastisement, but by a loving Father, only for correction and discipline; and thus, that the same event, death, may be a curse to the wicked, and a blessing to the righteous. It has been argued that this is the reason why even a Christian man must die. This is true so far as the death of a Christian is a cause of suffering and pain, either in death itself, or in his contemplation of it. It is undoubtedly often a cause of this kind. Even to the Christian it assumes not always an aspect altogether pleasant. He naturally shrinks from its loathsome embrace. It is an enemy, even if it is “the last enemy,” and one over which he is “more than conqueror.” But death is not always regarded with dread. The Christian’s thoughts sometimes leap forward to it with exultant joy. Especially is it true, that seldom, if ever, in the hour of death is the true Christian filled with apprehension and gloom. His own death becomes no chastisement in the event itself. God in that hour gives such sustaining grace that each of his servants is hopeful, peaceful, joyful, even sometimes triumphant.
5. Whether able or not definitely to state on what grounds the Christian is subjected to death, we know that it is a blessing to him. The inquiry into its cause and the various reasons suggested proceed apparently on the supposition that it is an evil which it would be desirable had he been spared. But the Scriptures speak of death as among the “all things” which belong to the Christian. 1 Cor. 3:22. This does not deny its possibly painful character, but asserts that, however painful, it is made his possession, and therefore is used for his benefit. This is in accordance with the universal law of blessing to him which the apostle announces in Rom. 8:28: “We know that to them that love God all things work together for good, to them that are called according to his purpose.” The principle of this law, however, admits either blessing or suffering. The suffering in connection with death was pointed out under the previous division. It will suffice briefly to indicate here some of the blessings also associated with it.
(1.) Death is a blessing to the Christian because, through its contemplation, his sanctification and purification in this life is carried forward. This contemplation of it includes all aspects in which it presents itself, whether painful or otherwise.
(2.) It is a blessing because in it he looks forward to the attainment of final freedom from sin and to perfect sanctification.
(3.) It is a blessing because he recognizes it as the portal to the possession of eternal life.
(4.) Death is a blessing because it gives him an opportunity of giving strong testimony in favor of Christ and his religion.
(5.) It is felt to be a blessing because it opens the doors to immediate conscious personal presence with his Saviour.
These points are obvious and need not be elaborated.
When the immortality of the soul is spoken of, its unending future life is usually meant. This is the immortality which is common to the righteous, and the wicked. The righteous, however, possess, also, that true immortality which the Scriptures teach to be that of the true life of the soul.
1. The unending life of the soul has been argued upon various grounds.
(1.) Reason alone has been supposed by many to furnish adequate arguments in proof of its truth.
(a.) The longing of the soul for immortal existence has been deemed to be an instinct implanted within, which gives assurance of its gratification. But, while, with a few, there may have been aspirations after a nobler and better life than that of earth, it may be questioned whether, in the vast multitude of men, there is more than a shrinking from the loss of such life as is possessed in the present stage of existence. The instinct seems, therefore, to be rather that dread of death which is not unknown to the mere animal, and which is given for the protection of the life that now is, and not as a basis of hope of that which may be hereafter.
(b.) The inequality, which is so manifest in the apportionment of good and evil to the characters and conduct of men on earth, has, almost universally, led to the belief of a future life, in which these will be duly adjusted. But, by these facts, is taught merely a future life, and not one necessarily of an unending duration; but only of sufficient length for such adjustment. It is the Word of God alone that teaches that the bliss or woe, which is the portion of man at death, will continue forever. It must be acknowledged, however, that, as universal as has been the belief in a state of future rewards and punishments, equally so has been the opinion that it shall never end.
(c.) This general belief in an unending life, has also been accounted for on the supposition that it is an intuitive perception of the mind. But it does not appear that such knowledge as reason can give of what the soul is, and of what endless existence means, awakens at once the conviction that the soul must exist forever. The most thoughtful men, who have been guided by nature only, have been afflicted with doubts, and alternate hopes, and fears, without attaining more than earnest, or, at most, confident expectations, much less such knowledge of a continuous future, as would result from the existence of an intuitive conception.
(d.) The capacity of indefinite progress in the mental and moral powers of men, has seemed, to many, to indicate a stage of being in which it may be developed. But no one will assert that there is here more than an indication, which is opposed by the evidence of the great waste in the productions of nature, and which, therefore, needs confirmation from some more decisive source to become other than a mere expectation.
