THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS
D. M. PANTON
However dim Scripture may be in its portrayal of the intermediate state, it is at least explicit in negativing the current conceptions of Hades, both Roman and Protestant. Nothing short of a betrayal of the original Christian position has been the abandonment, through sheer unbelief, of the clauses in the Creed on Hades and the Ascension: if these clauses are merely figurative and pictorial (the Modernist legitimately retorts) so can be the clauses on the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection. Thus also the modern obliteration of the doctrine of Hades has dislocated, and to a large degree nullified, the doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead, which, when an intermediate world is eliminated, is made so unnecessary as to slip out of belief. The elimination of a single truth is a hurt done to all revelation
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich mans table: moreover the dogs come and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abrahams bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell [Gk. Hades] he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in they life-time receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed; so that they which would pass from hence to you can not - neither can they pass to us that would come from hence. Then he said, I pray you therefore, father, that thou wouldst send him to my fathers house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, Father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead: (Luke 16: 19-31, R.V.).
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This incident has been asserted by some to be a parable, and various figurative meanings have been applied to it. The one commonly received is that the rich man is the Jewish nation, by Gods gift rich in position and privilege but selfishly keeping all to itself, despising and neglecting others; Lazarus represents the Gentiles, spiritually poor, naked, hungry, homeless, within reach of the privileged-people, yet by them left destitute. Both die: the old dispensation runs out, and Jews and Gentiles are together launched into the last times. By apostolic messengers the poor outcasts are now led unto the blessed privileges of the Gospel; these stones become children of Abraham; while the Jews, who enjoyed so good a portion in the former dispensation, are cast out.
But against this or any other figurative interpretation being the true one, there are several objections:-
(1). Even if we approach it as a parable, it is evident from a careful study of the parables spoken by Christ that they are, without exception, built upon FACTS, not fables; things which actually occur:- a sower goes forth to sow; an enemy sows tares among wheat; a net cast into the sea catches good and bad fish; a covetous man pulls down his barns and builds greater, etc. In all parables Christ builds the facts in the spiritual realm upon CORRESPONDING FACTS in the natural realm; therefore if this incident was a parable, it would be based on the facts given here, including the rich mans experience in Hades.
(2) Our Lord does not say, in giving this incident, Hear another parable, nor does the Holy Spirit in recording it state, He spake another parable unto them. In the many which He did speak they are definitely stated to be such.
(3) All other incidents which commence in the same way, a certain man (e.g. Luke 10: 30-37 15: 11-32), are built upon facts.
(4) On such a solemn and important subject which Our Lord is speaking of here, had it been figurative, He would undoubtedly have said so, or applied the profounder lesson to be learnt by it, as in the case of The unjust steward (Luke 16: 9). Yet there is not the slightest hint of this in the whole narrative.
(5) The events on this side of the grave could be literal, so that the only objection put forward is what occurred in the unseen; but He who is TRUTH has linked all the events together, and His word is final.
It is therefore evident that our Lord meant this to be understood literally and not to be treated as figurative. Having instructed His disciples on the use of temporal wealth in the light of eternity (Luke 16: 1-9), and then rebuked the Pharisees who derided Him (5: 14-I8), Christ now utters a solemn warning to these covetous Pharisees around Him who boasted that they were Abrahams seed, by giving the following incident. A wealthy Jew, proud of his descent from Abraham, with the knowledge of Moses and the Prophets, lives daily in splendour and luxury. No trouble or sickness mars his daily feasting: he has more than heart could wish (Ps. 73: 7). At his gate, in a wretched condition of poverty, disease and hunger, lay one of his fellow countrymen, vainly hoping that where there was so much luxury he might receive the crumbs from the table. But none was given. The rich man, like the Levite, passed by on the other side, and the only sympathy he received was from the dumb creatures which roamed those parts. Lazarus (God helps), however, was faithful during his affliction and poverty, and received the words of Scripture, while the rich mans attitude toward his Jewish brother revealed his covetousness and disobedience to the command of God given through Moses (Deut. 15: 7-11).
Both at last pass through the portals of death. From a sumptuous table, the rich man is carried to a sumptuous tomb by sorrowing worldly friends. Lazarus also died, but of his emaciated, plague-stricken body we are given no information, nor even told that it received a burial; probably it was cast away with loathing. But his soul had a convoy of triumphant angels. Where the rich mans misery began, the beggars splendour also began. Death freed the one from affliction and the other from selfish luxury.
The Lord now lifts the veil concerning the condition of these two souls in Hades;* not to gratify curiosity, nor to display His own knowledge, but with the one purpose of warning and instructing His hearers. Here we are taught, as also in other Scriptures, that the soul is an exact counterpart of the body, capable of hearing, seeing, feeling and speaking. The souls of the Martyrs cried for vengeance, and were given white robes and told to rest for a little season (Rev. 6: 9-11). The form of Samuels soul appeared as an old man, covered with a mantle (1 Sam. 28: 14-15). The soul of this man asks for alleviation of his sufferings. He who in life was clothed in fine linen and purple is now enveloped in flame. The tongue that once enjoyed all luxuries now experiences the torment of thirst, and cries for Lazarus to dip his finger in water and cool my tongue. But there was no cry of repentance; no confession of sin; no request for deliverance. Nor does Abraham tell him that he would enjoy the blessed state of Lazarus in due course. There was no hint of a change or second chance; character was fixed; the suffering was intense and continual, and an impassable gulf was between them.*
[* NOTE. Our Lord Jesus Christ teaches here that this activity takes place place - immediately after the time of Death in Hades - in the heart of the earth, (Matt. 12: 40 Acts 2: 27) - and not in Heaven, as believed by the vast majority of Christians today! Ed.]
A solemn truth concerning punishment is revealed here. Other Scriptures plainly teach that punishment in Hell [i.e., the lake of fire after the time of Resurrection] will be graded according to light and opportunity received (Matt. 10: 14, 15; Rev. 20: 12, 13), but here the Lord teaches that it is graded in [the underworld of] Hades also. Punishment postponed now, in the day of grace, will fall with greater intensity both in Hades and in Hell. No punishment fell upon Dives before death, but it fell with full force after death. There is difference in degree of punishment, but not in duration. We are further informed that Dives [the rich man] saw Lazarus in Abrahams Bosom. There is no scriptural reason why this should not be understood literally, for Luke 16: 9 implies that the saved will be personally welcomed in the unseen world by other conscious individuals. Moreover, that Abraham was there personally and was prominent in the whole scene is indisputable. To the Pharisees gathered around Christ who were listening and who were proud of being Abrahams seed (John 8: 33), to be personally received and welcomed by Abraham would be the greatest honour conferred upon any individual. The bosom is the place of fellowship, honour and love (John 1: 18; 21; 20). Christ therefore reveals who Abraham acknowledges as his children, and who God recognizes as such, by giving Lazarus, who in his lifetime was poor, afflicted and despised but faithful, the place of honour and fellowship with Abraham. Thus it was an appearance and rebuke to the rich man in Hades and a solemn warning to the covetous Pharisees who were listening. We are not told that visibility is and conversation continual between the saved and the lost; nor are we told how long Abraham and Lazarus remained in this attitude. What Christ has not stated must not be assumed.* Moreover, God can grant special appearances when He chooses as in the case of Samuel and Saul (1 Sam. 28: 14).
[* NOTE. It is not stated that rich man in Hades was unregenerate soul.]
Realizing that all hope for the alleviation of his own sufferings was past, Dives now makes an appeal for his brethren still living. This appeal is met by Abraham testifying to the sufficiency of Scripture, and that through Scripture lies the only way of salvation. Dives now reveals the unbelief still in his own heart. It is not a denial of the truth of Scripture but of their effectiveness for salvation, and because they were not received by him and their warnings heeded, he thinks they will be as ineffective upon others ; but that the testimony of a departed soul would be received. But Abraham gives a final and solemn reply to Dives:- If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead (Luke 16: 31). Abraham does not say that God would be unwilling to allow a departed soul go, if it would be effective; nor does he say it is impossible to send one from the dead; but that, if the Scriptures will not be heeded, neither will the testimony of one who even rose from the dead, and so far from effecting repentance, his brothers would not even be PERSUADED. Ears that are shut to Gods Word reveal hearts that would be unconvinced by any miracle. God has done everything He can do for the salvation of mankind: He has given His Son, His Word and His Spirit; and they who reject these, will reject every witness. Moreover, God has given Dives message to the whole world, through the mouth of Him who rose from the dead, but it is only heeded by the few. But further proof of the truth of this solemn statement was given not long after. Our Lord raised Lazarus from the dead. What was the effect? Were they persuaded to accept the testimony of Lazarus? Did they believe Him who warned of coming judgment? On the contrary, they not only consulted to put Lazarus to DEATH (John 12: 10), but they also sought to put to death THE ONE WHO RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD (John 11: 53).
Again, in the Great Tribulation, men will not only be warned of the eternal consequences of sin, and behold the resurrection from the dead of the two Witnesses (Rev. 11: 3-14), but they will also pass through the actual experience of punishment themselves, tormented for five months, with no escape from the torment (Rev. 9: 5, 6), yet they REPENT NOT. Others again, burned with great heat (Rev. 16: 8, 9), covered with sores, and gnawing their tongues for pain, not only remain unrepentant, but they blaspheme God because of them (Rev. 16: 10, 11). Not only are warnings ineffective, but so also is torment itself. Thus to the rich man who even in Hades bases all his appeals on the fact that he is a son of Abraham by nature (verses 24, 27, 30), a relationship which Abraham acknowledges as true (verse 25), God shows who is a true son of Abraham, by giving the one whom he despised the position of greatest honour. So from the unseen world has come one of the greatest witnesses to Christ. Abraham testifies to Moses and the Prophets, and both testify to Christ: FOR HAD YE BELIEVED MOSES, YE WOULD HAVE BELIEVED ME: FOR HE WROTE OF ME (John 5: 46).
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THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS
It answers those ever-present questions, which we can not dismiss, and which are proper for us to know:-
1. Do the righteous and the wicked go to their eternal rewards when they leave their bodies here?
2. Are they in a state of consciousness?
3. Will they recognize those they knew here?
4. Can they communicate with each other?
5. Will the good and evil done here enhance their happiness or misery in the intermediate state?
6. Can disembodied souls return to earth and communicate with the living?
7. The nature of the punishment suffered by the wicked? etc.
It is urged that it is only a parable, an allegory - something only supposed. The force of the parable is not broken by this, for, in this case, it teaches what may be. We can not conceive that Christ built a parable upon a falsehood. More than any other parable - if this indeed be one - this comes to us as a plain narration of past facts, and by some authors it is claimed as a plain statement of facts that had transpired. Be it parable or narrative, it is to us a divine revelation of what has and will transpire in the intermediate state in like circumstances.
It presents to our consideration six extremes:-
The two extremes of life, The two extremes of death, and The two extremes of existence beyond the grave.
Each of these are acts in the parabolic drama. The characters are a supremely selfish rich man, and an extremely poor man (an afflicted beggar), angels, the sainted Abraham. The scenes are laid on earth and in Hades.
From a consideration and examination of these several acts and characters, let us learn the scope of this parable.
1. The two extremes of life - an extremely selfish rich man
and an extremely afflicted poor man.
