[Bible Standard, No. 2, November, 1877, pp9-11.]
There are several adverse theories entertained among orthodox Protestants concerning the dead between death and the resurrection. Some teach us that immediately after death the soul enters either heaven or hell. Another class tell us that the soul is detained in a conscious state in Hades, there to await the resurrection of the body. According to this theory the Hadean state is a kind of purgatory existing somewhere, but nobody knows where. We cannot perhaps do better than lay before our readers a few testimonies from the writings of our orthodox fathers in order to show their utter lack of Scriptural evidence for such assertions as the following: –
Adam Clarke says, “If I die, I shall go immediately to Glory.”
Says Thomas Scott, “If our sins be forgiven and our hearts renewed unto holiness, heaven will be the rest of our souls, whilst our bodies will be secretly hid in the grave.”
Hiram Maddison says:- “We talk of the death of man, because we see the ‘earthy house’ dissolve, but it is only an illusion. There is no death; what seems such is transition. The body dies, but the soul survives death. … The sainted dead are already before the throne, and serve God day and night in His temple; and when Christ shall appear in the clouds of heaven to raise the dead, and burn the world, and judge all men and angels, these saints shall attend him down His starry pathway, to renter their bodies, now made incorruptible and glorious, and for the redemption of which they have so long waited.”
You will see, dear reader, by this extract we are given to believe that death is an illusion! Can it be true that Christ, when He conquered death only conquered an illusion? And when He comes a second time, will He simply destroy an illusion when He ‘destroys death’?
The sentiment of this modern theologian reminds us forcibly of the language used by the tempter when to our Mother Eve he said ‘You will not surely die.’
Charles Wesley represents the saints in the following poem as receiving their crowns, and beginning their reign with Christ immediately after their death:
When from flesh the spirit freed,
Hastens homeward to return,
Mortals cry, ‘A man is dead!’
Angels sing, ‘A child is born!’
Born into the world above,
They our happy brother greet,
Bear him to the throne of love,
Place him at the Savior’s feet;
Jesus smiles, and says, ‘Well done!
Good and faithful servant thou!
Enter, and receive thy crown,
Reign with Me triumphant now.’
The intermediate state of wicked souls is thus sketched by Jonathan Edwards:
“As soon as ever the soul departs from the body, the soul shall know what its state and condition are to be to all eternity. As long as there is life, there is hope. The man, while he lived, though his case was exceedingly dreadful, yet had some hope; when he lay dying, there was a possibility of salvation. But when once the union between soul and body is broken, then that moment the case becomes desperate, and there remains no hope, no possibility. On their death-beds, perhaps, they had some hope that God would pity them and hear their cries, or that he would hear the prayers of their pious friends for them; they were ready to lay hold on something which they had at some time met with, some religious affection or some change in their external conduct, and to flatter themselves that they were then converted; they were able to indulge some degree of hope from the moral lives that they had lived, that God would have respect to them and save them; but as soon as ever the soul parts from the body, from that moment the case will be absolutely determined, there will then be an end for ever to all hope, to every thing that men hang upon in this life; the soul then shall know certainly that it is to be miserable to all eternity, without any remedy. It shall see that God is its enemy; it shall see its Judge clothed in his wrath and vengeance. Then its misery will begin, it will that moment be swallowed up in despair; the great gulf will be fixed between it and happiness, the door of mercy will be for ever shut up, the irrevocable sentence will be passed. … We may well suppose that when a wicked man dies, his soul is seized by wicked angels; that they are round his bed ready to seize the miserable soul as soon as it is parted from the body. And with what fierceness and fury do those cruel spirits fly upon their prey; and the soul shall be left in their hands. There shall be no good angels to guard and defend it. God will take no merciful care of it, there is nothing to help it against those cruel spirits that shall lay hold of it to carry it to hell, there to torment it for ever. God will leave it wholly in their hands, and will give it up to their possession, when it comes to die [?]; and it shall be carried down into hell, to the abode of devils and damned spirits….
Departed spirits of wicked men are doubtless carried to some particular place in the universe, which God has prepared to be the receptacle of his wicked, rebellions, and miserable subjects; a place where Godâ€™s avenging justice shall be glorified; a place built to be the prison, where devils and wicked men are reserved till the day of judgement.
… And those who go to hell, never can escape thence; there they remain imprisoned till the day of judgment, and their torments remain continually. Those wicked men who died many years ago, their souls went to hell, and there they are still; those who went to hell in former ages of the world, have been in hell ever since, all the while suffering torment. They have nothing else to spend their time in there, but to suffer torment, they are kept in being for no other purpose [!]
Such is the language of Tradition. Such are the views held by the modern orthodox exponents of man’s intermediate state. ‘Orthodox’ though it may be called, it is directly opposed to the teachings of Scripture.
Charles Wesley gives us to understand in the poem quoted that the righteous go immediately to their reward at death, – then they are crowned, then they meet Christ. ‘Now’ they reign with Christ ‘triumphant.’ The language of Scripture bears a direct testimony against both Wesley and Jonathan Edwards, and everybody else holding such views.
