A SERMON BY A LOST SOUL
“The Salvation of the Soul”*
Scripture reading 1 Peter 1: 3-23.
[*This writing has been edited.]
In the Holy Scripture the word “Salvation” is used on numerous occasions, and the context in which the word is found will determine its correct interpretation. A major cause of confusion existing amongst regenerate believers today, is the usage of the word “salvation’” which is commonly taken to mean justification or the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ, and as being limited to that meaning. But the word “salvation” is not always used in the New Testament (or the Old Testament) as equivalent to justification, that is to say the change which takes place in a repentant sinner’s relations with God when he/she believes on the Son of God. The salvation of God goes far beyond that; and the word “salvation” itself, as used in Scripture, generally refers to something future.
In Romans 8: 22-24, it is declared that we are saved in hope. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this HOPE WE ARE SAVED.”*
[* the verb “saved” = the noun “salvation”.]
In the epistle to the Hebrews the word “salvation” is used as signifying the future blessing into which the redeemed people of God are to be brought, whereas redemption is regarded as having been already accomplished. “Christ was sacrificed once for all to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him” (Heb. 9: 28).
We often hear the passage “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” used in preaching to the unregenerate, and presenting as a warning to them of the danger of neglect of the forgiveness and justification which God has made available to all who believe the gospel of His grace. It needs but the slightest attention to the context to make it perfectly clear that the “we” who are in danger of suffering loss through neglect of such “great salvation” mentioned there are the regenerate people of God, those who will inherit salvation.
clearly appears from chapters 3 & 4 that the “great
salvation” of chapter 2 is closely
connected with God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the
The “great salvation” of Hebrews 2: 3 is identified in verse 5 as being identified with “the inhabited earth to come.”
The inhabited earth to come is thus declared to be the subject “about which we are speaking” (2: 5). That is what the Writer connects with the “great salvation” which was at first spoken by the Lord. It is the glorious Kingdom of the Son, when He shall occupy the place of First-born, in all that is signified in that great title.
The Scriptures make it clear that “this present evil age” (Gal. 1: 4), during which the people of God are strangers and pilgrims in the earth - (because it is the scene of the dominion of sin and death) - is to be succeeded by an “age” of blessing and glory in which the earth and all created things will be under the righteous rule of the Son of Man, with Whom will be associated all those who shall be considered worthy to participate with Him in the administration of the affairs of His Millennial Kingdom.
To the same effect, “the salvation of the soul” in 1 Peter chapter one, is a future salvation for those who have already received eternal salvation by grace through faith of Christ Jesus: and the title, ‘A Sermon by a Lost Soul’ is descriptive of those who will be judged by Christ as unworthy to rule with Him in that kingdom. Hades is the place of disembodied souls, therefore, the lost souls - (i.e., lost in the sense that they fail to enter the coming kingdom of Christ) -must remain in Hades – the place of the dead – until the resurrection of all the remaining dead and the Great White Throne judgement.
It is one thing to ponder the horrors of the coming Great Tribulation, which may yet be decades distant,* or the judgment at the Great White Throne, occurring at least ten centuries later: it is altogether something else to contemplate what may be the fate of any or all of us in a few minutes from the moment that this is read. The boundary between this life and the next is so slight, and the arrival below in Hades** can be so sudden, that it may actually be experienced by anyone of us in a moment. It is among the amazing things of revelation, which we so little realize, that, reported by the Lips in which dwelt all wisdom and knowledge, a man is overheard speaking in Hades for the only time in the history of the world. The dead suddenly arrive in Hades** - that waiting-place of disembodied souls between the time of death and resurrection - whose tickets have already been taken for (1) life in ‘the age to come’ (Luke 20: 35) - the millennial kingdom of reward, and afterwards, Eternal Life. (2) "Eternal life" after the last resurrection of the dead in ‘a new heavens and a new earth’(Rev. 21: 1). (3) An eternity in ‘the lake of fire’ (Rev.20: 15) - the eternal place of punishment for all those separated from God.