Nothing could better indicate the formers great wealth and splendour than the statement that he was clothed in purple, a luxury that kings and the very rich alone could indulge in. Robes of purple were very costly, because of the scarcity of the shell-fish (musex trunculus), from which the Tyrians obtained their celebrated purple dye, or from the rareness of the purpura, from which, according to Pliny, the Phoenicians extracted their rich varieties of purple. (Dr. Stevens.) The very rich and the favourites in the courts of kings and princes are often termed by Cicero and Livy purpurati. But only the very rich could afford to wear tunics, or under-vests, of fine linen, which was of so soft a texture as to cost its weight in gold. Nothing could better indicate the magnificence and costliness of his attire. One more circumstance is mentioned in proof of his extreme wealth - He fared sumptuously: not occasionally, but every day. His whole life was one round of extravagant luxury and sensuous pleasure, having all or more than heart could wish. His house was, no doubt, a palace, and furnished in a manner to correspond with his dress and his table. All that worldly men ever possessed or wished of gorgeous splendour and luxury he possessed. But his name is not given.
2. The other extreme of life.
There was an extremely poor man. He was not only a beggar, but he was extremely afflicted with a loathsome disease. His name was Lazarus, signifying, in Hebrew, a helpless person, or from a word signifying God is my helper. (The name of the rich man is not even given.) This man was extremely friendless. He had no one to give him a home, or even a shelter or a crumb of bread.
Some one or ones were known though, perhaps (and to escape his further beggary), to bring and lay him at the rich mans gate, where he begged, not to be taken into his house, or to the rich mans table, but only for the crumbs, or pieces of meat, and broken bread, which fell from the rich mans table - the refuse accustomed to be swept out to the dogs of the street (Matt 15: 27); moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores.
Can we imagine a condition of life more wretched - without a house, or shelter from the heated summer or the extreme cold of winter, without food or clothing, degraded, wallowed with the dogs of the street, afflicted with a painful and disgusting disease, and, to crown all, without aid, or one to sympathise with him? Can one imagine a condition more extremely wretched and degraded?
The next scene shows an advance.
THEIR RESPECTIVE DEATHS
It came to pass that the beggar died. He doubtless starved to death. It is not intimated that the rich man even allowed him the food of the dogs, for which alone he begged. He was doubtless coffined in his filthy rags by the public scavengers, and buried into the potters field, and no one missed him, save, perhaps, the dogs at the rich mans gate. But this was not all connected with his death. It may have been at the midnight hour, and his requiem the cold, bleak and stormy winds; but it was not dark to his eyes; nor was his pillow hard, although a bit of stone.
The Father sent a convoy of angels from His throne for His child, and they took his head upon their arms and sang their sweetest songs as his soul left its tenement (dwelling-house), and he was not merely accompanied, but carried, by the angels and laid in Abrahams bosom.
How extremely glorious was the death of the child of God, and his reception among the nobility of heaven! But the rich man also died. Death is no respecter of persons. He blends the sceptre and the spade, and knocks with equal force and pace at the gates of the palace and the hovels of the poor. He died in his glorious palace in the midst of his officers, attendants and physicians, and was buried with every insignia of courtly pomp and splendour, borne and laid in a costly tomb. But was this all connected with the rich mans death? If heavenly angels of light hover over the bed of the good man, receive and, amid light and songs carry their souls to the realm of rest, is it unreasonable to conclude that the dying hours of wicked men are made dreadful by the presence of angels of darkness sent to convey their departing souls into the darkness of eternal death? The dying statements of hundreds of both good and bad men warrant us in believing this.
The curtain that hides the world of disembodied souls from our view, and the future with its unchangeable conditions, is opened, and the rich man and Lazarus are again presented to our view. But how changed their conditions! We see in their case -
3. The two extremes of existence beyond the grave.
Where now is the rich man?
In HADES, being in torments; and he lifted up his eyes and sees Abraham a great way off, and Lazarus (en tois kloptois) in the folds of his mantle, and, crying out, he said, Father Abraham, pity me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy life didst receive thy good things, and Lazarus in like manner his evil things; but now here he is comforted and thou art tormented.
THEIR CONDITION AFTER DEATH
And the rich man also died, and was buried; and in HADES he lifted up his eyes, being in torments; and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Luke 16: 22, 23.
They were both in hades, but the beggar highly honoured and comforted, and the rich man degraded and tormented.
To understand the true intent and scope of this parable we must understand what place is meant by Hades. It is evident that it can NOT be heaven, or the rich man would not have been in torments; nor can it mean Hell - the lake of fire, the place of final punishment - or Abraham would not have been there, or the beggar comforted. From this we learn that it is a place into which the souls of both good and wicked pass after death, and abide for a season at least.
Let us now inquire for the classical meaning of the word itself, and the sense in which it is used in the Sacred Scriptures, and universally understood by the Jews.
Let us then ascertain the meaning and use of the term hades in the Old and New Testaments.
The translator and editor of the Emphatic Diaglott gives this extended note on Hell and Hades:-
Hades occurs eleven times in the Greek Testament, and is improperly translated in the Common Version ten times by the word Hell. It is the word used in the Septuagint as a translation of the Hebrew word Sheol, denoting the abode or world of the dead, and means, literally, that which is in darkness, hidden, invisible, or obscure. As the word Hades did not come to the Hebrew from any classical source, or with any classical meanings, but through the Septuagint as a translation of their own word Sheol, therefore, in order to properly define its meaning, recourse must be had to the various passages where it is found. The Hebrew word Sheol is translated by Hades in the Septuagint sixty times out of sixty-three; and though Sheol in many places - such as Gen 35: 35, 42: 38; 1 Sam 2: 7; 1 Kings 2: 6; Job 14: 13, 17: 13-16 - may signify keber, the grave, as the common receptacle of the dead, yet it has the more general meaning of death - a state of death, the dominion of death. To translate Hades by the word Hell, as it is done ten times out of eleven in the New Testament, is very improper, unless it has the Saxon meaning helan, to cover, attached to it. The primitive signification of Hell, only denoting what was secret, or concealed, perfectly corresponds with the Greek term Hades, and its Hebrew equivalent Sheol; but the theological definition given to it at the present day by no means expresses it.
Dr Seiss, doubtless the ablest expounder of the Book of Revelation that has written in this country or this age, says on Hades in Revelation:-
There is a word used sixty-five times in the original Hebrew of the Old Testament which our English translators in thirty-one instances render Hell, in thirty-one instances grave, and in three instances the pit.
That word is Sheol, uniformly rendered Hades in the Greek of the Old Testament, and wherever the New Testament quotes the passages in which it occurs. By common consent the Greek word Hades is the exact equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol. It occurs eleven times in the New Testament, and always in the same sense as the Old Testament Sheol.
To all intents and purposes, therefore, Sheol and Hades denote one and the same thing. But Sheol or Hades is never used to denote the hell of final punishment. Neither is it used to denote the mere receptacle of the body after death - the grave. Nor yet is it ever used to denote the mere state of being dead as to the body, and still less to denote the pit or abyss, as such.
A careful inventory of all the passages conclusively proves that Sheol or Hades is the name of a place in the unseen world, altogether distinct from the hell of final punishment, or the heaven of final glory. Its true and only meaning is the place of departed souls - the receptacle of souls which have left the body. To this place all departed souls, good and bad went. In it there was a department for the good - called paradise by the Saviour on the cross - and another department for the bad. Thus, both the rich man and Lazarus went to Hades when they died; for the word is in Hades he lifted up his eyes, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Lazarus was then, too, in Hades, as well as Abraham, and the only difference between them and Dives was, that the good were separated from the bad by an impassable gulf, and that Lazarus was comforted and Dives tormented.
So the dying Saviour told the penitent malefactor that they would yet THAT DAY be together IN PARADISE; that is, in the more favourable part of Hades. There they were neither in Heaven proper nor in Hell proper, but simply IN HADES. To this Hades all departed souls went - the good with the good and the bad with the bad. There was comfort there for the pious, and privation and torment for the wicked; and they of the one part could not pass over to the other part, but still they could see and converse with each other, and none of them were yet in their final happiness or misery.
That this is the proper meaning of Hades, since it accords with all the other teachings of the word of God, and will readily occur to the thoughtful reader of the Sacred Scriptures.
Abraham and the patriarchs at their death went to Sheol, which is the same with Hades. Now, if Hades means hell, the lake of fire and brimstone, from which there is no escape, then he and all the righteous dead of the Old Testament are to-day in the lake of fire! But Christ, while His body was in the sepulchre, went to Hades and preached to the spirits in that place of safe-keeping: My which also He (Christ) went and preached unto the spirits in prison. (1 Peter 3: 19). But He was not left there: Thou wilt not leave My soul IN HADES, etc. (Acts 2: 27). Will any one say that Christ went into the lake of fire and brimstone - which is the second death - and preached to spirits there?
He said to the dying thief, To-day shalt thou be with me in
Paradise is then in Hades, and not in Heaven (that is to say
The view of Hades and the intermediate state I have here presented, is
supported by the consensus of all Greek writers, and of all the ancient
Christian Fathers, and the latest and best scholarship of this century. The English and American revisers agree in
rejecting hell as the proper translation of Hades, and in no instance have they
The true meaning of Hades, then, is the place of disembodied
souls, the world of spirits, both good and bad. The ancient Hebrews and the
Jews in Christs day and the Greeks so understood. That part of Hades occupied by the righteous
alone they call
Let us now consider what we undoubtedly learn from this parable:-
1. That there is an intermediate abode occupied by ALL disembodied souls between death and resurrection, and that this place is called by the Holy Spirit, which inspired the writers of the New Testament, Hades (and, as we have seen by the writers of the Old Testament, Sheol), meaning neither Hell nor Heaven, but simply the unseen, the world of departed souls, irrespective of character.
2. That in this abode the souls of the righteous are gathered to the good alone, in a delightful part of Hades called Paradise, and by the Jews known as Abrahams bosom, while the souls of the wicked are gathered to their own place and company, far separated from the righteous in a state of great anguish.
5. That Hades is not purgatory, since no one can ever pass from it to the abode of the blest.
6. That Hades is not Hell, since it is ultimately to be cast into Hell (the lake of fire, which is the second death and eternal state of the wicked.)
7. We learn that disembodied souls are ever in a conscious state.
A paradise means a park, or garden, of delights. The Paradise God made in
8. In Paradise all Christians, like Lazarus,
will not only be honoured and comforted, but they will rest from all the toils,
woes and anxieties of mortal life, although they will not be in a state of
absolute satisfaction and fruition of enjoyment, but of rest - sweet rest of
the soul. David is TODAY IN
9. We learn that Paradise will not only be a place of such surpassing beauty and loveliness as to ravish the soul, and of sweetest rest from lifes distracting anxieties, toils, and woes, but also a place where our souls will enjoy the most delightful companionship and personal and spiritual associations that earth or heaven can afford. For -
10. We shall carry with us all our affinities and memories into the future life.
Since our memories and affinities are essential parts of ourselves, we can not conceive of ourselves as existing dispossessed of them any more than without our personal consciousness. Therefore, where the word of God is silent upon this, we would know that if we enjoyed a conscious existence after death we would know that we shall carry our memories and affinities with us. All we have known and loved in this life we shall recognize and love in our disembodied life. We have only to refer to our text.
The rich man, from the far-off abode of the wicked, not only recognized the one resting in the bosom of Abraham as the hapless beggar that starved unpitied at his gate, but he instinctively knew Abraham. That Dives was in the full exercise of his memory, we learn from the answer of Abraham: Son, remember that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus his evil things. Here he is comforted and thou art in anguish.
That the rich man was still possessed of his natural affinities, we learn from his intense anxiety for the personal welfare of his five brethren above that of all others.
In the full exercise of our memories and affinities, how
unspeakably delightful must our associations - our social and spiritual
enjoyments - be in
Lazarus was in intimate companionship with Abraham, the spiritual father and representative of the saints of all ages. If with Abraham, then with Adam and Abel and Seth and Enoch and Noah. From these he could learn circumstantially the history of the worlds creation, of the beauties of the first Paradise of God, the particulars of the fall, of the ruin, of the closing scenes of the dread deluge. What shall I say of the long communions with all that cloud of faithful witnesses referred to by the Writer in Hebrews 11, and what of the longer list, were it but made out, reaching From the days of John the Baptist until now? Would an age be sufficient to satisfy us with the companionship of Paul? What shall I say of the intimate associations with our own sainted relatives? What of the sweet communing with those tried and faithful ministers and brethren with whom we have laboured and won signal victories for Christ and His truth over sin and error here? What shall I say of our bliss enhanced by the fruitage of our labours that will follow, on and on, as the years of time roll by, until our redemption is fully accomplished by the coming of Christ, and our glorification with Him? In addition to all this, can we doubt for a moment that Christ, who walked at the cool eventide in the first Paradise, and conversed with its sinless occupants, does not often visit and gladden the souls of his waiting saints in Paradise now? So often is he with them, that Paul, referring to their condition, calls it being present with the Lord. (Psalm 139: 8). Could not this be said of our first parents, while they abode in innocence, that they enjoyed the very presence of the Lord?
11. We learn that the good can not, if they would, administer to the comfort of the lost.
12. From this we learn that all that we can do for the spiritual good of others, we must do in this life; that with all our toils and prayers for others forever cease, both with respect to the living and the dead.
13. We learn that the good souls can not pass out
of Paradise to succour the self-ruined souls in Hades,
much less do they pass out of
14. From this parable we also learn the conditions that govern the souls of wicked men in Hades.
That they are far separated from the
righteous. Not only are the saints guarded from
intrusion on the part of evil spirits (the devil and his angels) from without -
so that they cannot enter to tempt and trouble, as they do the righteous here -
but the souls of bad men are not allowed to enter the peaceful rest of
If the spirits in Hades cannot trouble the just, much less can the living on earth trouble them by bringing them down into sιances at their pleasure.
15. We learn that the wicked in the world of despair do not wish the companionship of their wicked friends and relatives. We can not conceive that such companionship would in the least alleviate their sufferings, but we can conceive how such association would immeasurably intensify them, and especially if, as it doubtless was in the case of the rich man, their example and influence in this life had encouraged them in a course of sin and rejection of God and salvation.
16. We learn that if lost souls could return to this earth and communicate with the living they would do so, to induce them to BELIEVE THE BIBLE, FORSAKE SIN AND RETURN TO GOD AND BE SAVED.
17. If Dives could have returned to earth, and, through any conceivable way - in spirit form and by spirit voice, or by the voice of an earthly medium - have communicated with his brethren, would he not have done so? We are bound to answer this in the affirmative. But he had not returned, and did not return, and, therefore, it is conclusive that he could not do so. We learn -
18. If Dives could not return to earth to communicate with the living, no disembodied soul ever did. They are in prison, under guard. The GATES OF HADES ARE LOCKED UPON THEM, AS WELL AS UPON THE RIGHTEOUS; NEITHER CAN THEY DEPART THENCE UNTIL HE WHO HAS THE KEY OF HADES OPENS AND BRINGS THEM FORTH TO GLORY OR TO SHAME. [See, Rev. 1: 18; Matt. 16: 18.]
19. We learn also that if Dives could have returned and communicated with his brethren, he would have told them that [after the time of Resurrection, when Hades gave up the dead And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 13, 14)] there is an endless hell - a state of indescribable misery and anguish like to being tormented in flames - and have warned them if they lived on as he had lived, they would come to the same awful punishment.
20. Our conduct in this life will immeasurably enhance our joys or our wretchedness in the life to come. (Unless repented of).
21. Our relationship to a pious ancestry, or Christian parents, will neither secure our salvation nor mitigate our wretchedness and anguish if lost, but will doubtless enhance.
Better a thousand times to have lived and died a heathen, and never to have heard a prayer or heard a sermon, than to have heard the gospel and rejected it, and to have been blessed with the instruction and prayers of Christian parents and have despised them.
Let the case of the rich man be a warning to the children of Christian parents. He believed that he would be saved because he was the son of righteous Abraham.
* * *
DEATH AND AFTERWARDS
G. H. LANG.
It is the general belief that the eternal destiny of every man is fixed at his death. There is no scripture that asserts this, but some scriptures deny it, and as regards certain whole classes of persons.
1. We have already learned from Matt. 12: 31, 32 that such as blaspheme against the Holy Spirit will never* be forgiven. These seal their doom even before death.
[* That is, as far as the regenerate are concerned, no forgiveness during this age or in the millennial age to come. This is the sin unto death of which regenerate believers are warned against committing. Ed.]
