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THE INTERMEDIATE PLACE.
By Rev. Enoch Pond, D. D. Prof. Theol., Theol. Sem. Bangor, Me.
The question of an intermediate place is very different from that of an intermediate state. This latter phrase has generally been understood to denote the conscious, active state of the departed, between the periods of death and the resurrection, in opposition to those who hold to a temporary sleep of the soul. All evangelical Christians, at the present day, are believers in the doctrine of an intermediate state. Indeed with the Bible in his hands, I see not how any one can disbelieve it.
But the doctrine of an intermediate place is quite a different matter. This teaches that the soul, when it leaves the body, does not go to heaven or to hell, but into an intermediate place, denoininated in the original Scriptures bau andaons, where it remains confined, till the resurrection. Different ideas are entertained as to the nature and situation of this place, and the con„dition of those who inhabit it. Some fix it in the centre of the earth : others are not so definite, but regard it as a nether world—a place of shades, of gloom, of repose.“ It is always represented,” says Campbell, “under those figures which suggest something dreadful, dark and silent; about which the most prying eye and listening ear can acquire no information.” One part of a dns, however, is represented as more pleasant, or less gloomy, than the other. Into this better compartment, the souls of the righteous descend at death, and are there confined until the resurrection. They are “the spirits in prison," spoken of by Peter, 1 Pet. 3: 19. The author of the Physical Theory of another Life” represents this as the chrysalis period” of the Christian. He describes him as in a state of "comparative inaction,” of “suspended energy,” of “seclusion," of " destitution.” Into the other part of aans the souls of the wicked descend at death, and there await their final sens tence to depart accursed into hell, the place prepared for the devil and his angels. The better apartment in ons is supposed to be the paradise of the New Testament; where are Abraham and Lazarus, and into which the penitent thief entered, on the day of his crucifixion. The other apartment is called Tarturus; and is that place of torment into which the rich man was plunged at death.
In remarking on the subject thus introduced, it may be well to state plainly, and at once, that I reject this whole theory of an intermediate place ; believing, according to most of the Protestant Confessions of Faith, that “the souls of the righteous at death, being made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies ; and that the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day."*
The questions first presenting themselves, in entering upon this discussion, are: What is heaven? and, What is hell ? What are we to understand by these important terms? I answer, that they denote, not mere states of being, but places of being—the separate abodes of the righteous and wicked in the other world. So they are uniformly represented in the Scriptures. Heaven is spoken of as a city which hath foundations,” a “house not made with hands,” a kingdom which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Our Saviour expressly calls it a place: “I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14: 2. Hell, too, is uniformly spoken of as a place. It is the place of torment”--the place prepared for the devil and his angels."
In what parts of the universe these opposite places are situated, as God has not been pleased to inform us, it would be presumptuous even to conjecture. We may be sure, however, that our blessed Saviour is now in heaven. When he ascended from Mount Olivet, it is expressly stated that he was taken up into heaven.” Acts 1: 11. In subsequent parts of Scripture, he is repeatedly and positively said to be in heaven. Heb. 9: 24, 1 Pet. 3: 22. Heaven is further spoken of as the residence of the holy angels. Mark 12: 25, 13:32. To quote passages in proof of this point would be superfluous. Hence, to be with Christ and with the holy angels is to be in heaven. -Hell, too, in whatever part of the universe it may be situated, is the place where the devil and his angels are now reserved in chains under darkness, and to which, with all the
* Presbyterian Confession of Faith, p. 32.
finally miserable of our race, they will be remanded after the judgment.
The questions before us are, therefore, these: Do the souls of the righteous at death go to be with Christ and holy angels in heaven? And do the souls of the wicked at death go to the place of the devils in hell? Or do both go into different portions of the same general region, denominated in the original of the New Testament (ons, there to await the resurrection of their bodies, before entering on their final state ?
