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Christendom Astray Contents

Christendom Astray
From The Bible
  Christendom Astray

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Over the whole period of the times of the Gentiles the number of these who respond to His call is considerable; but all who are thus called are not chosen (Matt. xxii, 14), because many who accept the word preached are not influenced by it to "present their bodies living sacrifices, holy and acceptable." As in the case of the Israelites under Moses, "the word preached does not profit them, not being mixed with faith" in all who hear it (Heb. iv., 2). The soil being bad, the seed produces no result of any consequence. The net of the kingdom (Matt. xiii, 47) submerged (by preaching) in the ocean of "peoples and multitudes, and nations, and tongues," encloses bad fish as well as good. The propagation of the gospel results not only in rejectors, but in servants, and not only faithful servants, but unfaithful also.

Not only so, but there are different degrees of merit among those who are faithful. Some sow bountifully, others sparingly. Some bring forth fruit thirty fold, and some a hundred fold. No man can assess the degrees. None of the servants can say, "This shall be accepted much, and that little, and the other not at all." In this matter, they are commanded to "judge not" (Matt. vii, 1), and indeed they cannot do it; though, if censoriously inclined, they may attempt it, and sin. There are secrets unknown (good and evil), which require to be known most accurately, before a just judgment can be given. "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (I Sam., xvi 7).

Here, then, is a great community, living and dead, every member related to the rest by the closest of ties, and yet each sustaining a problematical relation to the finality upon which they have set their hearts--the attainment of immortality, and the inheriting of God's kingdom; each having a right to the promised blessing, so far as the judgment of the rest is concerned, and yet each so situated with reference to God, that unfaithfulness will bring his damnation, though all his comrades approve.

When and by what means is this endless variety of causes to be adjusted? When and how is there to be a settlement of the account still open between the Deity and His servants? which to a man is simply inextricable, and impossible if extricated? Has God made any provision by which this superhuman task shall be accomplished ? --this balancing of good and evil in the infinite diversity of millions of "quick and dead "? --this determination of the minute shades of merit and demerit, attaching to the responsible dead and living of a hundred generations? --this rewarding, in just ratio, of unknown and forgotten deeds of constancy and mercy? --this exposure and retribution of evil thoughts, hidden malice, hard speeches, and deeds of darkness? Has He arranged for such a scrutiny of the affairs of His people, as shall result in the separation of the evil from the good, the reward of the righteous, and the punishment of the wicked among them?

The answer sometimes given to this question is true in the fact upon which it is built, but wrong in the construction of the fact. It is said that "the Lord knoweth them that are His," and that, therefore, there is no necessity for a judgment; that "He discerneth the thoughts and intents of the heart," and "needeth not that any should tell Him what is in man." This is true, and marks the difference between the" judgment seat of Christ" and a human judicature which makes inquisition for the purpose of ascertaining the facts. But when this truth is made the means of displacing the necessity for the revealed purpose of judging the quick and the dead, it is applied with an illogical and pernicious result. It is illogical, because it by no means follows that the Deity's omniscient perceptions are not to have official expression, especially when, as in this case, those perceptions affect the standing. of those who are the subjects of them, and determine in the expression of them, their destiny.

In all transactions between man and the Deity, there is an invariable accommodation on the part of the latter to the necessities and finite apprehensions of the former. Why did Jehovah allow a faithless generation of Israelites to escape from Egypt under Moses, and go through the miraculous experiences of the desert, and finally pronounce condemnation on them, instead of acting on His knowledge, and summarily destroying them in a night, like the Assyrians, without warning or explanation? Because He was anxious to bring down to human apprehension the methods of His moral procedure, which He could only do by acting on human modes and processes. Why did He allow Korah, Dathan, and Abiram to lurk in the camp for a season, and trouble the congregation by attempting a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, instead of acting upon His omniscience, and weeding them out at the beginning of the journey, and so save the nation from turbulence? Because such a mode of procedure, instead of illustrating and justifying the ways of God to man, would have wrapped them in mystery, and clothed them with the appearance of caprice and injustice.

