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Num. vi. 6, ix. 13, xix. 13, and Hag. ii. 13, where the word translated soul in other places, is rendered “dead dody.” That Peter, who quoted these words on the day of Pentecost meant no more than that Jesus was raised from the grave, appears from the words he uttered after quoting the passage from the Psalm, in which he makes a marked correspondence between the sepulchre in which David still lay, and hell out of which Christ was brought up; “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he, seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.” Acts ii. 29-31. This view fully accords with Paul's teaching at Antioch, who, as Peter, in bis first public discourse, so he, in his first missionary journey, refers to these significant words, saying: “ And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he saith on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another Psalm, Thou wilt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption : but he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.” Acts xiii. 34-37. It is observable that whereas Peter repeats the Hebrew parallelism, the latter and clearer cause is considered sufficient by Paul to express the meaning of the whole passage. Wherefore we conclude that the reference in these passages is to the deliverance of Jesus from the bondage of death by a glorious resurrection from the grave, but they contain no distinct intimation concerning his spiritual nature.
In the 20th chap. of Revelations and at the 13th verse, it is said: “ And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and hell (hades) delivered up the dead which were in them.” Here is described the general resurrection. The idea sought to be conveyed is that all the dead were raised : those that had a grave in the solid earth and those who had been covered by the swelling wave. The sea and land of which the whole globe is composed disgorge their prey; hence the context, “I saw the dead small and great, stand before God.” Hades, here, may as well and much more agreeably with its evident meaning in other passages, signify the grave than an intermediate place. Then “ death and hell (hades) were cast into the lake of fire,” verse 14. Some think that reference is here made to the destruction or removal of the intermediate place. But does not this shock our sense of propriety? “Paradise or Abraham's bojom," say they," is a part
of the intermediate region.” If so, we may say paradise shall be 6 cast into the lake of fire.” Surely if it were intended to signify the destruction of an intermediate place, including a province of comparative happiness, some more appropriate expression would be used ; but the expression is forcible if we understand hades to mean the grave, for then the grave may be said to be cast into its own place.
Some suppose that Paradise, into which the soul of Christ went at death (Luke xxiii. 43), must have been a part of an intermediate place: because after his resurrection he said to Mary, to whom he first showed himself, and who was disposed affectionately to worship
66 Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father : but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your father; and to my God and your God.” John xx. 17. These words do not necessarily imply that his soul had not been in heaven during the interval between his death and resurrection; they only affirm that being raised out of the grave, he intended bodily to present himself to the Father. Where is Paradise? Are we to understand it to be the same place as heaven, or is it a province of an intermediate region ? There are but three passages in the New Testament in which the word occurs. Paul identified Paradise as the third heavens (2 Cor. xxii. 2, 4), which the Jews affirmed was the dwelling-place of God. In Rev. xxvii. the place of eternal happiness and reward is called the “ Paradise of God,” as distinguished from the earthly Eden, which men had learnt to call paradise. Now if in these two passages the word signifies heaven (properly so called), we see no reason why we should depart from this interpretation when expounding Luke xxiii. 43, the only remaining passage in which it is found.
The difficult passage occurring 1 Pet. iii. 18-20, can scarcely be adduced with any show of reason in support of an intermediate place of comparative happiness and misery, in which the state of of both parties is unalterable ; for notwithstanding what is called the “ declarative preaching of Christ,” we fail to perceive the practical good of such a visit. Would not the good know (supposing an intermediate place), previous to any such visit, that there was something better for them, and would not the wicked learn in that region, if not before, that their punishment must be eternal ? We are not inclined to think that Christ would take upon himself a work of supererogation. Augustine, who favoured the intermediate theory, alluding to this passage, says: "For before Christ came once in the flesh to die for us, he came often in the spirit to those whom he would, giving them by visions such spiritual intimations as he wished; by which Spirit he was also quickened, when, during his passion, he was mortified in the flesh.” To gain an adequate conception of the Apostle's meaning close attention must be paid to the argument of which these words form a part; which may be considered as commencing with the 14th verse of the third chapter and continuing to the 6th verse of the fourth chapter. Peter would strengthen the faith of those Christians who were likely to be subjected to suffering and cruel persecution (3, 14), because of their abandonment of heathen and sinful follies. (See iii. 15; iv. 3, 4). For their confirmation in well-doing, though ill-treated by the ungodly, he refers to the example of Christ, who “ also hath once suffered the just for the unjust" (iii. 18); and to the salvation of righteous Noah and his family: and also to the punishment with which the riotous and unbelieving antediluvians were visited after their refusal of mercy as offered by Noah, who moved by the same Spirit that raised up Christ from the dead, preached repentance unto them (iii. 19, 20): so that they might be led to imitate the one and take warning from the other. Moreover, he points to the general judgment when all the men of that and other generations shall give account to God of all the deeds done in the body (See iv. 5, 6). There is a propriety, correspondence, and consistency in the course of the argument when we recognise the manner in which the conduct and doom of the antediluvians are used as a warning, or to strengthen the faith of those Christians to whom the Apostle wrote; which would be destroyed if we suppose Peter to refer to the “declarative preaching of Christ” to beings in an unalterable condition. The following appears to us to be a digest of the argument: in the time of Noab, the disobedient multitude were condemned and destroyed on account of their wickedness, while the few righteous were saved through water; so now the ungodly mass would soon be righteously judged, and, dying impenitent, would be condemned (4, 5), whilst the few who obeyed the truth would be saved through baptism as a sign and seal of God's covenant with the believer. (See 3,21). The latter part of the argument gives a key that may unlock what appears hidden in the preceding verses : “ For, for this cause was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the Spirit.” (4, 6). If this verse be compared with the one preceding, it will be seen the preaching was to those in their lifetime who were now dead, that they might live to God; and having enjoyed such a privilege, would be judged at last in the same manner as those now living who enjoyed a similar blessing. The preaching was to embodied spirits. It may still, however, be objected that the preaching was to “spirits,” but this does not mean disembodied spirits, any more than does the weight souls,” (who we know were living in the flesh) saved by water (3, 20.) Beside, it is well to note that the word "prison” is always used in a bad sense in Scripture, and therefore, would be inappropriate to include any region of comparative happiness. The Spirit which was in the ancient prophets is declared to be the Spirit of Christ (1 Pet. i. 11). The Spirit strove with the Antediluvians (Gen. vi. 3). Noah is called “ a preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet. ii. 5). Now, putting these particulars together, and observing carefully the nature and tendency of the Apostle's argument, it does not seem wrong to say that this passage refers to the Spirit of Christ preaching by Noah to the antediluvians, who were now, on account of their impenitency “in prison.”
There is not a single passage of Scripture that plainly reveals an intermediate place; but, on the other hand, the Word of God intimates that the soul at death enters on most positive punishment, or most glorious happiness. It is allowed by all Bible readers that Christ is now in heaven. Paul, speaking of himself and other saints, respecting their departure from this life, and entrance upon the future world, says: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” 2 Cor. v. 8. And again : “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better.” Phil. i. 23. We are naturally led to think on reading these passages,
that the souls of the faithful at death go at once into the presence of the Saviour. Is not this the plain meaning of the words ? See also, Rev. vii. 9, 15; and Luke xxiii. 43. We refer to 1 Peter iii. 19; and Luke xvi. 22, 23; as showing that the wicked go to hell at death. See also Psa. ix. 17.
The provisions and promises of grace seem to us as so many guarantees for the highest happiness of the saved after death. The atonement for sin is sufficient; the work of the Spirit in regeneration is thorough; the promises of future bliss are full of brightness. Do angels lovingly surround the throne of the Eternal, rejoicing in the smile of God? and shall souls who have been bought with the precious blood of the incarnate God; who have been fully and freely forgiven ; who have been wholly sanctified by the Spirit ; who have been encouraged by the promises of the Gospel to look for the face of their Redeemer in a future state; shall these be kept back in some outer region until the resurrection morn ? Shall not the sainted spirit be admitted to the immediate presence of God ? Surely, he who now welcomes such on earth to the throne of grace, will take these loved ones at death to surround the throne of glory.
Men of different religious views, but most of them holding to the idea of some kind of an intermediate place, have held that the highly good or eminent saints, at death go at once to the place of supreme happiness. Cicero intimates that the souls
Ang., Epist. 164 ad Evodium.
of the virtuous and patriotic go, immediately after death, to the world of light, brightness, and glory; which is represented as being among the cluster of stars, known as the milky way, there to enjoy unmixed felicity.* Most of the early Christian writers, though thinking there was an intermediate region into which the departed passed, made an exception in the case of the martyrs, who they declared immediately obtained the crown of glory. The Council of Florence (1439 A.D.) determined, “that the souls of the righteous receive a perfect crown in heaven, so far as they are spirits: that those of sinners endure unalterable punishment; and that those between the two, are in a place of torment; but whether it be fire, or storm, or any thing else, we do not dispute.”+ And most modern papists teach that newly-baptised persons, martyrs, and those who die immediately after absolution from a priest, go directly to heaven. Bishop Pearson writes, “certainly where St. Paul desired to be when he departed, there he then was and there now is, and that not alone, but with all them who ever departed in the same faith with him, and that is with Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of God.” It will be seen, that whenever an intermediate region, whatever its nature, has been thought to exist, there have been some who were supposed to be fit to go to heaven at once. It is not at all unlikely that the intermediate theory was embraced by the post-apostolic Christians on consideration, among other things, that imperfections and smaller faults might be removed in the future world, and the soul thus prepared for a more glorious and perfect state. We however believe that the grace of God completely saves the believer, while in the flesh, from the guilt and defilement of sip (See 2 Cor. v. 17; and i Thess. v. 23) and fits him for admission at death, to the immediate presence of Deity.
We object to this notion of an intermediate place because it is liable to grave abuse, as is very evident from the past history of the Christian Church, and the action and language of modern papists. The idea of an intermediate place as held by the early Christians, with slowly accumulating additions, ultimately resolved itself into the Romish dogma of purgatory. The use modern papists make of this theory held by many Protestant writers, may be learnt from Milner's End of Controversy. “What place,” asks Bishop Milner, “must that be which our Saviour calls Abraham's bosom, where the soul of Lazarus reposed among the other just souls, till he by his sacred passion paid their ransom? Not heaven, otherwise Dives would have addressed himself to God instead of Abraham ; but evidently a middle state. Again, of what place is it St. Peter speaks, when he says, Christ preached to those spirits * Cic. vi. Lib. Rep. + Conc. Florent. apud Labb, tom xiii., col. 492.
| Pearson on the Creed. Art. xii.