The First Great Deception
WITH the earliest history of man, Satan
began his efforts to deceive our race. He who had incited rebellion in heaven desired to
bring the inhabitants of the earth to unite with him in his warfare against the government
of God. Adam and Eve had been perfectly happy in obedience to the law of God, and this
fact was a constant testimony against the claim which Satan had urged in heaven, that
God's law was oppressive and opposed to the good of His creatures. And furthermore,
Satan's envy was excited as he looked upon the beautiful home prepared for the sinless
pair. He determined to cause their fall, that, having separated them from God and brought
them under his own power, he might gain possession of the earth and here establish his
kingdom in opposition to the Most High.
Had Satan revealed himself in
his real character, he would have been repulsed at once, for Adam and Eve had been warned
against this dangerous foe; but he worked in the dark, concealing his purpose, that he
might more effectually accomplish his object. Employing as his medium the serpent, then a
creature of fascinating appearance, he addressed himself to Eve: "Hath God said, Ye
shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" Genesis 3:1. Had Eve refrained from
entering into argument with the tempter, she would have been safe; but she ventured to
parley with him and fell a victim to his
wiles. It is thus that many are still overcome.
They doubt and argue concerning the requirements of God; and instead of obeying the divine
commands, they accept human theories, which but disguise the devices of Satan.
"The woman said unto the
serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree
which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall
ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye
shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." Verses 2-5. He declared that they would
become like God, possessing greater wisdom than before and being capable of a higher state
of existence. Eve yielded to temptation; and through her influence, Adam was led into sin.
They accepted the words of the serpent, that God did not mean what He said; they
distrusted their Creator and imagined that He was restricting their liberty and that they
might obtain great wisdom and exaltation by transgressing His law.
But what did Adam, after his
sin, find to be the meaning of the words, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou
shalt surely die"? Did he find them to mean, as Satan had led him to believe, that he
was to be ushered into a more exalted state of existence? Then indeed there was great good
to be gained by transgression, and Satan was proved to be a benefactor of the race. But
Adam did not find this to be the meaning of the divine sentence. God declared that as a
penalty for his sin, man should return to the ground whence he was taken: "Dust thou
art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Verse 19. The words of Satan, "Your eyes
shall be opened," proved to be true in this sense only: After Adam and Eve had
disobeyed God, their eyes were opened to discern their folly; they did know evil, and they
tasted the bitter fruit of transgression.
In the midst of Eden grew the
tree of life, whose fruit had the power of perpetuating life. Had Adam remained
to God, he would have continued to enjoy free access to this tree and would have lived
forever. But when he sinned he was cut off from partaking of the tree of life, and he
became subject to death. The divine sentence, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt
thou return," points to the utter extinction of life.
Immortality, promised to man
on condition of obedience, had been forfeited by transgression. Adam could not transmit to
his posterity that which he did not possess; and there could have been no hope for the
fallen race had not God, by the sacrifice of His Son, brought immortality within their
reach. While "death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned," Christ
"hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." Romans 5:12; 2
Timothy 1:10. And only through Christ can immortality be obtained. Said Jesus: "He
that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall
not see life." John 3:36. Every man may come into possession of this priceless
blessing if he will comply with the conditions. All "who by patient continuance in
well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality," will receive "eternal
life." Romans 2:7.
The only one who promised
Adam life in disobedience was the great deceiver. And the declaration of the serpent to
Eve in Eden--"Ye shall not surely die"--was the first sermon ever preached upon
the immortality of the soul. Yet this declaration, resting solely upon the authority of
Satan, is echoed from the pulpits of Christendom and is received by the majority of
mankind as readily as it was received by our first parents. The divine sentence, "The
soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20), is made to mean: The soul that
sinneth, it shall not die, but live eternally. We cannot but wonder at the strange
infatuation which renders men so credulous concerning the words of Satan and so
unbelieving in regard to the words of God.