It is obvious, at a glance, that the decision of these questions must depend very materially on the signification of the word ớons. And it is insisted by the advocates of the intermediate place that, in interpreting this word, we must have a strict regard to its ordinary signification, in the classics, and in cotemporary Jewish writers. But I would ask, in reply: Is the word used with such precision and uniformity by classical authors, as to fix upon it any determinate and invariable signification? And, if we admit that it is so used, will it of necessity follow, that it must be used in the same sense by the inspired writers? The word came into the New Testament, not from the Greek classics, nor from Josephus, but from the Septuagint, where it was introduced as a translation of the corresponding Hebrew term bied; which is of too ancient a date to receive any modification from those classical or cotemporaneous authors, of which we have any knowledge. It might be presumed, therefore, that these words would be used in the Scriptures in a somewhat peculiar sense; and so I think we find them. And the proper question is not, how are they used by classic and Jewish authors, but, how in the book of God? If the language of Scripture is to be interpreted according to the opinions of Josephus, and his Jewish cotemporaries, we must receive, not only their paganized notions of ons, but a great deal more. We must receive their doctrine of the seven heavens, of the transmigration of souls, of purgatory, and of a semi-terrestrial, sensual paradise. That this last idea was common among the Jews, is evident from a question which the Sadducees proposed to our Saviour : “In the resurrection," or future life," whose wife shall she be of the seven ? for they all had her.”-Matt. 22 : 28.*
* See Basnage’s History of the Jews, Book 4, Chap. 32. Also, Wetstein on Luke 23: 43.
But it is said that these words are used in the Scriptures to signify the nether world, an intermediate place, into which the spirits of both good and bad men depart at death, and where they are confined till the day of judgment. In reply, I observe that the words in question are used by the inspired writers to signify the grave—the resting place of the bodies of both the righteous and the wicked. They are also used to signify hellthe abode of miserable spirits. But they are never used, so far as I have been able to discover, to signify the abode of the spirits of just men made perfect, either before the resurrection, or afterwards.
In by far the greater number of instances, the word bewis used in the Old Testament to signify the grave—the place of the dead body; and is properly so rendered by our translators. “I will go down into the grave to my son mourning." Gen. 37: 35. “Ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.” Gen. 42: 38. “ The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.” 1 Sam. 2: 6. David charged Solomon respecting Joab: “Thou shalt not let his hoary head go down to the grave
1 Kings 2: 6. Job says: “O that thou wouldst híde me in the grave.” “If I wait, the grave is my house.” “They shall go down to the bars of the grave, when our rest together is in the dust.”—Chap. 14: 13; 17: 13, 16. In very many instances, this word is used, in the writings of David, Solomon and the prophets as it obviously is in the cases above referred to, to signify the grave. Indeed, this is the more common and literal signification of the term, in the Old Testament. But as the
But as the grave is regarded by most persons, and was more especially so by the ancients, with awe and dread, as being the region of gloom and darkness, so the word denoting it soon came to be applied to that more dark and gloomy world, which is to be the abode of the miserable forever. Numerous passages to this effect may be quoted from the Old Testament, some of which are, perhaps, doubtful; but others are decisive. « A fire is kindled in mine
which shall burn to the lowest hell." Deut. 32: 22. Isaiah, predicting the destruction of the king of Babylon, says:
6 Hell from beneath is moved for thee, to meet thee at thy coming. It stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth.”—Chap. 14: 9. In this sublime and awful passage, we have either a bold personification of the grave and its inhabitants, or—what is more probablema direct reference to the world of miserable spirits. Certain it is, we find no good or happy spirits here.
In many passages in the Old Testament, but is used in immediate contrast with heaven, and of course must be supposed to signify hell. “It is high as heaven, what canst thou do? Deeper than hell, what canst thou know?” Job 11: 8. “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there.” Ps. 139: 8. Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down,” Amos 9: 3. Really, I think there ought to be no dispute respecting the meaning of this word, in passages such as these. It certainly stands for the opposite of heaven; and of course must signify, not the grave, nor the general state and region of the dead, but hell.
There are other passages, if possible, still more decisive. “ The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." Ps. 9: 17. The hell here spoken of certainly is not the grave, nor any other place in this world or the next, into which the righteous are sent. It is the place prepared for the future abode of the wicked, and for them exclusively. In other words, it is hell. “ Thou shalt beat him (the unruly child) with a rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell;" not from the grave, certainly, nor from the future abodes of the righteous, but from hell. Prov. 23: 14.
In the New Testament, mens is used much as Sxw is in the Old, except that, in a less proportion of cases, it signifies the grave. Still, there are instances, in which the word is used in this sense; as, “O death, where is thy sting! O grave, where is thy victory! 1 Cor. 15: 55.
1 Cor. 15:55. In general, however, the cons of the New Testament is no other than the world of future misery. “ Thou Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell;" a place the opposite of heaven. Mat. 11: 23. “ On this rock will I build church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matt. 16:18. As, in ancient times, the chief men of a city were accustomed to sit in the gates to decide causes, and execute judgment, so by the gates of hell, I think we are to understand the chiefs of hell, particularly the devils. These shall never be suffered to prevail against the church ; and the place of their abode is the hell spoken of in the passage above quoted. It was in this same place that the rich man lifted