(e.) Some metaphysicians have argued the indestructible nature of the soul from its pure simplicity. They have believed it to be uncompounded, and, therefore, incapable of dissolution, and consequent destruction. This is based upon the belief that it is purely spiritual, and that simplicity is a necessary attribute of spirit. But these facts are difficult to prove. They are by no means undisputed among those who rely on reason alone. It is from the Scriptures that we learn the different origin of body and soul, and that the latter came not from matter. Philosophy has not always regarded that soul as a unit. The terms “soul”, “mind”, and “spirit,” indicate a tendency to recognize, at least, some threefold aspects in the human spirit, in accordance with which, even while asserting the absolute unity of the soul, Mental Philosophy has recognized the threefold division of the will, the understanding, and the affections. It is well known that the most of the Grecian philosophers, following Plato, held to a distinction between [phi][upsilon][nu][kappa] (psuche, the animal life or soul), and [nu][omicron][upsilon][varsigma] (nous) and [pi][nu][epsilon][upsilon]ua (pneuma, the rational spirit). Even some Christian writers of our own day have maintained the same views. In this state of uncertainty, therefore, reason cannot speak convincingly of an ever continuing life of man, on the ground of the simplicity, and consequent indestructibility, of his spiritual nature.
It appears, therefore, that, from reason alone, all that can be attained, even as to a merely future state, is expectation; or at most belief upon uncertain grounds. It is true that, if it could be established, that the soul dies with the body, certain hopes, and fears would remain unaccounted for, and certain problems of divine government would be unexplained; but these could, at most, only produce conviction of some future state; and would prove nothing as to its unending or even indefinite duration.
(2.) The Scriptures, however, teach plainly the continued existence of all men after death.
(a.) It is everywhere assumed as a fact, neither to be doubted, nor proved; but that will be at once received without question.
(b.) The cases of Enoch and Elijah gave signal proof of another world than this into which even men might enter. But they furnished no evidence that any other than these two would go thither. They simply showed that the possible existence of men, otherwise than on this earth, has been actually realized in these servants of God. But, so far from thus furnishing conclusive proof of the future life of other men, the fact that these were not removed through death, but by extraordinary means, naturally suggested the possibility that exemption from death is necessary to that life, and that all those who go down to the grave perish together. It was only to those otherwise taught of the continued existence of the soul, that their removal gave confirmatory proof of such immortality. In like manner, we are taught the same truths by the presence of Moses, and Elijah, at the scene of the Transfiguration. The appearance at various times of angels to men furnishes additional proof of another world. The resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ confirm most conclusively the doctrine of a future life.
(c.) The Scriptures teach, in the account of the creation of man, that his soul did not originate from the dust; but was a direct spiritual creation of God. Gen. 2:7. They make further statements about the difference between soul, and body, confirmatory of the distinction made in their creation. Gen. 25:8; 35:29; Ecc. 12:7; Matt. 10:28; Acts 7:59.
(d.) They make express reference to the existence of the soul after death. 2 Sam. 12:23; Job 19:25-27. [Conant translates this passage. “But I, I know my Redeemer lives, and in aftertime will stand upon the earth; and after this my skin is destroyed, and without my flesh, I shall see God. Whom I, for myself, shall see, and my eyes behold, and not another, when my reins are consumed within me”]. Matt. 22:32; 25:46; Luke 16:19-31; John 11:25; 2 Cor. 5:1-4.
(e.) They make known that this future life is the lot of the wicked, as well as of the righteous; teaching that it is one of happiness to the latter, and of condemnation and misery to the former. Matt. 25:46; John 6:47; 12:25; 1 Cor. 15:17-20.
(f.) They declare the continuance of this, at least until the day of the Resurrection and Final Judgement. Job 21:30; Ecc. 3:17; Luke 14:14; John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15; Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 15:51, 52; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Thess. 4:13-17.
(g.) They represent the decisions of the judgement day as fixing the destinies of men, for an unending existence. The evidence of this teaching will be given in the discussion of “The Judgement Day.”
The Scriptures are thus seen to teach conclusively the doctrine of an unending future life of all men. This, as has been stated, is what is commonly referred to as the immortality of the soul.
