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eternal life, whereunto thou art called," and after adds, “Keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ." But he said in the first chapter of this same letter to the Corinthians, “We are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Again in the fourteenth verse of chapter 4, he says to them, “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also, by Jesus, and shall present us with you.” When thus presented, they will be present with the Lord, and not before. These sayings of the apostle pointed the minds of these disciples to the day of Christ as the time when they were to be present with the Lord. Paul must certainly be allowed to interpret Paul.
Again, what can be more to the point on this subject than his words to the Thessalonians in the fourth chapter of his first letter where he to them, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent (come 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 we (those who are living at that time) which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.” And now mark, ye who stumble at Paul's words, when he says, “Absent from the body, and present with the Lord.” Note particularly what he concludes with here, "And so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." This valuable instruction Paul conveys by the word of the Lord in which he desires them not to be ignorant concerning the state of the dead who are asleep, for ignorance on this point is a dangerous condition of mind; and having shown them how the dead are to be raised up, and the living changed, and how they are to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, he then declares particularly, and shows that this is the manner, and this is the time when they will be present with the Lord, for he says, “ And so shall we be ever with the Lord, Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
Death according to the men of God is a sleep. The ordinary sleep of a man in sound health is a cessation of the action of mental, as well as physical power, so that in a sound sleep a man may pass away six or eight hours without being conscious of the lapse of that time. Therefore, true to this natural figure, as the sleep of death is a total suspension of all the powers of mind and body, the lapse of ten thousand years between death and resurrection could occur without the sleeper being any more conscious of it than if it were but a single day. There are no clocks or time-keepers with the dead, they never inquire the time of night.
These Scriptures already cited show conclusively not only that the disciples of Christ were to look forward to the coming of Christ as the time that they were to be present with the Lord, but also that when they were present with him they would be present in body, not unclothed, nor in their earthy body, but in their celestial, or immortal body, and to this end Paul says (II Cor. 5),
For we know, that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven; if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life”; or as he said in his first letter that “death might be swallowed up in victory,” which is only done by the resurrection of the dead.
Let it be noted now that the time that lapses after the present tabernacle or body is dissolved until we are clothed upon again at the resurrection by our immortal body, or house from heaven, is spoken of here as a period of time in which the righteous are unclothed, that is, dead, or asleep, a condition which Paul himself had no longing for, because he says, “Not for that we would be unclothed, but (on the contrary) clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life." According to this, Paul saw nothing in death that was at all desirable to him,
But the objector may say, If the term “absent from the body, and present with the Lord” only meant present with the Lord at his coming, how do you account for his passing over so long a time without making some account of it? We reply that “God which quickeneth the dead, calleth those things which be not, as though they were” when speaking by the mouth of his prophets, or apostles, as Paul himself points out in interpreting what God said to Abraham, “A father of many nations have I made thee.” This the Lord said to Abraham when he had no child, and when the nations referred to were not in existence, but God had promised that he should become in the far-off future the father of many nations, and so certain was he to fulfill that promise that he speaks of it as though it were already an accomplished fact. This principle pervades the Scriptures from beginning to end, and any person ignorant of that fact will commit many an error in attempting to interpret either the words of Christ, the apostles, or prophets. Isaiah said, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” The prophet speaks of it as though it had already transpired in his day, yet the child spoken of was not born until the days of Herod the king when wise men came from the east to worship him. This was many centuries after the prophecy was uttered. Thus all evidence in this passage in Paul's writings to support the popular doctrine, as we investigate it, fades away from before our eyes, and instead, all the arguments contained therein, array themselves on the other side.
TO DEPART AND BE WITH CHRIST
But there is another passage in Paul's letter to the Philippians of a similar tenor to the one that we have just been considering, where he says (1:23), “I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.” This saying of the apostle is seized upon with avidity by those who vainly hope to reach paradise at death as a disembodied spirit, but this is another slender thread on which to hang their eternal welfare,
for their whole argument again consists in assuming (for it is only another assumption) that Paul intended us to understand that he expected to be with Christ immediately after departing this life, and that too, unclothed and without a body, whereas we have already proved that he cherished no such hope, but instead expected to sleep with others till the voice of the archangel and the trump of God should awake the dead, when he would arise and be with Christ at his coming and so ever be with the Lord. Paul knew the voices of the prophets and therefore understood the doctrine that “God, who quickeneth the dead ... calleth those things which be not as though they were (Rom. 4:17), and so in this place he speaks after the manner of the prophets and says, “ Having a desire to depart and to be with Christ,” as though he would be with Christ as soon as he departed, whereas he only counted the time between death and the resurrection of the dead a blank, and only cherished the hope of being with Christ in the day of Christ.