Had man after his fall been
allowed free access to the tree
of life, he would have lived forever, and thus sin would
have been immortalized. But cherubim and a flaming sword kept "the way of the tree of
life" (Genesis 3:24), and not one of the family of Adam has been permitted to pass
that barrier and partake of the life-giving fruit. Therefore there is not an immortal
But after the Fall, Satan
bade his angels make a special effort to inculcate the belief in man's natural
immortality; and having induced the people to receive this error, they were to lead them
on to conclude that the sinner would live in eternal misery. Now the prince of darkness,
working through his agents, represents God as a revengeful tyrant, declaring that He
plunges into hell all those who do not please Him, and causes them ever to feel His wrath;
and that while they suffer unutterable anguish and writhe in the eternal flames, their
Creator looks down upon them with satisfaction.
Thus the archfiend clothes
with his own attributes the Creator and Benefactor of mankind. Cruelty is satanic. God is
love; and all that He created was pure, holy, and lovely, until sin was brought in by the
first great rebel. Satan himself is the enemy who tempts man to sin, and then destroys him
if he can; and when he has made sure of his victim, then he exults in the ruin he has
wrought. If permitted, he would sweep the entire race into his net. Were it not for the
interposition of divine power, not one son or daughter of Adam would escape.
Satan is seeking to overcome
men today, as he overcame our first parents, by shaking their confidence in their Creator
and leading them to doubt the wisdom of His government and the justice of His laws. Satan
and his emissaries represent God as even worse than themselves, in order to justify their
own malignity and rebellion. The great deceiver endeavors to shift his own horrible
cruelty of character upon our heavenly Father, that he may cause himself to appear as one
greatly wronged by his expulsion from heaven because he would not submit to so unjust a
governor. He presents before
the world the liberty which they may enjoy under his mild
sway, in contrast with the bondage imposed by the stern decrees of Jehovah. Thus he
succeeds in luring souls away from their allegiance to God.
How repugnant to every
emotion of love and mercy, and even to our sense of justice, is the doctrine that the
wicked dead are tormented with fire and brimstone in an eternally burning hell; that for
the sins of a brief earthly life they are to suffer torture as long as God shall live. Yet
this doctrine has been widely taught and is still embodied in many of the creeds of
Christendom. Said a learned doctor of divinity: "The sight of hell torments will
exalt the happiness of the saints forever. When they see others who are of the same nature
and born under the same circumstances, plunged in such misery, and they so distinguished,
it will make them sensible of how happy they are." Another used these words:
"While the decree of reprobation is eternally executing on the vessels of wrath, the
smoke of their torment will be eternally ascending in view of the vessels of mercy, who,
instead of taking the part of these miserable objects, will say, Amen, Alleluia! praise ye
Where, in the pages of God's
word, is such teaching to be found? Will the redeemed in heaven be lost to all emotions of
pity and compassion, and even to feelings of common humanity? Are these to be exchanged
for the indifference of the stoic or the cruelty of the savage? No, no; such is not the
teaching of the Book of God. Those who present the views expressed in the quotations given
above may be learned and even honest men, but they are deluded by the sophistry of Satan.
He leads them to misconstrue strong expressions of Scripture, giving to the language the
coloring of bitterness and malignity which pertains to himself, but not to our Creator.
"As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but
that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why
will ye die?" Ezekiel 33:11.
What would be gained to God
should we admit that He delights in witnessing unceasing tortures; that He is regaled with
the groans and shrieks and imprecations of the suffering creatures whom He holds in the
flames of hell? Can these horrid sounds be music in the ear of Infinite Love? It is urged
that the infliction of endless misery upon the wicked would show God's hatred of sin as an
evil which is ruinous to the peace and order of the universe. Oh, dreadful blasphemy! As
if God's hatred of sin is the reason why it is perpetuated. For, according to the
teachings of these theologians, continued torture without hope of mercy maddens its
wretched victims, and as they pour out their rage in curses and blasphemy, they are
forever augmenting their load of guilt. God's glory is not enhanced by thus perpetuating
continually increasing sin through ceaseless ages.
It is beyond the power of the
human mind to estimate the evil which has been wrought by the heresy of eternal torment.
The religion of the Bible, full of love and goodness, and abounding in compassion, is
darkened by superstition and clothed with terror. When we consider in what false colors
Satan has painted the character of God, can we wonder that our merciful Creator is feared,
dreaded, and even hated? The appalling views of God which have spread over the world from
the teachings of the pulpit have made thousands, yes, millions, of skeptics and infidels.