Why did He so long forbear with the Jews in their obstinacy, foreknowing their ultimate rejection of all His messengers and His own Son? Why did Jesus, who discerned "spirits," tolerate Judas till he convicted himself by betraying his master? Why did the Spirit suffer Ananias and Sapphira to come into the presence of the apostles, and go through the formality of hearing their own condemnation, before their mendacity was punished by death? In fact, why do things happen at all as they do? Why did not the Deity frame the terrestrial economy of things on such a basis that obedience and not disobedience should have been the law? The whole history of divine procedure, in relation to human affairs, shows that divine omniscience is never allowed for a moment to forestall or displace the natural order of events, but rather sets up and enforces the law by which everything has its full and logical course, before the culminating consequence is reached.

To say that because God knows the righteous from the wicked, He will not bring them to the formality of a judgment, is to reason against every operation of the Deity on record. It is true the Deity knows; but is it not necessary that the righteous and the wicked themselves should know? How shall the righteous know themselves approved, and the wicked condemned, and the Deity be justified in the eyes of both, without the declaration of what He knows?

The conclusion is also pernicious, because it evolves the rejection of one of the doctrines which are defined as the first principles of the doctrines of the Christ. We have quoted testimony sufficient to show that the doctrine of the judgment of the living and dead by Christ is part and parcel of the gospel-proclamation about Him. We further submit, on the strength of considerations already passed in review, that logically viewed, it is a natural and necessary part of the glad tidings. It is one of the finest sources of relief which the truth affords, the knowledge that the disputes, misunderstandings, and wrongs of the present maladministration of things, are destined, in the purpose of God, to come before an infallible tribunal, at which every man shall have praise or condemnation, according to the nature of the disclosure.

It is gladdening to know that there lies between this corrupt state of things and the perfection of the kingdom of God, an ordeal which will prevent the entrance of" anything that defileth," which, as fire, will try every man's work, and thin down, by a process of purification, the crowd of those who do no more than say "Lord, Lord!" It is comforting to know that wrongful suffering will then be avenged, that secret faithfulness will then be openly acknowledged, that unappreciated worth will be recognised, and that evil doing, unpunished, unsuspected, and unknown, will be held up for execration, in the face of so august an assembly as that of the Elohim, presided over by the Lion of the tribe of Judah. This is part of the glad tidings concerning Jesus Christ.

In these remarks, we assume that the object and effect of the judgment is to mete out to every man who is summoned to it, according to his deeds, WHETHER GOOD OR BAD. This is apparent from the testimony quoted to prove that judgment will be executed by the Son of Man at his coming. We append further and more specific evidence on this point :--

"Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord . . . And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: DEPART FROM ME, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. vii, 22-23).

"Every idle (evil) word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" (Matt. xii, 36).

"The Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works" (Matt. xvi, 27).

"Every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom. xiv, 12).

"Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner, but He will bum up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt. iii, 12).

"Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Rev. xxii, 12).

"The work of a man shall He render unto him, and cause every man to find according to his ways" (Job xxxiv, 11).

"Doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? and shall not He render to every man according to his works?" (Prov. xxiv, 12--- See also Psa. lxii, 12).

"I the Lord search the heart; I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings" (Jer. xvii, 10).

Another important evidence of the conclusion to which these testimonies lead us, is to be found in the parables of Christ, in many of which he illustrates the relation between himself and his servants in connection with his departure from the earth. In all of these, he presents the fact that at his return he will "take account" of them, and deal with them according to their individual deserts. Thus, in the parable of the nobleman (Luke xix, 15), "It came to pass that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, he commanded these servants to be called unto him to whom he had given the money, THAT HE MIGHT KNOW HOW MUCH EVERY MAN HAD GAINED BY TRADING." Those servants are given as three in number, and, doubtless, represent the several classes of which the bulk of Christ's professing servants are composed. The first gives a satisfactory account of himself, having increased five talents to ten, and receives jurisdiction over ten cities. The second has made two talents into four, and entitles himself to meritorious recognition, and the allotment of four cities. The third, who, though less privileged, might have stood equally well, had he turned his single talent into two, justifies his indolence on the plea that he dreaded a service where more was expected than was given in the first instance. This man, who stands for the unfaithful, is rejected. The decree is, "Take the talent from him, and give it unto him that hath ten talents .... Cast ye the UNPROFITABLE SERVANT into outer darkness" (Matt. xxv, 28-30). Here the unprofitable servant figures in the judgment of the king's household, at his return, as well as the approved.

In Matt. xxii, 1-14, we have another parable in which the same feature is introduced. A certain king issues invitations to his son's marriage, but the parties invited make various excuses for not coming. The king then orders a general invitation to all and sundry whom his servants may find on the highways, and his servants execute the orders, and "gather as many as they found, bad and good." The king then comes in to see the guests, and "saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment," whom he ordered to be "bound hand and foot, and taken away." This shows that the judgment to be carried out by Jesus at the time of reckoning has the practical effect of "severing the wicked from amongst the just." To the same purport is the parable of which the latter italicised words are an explanation. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they drew to the shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away" (Matt. xiii, 47, 48). Also the following: "The Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore... lest coming suddenly, he find you sleeping" (Mark xiii, 34, 36).

Further, "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning, and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return . . . Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching... But, and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to beat the men-servants and maidens, and to eat and to drink and to be drunken, the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers" (Luke xii, 35-37, 45, 46). The parable of the ten virgins enforces the same fact, viz., the unworthy portion of his servants will be publicly and officially rejected at the time the others are acknowledged.

This is in harmony with the reason of the thing, as well as with the numerous testimonies already cited from the apostolic writings. Many are called, but only few out of the many are "chosen." When should the choice take place, but at the time represented in. these parables, viz., "When the lord of those servants cometh" to develop the state of things with reference to which the choice is to be made? (Matt. xxv, 19). The present is not a time for dividing the wicked from the righteous. Both go to the grave, and "rest together in the dust," and their merits and demerits would sleep for ever with them in the silence of the tomb, were it not for the awaking voice that calls the just and unjust, at the appointed time, from the oblivion of hades, to give an account before the "judgment-seat of Christ." Now is not the time for Jesus to execute judgment. He is a priest over his own house. The great question of account is left over till he returns. "He shall judge the quick and the dead AT HIS APPEARING AND HIS KINGDOM." He shall open the dread book of God's remembrance, wherein are indelibly recorded the thoughts and transactions of those who shall come to judgment, and the dead shall be judged out of those things that are written in the book.

Shall the wicked be absent at such a moment? The suggestion is precluded by the testimony and by the sense of the thing. A mockery of a judgment-seat it would be if its operations were confined to the allotment of rewards to the accepted. To judge, in the executive sense, is to enforce the division of good from evil. This is the function of Jesus in relation to His servants at His coming. True, says the suggester, but it will only be the living wicked that he will reject; the dead wicked will sleep on to another period. Is it so, then, that the accident of death a day before the advent will shut off a wicked man from the jurisdiction of the Judge of the quick and dead? Is it so that Jesus will only judge the living and not the dead at his appearing? Is it so that he is not "lord both of the dead and living?" (Rom. xiv, 9). The answer is self-evident; life or death makes no difference in our relationship to the judgment-seat. The Son of Man has power to call from the dead at his will, and, therefore, virtually, the dead are as much amenable to his judicature as those who may happen to be in the flesh when he is revealed.