Each soul is transported by ‘the angels,’ with hardly a perceptible break by death, into the underworld "in the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12: 40); and our Lord reports an actual conversation - the only authentic report of a conversation between two disembodied souls ever recorded - not to satisfy our curiosity, or to reveal secrets, but to show us, who at any moment may be there.***
[* The original writing was published in 1932.
** The interim between the time of Death and that of Resurrection is shown in scripture to be spent in Hades, Luke 16: 23, 30. cf. Rev. 6: 9-11.]
[*** What we are presented with on this occasion, is a plain statement of facts which had actually taken place before they were given. It will not change the impact and severity of our Saviour’s words, to assume this story is only a parable, for, if that were the case, it has been said: "It would then teach what might be: and the Saviour would never build a parable upon a falsehood." (J. R. Graves.)]
It is the teaching of Scripture that not all regenerate believers behave as they should after conversion: "Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers" (1 Cor. 6: 8); it is therefore sound logic to conclude that the ‘rich man’ may himself have been a regenerate soul, and therefore typical of other disobedient, regenerate, disembodied souls who are at this very moment with him in the same compartment of Hades. When addressing his disciples, Jesus said: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna" (Matt. 10: 28).*
[* Such a statement by Jesus would not be necessary, if it was not intended to warn His followers of a righteous heavenly Father’s discipline for unrepented wilful sin and disobedience in His redeemed children!]
first awful fact that bursts upon us is that punishment is already an actual experience,
and is deliberately so stated by the tenderest
Lips in all history. "In hell [Gk. ‘Hades’/Heb. ‘Sheol’] where he was in
torment, he looked up" - up, for the inner circle of earth's
centre is the lower circle; up, for there is a lower department in Hades, than
that described by our Lord as ‘
It would appear from this that the fire of the
In the whole emphasis throughout Christ lays on a physical contrast, beneath which lies a far profounder prophetical contrast in two men whose place in Hades indicates their place during the Millennium in "the age to come"*: "I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest’ " (Heb. 4: 3; Ps. 95: 11; cf. Num. 14: 23.). Abraham's answer sums it up: "Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things," - reached your own ideal of wealth, prosperity, power - "while Lazarus" - a name which, pathetically, means ‘God is my help’ - "received bad things; but now he is comforted here" - in the underworld of reversal - "and you are in agony." If the world could, by economics, make everybody a rich man, it would feel that it had reached an ideal higher than its highest dreams. The extraordinary thing is that not a single sin is laid to the charge of the Rich man by Abraham: nowhere does Christ Himself say that he was a vicious man, or a criminal, or irreligious, or possessed of ill-gotten wealth:** he suffered merely because of his worldliness. ‘Your good things’ – (the things money can buy) - ease, comfort, pleasure; with the carnal nature of man - wilful sin; thoughtlessness, and the lack of compassion or help toward others in need: ‘Lazarus bad things’ - scorn, poverty, disease, with God: therefore the rich man has pall-bearers, Lazarus has angels. The reversal after death is appalling. Before death, Lazarus is the beggar, and the rich man the refuser - in Hades after death, the rich man is the beggar, and Lazarus the refuser. Before death, the rich man refuses a crumb on the tongue - there, in Hades, Lazarus refuses a drop of water on the tongue: the rich man saw the suffering beggar, and did not relieve him, Lazarus sees the tormented rich man, and cannot relieve him. And the moral chasm in this world of the living, becomes an impassable physical chasm in the underworld of the souls of the dead - "a great chasm has been fixed, so that" - for the very purpose that - "those that want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us." God’s myriad warnings crystalize at last into an impassable chasm. Lazarus lost everything in this world, but he lost worldliness with it: The rich man dies in worldliness, and wakes up ‘in torment’.
[* "God has yet room to punish offenders. The millennial day is the day of recompense for our works, whether good or evil. A thousand years of time is time enough to mark God’s pleasure in our works, or his displeasure against them. As eternal life shews his pleasure in the work of Christ, and in those who by faith are one with him, so will the recompense of the millennial day, for good or for evil, display his sentiments concerning the special work of each [regenerate] believer.