The theory of eternal torment
is one of the false doctrines that constitute the wine of the abomination of Babylon, of
which she makes all nations drink. Revelation 14:8; 17:2. That ministers of Christ should
have accepted this heresy and proclaimed it from the sacred desk is indeed a mystery. They
received it from Rome, as they received the false sabbath. True, it has been taught by
great and good men; but the light on this subject had not come to them as it has come to
us. They were responsible only for the light which shone in their time; we are accountable
for that which shines in our day. If we turn from the testimony of God's word, and accept
false doctrines because our fathers taught them, we fall under the condemnation pronounced
upon Babylon; we are drinking of the wine of her abomination.
A large class to whom the
doctrine of eternal torment is revolting are driven to the opposite error. They see that
the Scriptures represent God as a being of love and compassion, and they cannot believe
that He will consign His creatures to the fires of an eternally burning hell. But holding
that the soul is naturally immortal, they see no alternative but to conclude that all
mankind will finally be saved. Many regard the threatenings of the Bible as designed
merely to frighten men into obedience, and not to be literally fulfilled. Thus the sinner
can live in selfish pleasure, disregarding the requirements of God, and yet expect to be
finally received into His favor. Such a doctrine, presuming upon God's mercy, but ignoring
His justice, pleases the carnal heart and emboldens the wicked in their iniquity.
To show how believers in
universal salvation wrest the Scriptures to sustain their soul-destroying dogmas, it is
needful only to cite their own utterances. At the funeral of an irreligious young man, who
had been killed instantly by an accident, a Universalist minister selected as his text the
Scripture statement concerning David: "He was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he
was dead." 2 Samuel 13:39.
"I am frequently
asked," said the speaker, "what will be the fate of those who leave the world in
sin, die, perhaps, in a state of inebriation, die with the scarlet stains of crime
unwashed from their robes, or die as this young man died, having never made a profession
or enjoyed an experience of religion. We are content with the Scriptures; their answer
shall solve the awful problem. Amnon was exceedingly sinful; he was unrepentant, he was
made drunk, and while drunk was killed. David was a prophet of God; he must have known
whether it would be ill or well for Amnon in the world to come. What were the expressions
of his heart?
`The soul of King David longed to go forth unto Absalom: for he was
comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.' Verse 39.
"And what is the
inference to be deduced from this language? Is it not that endless suffering formed no
part of his religious belief? So we conceive; and here we discover a triumphant argument
in support of the more pleasing, more enlightened, more benevolent hypothesis of ultimate
universal purity and peace. He was comforted, seeing his son was dead. And why so? Because
by the eye of prophecy he could look forward into the glorious future and see that son far
removed from all temptations, released from the bondage and purified from the corruptions
of sin, and after being made sufficiently holy and enlightened, admitted to the assembly
of ascended and rejoicing spirits. His only comfort was that, in being removed from the
present state of sin and suffering, his beloved son had gone where the loftiest breathings
of the Holy Spirit would be shed upon his darkened soul, where his mind would be unfolded
to the wisdom of heaven and the sweet raptures of immortal love, and thus prepared with a
sanctified nature to enjoy the rest and society of the heavenly inheritance.
"In these thoughts we
would be understood to believe that the salvation of heaven depends upon nothing which we
can do in this life; neither upon a present change of heart, nor upon present belief, or a
present profession of religion."
Thus does the professed
minister of Christ reiterate the falsehood uttered by the serpent in Eden: "Ye shall
not surely die." "In the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and
ye shall be as gods." He declares that the vilest of sinners--the murderer, the
thief, and the adulterer--will after death be prepared to enter into immortal bliss.
And from what does this
perverter of the Scriptures draw his conclusions? From a single sentence expressing
David's submission to the dispensation of Providence. His
soul "longed to go forth
unto Absalom; for he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead." The
poignancy of his grief having been softened by time, his thoughts turned from the dead to
the living son, self-banished through fear of the just punishment of his crime. And this
is the evidence that the incestuous, drunken Amnon was at death immediately transported to
the abodes of bliss, there to be purified and prepared for the companionship of sinless
angels! A pleasing fable indeed, well suited to gratify the carnal heart! This is Satan's
own doctrine, and it does his work effectually. Should we be surprised that, with such
instruction, wickedness abounds?