This any person can see without going outside of this very letter. For instance, in chapter 1, verse 6, he says, “ Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Again, in verse 10, That ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ." Again, chapter 2, verse 16, “Holding forth the word of life that I may rejoice in the day of Christ." And again (3:7-11), “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”
Does any man need more forcible language than this to show what Paul's faith and hope was? If he does, let him find it in the last two verses of the same chapter where he says, Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”
This letter, as well as the one which was written to Philemon, in which he speaks of himself as Paul the aged, is set down as being written in the year 64; four years later than that he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians, where, in chapters 11 and 12, as we have his letter divided, he enumerates some of the hardships and sufferings which he endured. And when one reads of the perils and sufferings which the beloved Paul endured for the truth's sake, even as the Lord said at Damascus to Ananias, “I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake,”— I say, after reading the account of these things, one need not be surprised at his language to the Philippians when he was an old man and worn out in his master's cause: “Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a
strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.”
Paul knew the truth of what Jesus had said before he suffered: “I must work the works of him that sent me while it is day; the night cometh when
work.” He knew that death was an unconscious sleep, that “there the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary be at rest (Job 3:17), and that the first event that they who fell asleep would be conscious of, would be what would meet their vision after they should be awaked out of their sleep by resurrection, when they would see the Lord, and ever after be present with him.
But some will say, What is the difference whether a man believes that he will get his reward at death, or at the resurrection of the dead? We answer that there is all the difference that there is in believing the truth, or believing a lie. But, continues the objector, We believe the doctrine of the resurrection as taught in the Scriptures as well as you do. This we are compelled to flatly deny. The theory of the resurrection that is held and taught in the great religious bodies of the present day is simply a sham and counterfeit theory of the resurrection. They hold and teach what the philosopher Franklin so ably and clearly stated more than a century ago, namely, that man is not a body animated by a soul, he is a soul clothed with a body; when the clothing is laid aside, the man himself remains unchanged, or as the poet has put it,
“I lay my garments by,
And leave my soul undressed." Therefore the sectarian theory of the resurrection simply amounts to believing in the death, burial, and resurrection of a man's old clothes, while the man himself never dies, never is buried, and never is raised from the dead at all. This is but a coarse counterfeit of the true doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. But we, in opposition to all that, believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of the real man himself. All that is comprehended in the word soul — as applied to Christ and to all men is what dies, is buried, and raised again from the dead. David, foreseeing that Christ should be raised from the dead, spake in the sixteenth Psalm of the resurrection of Christ in these words, “ Thou wilt not leave my soul in the grave, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” “ This Jesus,” said Peter, “ hath God raised up, whereof we all (the twelve apostles) are witnesses.' The way men stumble on the simple word hades, properly translated grave, assuming in their blindness, without divine authority, that it is a place of departed spirits, is proof that they are void of judgment, and utterly unable to interpret the words of inspiration.
Our researches thus far have been of no avail in discerning the least scintillation of light in support of this doctrine so important to the religious world, and upon the existence of which hang everlasting things; but there are a few more Scriptures which are quoted to sustain the doctrine, which we will most respectfully examine and submit the result.
In Matthew 10 and 28 we read from the words of Christ, “ Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
This passage is greatly relied upon and commonly quoted to sustain the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, but there is, nevertheless, a weakness in this argument on the very face of it: there is a very important descriptive word left out, and while the translators under King James' directions have done their best to favor the popular doctrine, yet they could not here insert the necessary word to make this oracle conclusive in proof of this doctrine. If Jesus had said, Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the immortal soul, then indeed this would have been substantial evidence of the truth of their contention. But when any person can turn to the Greek lexicon and see that the original word translated soul in this passage is, in verse 39 of the same chapter (Matt. 10) twice translated life where Jesus says, “ He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it," that at once places a very different color upon the subject. The translators could not invest man with immortality by straining the original and giving certain words a tip in that direction, because the fraud is too transparent when looked into. The immortality of the soul is altogether too important a doctrine to be taught in such a Alimsy manner. And that it may plainly appear that a special effort was made in the translation to favor the doctrine, we will cite one or two more cases. In Matthew 16 (24-26) it is written, “ Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Now observe what a clumsy and superficial attempt is here made to favor this popular error, for the very word which in the foregoing passage is twice correctly translated life, in the following passage is twice without the slightest necessity, and without the least warrant of authority, translated soul as follows: "For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Now insert the word life and the fraud is obliterated.
Again, we find the same thing in the parable of the rich man whose grounds brought forth plentifully, so that he had no place to store his fruits, and who concluded that he would pull down his barns and build greater, and there bestow all his fruits and his goods, and then say to his soul, “ Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry.” But God said unto him, “ Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.” Here the original word Psukee, which so frequently is rendered life, is three times in this passage rendered soul. Therefore when God said unto him, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee," it could at least with equal propriety have been put, “This night thy life shall be required of thee."
But the meaning of Christ's words found in Matthew (10:28) are made quite clear by Luke in chapter 12 (4-5) of his gospel, who records them as follows: “And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill