MANUAL OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE
Louis Berkhof, 1933
VII. The Doctrine of the LAST THINGS
A. Individual Eschatology
The Intermediate State
B. General Eschatology
The Second Coming of Christ
The Millennium and the Resurrection
The Last Judgment and the Final State
A. PHYSICAL DEATH
A. The Nature of Physical Death.
Physical death is variously represented in Scripture. It is spoken of as the death of the body, as distinguished from that of the soul, Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4, as the termination or loss of animal life, Luke 6:9; John 12:25, and as a separation of body and soul, Ecclesiastes 12:7; Jas. 2:26. On the basis of these Scripture representations it may be described as a termination of physical life by the separation of body and soul. It is never an annihilation, though some sects represent the death of the wicked as such. Death is not a cessation of existence, but a severance of the natural relations of life.
B. The Connection Between Sin and Death.
Pelagians and Socinians teach that man was created mortal, not merely in the sense that he could fall a prey to death, but in the sense that he was subject to the law of dissolution, and was therefore destined to die. But this is certainly not in harmony with the teachings of Scripture, for these positively point to death as something introduced into the world of humanity by sin and as a punishment for sin, Genesis 2:17; 3:19; Romans 5:12, 17; 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:21; Jas. 1:15. Death is not represented as something natural in the life of man, but very decidedly as something foreign and hostile to human life. It is an expression of divine anger, Psalm 90:7, 11, a judgment, Romans 1:32, a condemnation, Romans 5:16, and a curse, Galatians 3:13, and it fills the hearts of men with dread and fear. The entrance of sin into the world brought with it the reign of death. In strict justice God might have imposed death on man in the fullest sense of the word immediately after his transgression, Genesis 2:17. But by His common grace He restrained the operation of sin and death, and by His special grace in Christ Jesus He conquered these hostile forces, Romans 5:17; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14; Rev. 1:18; 20:14.
C. The Significance of the Death of Believers.
The Bible speaks of physical death as a punishment, as "the wages of sin." Since believers are set free from the guilt of sin, the question naturally arises, Why must they die? It is evident that death cannot be a punishment for them, since they are no more under condemnation. Why then does God cause them to pass through the harrowing experience of death? In their case death must evidently be regarded as the culmination of the chastisements which God has ordained for the sanctification of His people. The very thought of death, bereavement through death, the feeling that sicknesses and sufferings are harbingers of death, and the consciousness of the approach of death,these all have a very beneficial effect on the people of God. They serve to humble the proud, to mortify the flesh, to check worldliness, and to foster spiritual-mindedness.
Questions for Review:
How is physical death represented in Scripture?
How may it be described?
Who teach that man was created mortal, that is, subject to the law of death?
How can it be proved that death is not something natural in the life of man?
What is the connection between sin and death?
Is physical death a punishment for believers?
What purpose does it serve in their case?
B. THE INTERMEDIATE STATE
There is a great deal of difference of opinion respecting the condition of man in the period between the death of the individual and the general resurrection. The most important theories call for a brief discussion.
A. The Modern Idea of Man's Existence in Sheol-Hades.
The idea is very prevalent at present that at death both the pious and the wicked descend into an intermediate place, which the Old Testament calls sheol and the New Testament hades. This underworld is not a place of punishment nor of reward, but a place where all share the same fate. It is a dreary abode, where the dead are doomed to an existence that is merely a dreamy reflection of life on earth. It is a place of weakened consciousness, of slumbrous inactivity, where life has lost its interests and the joys of living are turned into sadness. But the idea of such a separate locality, which is neither Heaven nor Hell, in which all the dead are gathered and where they remain, either permanently or until some general resurrection, is an idea that may have been more or less current in popular thought and may have given rise to some figurative descriptions of the state of the dead, but certainly is not a part of the positive teachings of Scripture. The terms sheol and hades are evidently not always used in the same sense in Scripture. If it always denotes the place to which both the pious and the wicked descend, how can the descent of the wicked into sheol be held up as a warning, as it is in several places, Job 21:13; Psalm 9:17; Proverbs 5:5; 7:27; 9:18; 15:24; 23:14? And how can Scripture speak of God's anger as burning there, Deuteronomy 32:22? In view of such passages as these we may proceed on the assumption that these terms sometimes serve to designate the place of punishment for the wicked. It is perfectly evident, however, that they do not always have this meaning, since the Bible also speaks of the pious as going down into or as being in sheol.
In several instances they do not denote a place at all, but simply serve to designate the state or condition of death, the state of the separation of body and soul. This state is sometimes figuratively represented as the place where all the dead go, be they great or small, rich or poor, pious or wicked. They are all alike in the state of death. The following are some of the passages in which sheol and hades refer to the condition or the state of death rather than to a place: Job 14:13, 14; 17:13, 14; Psalm 89:48; Hos. 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Rev. 1:18; 6:8. Finally, there are also passages in which sheol and hades designate the grave, though it is not always easy to determine, whether in any particular place the words refer to the grave or to the state of death, Genesis 42:38; 44:29, 31; Numbers 16:30, 33; John 17:13; Psalm 16:10; 49:14, 15.
B. The Doctrine of PURGATORY, of the Limbus Patrum and of the Limbus Infantum.
1. PURGATORY. According to the Church of Rome the souls of those who are perfect at death are at once admitted to Heaven or the beatific vision of God, Matthew 25:46; Philippians 1:23, but those who are not perfectly cleansed, but are still burdened with the guilt of venial sinsand this is the condition of most believers at deathmust undergo a process of cleansing before they can enter into the supreme blessedness and joys of Heaven. This purification takes place in purgatory, where the souls are oppressed with a sense of deprivation, but also suffer positive pains. The length of their stay in purgatory as well as the intensity of their sufferings varies according to the need of individual cases. The time can be shortened and the suffering alleviated by the prayers and the good works of the faithful and especially by the sacrifice of the Mass. The main support for this doctrine is found in 2 Maccabees. 12:4245, though it is supposed to be favored also by Isaiah 4:4; Mic. 7:8; Zechariah 9:11; Malachi 3:2; Matthew 12:32; 1 Corinthians 3:1315; 15:29. However, these passages do not support it at all.
2. LIMBUS PATRUM. The Limbus Patrum is the place where, according to the Roman Catholic Church, the souls of the Old Testament saints were detained in a state of expectation until the Lord's resurrection from the dead. After His death Christ went down into this part of hades, released these saints, and carried them in triumph to Heaven.
3. LIMBUS INFANTUM. Roman Catholics speak of the Limbus Infantum as the abode of the souls of un-baptized children, irrespective of their descent from heathen or from Christian parents. These children cannot be admitted to Heaven, cannot enter the kingdom of God, John 3:5. They remain in the Limbus Infantum without any hope of deliverance. There is no unanimous opinion as to their exact condition. The prevailing opinion is that they suffer no positive punishment, but are simply excluded from the blessings of Heaven. They know and love God by the use of their natural powers, and have full natural happiness.
C. The Doctrine of the SLEEP OF THE SOUL.
Certain sects in the early Christian centuries, in the Middle Ages, and also at the time of the Reformation, advocated the notion that, after death, the soul indeed continues to exist, but in a state of unconscious repose or sleep. This view is also held by the Irvingites in England and by the Russellites of our own country. It has a peculiar fascination for those who find it hard to believe in a continuance of consciousness apart from the brain. Scripture support for it is found especially in passages that represent death as a sleep, Matthew 9:24; Acts 7:60; 1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:13, and in those that seem to assert that the dead are unconscious, Psalm 6:5; 30:9; 115:17; 146:4; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Isaiah 38:18, 19.
It should be noted, however, that the Bible never says that the soul falls asleep, nor that the body does so, but only the dying person. And this Scriptural representation is simply based on the similarity between a dead body and a body asleep. Moreover, the passages which seem to teach that the dead are unconscious clearly intend to stress only the fact that in the state of death man can no more take notice of nor share in the activities of this present world. The Bible represents believers as enjoying a conscious life in communion with God and with Jesus Christ immediately after death, Luke 16:1931; 23:43; Acts 7:59; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; Rev. 6:9; 7:9; 20:4.
D. The Doctrine of ANNIHILATION and of Conditional Immortality.
According to these doctrines there is no conscious existence, if any existence at all, of the wicked after death. These two views agree in their conception of the ultimate condition of the wicked, but differ in a couple of fundamental points. Annihilationism teaches that man was created immortal, but that they who continue in sin are by a positive act of God deprived of the gift of immortality and ultimately destroyed orwhat amounts to practically the same thingbereft forever of consciousness. According to the doctrine of conditional immortality, however, immortality is not a natural endowment of man, but a gift of God in Christ to those that believe. The person that does not accept Christ is ultimately annihilated or loses all consciousness. Some of the advocates of these doctrines teach a limited duration of conscious suffering for the wicked after death. These doctrines are based primarily on the fact that the Bible represents eternal life as a gift of God to those who are in Christ Jesus, John 10:27, 28; 17:3; Romans 2:7; 6:22; Galatians 6:8, and threatens sinners with "death" and "destruction," asserting that they will "perish," terms which are taken to mean that they will be reduced to non-existence. These arguments are not conclusive. Eternal life is indeed a gift of God in Jesus Christ, but this is something far greater and richer than bare immortality.