The constituted servants of Christ--by belief of the gospel and baptism--are candidates for the kingdom to be manifested at the appearing of Christ, which is to exist thereafter a thousand years; and it is meet that they should be arraigned in his presence to have it decided, as between them and him, when the time comes to enter the kingdom, which of all the number are worthy of the honour sought. This, it is declared, in the testimonies quoted, he will do. To do otherwise--to leave over the undeserving of them for adjudication at a subsequent period, would both violate the fitness of things, and contravene the express declarations which we have quoted on the subject. Jesus has declared that he will confess or deny men in the presence of the angels at his coming, according to the position taken by them in his absence (Luke ix, 26; Matt. x, 32, 33). Does not this necessitate their presence on the occasion? Where would be the shame of a denial if the one denied were not there to witness his own disgrace? Some will be "ashamed before him at his coming" (I John ii, 28). Daniel says that at that time "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." This agrees with Paul's statement that "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish," shall be the lot of every soul of man that is contentious and disobedient to the truth, "in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Christ Jesus" (Rom. ii, 8, 9, 16); and with his exhortation in another place, to "judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness" (I Cor. iv, 5).

With the general conclusion before us, that the judgment-seat is the appointed tribunal for determining the great question of individual desert, in relation to the dispensation of God's favour in Christ, we come to the minor but involved question of the nature and position of the dead, during the interval elapsing between their emergence from the death-state and their adjudication by the judge. The object of that adjudication is defined by Paul in the following words: "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive in body according to that we have done, WHETHER GOOD OR BAD" (II Cor. v, 10). What shall those "receive in body," who have in the sense of those words, "done good "? and what, those who have "done bad "? Paul, in another place, answers these questions. He says God "will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing (he will render) ETERNAL, LIFE. But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish... in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ" (Rom. ii, 6-9, 16). The same fact he announces m more specific terms to the Galatians (vi, 7, 8), "Be not deceived; for God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life EVERLASTING."

Paul does not mention the judgment in this testimony; but it is evident that it relates to the judgment, since life everlasting is not "reaped" in the present state of existence, and "corruption" befalls all alike, without reference to the "sowing." It is evident that the results of the present life are to be dispensed at the judgment-seat. Paul, indeed, expressly declares it in the words already quoted, "that we may receive," etc. This is reasonable, and befitting of the Deity, who is "a God of order" to the utmost exactitude in all things.

If this be so, does it not follow that prior to the judgment-seat, both classes of those subject to judgment, occupy the neutral position they hold in the present life, commingling indiscriminately, awaiting the tribunal, none knowing who is who? Is it not evident that the judgment-seat forms the great natural boundary line between probation and exaltation: the great crisis for determining the standing of the many who have been "called "; the time for that disclosure of divine secrets, which results in the severing of the wicked from among the just, and the rejection and the condemnation of the one, and the acceptance and glorification of the other? If so, it follows that up to the appearance of the dead before Christ to give an account, these questions are undecided, so far as their effect in relation to them is concerned. They are, of course, known to the divine mind, as we have already had occasion to consider, but not declared or enforced. Christ, as the judge of the quick and dead, is entrusted with that very office.

What is the conclusion from these Scriptural premises? There is only one: that the dead assembled for judgment are men and women in the flesh recovered from the grave, reproduced, and made to "STAND AGAIN" (anastasis) in the presence of their Lord and Judge, to have it determined whether they are worthy of receiving the "hidden manna" of eternal life, for which they are. all candidates, or deserving of reconsignment to corruption and death, under the special solemn circumstance of rejection by him who is "altogether lovely." Thus, those who are alive when the Lord comes, and those who emerge from the grave at that period, will be on a footing of perfect equality. They will all be gathered together into the one Great Presence, for the one great dread purpose of inquisition. Not until they hear the spoken words of the King will they know how it is to fare with them. All depends upon the "account." This can only be accurately estimated by the Judge. A righteous man will tremble and underrate his position; on the other hand, "the wicked" may venture with coolness and effrontery before that august tribunal, to recount with complacence and confidence the list of their claims to the Messiah's consideration :--" Have we not prophesied [preached] in thy name, and in thy name done many wonderful works?"