2. At the close of this age Antichrist will present to all men the dread alternative of denying God and worshipping himself as god, or of being executed. At the same time an angel will counter this demand by a proclamation announcing the eternal wrath of God against each who shall worship Antichrist, the Beast. Thus these also who worship him will seal their doom while yet alive. Their death will not make their fate more certain.
thereafter the Lord will hold an assize at
4. In older ages the heavenly lot of Enoch and Elijah was revealed while they were yet alive, and they did not die.
5. This will be the case with those companies of believers on Christ at the End Times who will be rapt to heaven alive, at either the pre-tribulation rapture of the watchful (Luke 21. 34-36; Rev. 3: 10; 12: 5; 14: 1); or at the general rapture at the close of the Tribulation (1 Thess. 4: 17; 1 Cor. 15: 51, 52).
6. The eternal salvation of believers does not wait their death to be secured and declared. Scripture gives them assurance as to this as soon as they believe: they are declared justified, are born of God (1 John 5: 1, 11, 18, 19), and receive the life eternal (John 10: 27-30, etc.).
The above cases make clear that the article of death has no influence on the eternal future of the whole classes of men mentioned. This sets aside the universal assertion commonly made.
7. Early in the public life of our Lord one of the ruling order of the Jews condemned in advance their later opposition by acknowledging that they knew Christ to be a teacher come from God (John 3: 2). In due time that inquirer himself, Nicodemus, followed that light and espoused Christ (John 7: 50-52; 19: 39), but the other leaders (with the honourable exception of Joseph of Arimathea: (John 19: 38), and their followers, though having yet more fully weighed the claims of Jesus to be the Son of God, deliberately rejected Him and later murdered Him. To these the Lord said: I go away, and ye shall seek Me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go ye cannot come ... I said therefore unto you that ye shall die in your sins: for except ye believe that I AM, ye shall die in your sins (John 8: 21, 24).
This states definitely that the determined open-eyed rejector of Christ will not escape from his sins, but will die weighted with them, and that no later association with the Redeemer will be possible: Whither I go [in resurrection] ye cannot come. Up to the hour of death opportunity might remain for a change of mind and attitude, which is implied in the Lords words except ye believe ye shall die in your sins: thereafter their path and lot would never coincide with that of Christ. The essential factors here are the definite facing of Christ, the weighing of His claims, with the following intelligent and firm rejection of Him and of His demands on faith and obedience. Such already settle their state and fate before they die.
Other scriptures speak to the same
effect. Paul (2 Thess. 1: 3, 10) dwells on the righteousness of God in
judgment. It is righteous that God should count worthy of His [millennial] kingdom
such as have suffered in its interests.
It is righteous that He should weigh back an equivalent measure of
affliction to those who afflict His people.
This double evidence of right action by God will be at the
revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven, with the angels of His power in
flaming fire rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to those not obeying the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These are the later members of the
class of which Pharaoh king of
Those who protest that a God of love cannot consign His creatures to a lake of fire are striving against Scripture. In the words before us it is stated clearly that when He returns as judge who for us men and our salvation endured the sorrows of the cross, He will come with flaming fire rendering vengeance. Elsewhere (2 Pet. 3: 7, 10) it is declared that, the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word [that destroyed the ancient world by water] have been stored up for [or with] fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men ... the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up, or discovered, as the secret elements of an article are revealed when it is analyzed and dissolved by heat. In the light of this certain, Divinely appointed prospect the same apostle asks, What shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel? (1 Pet. 4: 17).
Again, as before noted, at the close of this [evil] age those who accept the service of Antichrist will do so in defiance of the gospel and of express angelic warning. These also will be of the class now in view who face the claims of God and His Son and deliberately reject them. In Rev. 16 the closing judgments of this age are depicted. A noisome and grievous sore breaks out on men, and also they are forced to drink water putrid with blood. Let men voice their horror at such inflictions and declare that such things cannot be, that the very idea is the invention of callous men: yet the holy angel declares that these judgments exhibit the righteousness of God. Next fiery heat scorches the God-haters: they sit in God-inflicted darkness, tormented by their sores, and gnaw their tongues for anguish. It is difficult to conceive that even a lake of fire can induce greater misery: gnawing the tongue indicates the last extreme of agony. Yet Scripture here twice emphasizes that even such awful experiences, so far from melting the obdurate heart into humble repentance, on the contrary do but provoke blasphemies against God, and they repented not of their works to give Him glory (Rev. 16: 9, 11).
These scenes represent one attribute of the holy God which is as clearly and frequently presented in Scripture as are His attributes of love, grace, and mercy. We are not in the least concerned to attempt to justify God and His ways, but only to note what is set forth in His Word. These solemn features are presented especially in the book of Revelation, and we remark again that it is no wonder that a leading advocate of universal restoration excluded this book from his treatise. Thus a basic question arises as to whether the whole Bible is really and in its entirety the Word of God. One of the largest and most vigorous books against eternal judgment was written by an avowed modernist and treats Holy Scripture as very unreliable.*
[* See THE SUPREME AUTHORITY OF THE SCRIPTURES following.]
These considerations all bear upon the fact that men are able while yet alive to determine their destiny, for eternal life or eternal death, and therefore the notion that it is death that settles the matter is unwarranted.
Now all the persons contemplated in the foregoing remarks are such as have faced the rights and claims of God and His Son and have either accepted or rejected them. This leaves open for inquiry the future of the vast majority of the human race, of whom this is not the fact. Here again, no word of Scripture states that their eternal lot is fixed at death.
The question was put, Lord, are they few that be saved? A profoundly interesting question! But Christ left it unanswered, and stressed the urgency of personal zeal to enter the narrow door. He did, however, warn that many would seek to enter in and would not be able. But the very fact that they seek to enter shows that the Lords remark does not extend to those who have never heard of salvation and who therefore do not seek after it. It is not for us virtually to supply our own answer to the question and assert that many means that the vast majority of our human race must and will be for ever lost. Scripture provides no data for this conjecture, yet upon it universalists base their sharpest attacks upon the teaching of eternal perdition and their bitterest complaints that the character of God is horribly vilified. This is part of the rhetoric by which they create prejudice, and it is much to be regretted that too many who support the doctrine of eternal judgment have given occasion for this attack by having adopted the conjecture.
What the Bible says is most significant and is a relief to the subject. Speaking of man simply as man, without distinction of race, period, or religion, it shows in Rom. 1 that of old time men gave up God and that God could not but give up them. In chapter 2 every man is again addressed without distinction, whether Jew or heathen, by the words, O man, whosoever thou art. It declares two principles of the Divine and final judgment as follows:
(1) The one who despises the riches of Gods goodness and forbearance and longsuffering and acts from a hard and impenitent heart treasures up for himself wrath, in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. He being factious and obeying not the truth (that is such measure of truth as he may have known; whether from nature around, or the universally implanted sense of right and wrong, the work of the law in the heart, or from conscience), but obeying unrighteousness as the guiding principle of conduct - to such a one God will render wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish. These are four strong and fearful words, such as prepare the mind for the final picture of that wrath, the lake of fire.
(2) But on the other hand, equally emphatic, and equally addressed to every man, is the assurance that to them that by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and incorruption, God will render eternal [age-lasting] life, even glory and honour and peace to every man that doeth good. And both the wrath and the peace will be awarded in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ (ver. 16). Both actions are part of the good news as preached by Paul, little as they may appreciate this to be good news who rebel against the doctrine of eternal [or, in the case of the regenerate, age-lasting] wrath.* But let the advocate of the popular doctrine inquire of his heart whether he thinks it to be good news that such as are in view, who never heard the gospel in this life, may nevertheless receive eternal life in that great day.
[* Against those who committed apostasy, whom God had redeemed and brought out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses, we read: And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Get you up from among the congregation, that I may consume them in a moment. For there is wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun. Now they that died by the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, beside them that died about the matter of Korah: (Num. 16: 45, 46, 49).]
It is not said that the second class of persons find while on earth a life that is glorious and honourable and incorruptible, but only that they seek it. Such as have moved among un-evangelized people (and there are plenty such in these Western lands!), and have observed with care and sympathy, have not so seldom met such earnest seekers. They seem to us to be few in comparison; but we do not know all hearts, nor do we know what the Spirit of grace may go on doing right on to the day of judgment indicated. We ought to cultivate Pauls confidence that He who hath begun a good work in any soul - and surely it was His grace that began in these the good work of seeking after incorruption - will go on to perfect that which He began until the day of Jesus Christ, not only until the day of death and then forsooth abandon His work unperfected. The final issue of His work may bring many blessed surprises, even as the issue of human and angelic obduracy will bring sad disappointments; for many that have been first in opportunity shall be last in attainment, while many that are now last may be then first.
The principle of justice involved in this is important and should be understood. An upright judge deals with the culprit according to his own knowledge of law, not according to the culprits ignorance of law; and so sometimes he sees ground in law for acquitting one verily guilty of the act charged. For example, the judge may think that no statute forbids the act in question, or he may hold that there is lack of some technical evidence required for convicting. Similarly, God will deal with men according to His own knowledge of the value of the atoning work of the Saviour for all men, and He may see ground in divine law to extend that benefit of redemption to some who had not known of it in this life, such as infants and imbeciles, as also such as in much darkness of mind had at least longed after that type of life to which the cross of Christ affords access by faith.
Scripture is definite that righteousness is imputed to such only as believe. But they cannot believe without hearing the message. It is therefore clear that those mentioned, infants and imbeciles, must be caused to hear after death, since they could not understand it in this life. This establishes in principle that some will be given opportunity to hear and believe after death, and it becomes only a question of whether Scripture warrants the application of this principle to the multitudes that never heard the good news in this life.
It seems that the passage in Romans 2 examined can only find fulfilment in this way: they must hear, and so have opportunity to embrace that higher life which they sought here but of which they never heard. May it not be taken as certain that no one of such seekers who, in the providence of God, did meet with the message of God in this life ever rejected it, but gladly embraced its offer of life in Christ? and it may therefore be presumed that each such will do this if presented with the truth after this life. Thus will God fulfil His promise that such seekers will obtain eternal life in that day of righteous judgment, and the principles and conditions of salvation will be the same for them as for those who hear the gospel now. The cross of Christ the basis, the knowledge of the truth the means, and faith the condition; so that all will be of grace through faith.
The suggestion that such persons receive eternal life in that day of judgment accords with the plain suggestion in Rev. 20: 15, that some names will be then found written in the book of life. This will be examined later.
It is to be much observed how deliberate and defiant is the sin of those threatened with ultimate wrath. They condemn what nevertheless they practise, that is, they sin knowingly and are self-condemned (Rom. 2: 1-3); they positively despise the goodness of God, which therefore must have come to their notice (ver. 4); they are hard and impenitent, factious, and actually disobedient to truth known, even as it had been before said that they hold down [that is, suppress] the truth in unrighteousness (1: 18), while they obey the latter right willingly. Similar are those who will have their portion in the lake of fire as described in Rev. 21: 8 and 22: 15. They are the cowards (deilos, comp 2 Tim. 1: 7; Deut 20: 8, and Judg. 7: 3, LXX); unfaithful (apistos, comp. Luke 12: 46); the loathsome, detestable, disgusting (bdelusso, comp. Psa. 119. 163, LXX); murderers, fornicators, sorcerers (dealers in magic), dogs (wild, foul livers), idolaters, and all liars (pseudes, one who is utterly, deceitfully false).
That there are all too many such is,
alas, the fact; yet it is not our province to declare every sinner to be so
appallingly evil as to be irreclaimable.
Each who seriously seeks light shall reach it, while he who refuses it
now courts darkness for ever [or for an age].* While all
wickedness will receive its due recompense of reward, the sin which makes
condemnation certain is to reject or neglect Christ; but these attitudes imply
that He has been adequately presented to the man. Who can affirm that this has been done to
vast numbers in
[* See Outer Darkness.]
No second chance is offered to anyone, but only a first opportunity for those who did not hear the gospel in the present life.
* * *
THE SUPREME AUTHORITY
OF THE SCRIPTURES
D. M. PANTON.
In order that our faith may be established as upon rock, and our hearts guarded from all infidel criticism of the SCRIPTURES, which are the mind of God precipitated into words, let us remind ourselves exactly where we stand.
1. We stand where the
for eighteen centuries has stood.
Take the far end of this epoch first, and we ask - How did the
men who lived immediately after the Apostles regard the Scriptures? Irenaeus (A.D. 177), whose teacher, Polycarp, had actually been taught by John, says:- The Scriptures are perfect,
because uttered by the Word of God, and His Spirit. Theophilus of
For eight hundred years after Christ no Christian teacher can
be found who denied the absolute inspiration of the Scriptures. Now take this
end of the Churchs long history. Dr. Joseph Parker voices what all Nonconformists believed in the middle of the Nineteenth
reading of the Bible, he says, has made me an
unquestioning and grateful believer in the plenary inspiration, the divine
authority, and the infinite sufficiency of Holy Scripture. So also the Church of
archbishops and bishops, in a united protest addressed to Bishop Colenso in 1863, said:- All our hopes for eternity, the very foundations of our faith, our nearest and dearest
consolations, are taken from us if one line of that Sacred Book be declared
unfaithful or untrustworthy.
Even the Church of Rome, as lately as in the
What does all this mean? It means that if Polycarp and Justin Martyr, Augustine and Chrysostom, Luther and Calvin, Wesley and Whitefield, Pusey and Spurgeon, were to rise from the dead, they, that is, the whole Church of eighteen centuries - would stand aghast at the utterances of the modern pulpit. We stand, with the whole Church of God, where Chrysostom stood fifteen hundred years ago:- There is not anything in Scripture which can be considered unimportant; there is not a single sentence which does not deserve to be meditated on: for it is not the word of man, but of the Holy Spirit and the least syllable of it contains a hidden treasure.
2. We stand where all Gods Apostles and Prophets
have always stood.
If Peter were alive, and Paul, and our Lord, how eagerly we would run to listen to their words as decisive on all our doubts! Yet that is exactly the evidence we have got. In the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament there are 501 passages in the Pentateuch, 292 in the Historical Books, and 1,111 in the Prophetical Books in which the words, Thus saith the Lord, God spake, God said, or words to that effect, occur. No less than 1,904 times do such expressions occur in the thirty-nine books; so that at least three-fifths of the whole of the Old Testament is directly declared to be the Word of God. Their truth, their absolute reliability, was the very test which God Himself proposed to prove their inspiration. If the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken (Deut. 18: 22).
Now the Apostles, in the New Testament, actually heighten the sense of Gods authorship of the Old: for they say, The prophets sought diligently what time or what manner of time - what kind of dispensation - the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it prophesied beforehand (1 Pet. 1: 11). The Spirit in them prophesied, not they; and the minds of the Old Testament prophets examined separately what had been said through their mouths; indeed so separate was their mind from the Spirits and the inspired utterance, that they did not always even understand its meaning.
It was the word which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet (Matt. 1: 22 R.V.); the Scripture which the Holy Ghost spake by the mouth of David (Acts 1: 16); things which God before had shewed by the mouth of all His prophets (Acts 3: 18): for the Scriptures are God-breathed, and no prophecy - all the Scriptures are the writings of Prophets ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Pet. 1: 21 R. V.)
The Apostle John crowns it all by asserting the verbal inspiration of the last book of the Bible under penalty of the most fearful warnings:- If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city (Rev. 22: 19 R.V.) We stand where all Gods Apostles and Prophets have always stood.
3. We come to the Supreme Authority last: and we find that
we stand where Our Lord Himself stood.
Take three instances only. In the wilderness our Lord meets each assault of Satan by a quoted Scripture, every time resting His whole weight on a single word in the passage: Not by bread alone; thou shalt not tempt the Lord; Him only shalt thou serve; and Satan, who today will tell men spiritually ignorant that God never wrote these words, never dared tell Christ so.
Again, our Lord, when using words which on the lips of the highest Seraph would have been blasphemous, and for which the Jews did actually charge Him with blasphemy, I and the Father are one, establishes His position by a quotation from a Psalm in which He rests His whole defence on a single word:- I said, Ye are gods; and then, cutting off all criticism with the awful authority of the Son of God, He adds:- And the Scripture - that is, even a single word in a psalm - cannot be broken (John 10: 35); for, according to our Lord Himself, no jot (the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet) or tittle (the tiny strokes in each letter) of the Scripture can fail (Matt. 5: 18). If no solitary Scripture can fail or be broken, not even one word, it can only be because God has made it infallible, and that the whole Book is charged with God.
Finally, our Lord expresses the inspired stability of Scripture with a force no lips have ever equalled. It is easier, He says, for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tittle of the law - the Old Testament - to fail (Luke 16: 17 R.V.) He -[the Stone which was set at nought (Acts 4: 11)]- who made the stars, who created the mighty world in which we live, says that it is easier for the planets to disappear in mighty explosions, and easier for the earth to roll away in a sheet of flame, than for one tittle - the smallest fraction of a Hebrew letter - to fail: the words of God [His Father] are more sacred to Him than the most stupendous of all His works.
Thus we stand where the whole Church of God for eighteen centuries stood, where all the apostles and prophets have stood, and where the Son of God Himself stood and stands. Let us remain, even if it were at the cost of life itself, faithful to the Holy Scriptures.