Moreover, it is arbitrary to assume that the terms "death," "destruction," and "perish" denote annihilation. The Bible teaches that sinners as well as saints will continue to exist forever, Ecclesiastes 12:7; Matthew 25:46; Romans 2:810; Rev. 14:11; 20:10, and that there will be degrees in the punishment of the wicked, Luke 12:47, 48; Romans 2:12. Extinction of either being or consciousness precludes the possibility of such degrees. Moreover, annihilation can hardly be called a punishment, for this implies a consciousness of ill desert and pain. People who have grown tired of life often consider extinction of being as a very desirable thing
E. The Doctrine of a SECOND PROBATION.
Several scholars adopt the theory that in the intermediate state those who died in their sins will have another opportunity to accept Christ in repentance and faith unto salvation. According to them the eternal state of man will not be irrevocably fixed until the day of judgment. The salvation of many will depend on their decision between death and the resurrection. No man will perish without having been offered a favorable opportunity to know and to accept Jesus. One is condemned only for the obstinate refusal to accept the salvation that is offered in Christ Jesus. The advocates of this theory appeal to such passages as Ephesians 4:8, 9; 1 Corinthians 15:2428; Philippians 2:911; Colossians 1:19, 20; Matthew 12:31, 32; and 1 Peter 3:19; 4:6. But these passages fail to carry conviction. Moreover, Scripture represents the state of unbelievers after death as a fixed state, Ecclesiastes 11:3; Luke 16:1931; John 8:21, 24; 2 Peter 2:4, 9; Jude 7, 13. It also invariably speaks of the final judgment as determined by the things that are done in the flesh, and never represents this as dependent in any way on what transpires in the intermediate state, Matthew 7:22, 23; 10:32, 33; 25:3446; Luke 12:47, 48; 2 Corinthians 5:9, 10; Galatians 6:7, 8; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 9:27.
Questions for Review:
What is the modern idea of sheol and hades?
What objections are there to this theory?
What is the Scriptural meaning of these terms?
What is the difference between the doctrine of annihilationism and the doctrine of conditional immortality?
What is the supposed Scripture basis for these doctrines?
What objections are there to them?
What is the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory?
Is there any Scriptural basis for it?
What is meant by the Limbus Patrum and the Limbus Infantum?
What is the doctrine of the sleep of the soul?
On what Scriptural data does it rest?
What objections are there to it?
What is the doctrine of a second probation?
Is there any Scripture ground for it?
What objections are there to this view?
B. GENERAL eschatology
The Second Coming of Christ
The New Testament clearly teaches that the first coming of the Lord will be followed by a second. Jesus Himself referred to His return more than once, Matthew 24:30; 25:19, 31; 26:64; John 14:3; angels called attention to it at the time of the ascension, Acts 1:11; and the apostles speak of it in numerous passages of their epistles, Acts 3:20, 21; Philippians 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:15, 16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 10; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:28.
A. Great Events PRECEDING the Second Coming.
Several important events must transpire before the return of the Lord.
1. The Calling of the Gentiles. Several passages of the New Testament point to the fact that the gospel of the kingdom must be preached to all nations before the return of the Lord, Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10; Romans 11:25. This does not merely mean that at least one missionary must be sent to each one of the nations. But neither does it mean that the gospel must be preached to every individual of all the nations of the world. The passages referred to simply require that the nations as nations be thoroughly evangelized, so that the gospel becomes a power in the life of the people, a sign that calls for decision.
2. The Conversion of Israel. Both the Old and the New Testament speak of a future conversion of Israel, Zechariah 12:10; 13:1; 2 Corinthians 3:15, 16; Romans 11:2529. The passage in Romans 11 seems to connect this with the end of time. Some infer from these passages that Israel as a whole, Israel as a nation, will finally turn to the Lord. But this interpretation is rather dubious. It is a very striking fact that Jesus did speak of the children of the kingdom as being cast out, Matthew 8:11, 12, and of the kingdom as being taken away from them, Matthew 21:43, but never speaks of their being restored to their former position. This is not even necessarily implied in Matthew 19:28 and Luke 21:24. It may be thought that Romans 11:1132 certainly teaches the conversion of the nation. In view of the connection it is more likely, however, that the expression "all Israel" in verse 26 simply means the full number of the elect out of the ancient covenant people. The whole passage does seem to teach that in the end large numbers of Israel will turn to the Lord.