The course pursued by this
one false teacher illustrates that of many others. A few words of Scripture are separated
from the context, which would in many cases show their meaning to be exactly opposite to
the interpretation put upon them; and such disjointed passages are perverted and used in
proof of doctrines that have no foundation in the word of God. The testimony cited as
evidence that the drunken Amnon is in heaven is a mere inference directly contradicted by
the plain and positive statement of the Scriptures that no drunkard shall inherit the
kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:10. It is thus that doubters, unbelievers, and skeptics
turn the truth into a lie. And multitudes have been deceived by their sophistry and rocked
to sleep in the cradle of carnal security.
If it were true that the
souls of all men passed directly to heaven at the hour of dissolution, then we might well
covet death rather than life. Many have been led by this belief to put an end to their
existence. When overwhelmed with trouble, perplexity, and disappointment, it seems an easy
thing to break the brittle thread of life and soar away into the bliss of the eternal
God has given in His word
decisive evidence that He will punish the transgressors of His law. Those who flatter
themselves that He is too merciful to execute justice upon the sinner, have only to look
to the cross of Calvary. The death of the spotless Son of God testifies that "the
wages of sin is death," that every violation of God's law must receive its just
retribution. Christ the sinless became sin for man. He bore the guilt of transgression,
and the hiding of His Father's face, until His heart was broken and His life crushed out.
All this sacrifice was made that sinners might be redeemed. In no other way could man be
freed from the penalty of sin. And every soul that refuses to become a partaker of the
atonement provided at such a cost must bear in his own person the guilt and punishment of
Let us consider what the
Bible teaches further concerning the ungodly and unrepentant, whom the Universalist places
in heaven as holy, happy angels.
"I will give unto him
that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." Revelation 21:6. This
promise is only to those that thirst. None but those who feel their need of the water of
life, and seek it at the loss of all things else, will be supplied. "He that
overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son."
Verse 7. Here, also, conditions are specified. In order to inherit all things, we must
resist and overcome sin.
The Lord declares by the
prophet Isaiah: "Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him."
"Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be
given him." Isaiah 3:10, 11. "Though a sinner do evil an hundred times,"
says the wise man, "and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be
well with them that fear God, which fear before Him: but it shall not be well with the
wicked." Ecclesiastes 8:12, 13. And Paul testifies that the sinner is treasuring up
unto himself "wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment
of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds;" "tribulation and
anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil." Romans 2:5, 6,9.
"No fornicator, nor
unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom
of Christ and God." Ephesians 5:5, A.R.V. "Follow peace with all men, and
holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Hebrews 12:14. "Blessed are
they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter
in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers,
and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie." Revelation
God has given to men a
declaration of His character and of His method of dealing with sin. "The Lord God,
merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy
for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means
clear the guilty." Exodus 34:6, 7. "All the wicked will He destroy."
"The transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut
off." Psalms 145:20; 37:38. The power and authority of the divine government will be
employed to put down rebellion; yet all the manifestations of retributive justice will be
perfectly consistent with the character of God as a merciful, long-suffering, benevolent
God does not force the will
or judgment of any. He takes no pleasure in a slavish obedience. He desires that the
creatures of His hands shall love Him because He is worthy of love. He would have them
obey Him because they have an intelligent appreciation of His wisdom, justice, and
benevolence. And all who have a just conception of these qualities will love Him because
they are drawn toward Him in admiration of His attributes.
The principles of kindness,
mercy, and love, taught and exemplified by our Saviour, are a transcript of the will and
character of God. Christ declared that He taught nothing except that which He had received
from His Father. The principles of the divine government are in perfect harmony with the
Saviour's precept, "Love your enemies." God
executes justice upon the wicked,
for the good of the universe, and even for the good of those upon whom His judgments are
visited. He would make them happy if He could do so in accordance with the laws of His
government and the justice of His character. He surrounds them with the tokens of His
love, He grants them a knowledge of His law, and follows them with the offers of His
mercy; but they despise His love, make void His law, and reject His mercy. While
constantly receiving His gifts, they dishonor the Giver; they hate God because they know
that He abhors their sins. The Lord bears long with their perversity; but the decisive
hour will come at last, when their destiny is to be decided. Will He then chain these
rebels to His side? Will He force them to do His will?