It is evident from three things--from the reason of the thing, from Christ's parables, and Paul's and Peter's statements--that the judgment will be no dumb show, no wholesale indiscriminate division of classes, but will be an individual reckoning. "Everyone of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom. xiv, 12). It might naturally be fancied that persons before the judgment-seat would simply be paralysed and rendered powerless to utter their minds; but it must be remembered that the power is then and there present that touched Daniel, and made him stand on his feet, when he was felled to the earth by the terrors of angelic presence; and, doubtless, this power will be put forth to enable all calmly, clearly, and with deliberation to manifest themselves as they are. Enswathed by the human spirit "mesmerically" applied, this result can now be partially achieved; how much more when the power of the Highest sustains, will those who are acted upon by it, feel isolated from all perturbing influences, and be enabled to concentrate their minds upon the solemn task they have to perform.

The idea that the righteous dead will spring into being in a state of incorruption, and that the living faithful will be instantaneously transformed, in their scattered places throughout the earth, and changed into the spiritual nature before appearing in the presence of Christ (though apparently countenanced by testimonies which are superficially construed by those who read them) is an error of a serious complexion, since it practically sets aside the New Testament doctrine of the judgment (itself a first principle), and tends to destroy the sense of responsibility and circumspection induced by a recognition of the fact that we must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, that we may receive in body according to that we have done, whether good or bad.

To profess a belief in the judgment while holding this view, is only to retain a form of words out of deference to New Testament phraseology while having lost that which is represented by the words. If the dead are to awake to incorruptibility or death, according to their deserts, Jesus is robbed of his honour as judge, and the judgment-seat is robbed of its utility and its terror. If the living are to be subject to immortalisation, say in their own houses, before Christ pronounces them blessed, is the judgment-seat not a mere empty form? If (worse than all) the wicked are not to be there to hear and receive their doom, it is no judgment at all, but a mere muster of the chosen; no terror at all, but a ceremony divested of every element of anxiety, since to have a part in it, according to this theory, is to be safe beyond miscarriage; no rendering to every man according to his deeds, whether good or bad; but a mere bestowal of gifts and honours upon the King's assorted friends. Yet this is the mistaken view which many are led to entertain by a superficial reading of certain parts of the apostolic testimony. We shall consider those passages in detail.

I Thess. iv, 16. The Dead in Christ SHALL RISE FIRST.--On this it is contended that the accepted will come forth from the grave first; but a reference to the context will show that the comparison implied in these words, is between the dead righteous and the living righteous, and not between the righteous dead and the wicked dead. The Thessalonians were apparently mourning the death of some of their number in a way that indicated a fear on their part that the deceased had lost something by dying. Paul assures them that this was a mistake. "We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (or go before) them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. THEN (or second) we which are alive and remain shall be caught up," etc. Paul simply means to teach that the dead are restored to life and perfected before the living enter upon the inheritance, and that, therefore, the dead lose nothing by dying. "Wherefore," says he, "comfort one another with these words."

"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power" (Rev. xx, 6). It is argued upon this that none of the wicked can be raised at that time. The question turns upon the words "have part in the first resurrection? What is it "to have part in the first resurrection "? The word translated "part" is meres, and this is defined by Parkhurst to mean "a piece, part, portion, fellowship, lot," etc.; hence, to have part in the first resurrection, is to have "a piece, part, portion, fellowship, or lot," at the coming of Christ. To merely come forth is not to have a portion in the resurrection that takes place. There will be many at the judgment-seat who will be dismissed without a "piece, part, portion, lot, or fellowship." The King will refuse to own them. On such the second death hath power, but on those who attain to the condition of things that John witnessed and. described as "the first resurrection," viz., a living and reigning with Christ a thousand years--" the second death hath no power." As Jesus says, "Neither can they die any more, for they are equal unto the angels."

