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receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away (5:4). Thus it is seen that the inspired men of God pointed to the coming of Christ and the resurrection of the just as the time that we are to look for our reward as steady as the needle to the pole.
We may say that we have now examined nearly all the Scriptures which are most frequently quoted and which are supposed by the advocates of man's natural immortality to indirectly and inferentially support the doctrine, and we find that a proper interpretation of them discovers no proof to sustain any such theory but in every instance is found to support the opposite doctrine. But there remains yet one important testimony to be considered which is regarded by many as conclusive and incontrovertible proof of the truth of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and of all that grows out of it, as to rewards and punishments after death. We will therefore investigate it carefully.
THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS
We will endeavor to show what the lessons really are that the Son of God sought to convey to the wise and to the unwise by this remarkable Scripture. That it is a parable, there can be no doubt, and it may be proved as follows: Matthew, after recording (chapter 13) a number of parables that Jesus spake to the people who flocked from every quarter to hear him, adds (verse 34), “ All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables, and without a parable spake he not to them.” This statement renders it certain that this was a parable, for the scribes and Pharisees, who sat in the seat of Moses and constituted the respected teachers and clergy of that day, came with, and composed a part of the multitudes, of which Matthew says, “Without a parable spake he not unto them.” They came however, not to learn anything, but with treacherous designs, to catch him in his words, or to convict him of breaking the law, especially the law of the sabbath, that they might deliver him to the officers, to prison and death, and Jesus spake many parables to, and of them, which cut them to the heart.
Luke in chapter 16 records two parables. The first one is spoken against the sin of covetousness, and the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things, and they derided him (verse 14). And Jesus said unto them, "Ye are they which justify yourselves before men, but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God.” After this he spake to them the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, which applied peculiarly to themselves. This parable fully recognizes the existence of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul as it was believed and taught by the scribes and Pharisees in Christ's day, and its consequent existence after death as a departed, disembodied spirit, existing either in the enjoyment of happiness with the righteous, or else enduring torment in the flames of hell, as they held and taught. And it may be said that this parable furnishes the most graphic and perfect description of this doctrine and its results as it was held in his day and since, and is held now, that has ever been published. But let a man be careful and not fall into the snare that is here set for the feet of those to whom this parable was spoken, for he spake not his parables to those persons to open their eyes, but to close them, and to seal their delusions upon them (Mark 4:11-12). And while in this parable Jesus accurately recounts the peculiar features of this superstition, he by no means endorses the doctrine as being true; he builds a parable upon it, and to understand and see the application requires that a person be familiar with the situation of affairs among the people of Israel in the times of Christ and John the Baptist, his forerunner.
The people of Israel by the preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus were divided into two distinct classes ; namely, the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and others, on the one hand, who rejected the counsel of God against themselves, and were not baptized of John (Luke 7:29-30); and on the other hand, the common people, publicans, harlots and sinners, who justified God and were baptized of John for the remission of sins. The first claimed to be righteous, and were taken by Jesus at their own estimate of themselves, and judged accordingly, who said professedly, "I go, sir” (Matt. 21:28-32), but went not; the others were sinners, and said virtually by their outward deportment, "I will not," but afterwards repented and went. Concerning these two classes, Jesus said, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matt. 9:13). Again, “The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” Again, " There is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).
These two classes in Israel are the two sons and form the subject of many of the parables of Jesus (Matt. 21:23-32; Luke 7: 29-30). They are the two sons in the parable of the prodigal son. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the first class is represented by the rich man and his five brethren, the second class by the beggar Lazarus. The chief priests, scribes and Pharisees fared sumptuously every day upon the tithes and offerings of the people, and the priests were clothed in purple and fine linen (Exod. 28: 5-8). But the Lazarus class comprised the poor of the people, publicans and sinners, who were poor and ate the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table, in having to be taught by them because they sat in the seat of Moses (Matt. 23:13). They were the poor of that world, but as James said, rich in faith and heirs of God's kingdom and glory (Jas. 2:5). They made one common fund of all they had (Acts 2: 44-45), and so when their stores would be exhausted they would be poor indeed, and when the hand of persecution was laid heavily upon them, they would soon be reduced to great distress and suffering. But the dogs came and licked their sores in this way; the Gentiles were regarded by the Jews as dogs, and so called in the Scriptures (Ps. 22: 16-20; Mark 7: 24-28). When the gospel was preached to the Gentiles and churches were established among them, the apostles levied contributions from them to relieve the sufferings and distresses of the poor Christian Jews in Judea and Jerusalem, on this basis, that salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22) and as they now were made partakers of the Jews' spiritual things, it was then their duty in return to minister to them in carnal things (as is seen by reference to Rom. 5:25-27; II Cor. 9: 1-15).
Parables are intended to set forth certain doctrines or truths and may be based either upon fact or fiction, upon things real or imaginary (Judges 9:8-15). Jesus warned his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, which we learn referred not to the leaven of bread, but to the doctrine of these two sects (Matt. 16:6-12). Now what was their doctrine? (Acts 23:6-9) “The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees confess both.” The Sadducees' leaven consisted in their denial of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead and the existence of angels; the Pharisees' leaven consisted in their belief of the pagan theory of the immortality of the soul and disembodied spirits, which they say have neither flesh nor bones, but yet can speak to men. This is evident, for the doctrine of the resurrection, and the existence of angels Paul believed and taught, but after his conversion never taught or sanctioned their theory of spirits.