The inspired writers are by no means silent on this subject; as we have shown in our first article, their uniform testimony is, when speaking of the righteous, that they are asleep (1Cor. 15:18, 20, 1Thess. 4:13, 16,) and this sleep is not in heaven but in the dust (Dan. 12:2.) The dead are said to ‘know not anyhing’ (Eccl. 9:5.) When death comes to a man, whether he be righteous or wicked, it is said of him, ‘In that very day his thoughts perish.’ (Psa. 146:4). ‘In death there is no remembrance of God’ (Psa. 6:5). They are in the ‘land of forgetfulness,’ (Psa. 88:12).
When we come to the subject of the judgement, we find that Christ teaches that no rewards are to be given until the resurrection. Speaking of the righteous He says that they shall be, ‘recompensed at the resurrection of the just.’ (Luke 14:14.)
In the Book of revelation we find under the 7th trumpet it is said, ‘And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.’ (Rev. 11:18.)
Paul, in writing his last Epistle to Timothy says, ‘I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom.’ (2Tim. 4:1.)
If the statements made by Christ, and His Apostles, Paul and John, are true, then Charles Wesley and J. Edwards, with all who teach that men immediately after death receive their reward and punishment must be wrong, – which shall we believe? We are fully persuaded that the Scriptures, when referring to man in death, teach a negation of all life, thought or action, and that he is not in heaven or in the theological hell, but in the grave, a place of silence, oblivion, darkness, and corruption, and that he must of necessity remain there until Christ bids ‘all that are in their graves to come forth.’
Archbishop Whately, one of the ablest scholars and most acute theologians and a popular religious author of the English Church, says referring to the intermediate state, ‘to the Christian indeed all this doubt would be instantly removed, if he found that the immortality of the soul, as a disembodied spirit, were revealed in the Word of God. In fact, however, no such doctrine is revealed to us; the Christian’s hope, as founded on the promises contained in the Gospel, is the resurrection of the dead.’
The views we are now advocating caused serious disputes in the days of the Reformation, so much so that Pope Leo X. thought it necessary to call a Council to settle the matter once for all. With some it did settle it, but with others we feel thankful to say it produced little or no effect, for the light from the Word of the Lord had broken in upon their minds and in spite of the Pope and his so-called infallible decree, they dared to study the Word and proclaim their convictions of its truth. We will give our readers the decree of the Council, held AD 1513, under Pope Leo X.:
“Whereas, some have dared to assert concerning the nature of the reasonable soul, that it is mortal, or one in the same in all men, and some declare this to be true. We, with the approbation of the Sacred Council, do condemn and reprobate all those who assert that the intellectual soul is mortal, or one in the same in all men, and those who call these thigs in question; seeing that the soul is not only truly and of itself and essentially the form of the human body, as is expressed in the canon of Pope Clement V. Published in the General Council of Vienna; but likewise immortal; and according to the number of bodies into which it is infused, is singularly multipliable, multiplied, and to be multiplied; and we strictly inhibit all from dogmatizing otherwise, and we decree that all who adhere to the like erroneous assertions shall be shunned and punished as heretics.”
We now give Martin Luther’s answer to the above decree. In Luther’s Defence of the Propositions condemned by the Bull of Leo X., proposition 27, he replies:
“It is certain that it is not in the power of the Church or Pope to establish articles of faith or laws for morals or good works … But I permit the Pope to make articles of faith for himself and his faithful –such as ‘the soul is the substantial form of the human body.’ ‘The Pope is the emperor of the world, and the king of heaven, and God upon earth, ‘ The soul is immortal,’ with all those monstrous opinions to be found in the Roman dunghill of decretals.”
Again he says: ‘All souls lie and sleep until doomsday.’
Duke George, in writing to Duke John, October 15, 1521, says: ‘Some deny the immortality of the soul. All this comes from Luther’s teachings.’ The Reformers were also charged with stating: ‘All which has been said about the immortality of the soul was invented by Anti – Christ for the purpose of making the Pope’s pot boil.’
In the celebrated historical review, published in London in 1772, it is recorded that Luther taught that souls ‘lay in a profound sleep, in which opinion he followed many Fathers of the ancient Church.’ It adds: ‘The doctrine was held by the first Reformers.’
Sir Thomas More, a zealous Roman Catholic, wrote a book to refute the doctrine taught by the Reformers, in which he assails the teachings of Luther. He asks, ” What shall he care how long he live in sin, that believeth Luther, that he shall after this life feel neither good nor evil, in body nor soul, until the day of doom [Judgement]?”
To this book of More, William Tyndale, the man who first translated the Scriptures into the English language, replied thus:
“Christ and his apostles taught no other; but warned to look for Christ’s coming again every hour; which coming again because ye believe will never be, therefore ye have feigned that other merchandise.” [purgatory.]
And you, in putting them [souls] in heaven, hell, and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection. If the souls be in heaven, tell me why they be not in as good case [as well off] as the angels be? And then what cause is there of the resurrection?
We consider the arguments of Tyndale both logical and Scriptural, and we think that if our friends will come back to the Word of God, they will find toi their utter astonishment that much is said or written on the subject of the intermediate state, which cannot be sustained by the standard of truth. We would therefore earnestly entreat you to search the Scriptures, and see if these things be so. Death is not ‘the gate to Glory,’ but the gate to the land of silence, the land of forgetfulness. Death returns man to the dust, and on that very day their thoughts perish. Resurrection from the dead is our only hope of life, of immortality, and of eternal glory. “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then … those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” -B.