Those who have chosen Satan
as their leader and have been controlled by his power are not prepared to enter the
presence of God. Pride, deception, licentiousness, cruelty, have become fixed in their
characters. Can they enter heaven to dwell forever with those whom they despised and hated
on earth? Truth will never be agreeable to a liar; meekness will not satisfy self-esteem
and pride; purity is not acceptable to the corrupt; disinterested love does not appear
attractive to the selfish. What source of enjoyment could heaven offer to those who are
wholly absorbed in earthly and selfish interests?
Could those whose lives have
been spent in rebellion against God be suddenly transported to heaven and witness the
high, the holy state of perfection that ever exists there,-- every soul filled with love,
every countenance beaming with joy, enrapturing music in melodious strains rising in honor
of God and the Lamb, and ceaseless streams of light flowing upon the redeemed from the
face of Him who sitteth upon the throne,--could those whose hearts are filled with hatred
of God, of truth and holiness, mingle with the heavenly throng and join their songs of
praise? Could they endure the glory of God and the Lamb? No, no; years of probation
granted them, that they might form characters for heaven; but they have never trained the
mind to love purity; they have never learned the language of heaven, and now it is too
late. A life of rebellion against God has unfitted them for heaven. Its purity, holiness,
and peace would be torture to them; the glory of God would be a consuming fire. They would
long to flee from that holy place. They would welcome destruction, that they might be
hidden from the face of Him who died to redeem them. The destiny of the wicked is fixed by
their own choice. Their exclusion from heaven is voluntary with themselves, and just and
merciful on the part of God.
Like the waters of the Flood
the fires of the great day declare God's verdict that the wicked are incurable. They have
no disposition to submit to divine authority. Their will has been exercised in revolt; and
when life is ended, it is too late to turn the current of their thoughts in the opposite
direction, too late to turn from transgression to obedience, from hatred to love.
In sparing the life of Cain
the murderer, God gave the world an example of what would be the result of permitting the
sinner to live to continue a course of unbridled iniquity. Through the influence of Cain's
teaching and example, multitudes of his descendants were led into sin, until "the
wickedness of man was great in the earth" and "every imagination of the thoughts
of his heart was only evil continually." "The earth also was corrupt before God,
and the earth was filled with violence." Genesis 6:5, 11.
In mercy to the world, God
blotted out its wicked inhabitants in Noah's time. In mercy He destroyed the corrupt
dwellers in Sodom. Through the deceptive power of Satan the workers of iniquity obtain
sympathy and admiration, and are thus constantly leading others to rebellion. It was so in
Cain's and in Noah's day, and in the time of Abraham and Lot; it is so in our time. It is
in mercy to the universe that God will finally destroy the rejecters of His grace.
"The wages of sin is
death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans
6:23. While life is the inheritance of the righteous, death is the portion of the wicked.
Moses declared to Israel: "I have set before thee this day life and good, and death
and evil." Deuteronomy 30:15. The death referred to in these scriptures is not that
pronounced upon Adam, for all mankind suffer the penalty of his transgression. It is
"the second death" that is placed in contrast with everlasting life.
In consequence of Adam's sin,
death passed upon the whole human race. All alike go down into the grave. And through the
provisions of the plan of salvation, all are to be brought forth from their graves.
"There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust;"
"for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." Acts 24:15;
I Corinthians 15:22. But a distinction is made between the two classes that are brought
forth. "All that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they
that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the
resurrection of damnation." John 5:28, 29. They who have been "accounted
worthy" of the resurrection of life are "blessed and holy." "On such
the second death hath no power." Revelation 20:6. But those who have not, through
repentance and faith, secured pardon, must receive the penalty of transgression--"the
wages of sin." They suffer punishment varying in duration and intensity,
"according to their works," but finally ending in the second death. Since it is
impossible for God, consistently with His justice and mercy, to save the sinner in his
sins, He deprives him of the existence which his transgressions have forfeited and of
which he has proved himself unworthy. Says an inspired writer: "Yet a little while,
and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall
not be." And another declares: "They shall be as though
they had not been."
Psalm 37:10; Obadiah 16. Covered with infamy, they sink into hopeless, eternal oblivion.