The apostles of Christ manifestly needed the admonition to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, for having been under their teaching before the days of John and Jesus, they had imbibed of their errors, and so on one occasion when Jesus came to them walking on the water, they cried out for fear, and said, “It is a spirit” (Matt. 14:25-26). Again, after Jesus rose from the dead and appeared suddenly among them, they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. But Jesus disabused their minds of this delusion, and said, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.” Besides, he ate meat and an honey-comb in their presence (Luke 24: 36-43). This appears to have effectually relieved their minds of this error, for there is no record that they ever taught the doctrine, or were ever troubled about the superstition any more.
On the contrary, they had now before their eyes a practical manifestation of God's salvation and immortality in the person of Jesus Christ, raised from the dead to die no more. They were eye-witnesses of this salvation, for they saw it with their eyes, and handled it with their hands (I John 1:1-3) and were commissioned and sent forth by Jesus to teach it to all nations, as the hope of dying men, and it was concerning this salvation that Paul says, “If we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel, let him be accursed."
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus was spoken to the Pharisees, and was predicated upon their own superstition, in which, true to their theory, the dead were represented as being comforted, or tormented, according as they had been good or bad in this life; and a conversation is introduced between the rich man and Abraham in which, after he can get no relief for himself, he expresses great solicitude for his five brethren which were yet alive, and desires Abraham to send Lazarus to warn them, lest they also come to the same place of torment. But what does Abraham say in reply? “They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.” And again he replies, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” This parable therefore, among other things, is intended expressly to blind the eyes of the Pharisees concerning the state of the dead, and has been most effectual to that end from that day to this upon the same hypocritical class and their dupes who make void the word of God by their traditions (Mark 7: 5-13). But no wise man need be deceived by it if he will follow the instructions which Christ puts in Abraham's mouth, and hear Moses and the prophets, for Moses never taught the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, or the conscious state of the dead, although he was thoroughly conversant with the doctrine, being learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, who held this doctrine. But instead, by inspiration of God he taught the house of Israel a system of religion beginning with the mortality of man, that he was made of the dust of the ground which has no mentality or thinking powers, and that because of sin and transgression he was condemned to die and return again to dust; which would place him just where he was before he was created, which would be in a state of utter unconsciousness and silence. Therefore it is that the hope that is offered to mankind is salvation by resurrection of the dead, which was the doctrine Moses taught, for said Jesus, “Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he called the Lord, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Thus a scriptural interpretation of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus takes away all support to the ancient fable of the immortality of human souls, and instead, this parable is employed to blind the eyes of those who believe and support a heathen theory of immortality, instead of the glorious hope of immortality which is revealed from heaven, and was manifested in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ himself by resurrection from the dead.
Why then should we follow this fable any further? for it is not only not taught in the Scriptures, but is most emphatically denied there; for, first, immortality is never spoken of in the Scriptures as appertaining to man in the present state, but contrariwise, is offered to the children of men on certain well defined conditions, as a reward for well doing.
Second, the condition of the dead is spoken of by the wise men in no uncertain sound, but they speak plainly and positively on that matter, for “Why," says the wise man, “is a live dog better than a dead lion?" He answers himself, "For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know not anything."
Again the souls of the righteous are supposed to be animated with love in heaven after death, and the souls of the wicked are supposed to be moved by hatred, envy, and wicked passions; but the inspired preacher has no suppositions about the matter, but says plainly, “ Also their love and their hatred and their envy is now perished” (Eccles. 9:4-6).
Again the false consolation that preachers often give to the friends of the deceased is that their departed ones are in heaven looking down with eager solicitude upon the friends they left behind, whereas the prophet Job (Jesus calls him a prophet) says, His sons come to honour and he knoweth it not, they are brought low but he heedeth it not of them" (14:21).
THINGS SEEN THROUGH A FALSE MEDIUM
False views resultant upon belief in immortality of soul, about God the Father, Jesus Christ, the angels and saints - God the Father — Jesus, the express image of Father's person —"God-is a Spirit”— Modern idolatry The Creator — Omnipresence and omnipotence of the Father — The Holy Spirit — What it is.
They who view things in heaven above, or in the earth beneath through immortal soul spectacles are like to a person who views objects in nature through a coloured glass of irregular surface; he sees everything in a false light and in an unnatural and distorted form. So those who believe in the immortality of the soul and view things spiritual through that medium see everything of a scriptural character in a false light and in an improper and unreal form. For beginning with themselves, they have arrogated to themselves that they are what they are not, and they have sought to convert the curse pronounced in Eden into a blessing in disguise; and instead of viewing death as a loss of existence, and a reduction of man back again into his original elements out of which he was made, according to their inventions death is but a door to another world, which, when opened, admits them into a new world of light and glory. The real man, they say, is a spirit which survives the death of the body, and this immortal spirit, they say, has neither flesh nor bones and is not gross and material, but is immaterial and immortal. And now having struck out thus boldly on the part of themselves, they view everything from that false standpoint. And so as to their object of worship; as they claim that their real selves are immaterial, how could they worship a material object? Therefore the God which they worship is an immaterial God, which they say, has neither body ‘nor parts, but is a pure spirit, in the sense of being a divine essence.
And how is it in regard to the Christ that they trust in? Paul charged the ministers that opposed him with preaching another Jesus and another gospel on the grounds of attributing to Jesus doctrines of which he was not the author, and also by teaching things concerning himself which were not true, and by modifying his gospel; and as he charges them upon these grounds with teaching another Jesus and another gospel, so do the teachers of our day preach another Jesus and another gospel, for it may be set down as a rule that he who changes the doctrine, thereby changes the object of worship, for the true God is not worshipped through a lie, but through the truth.
Again they hold and teach that angels are spirits, but according to their views, they have neither flesh nor bones. Again they teach the existence of a devil, and devils, that were not known to inspired men, and of whom the Scriptures are silent.