Before passing from this part of the discussion, special attention is called to the following statements of what is included in this kind of immortality.
1. Unending existence essentially belongs to spiritual natures. When, therefore, the Scriptures have taught that the soul is a spirit, the way is prepared for the metaphysical argument based upon the simplicity of the soul, and its consequent indestructibility. It is common, therefore, to speak of the natural immortality of the soul. By this is meant, that, because of its nature, it has an unending life. It has no elements of dissolution in it. Life belongs to it, because it is spirit. Just as God has made extension, and divisibility, properties of matter, so, has he made unending life a natural property of the spirit.
2. But this essential property of spirit must ever be recognized as one conferred upon it. It is because God has so made spirit, that it has unending life. It is not a property that belongs to it from any necessity in God, or out of God. It is the result of his purpose, or will, and of his power. He has made spirit to be thus, Because he has so willed. Doubtless, had he otherwise chosen, the result would have been different. To believe otherwise is to put an unjustifiable limit upon his power, and upon his absolute freedom of will, as to all outward matters. It thus appears that they speak falsely, even blasphemously, who say that God could not destroy, or annihilate spirit, if he should choose. That which prevents annihilation, is that he has not so chosen, and will not so choose.
The impossibility is not in the lack of power, but in the unchangeableness of his will. This is no imperfection of inability, but the highest perfection of immutability
The immortality, which has been thus far discussed, is that which is common to both the righteous and the wicked. In the beginning of this part of this chapter, it was stated that the righteous possess also that immortality which is the true life of the soul. The death of the soul, and its life, are set forth in the Word of God as something distinct, not only from that of the body, but even from the unending natural life of the soul. The spiritual death of the soul has been described in the chapter on the Effects of Adam’s Sin, pp. 239-247, as something different from natural death, and as constituting the most fearful of the penalties inflicted because of sin. It was there shown that the Scriptures describe it in the various aspects of alienation from God, loss of God’s favour, and corruption of the moral nature. The true immortality of the Christian consists in the removal of all these evils, and the bestowment upon him of their corresponding blessings. That this is done, and that this is the condition into which he is thus brought will abundantly appear from the following passages of Scripture. Matt. 10 :39; 16:25 (cf. Mark 8:35); 18:9; (parallel passages, Mark 9:45; Luke 9:24; 17:33; John 12:25); 19:17; John 3:36; 5:24, 40; 6:33, 35, 50-58, 63; 20:31; Rom. 6:4; 8:6, 13; 2 Cor. 3:6; Eph. 4:18; 1 John 3:14; 5:12.
The contrast in immortality, between the righteous and the wicked, is very marked. “The wicked is thrust down in his evil doing: but the righteous hath hope in his death.” Prov. 14:32. “When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish.” Prov. 11:7. But “blessed are the dead which die in the Lord;” . . . . “for their works follow with them.” Rev. 14:13.
The happiness of this immortality of the Christian is the greater because it is a state in which he is confirmed forever. The law of this condition, both of the righteous, and the wicked, is laid down in Rev. 22:11. “He that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still:and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still:and he that is righteous, let him do righteousness still:and he that is holy, let him be made holy still.” As the wicked shall not change his state, so shall not the righteous, his. The day of his trial and probation is over, and he stands secure of the bliss of heaven, confirmed by the unfailing promises of God. The scenes, through which he has passed on earth, fill him with no apprehensions that his weakness and insufficiency, will disable him from performing the perfect service of heaven. The recollection of Adam’s trial will suggest to him no possibility that he will be subjected to a test which will dissolve forever the bonds which unite him to God. Even the sin of the angels will not alarm him. For he is now assured of that “eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before times eternal.” Tit. 1:2. This is immortality indeed. This, and not mere continued life, is the life and immortality which he confers, “who abolished death, and brought life and incorruption to light through the gospel.” 2 Tim. 1:10.
III. THE INTERMEDIATE STATE.
The Scriptures teach that the soul and body that have been separated in death, will be reunited at the Judgement Day. Meantime, the body crumbles into dust, and appears to be totally destroyed. The spirit has returned unto God who gave it. Ecc. 12:7. Hence, at his martyrdom, we hear the first dying Christian “calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Acts 7:59.
It is not in accordance with the methods of God in his revelations to man to answer the many inquiries which curiosity might suggest as to this intermediate state of the soul. But much more is taught about it than would at first be imagined. Such facts as are given are valuable to confirm and strengthen faith, and to give consolation. Those may first be mentioned which are common to the righteous and the wicked, and these may be followed by separate statements of the things wherein they differ.
1. As to those respects in which the condition of the righteous and the wicked is the same.
(1.) The soul exists without a body. Unquestionably it has not the body which it had on earth. But some have thought that it has some kind of a body, some spiritual body, which merely corresponds to, and is only thus identified with that of this life. But Paul’s discussion of the resurrection shows, that the “spiritual” body is one that is to be raised out of the grave in which the natural body was buried, and that it is “at the last trump” that “the dead shall be raised,” 1 Cor. 15:44, 52-54.
Some have argued, that body of some kind is necessary to give location to these spirits. But a spirit may have location without occupying space as a body does. Here may be recalled the quotation made by Hodge from Turretine as to the different relations that bodies, created spirits, and God, sustain to space; given on pages 72-73 of this volume.
(2.) The condition is consequently one of an imperfect life. It is the life of the spirit only, and not that of the man. Human nature is composed of both body and spirit; and his body is as truly a part of a man as is his soul. The condition, therefore, in which disembodied spirits exist, is not that of perfect men, but only of human spirits. This, which is an inference which may be drawn from the two-fold nature of man, is supported by the manner in which the Scriptures refer to the persons in this intermediate state. They are not spoken of as “men,” but as “souls,” and “spirits.” Heb. 12:23; Rev. 6:9; 20:4.
Another proof of this want of perfection of this condition is seen in the fact that the saints attain full entrance into their joy, and the wicked full infliction of their woe, only after the resurrection. Matt. 13:40-43, 49, 50; 25:34, 41, 46; 1 Cor. 15:44-54.
(3.) Both righteous and wicked have conscious life. This might have been inferred from the nature of spirit, which must always be in a state of conscious existence. But it is a plain teaching of the Bible. Luke 16:22-31. The word “Hades;” here means the place of departed spirits, and, as the scene occurs after the death of Lazarus, and before the final judgement, so must it be assigned to the intermediate state. In this the rich man is represented as in conscious torment.
The conscious condition of the righteous is taught in 2 Cor. 5:1-8; Phil. 1:21-24; and also in the passages connected with Paradise. Luke 23:42,43; 2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7; 22:2.
(4.) Neither the righteous nor the wicked are under probation in this intermediate state. Luke 16:22-31; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:11. Even if the language in 1 Pet. 3:19, 20 and 4:6 teaches, as some have taught, that our Lord went to the place of departed spirits, and preached to them; so that to those who had died up to the time of his death was given a probation in the gospel preached to them by him; that would be but a single instance of a favour shown to those who had died before his crucifixion; and, so far from proving a probation beyond the grave, would, from its exceptional character, imply the contrary.
2. The aspects of the intermediate state peculiar to the righteous.
(1.) It is a condition of happiness. Paul declared that “to die is gain,” and to depart this life far better than to remain in it. Phil. 1:21-24. He wrote to Timothy, looking forward exultingly to the hour of his death. 2 Tim. 4:6-8. He also referred to his longing for this future, as possessed by him in common with his brethren. 2 Cor. 5:1-8. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the happiness of the latter is described by his being in Abraham’s bosom. Luke 16:23.
(2.) It is a condition in which the believer is present with Christ. This is also taught in all the passages referred to in the previous paragraph, except the last; and constitutes in each of them the ground of the happiness which they declare.