Thus will be made an end of
sin, with all the woe and ruin which have resulted from it. Says the psalmist: "Thou
hast destroyed the wicked, Thou hast put out their name forever and ever. O thou enemy,
destructions are come to a perpetual end." Psalm 9:5, 6. John, in the Revelation,
looking forward to the eternal state, hears a universal anthem of praise undisturbed by
one note of discord. Every creature in heaven and earth was heard ascribing glory to God.
Revelation 5:13. There will then be no lost souls to blaspheme God as they writhe in
never-ending torment; no wretched beings in hell will mingle their shrieks with the songs
of the saved.
Upon the fundamental error of
natural immortality rests the doctrine of consciousness in death--a doctrine, like eternal
torment, opposed to the teachings of the Scriptures,to the dictates of reason, and to our
feelings of humanity. According to the popular belief, the redeemed in heaven are
acquainted with all that takes place on the earth and especially with the lives of the
friends whom they have left behind. But how could it be a source of happiness to the dead
to know the troubles of the living, to witness the sins committed by their own loved ones,
and to see them enduring all the sorrows, disappointments, and anguish of life? How much
of heaven's bliss would be enjoyed by those who were hovering over their friends on earth?
And how utterly revolting is the belief that as soon as the breath leaves the body the
soul of the impenitent is consigned to the flames of hell! To what depths of anguish must
those be plunged who see their friends passing to the grave unprepared, to enter upon an
eternity of woe and sin! Many have been driven to insanity by this harrowing thought.
What say the Scriptures
concerning these things? David declares that man is not conscious in death. "His
breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his
Psalm 146:4. Solomon bears the same testimony: "The living know that they shall die:
but the dead know not anything." "Their love, and their hatred, and their envy,
is now perished; neither have they any more a portion forever in anything that is done
under the sun." "There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the
grave, whither thou goest." Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10.
When, in answer to his
prayer, Hezekiah's life was prolonged fifteen years, the grateful king rendered to God a
tribute of praise for His great mercy. In this song he tells the reason why he thus
rejoices: "The grave cannot praise Thee, death cannot celebrate Thee: they that go
down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise Thee,
as I do this day." Isaiah 38:18, 19. Popular theology represents the righteous dead
as in heaven, entered into bliss and praising God with an immortal tongue; but Hezekiah
could see no such glorious prospect in death. With his words agrees the testimony of the
psalmist: "In death there is no remembrance of Thee: in the grave who shall give Thee
thanks?" "The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into
silence." Psalms 6:5; 115:17.
Peter on the Day of Pentecost
declared that the patriarch David "is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with
us unto this day." "For David is not ascended into the heavens." Acts 2:29,
34. The fact that David remains in the grave until the resurrection proves that the
righteous do not go to heaven at death. It is only through the resurrection, and by virtue
of the fact that Christ has risen, that David can at last sit at the right hand of God.
And said Paul: "If the
dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain;
ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are
perished." I Corinthians 15:16-18. If for four thousand years the righteous had gone
directly to heaven at death, how could Paul have said that if there is no resurrection,
"they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished"? No resurrection
would be necessary.
The martyr Tyndale, referring
to the state of the dead, declared: "I confess openly, that I am not persuaded that
they be already in the full glory that Christ is in, or the elect angels of God are in.
Neither is it any article of my faith; for if it were so, I see not but then the preaching
of the resurrection of the flesh were a thing in vain."--William Tyndale, Preface to
New Testament (ed. 1534). Reprinted in British Reformers--Tindal, Frith, Barnes, page 349.
It is an undeniable fact that
the hope of immortal blessedness at death has led to a widespread neglect of the Bible
doctrine of the resurrection. This tendency was remarked by Dr. Adam Clarke, who said:
"The doctrine of the resurrection appears to have been thought of much more
consequence among the primitive Christians than it is now! How is this? The apostles were
continually insisting on it, and exciting the followers of God to diligence, obedience,
and cheerfulness through it. And their successors in the present day seldom mention it! So
apostles preached, and so primitive Christians believed; so we preach, and so our hearers
believe. There is not a doctrine in the gospel on which more stress is laid; and there is
not a doctrine in the present system of preaching which is treated with more
neglect!"-- Commentary, remarks on I Corinthians 15, paragraph 3.