"They who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world and the RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD, neither marry nor are given in marriage," etc. (Luke xx, 35). On the strength of this, it is contended that the unworthy will not come out of the grave at the time the worthy come forth to "obtain that world." The argument is based on a misconstruction of the verse. "The resurrection from the dead" is something more than the act of rising from-the grave. "Resurrection" involves the act of rising from the dust, but comprehends more than this in many parts of the New Testament. For instance, the Sadducees asked Jesus, "IN THE RESURRECTION whose wife shall she be?" (Matt. xxii, 28)--that is, in the state to which the dead will rise. How would the question read if construed "whose wife shall she be in the act of rising from the grave "? Again, "IN THE RESURRECTION they neither marry nor are given in marriage" (Matt. xxii, 30)--that is, in the state to which the dead rise. Again, "they that have done good (shall come forth) unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of condemnation "; that is, one class come out of the grave to one resurrection-state, and the other to another resurrection-state. It is testified that Paul preached Jesus and the resurrection (Acts xvii, 18). This could not mean that Paul simply preached the act of rising from the grave. The mere act of rising from the grave is not necessarily a good thing. Lazarus and the son of the widow of Nain rose from the grave, but not to the resurrection (state) preached by Paul. They merely received a renewal of mortal life. The wicked of a certain class will rise from the grave, but the act of rising will not be to them a gladsome event, but the contrary; they would prefer to be left in the oblivion of the tomb. Everything depends upon THE STATE: to which the rising from the grave is the introduction.

Paul preached the resurrection state of incorruption and immortality. To this state, the dead have to rise. The mere act of rising is not the resurrection. It is involved in it; it is a part, but as employed in the Scriptures, it requires the state after coming out of the grave to be added, before the idea expressed by the word resurrection is complete. Another illustration of this is to be found in a passage on which the opponents of this idea rely: "I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads or in their hands, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. THIS (what? The state of things that John witnessed--the reigning of the accepted for a thousand years)--THIS IS THE FIRST RESURRECTION" (Rev. xx, 4, 5). There is no mention of the act of coming out of the grave. John merely sees certain persons who had been dead, occupying a certain position with Christ; and, describing the scene as a whole, he calls it THE FIRST RESURRECTION. Evidently the word resurrection cannot here be restricted to the act of rising from the grave. Many will have a part in this "first resurrection" who will never go into the grave at all, viz., "those who are alive and remain." "Resurrection" here broadly covers a state and a time to which the persons seen are introduced by rising from the death-state, whether in that state they are below the sod, or walking above it in mortality. But both living and dead will have to appear before the judgment-seat, before they take the position in which John saw them, and when they appear at the judgment-seat they will have companions whom they will never see again, for to some, Christ will "say unto them in that day... I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. vii, 22,23). Such will be "ASHAMED before him at his coming" (I John ii, 28; Dan. xii, 2). A principle obstacle is found in the words, "The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished." This is made an obstacle by assuming that it applies to the unfaithful servants of Christ. This assumption is evidently a mistake, bemuse the vision of John comprehended only the resurrection of the just, who "lived and reigned with Christ." All that the passage really proves is, that there is to be no more resurrection of dead people after Christ has come till the end of the thousand years. It is certain that it is not intended to teach, and, as we have seen, does not teach, that there will be no resurrection of unjust at the coming of Christ. No one part of the Scriptures can violate the unequivocal testimony of other parts. To admit of the common interpretation of Rev. xx, 6, would be to abandon the New Testament doctrine of judgment.

But the greatest stumbling-block with those who deny the judgment of the saints consists of Paul's statements on the subject of resurrection in I Cor. xv: "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power, it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body .... The dead shall be raised incorruptible" (verses 42-44, 52). Restricting these words to the mere act of emergence from the ground, they naturally seem an express affirmation, that the body is incorruptible, spiritual, and immortal from the first moment of its restoration; and that, therefore, judgment is anticipated and superseded by this silent proclamation of acceptance, and that nothing lies between those thus rising incorruptible and perfected salvation, but a joyous reunion with the Lord.

The mistake consists in construing Paul's words too narrowly, and reading them as if he were dealing with the dramatic incidents of the resurrection, instead of the state of existence to which the act of resurrection leads. Paul is not discussing the scientific aspect of the subject. He is not defining the process by which a dead man ascends from the depths of corruption to the nature of the angels; the literal details are foreign to the subject before his mind. He is dealing with the broad question propounded by the objector; first, how--as a question of possibility--are the dead raised? and second, for or to ("with" not being in the original) what body do they come?