3. The Coming of Antichrist. The Bible predicts the revelation of antichrist, the man of sin, who sets himself up in opposition to Jesus Christ, but will be slain by the breath of the Lord at the time of His return, 2 Thessalonians 2:310. Scripture speaks of antichrists in the plural, 1 John 2:18 ("false Christs," Matthew 24:24), of the spirit of antichrist, 1 John 4:3, and of antichrist in the singular, 1 John 2:22; 2 John 7, also called the man of sin, 2 Thessalonians 2:3. The explanation for this lies in the fact that the spirit of antichrist, of opposition to Jesus Christ, was already apparent in the days of the apostles in the efforts of those who were bent on destroying the work of Christ, Apparently, however, this opposition will finally reach its climax in the appearance of a single individual, who will oppose and exalt himself "against all that is called God or that is worshiped; so that he sits in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God."
4. Signs and Wonders. Several signs are spoken of as harbingers of the end of the world and of the coming of Christ. Scripture speaks
(a) of wars, famines, and earthquakes in divers places, which are called the beginning of travail, to be followed by the rebirth of the universe;
(b) of the great tribulation during which some of the righteous will suffer persecution and martyrdom for the sake of Christ;
(c) of the coming of false prophets and false Christs, who will lead many astray; and
(d) of fearful portents in Heaven, when the powers of the heavens will be shaken, Matthew 24:29, 30; Mark 13:24, 25; Luke 21:25, 26.
B. The Second Coming Itself.
After the signs just mentioned the Son of Man will be seen coming on the clouds of Heaven.
1. The TIME of the Second Coming. Premillenarians believe that the coming of Christ is imminent, which means that it may now occur at any time. Scripture teaches us, however, that the things mentioned in the preceding must transpire before the Lord's return, Matthew 24:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:2, 3; 2 Peter 3:9. This should be borne in mind in the reading of those passages which speak of the coming of Christ or of the last day as near, Matthew 16:28; 24:34; Hebrews 10:25; Jas. 5:9; 1 Peter 4:5; 1 John 2:18. From God's point of view the coming of the Lord is always near. Moreover, the apostles considered it as near, because Pentecost marked the beginning of the last days, that is, of the last dispensation. Besides, when they speak of the Lord's coming as near, they do not always have in mind the final coming, but may refer to some preliminary coming, such as at the destruction of Jerusalem.
2. The MANNER of the Second Coming. The coming of Christ will be:
a. A PERSONAL Coming. Many Rationalists and liberal theologians of the present day deny the personal return of Jesus Christ. They give a figurative interpretation to the glowing descriptions of the second coming, and take them to mean that the religious principles of Christ will gradually permeate society. But this does not do justice to such passages as Acts 1:11; 3:20, 21; Matthew 24:44; 1 Corinthians 15:23; Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 4:1517; 2 Timothy 4:8; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:28.
b. A PHYSICAL Coming. Some maintain that the Lord has already returned. They identify the second coming of Christ with His return in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, John 14:18, 23. But this coming is clearly not the same as the predicted second coming of Christ, for this is still spoken of as future after the Pentecostal coming. Moreover, the following passages prove that the second coming will be physical, Acts 1:11; 3:20, 21; Hebrews 9:28; Rev. 1:7.
c. A VISIBLE Coming. It may be said that, if the Lord's return will be physical, it will also be visible. And Scripture leaves no doubt on this point, Matthew 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27; Acts 1:11; Colossians 3:4; Titus 2:13 Hebrews 9:28; Rev. 1:7. Russellites are mistaken when they claim that the Lord returned invisibly in 1914 and now dwells in the air.
d. A SUDDEN Coming. Though several signs will precede the second coming, yet it will be unexpected and take people by surprise, Matthew 24:3744; 25:112; Mark 13:3337; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3; Rev. 3:3; 16:15. This is not contradictory, for the predicted signs are not of such a kind as to designate the exact time.
e. A GLORIOUS and TRIUMPHANT Coming. Christ will not return in the body of His humiliation but in glory, Hebrews 9:28. The clouds of Heaven will be His chariot, Matthew 24:30, the angels His bodyguard, 2 Thessalonians 1:7, the archangels His heralds, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, and the saints of God His glorious retinue, 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:10. He will come as King of kings and Lord of lords, triumphant over all the forces of evil, Rev. 19:1116.