The worldly often cry out against professors of religion, as guilty of cheating, and taking unfair advantage in business. It is doubtless too often true. Not a few converted persons offend thus. Here then is the threatened justice of God against such. If His saints sin [wilfully], they shall not go unpunished. He hates the offence in them, as surely as in the worldly [unregenerate]. He has devised a way, whereby he will make his displeasure visible to all intelligent beings, and felt by themselves." (R. Govett, Entrance Into The Kingdom, pp. 207)
** That material wealth does not necessarily ruin a Christian is proved by the fact that of the two men - the rich man and Abraham - it is almost certain that Abraham, in his life time, was by far the richer man.]
Now what does a man, who finds himself in a place of punishment, say in Hades? What he does not say is overwhelming: unutterable volumes lie in the sudden silence of the soul who, on the other side, knows. (1) It never crosses the rich man's lips, for apparently it never crosses his mind, to cry - ‘Let me out!’ The clanging of the ‘Gates’ behind him (Matt. 16: 18. cf. Matt. 12: 32), the awful locking of "the Keys of Death and Hades" (Rev. 1: 18), require no further argument and admit of no further doubt. The rich man has to be told that no soul can cross the Chasm that divides the good from the evil and disobedient dead; and he has to be told that a good soul sent out on to the earth would not convince; but he needs no one to tell him that there is no escape (before the time of resurrection) out of the department of punishment for one who has died unrepentant. Rev. 3: 17-21. (2) His only other cry, beside that of pain, is a cry that involves complete self despair:- "Send to my father's house." The occupants of Hades say that there is hope (by means of repentance) for the living, but none for the dead. The rich man knows, without question put or complaint made or appeal lodged, that he is doomed to suffer: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction: the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal [‘age-lasting’]* life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Gal. 6: 7-9).
[* The word translated “eternal,” can also be translated “age-lasting” or “life for the age”: and the context here demands that translation. We do not “reap” eternal life by our works; it is a “free gift” of God, Rom. 6: 23. See also Heb. 5: 9; 1 Tim. 6: 12, where this Greek word translated ‘eternal’ should be translated ‘age-lasting’: the former life is a reward for the overcomer; the latter life is gratis by the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus. ]
After his death a sermon issues from the Rich Man’s lips: "Send Lazarus" - how remarkably he does not say, ‘send me’: he knows the ‘Gates’ are locked and that the resurrection is yet a long way off, sometime in the future, (Rev. 20: 13) - "to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment ... If someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent." The rich man is anxious his brothers should repent before death; not once does he speak of his own repentance in Hades: he is keenly aware that repentance will keep his brothers from the place where he is, but he never dreams that repentance will get him out from there at the time of the resurrection of reward, (Luke 14: 14; 20: 35; Phil 3: 11; Heb. 11: 35; Rev. 20: 4.)* It is impossible to carry our sins into Heaven, and the moment we are in the underworld we shall know it. The rich man suffers from remorse, not from repentance. Not one word of admission of sin; not one word of regret for sin; not one thought for the cleansing from sin; not one cry for the pardon of sin. He, like multitudes of regenerate believers today, manifestly never believed that there is punishment in Hades for disobedient and apostate disciples of Christ; he infers that all who conceal or deny the fact are doing men a fearful wrong; and his one appeal for his brothers is that they should be told that punishment in Hades is a fact.** And that they may escape it he concentrates all on one word - REPENT! That is what a disembodied soul thinks every living regenerate backslider ought to be doing. He was sure that if only his brothers knew the facts of the underworld, they would move heaven and earth to avoid being justly placed by God in the place of ‘agony’. O what weird hands, which lay in the same cradle with ours, are waving us off from the very same fire at this moment, crying with parched throats - Repent! The Saviour Himself has warned us in words that could not be more clear or sure, and no soul who ever entered the gloomy portals but knows that they are true:- " ... Unless you repent, YOU TOO WILL ALL PERISH"*** (Luke 13: 5). Instructing ‘His disciples’, (Matt. 5: 1, 2), He says: "I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother [without cause] will be subject to the judgment. Again anyone who says to his brother, ‘raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell [Gk., ‘Gehenna’]" (Matt. 5: 22).* See Footnote
[* The ‘rich man’ now knows what multitudes of regenerate believers today do not know. All who say the resurrection IS PAST ALREADY, "have wandered away from the truth" (2 Tim. 2: 18), and teach the soul ascends with the spirit into heaven at the time of death!