He introduces Adam and Christ in proof of his proposition that "there is a natural body and a spiritual body." He quotes the record of Moses with reference to Adam in proof of the existence of a natural body. "The first man, Adam, was made a living soul" (or natural body). His proof of the second lies in this: "the last Adam was made a quickening spirit." No supposing a person, ignorant of the history of Christ, were to receive his impressions of Christ's history from this statement--supposing he had no other source of information--would he not come to the conclusion that "the last Adam" was a spiritual body from the first moment of his existence? Would he ever conclude from it that "the last Adam" was first a helpless babe at Bethlehem, clad in the flesh-and-blood-nature of his mother; then a boy, submissive to his parents; then a carpenter, helping in the workshop to earn a livelihood for the family; then anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, going about doing good, and performing works "which none other man did," and that, finally, he was abandoned of the power of God, and crucified through weakness, even the weakness of frail human nature? Would the uninformed and the superficial reader of Paul's allusion to the last Adam learn from it that not only the first Adam, but the last Adam also, was a natural body for thirty-three-and-a-half years, and that he only became a life-giving spirit, by the power of God, in his resurrection?

By no means. All these facts, so familiar to us, are elliptically compressed into the words "was made." A process with so many striking features is expressed in a way which, if there were no other information, would conceal it. If this is the case with reference to Christ--if we are at liberty to believe against the appearance of things in I Cor. xv that Christ was first a living soul and then a quickening spirit, why need there be a greater difficulty in reference to his people, whose re-awakening in the flesh and appearance at the judgment-seat is kept out of sight, in a phrase which its use in other cases admits to the possibility of covering the whole ground?

Coincidentally and elliptically speaking, "the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we--the living--shall be changed." Both events will occur at the advent. This is true, speaking broadly of the subject, without reference to details; but it is not, therefore, untrue that both classes will "appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, to receive in body according to what they have done, whether good or bad" (II Cor. v, 10). A general statement of truth cannot exclude the involved particulars, though it may appear to do so. The course of true wisdom is, not to set one part of the Word against another part, but to harmonise apparent conflict, by giving effect to all details, and finding a place for these in all general forms of the same truth. This course is not taken by those who, on the strength of the chapter discussed, would deny that the dead come forth to judgment with reference to their candidature for immortality. On the contrary, they put Paul here in conflict with Paul elsewhere. They erect his general and elliptical declarations on the subject of the resurrection, as barriers to his own particular statements in other places, and those of Christ and his apostles generally.

In opposition to this course, we have endeavoured to find, in I Cor. xv, a place for all these features; a place unseen by the unacquainted reader, but detectable by those having Paul's general teaching in view. Paul is in harmony with himself. The resurrection includes all that is divinely associated with it. The upshot is incorruption, glory, power, and spirituality of nature, but these are only reached through the tribunal which will "make manifest the counsels of the heart." Prior to this, the future is a sealed book, except in so far as it is reflected in a man's conscience. The judgment will settle all, separating the chaff from the wheat, and determining who are the saints, in deed and in truth, and who the unprofitable servants, who have had but a name to live, and are dead.

We commend to the serious consideration of every one interested, the sobering fact that there is a day appointed when God shall judge the secrets of men by Christ Jesus, justifying the righteous and condemning the wicked. It is a fact that will encourage, strengthen, and sustain every person who, having been enlightened and joined to the brotherhood of Christ, is working with a single eye, as seeing him who is invisible; and it is a fact that, vividly realised, will correct and purify those who, in a similar position, may be suffering themselves to be diverted from the path of truth and duty by considerations of a temporal nature. The record exhibited at the judgment-seat is written now in the lives of those who will appear there. The one will be an exact reflex of the other. A faithful stewardship sustained now will be honoured then with praise, recognition, and promotion: while an opposite course will bring exposure, shame, condemnation, and death. "The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the promotion of fools.

next page-God, Angels, Jesus Christ, And The Crucifixion

Lecture 5
Judgment To Come; The Dispensation of
Divine Awards To Responsible Classes
At The Return of Christ

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