(3.) The believer is also said to be in Paradise. Whatever this may mean, whether only a condition or a place, it is unquestionably true that it is intended to convey the idea of the enjoyment of very great happiness. The passages in which Paradise is mentioned are, Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7. That these teach that it is a place can only be denied on the ground that very highly figurative language is used. Only the first of these, however, refers to the presence of Christ with any one, and this contains only his promise to the thief on the cross, “To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” But the location of Paradise, as made known by the Apostle Paul, 2 Cor. 12:1-4, taken in connection with this first passage, makes it more than probable that it is the place where the saints are with Christ. The Scriptures teach that “Christ was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.” Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:11; Acts 2:33, 34; Acts 7:55, 56; Eph. 1:20; Heb. 10:12; 1 Pet. 3:22. We are also taught that he must there remain “until the times of restoration of all things.” Acts 3:21. Now, in the account Paul gives of his ecstatic vision in 2 Cor. 12:1-4, he tells us that he was “Caught up even to the third heaven,” and “caught up into Paradise,” which locates Paradise either in or above the third heaven, or makes the two identical. So also Rev. 2:7, taken in connection with Rev. 22:2 and 21:10-27, states that the tree of life, “which is in the Paradise of God,” is “in the midst of the street” of “that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God,” in which was no temple, “for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are the temple thereof,” and is “on either side of the river,” which is described as “a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb.” The place of the abode of the saints is with Christ, who is in the heavens with God. It is to that place that most probably the name Paradise is given in the Scriptures.
(4.) In that abode the saints are not probably inactive. Some have thought this because their condition is spoken of as one of “rest” and “sleep.” But evidently the former of these terms is used simply to declare the end of the toils and labours of this life, and the enjoyment of exemption from their present spiritual as well as temporal trials. This does not imply that there are not intellectual and spiritual duties and meditations suitable to that abode, such as may give due scope to that activity, which seems essential to personal conscious spirits. The “sleep” more probably refers to the appearance of the body in death, and is beautifully expressive of the calm repose with which the Christian sinks into final dissolution.
(5.) Neither is the intermediate state a place of cleansing from sin. That it is so is held by the Church of Rome. That church teaches that at death all unbaptized adults, and all who have fallen into and continued in mortal sin after Baptism, go immediately to hell. All who have been baptized, and remain in union with that Church, and have attained a life of Christian perfection, go immediately to heaven. Unbaptized infants occupy what is called “the Limbus infantum,” a place in the higher part of hell, which the flames do not reach, and suffer only a “paenam damni” (penalty of loss), and have no share in the “paenam sensus” (penalty of actual suffering), which afflicts adult sinners. But “the great mass of partially sanctified Christians, dying in fellowship with the church, yet still encumbered with imperfections, go to purgatory, where they suffer, more or less intensely, for a longer or shorter period, until their sins are both atoned for and purged out, when they are translated to heaven, during which intermediate period they may be efficiently assisted by the prayers and labours of their friends on earth.”
“They confess that this doctrine is not taught distinctly in Scripture, but maintain, 1st, that it follows necessarily from their general doctrine of the satisfaction for sins; 2d, that Christ and the Apostles taught it incidentally. . . . They refer to Matt. 12:32; 1 Cor. 3:15.” Hodge’s Outlines of Theology, pp. 556, 557.
But the first of these passages is manifestly but a strong way of declaring that the sin referred to shall never be pardoned, without authorizing the inference that there are other sins which will be pardoned in the world to come. The second passage, by the various things which are built upon the true foundation, which, if false or insufficient, shall be burned, refers not to personal character, but to teachings.
This doctrine of purgatory is based upon the very unscriptural theory of salvation through personal works and sufferings, which the Church of Rome holds, in connection with sacramental grace, to be supplementary to the meritorious work of Christ. While it has no support from Scripture, it is opposed to all that the Scriptures teach about the intermediate state of the righteous.
3. The aspects of the intermediate state peculiar to the wicked.
The Scripture teaching here is much more meagre. The four statements already mentioned, in which their condition and that of the righteous are similar, comprise almost all that is said. As peculiar to them, however, may be added.
(1.) That Christ, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, speaks of their condition as (a) one of torment Luke 16:23-25, 28, (b) from which there is no escape to the condition of bliss of the righteous, verse 26, and (c) as endured in a place of torment, vs. 23, 28.
(2.) Those who interpret 1 Pet. 3:19, 20 as referring to a personal preaching by Christ to the dead in Hades, necessarily hold that the wicked are “in prison.” But, otherwise, we have no other proof than seems to be conveyed in the “impassable gulf” mentioned in Luke 16:26.
(3.) It is a place in which they are reserved for punishment in the day of judgement. 2 Pet. 2:9.
(4.) The only place spoken of in connection with the wicked during the intermediate state is Hades, or the place of departed spirits, which is always translated Hell in the King James version, but is transferred in the Canterbury Revision. The passages in which Hades is used are Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14.
Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887