This has continued until the
glorious truth of the resurrection has been almost wholly obscured and lost sight of by
the Christian world. Thus a leading religious writer, commenting on the words of Paul in I
Thessalonians 4:13-18, says: "For all practical purposes of comfort the doctrine of
the blessed immortality of the righteous takes the place for us of any doubtful doctrine
of the Lord's second coming. At our death the Lord comes for us. That is what we are to
wait and watch for. The dead are already passed into glory. They do not wait for the trump
for their judgment and blessedness."
But when about to leave His
disciples, Jesus did not tell them that they would soon come to Him. "I go to prepare
a place for you," He said. "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come
again, and receive you unto Myself." John 14:2, 3. And Paul tells us, further, that
"the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the
Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we
which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet
the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." And he adds:
"Comfort one another with these words." I Thessalonians 4:16-18. How wide the
contrast between these words of comfort and those of the Universalist minister previously
quoted! The latter consoled the bereaved friends with the assurance that, however sinful
the dead might have been, when he breathed out his life here he was to be received among
the angels. Paul points his brethren to the future coming of the Lord, when the fetters of
the tomb shall be broken, and the "dead in Christ" shall be raised to eternal
Before any can enter the
mansions of the blessed, their cases must be investigated, and their characters and their
deeds must pass in review before God. All are to be judged according to the things written
in the books and to be rewarded as their works have been. This judgment does not take
place at death. Mark the words of Paul: "He hath appointed a day, in the which He
will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath
given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead." Acts 17:31.
Here the apostle plainly stated that a specified time, then future, had been fixed upon
for the judgment of the world.
Jude refers to the same
period: "The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation,
He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great
day." And, again, he quotes the words of Enoch: "Behold, the Lord cometh with
ten thousands of His
saints, to execute judgment upon all." Jude 6, 14, 15. John
declares that he "saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were
opened: . . . and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the
books." Revelation 20:12.
But if the dead are already
enjoying the bliss of heaven or writhing in the flames of hell, what need of a future
judgment? The teachings of God's word on these important points are neither obscure nor
contradictory; they may be understood by common minds. But what candid mind can see either
wisdom or justice in the current theory? Will the righteous, after the investigation of
their cases at the judgment, receive the commendation, "Well done, thou good and
faithful servant: . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord," when they have been
dwelling in His presence, perhaps for long ages? Are the wicked summoned from the place of
torment to receive sentence from the Judge of all the earth: "Depart from Me, ye
cursed, into everlasting fire"? Matthew 25:21, 41. Oh, solemn mockery! shameful
impeachment of the wisdom and justice of God!
The theory of the immortality
of the soul was one of those false doctrines that Rome, borrowing from paganism,
incorporated into the religion of Christendom. Martin Luther classed it with the
"monstrous fables that form part of the Roman dunghill of decretals."--E.
Petavel, The Problem of Immortality, page 255. Commenting on the words of Solomon in
Ecclesiastes, that the dead know not anything, the Reformer says: "Another place
proving that the dead have no . . . feeling. There is, saith he, no duty, no science, no
knowledge, no wisdom there. Solomon judgeth that the dead are asleep, and feel nothing at
all. For the dead lie there, accounting neither days nor years, but when they are awaked,
they shall seem to have slept scarce one minute."-- Martin Luther, Exposition of
Solomon's Booke Called Ecclesiastes, page 152.
Nowhere in the Sacred
Scriptures is found the statement
that the righteous go to their reward or the wicked
to their punishment at death. The patriarchs and prophets have left no such assurance.
Christ and His apostles have given no hint of it. The Bible clearly teaches that the dead
do not go immediately to heaven. They are represented as sleeping until the resurrection.
I Thessalonians 4:14; Job 14:10-12. In the very day when the silver cord is loosed and the
golden bowl broken (Ecclesiastes 12:6), man's thoughts perish. They that go down to the
grave are in silence. They know no more of anything that is done under the sun. Job 14:21.
Blessed rest for the weary righteous! Time, be it long or short, is but a moment to them.
They sleep; they are awakened by the trump of God to a glorious immortality. "For the
trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible. . . . So when this
corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality,
then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in
victory." I Corinthians 15:52-54. As they are called forth from their deep slumber
they begin to think just where they ceased. The last sensation was the pang of death; the
last thought, that they were falling beneath the power of the grave. When they arise from
the tomb, their first glad thought will be echoed in the triumphal shout: "O death,
where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" Verse 55.