** The word "punishment" can vary from keeping a disobedient child confined in his room, to an idea that has come to be associated with horrible physical afflictions, including those by fire. Objection to the teaching commonly arises for mistaking symbols for facts.
“The Christian view of future punishment is to be reached through the Bible teaching that God has designed men for a certain purpose. He is a Creator who would also be a Father: men are made the creatures of His power in order to become, if they will, the sons of His love (John 1: 10-13). The various ministries of the Holy Spirit are the means God employs to bring men to this sonship; the central of these means is Jesus Christ, described as "the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8: 29; cf. Col. 1: 15, 18), the Head of a new humanity. God will use all His resources to bring to pass this purpose. Either in this life or (if not possible in this life) in another.
“Punishment is nowhere more solemnly depicted than in what Jesus said about "unforgivable sin" (Matt. 12: 22-34). He had freed a man from an evil spirit. His critics, observing the deed, declared that he could "cast out demons" because he was himself in league with "the prince of the demons." Jesus took this to mean that they were morally blind - so committed to their own evil ideas that they could look on a deed which judged by any standard should be esteemed good, and say that it was evil and wrought by an evil power. He said that men who talked like this were doing far worse than defaming him: they were blaspheming the Holy Spirit by Whom eventually every good deed was done. He implied that they had become "hardened" that they could no longer respond to the appeal of the good.” In that case they could not repent, and if they could not repent God could not ignore their sin.
*** That is ‘perish’ in the sense that the bodies of the regenerate will lie decomposed in the grave – their flesh will reap corruption; and they (as disembodied souls) will remain in Hades during the Millennial reign of Christ: therefore, they can be described as LOST SOULS because they lost the salvation of their souls. That is, the deliverance of their souls from the underworld in Hades, at the time of the “First Resurrection,” (Rev. 20: 6).]
Black’s Bible Dictionary definition on Gehenna, (pp.217,218):-
The New Testament Greek name for the Valley of the Son of Hinnom*
(Arab, Wadi er-Rababi),
Thus the foul
[*Better to have said: ‘of all who will experience the First Resurrection’ for resurrection has not yet occurred; and all will be resurrected from Hades, at the end of the millennial reign of Christ.]
1. “Now the startling fact in Abraham’s answer is that the five brothers had in their hands something more convincing, more saving, than any evangelist resurrected from Hades who might walk straight into their house has. "If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets," he says, "they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." Abraham's reply reveals that Divine information can save any man, in any epoch of the anywhere. God Himself can give no more than He has given. Christ Himself never once appeared to an unbeliever after His resurrection. I do not want news from Hades, but pardon from Heaven: could a messenger from Hades cleanse my foul soul? No! But the Scriptures can be instrumental in doing so. No messenger from the underworld could make goodness more lovable, or punishment in Hades more terrible, or Calvary more cleansing, or Christ more Divine, or duty more clear, or decision more urgent, or the thousand years more important, or eternity more solemn, than the Scriptures do which we hold in our hands. The dead might lie: God’s Word and holy book cannot. We have a proof that Almighty Wisdom sees to be the right proof, we have enough proof: more would only deepen condemnation; and no more will ever be given. All the Bible that we have is all the Bible that we need.”
2. “The disclosure of our Lord - perfectly unique in the history of the world - focuses everything on immediate decision. How few words our Lord devotes to these two men’s lives: how He concentrates all on the hereafter! Two men, travelling the same earthly way, pass at once into opposite sides, as surely as vapour rises and water falls; between them is fixed ‘a great chasm’ which no human traffic can cross, for the good will not cross when the day of mercy is closed, and the disobedient and bad may not cross, when the day of opportunity is gone; and all around are walls un-scalable, un-pierceable, immovable. At any moment we may be there. ‘I knew a man," says John Wesley, "who had greatly signalled himself as an enemy to all serious inward religion. He was going on pleasure as usual. His foot slipped, and as he was falling a thought came, ‘What if instead of falling to the earth thou hadst now died, and fallen into hell?’ That thought brought him to a sense of sin, to repentance and to God.’ "