3. The PURPOSE of the Second Coming. Christ will return at the end of the world for the purpose of introducing the future age, the eternal state of things, and He will do this by inaugurating and completing two mighty events, namely, the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment, Matthew 13:49, 50; 16:27; 24:3; 25:1430; Luke 9:26; 19:15, 26, 27; John 5:2529; Acts 17:31; Romans 2:316; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 15:23; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Philippians 3:20, 21; 1 Thessalonians 4:1317; 2 Thessalonians 1:710; 2:7, 8; 2 Timothy 4:1, 8; 2 Peter 3:1013; Jude 14, 15; Rev. 20:1115; 22:12.
Questions for Review:
What great event will precede the second coming of Christ?
What does it mean that the gospel must be preached to all nations first?
How should we understand the predicted conversion of Israel?
What can be said against the idea that Israel as a nation will be converted?
What does the Bible mean when it speaks of Antichrist?
In how far is it possible to speak of Antichrist as present?
In what sense is he still future?
What signs will precede the second coming of Christ?
Is the Lord's return imminent?
In how far can it be regarded as near?
Who deny the personal coming of Christ and what can be said in favor of it?
How do they conceive of the second coming who regard it as a past event?
How can it be proved that the second coming will be physical and visible?
How can it be sudden when it will be preceded by several signs?
What will constitute the glory of the second coming?
What is the purpose of the Lord's return?
The Millennium and the Resurrection
A. The Question of the Millennium.
On the basis of Rev. 20:16 some believe that there will be a millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ, either before or after His second coming. Others, however, deny that Scripture warrants the expectation of such a millennial kingdom in any sense of the word. Consequently, there are three theories with respect to this matter, namely, the a-millennial, the post millennial, and the pre-millennial theory. The first is purely negative and therefore does not call for any separate discussion. It is the view adopted in this work, and holds that the second coming of Christ, the general resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment all synchronize; and that therefore the present spiritual kingdom of God passes right over into the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ. The other two views call for a brief discussion.
1. POST-MILLENNIALISM. Post-millennialism teaches that the second coming of Christ will follow the millennium. The millennium is expected during the gospel dispensation, in which we are now living, and at the close of which Christ will appear.
a. Two Kinds of Post-Millennialism. Some conservative scholars, both past and present, are of the opinion that the gospel, which will gradually permeate the entire world, will in the end become much more effective than it is at present and will usher in a period of rich spiritual blessings, which will be followed by a brief apostasy, a terrible final conflict with the forces of evil, and thereafter by the simultaneous occurrence of the advent of Christ, the general resurrection, and the final judgment. A great deal of present-day post-millennialism, however, is of an entirely different type. It does not believe that the preaching of the gospel and the accompanying work of the Holy Spirit will bring the millennium, but that this will be the grand result of a perfectly natural process of evolution. Man himself will usher in the new era by education, improved legislation, and social reforms.
b. Objections to Post-Millennialism. The fundamental idea of this doctrine, namely, that the whole world will gradually be won for Christ and will in the main be Christian when Christ returns, is not in harmony with the Scriptural representation of the end of the ages, Matthew 24:614, 21, 22; Luke 18:8; 21:2528; 2 Thessalonians 2:312; 2 Timothy 3:113; Rev. 13. Some Post-Millennialists feel this and therefore introduce the idea of an apostasy and a tribulation just previous to the return of Christ, but they minimize these and represent them as events which have little effect on the main course of religious life. Moreover, the related idea, rather common in post-millennial representations, that the present age will not end with a great and sudden change, but will pass almost imperceptibly into the coming age, is also contrary to Scripture, Matthew 24:2931, 3544; Hebrews 12:26, 27; 2 Peter 3:1013. There will be a crisis so great that it can be called "the regeneration," Matthew 19:28. Finally, the modern idea that man, by education, legislation, and social reform, will bring in the perfect reign of Christ, is contrary to all that the Bible teaches on this point. The future kingdom cannot be established by natural, but only by supernatural means.
2. PRE-MILLENNIALISM. Pre-millennialism holds that Christ, at His return, will raise up all the righteous dead, will convert the Jews and bring them back to the Holy Land, will re-establish the national kingdom of the Jews in unprecedented glory and power, and will then rule this kingdom with His saints for a thousand years.
a. The Pre-Millennial Scheme. According to Pre-millenarians the Old Testament prophets predict the glorious re-establishment of the kingdom of David in the days of the Messiah. Christ intended to establish the kingdom when He was on earth, but because the Jews refused to repent, postponed it to the time of His return. Meanwhile He established His Church, which is gathered out of Jews and gentiles. The gospel will prove insufficient, however, to convert men on a large scale. Finally, Christ will appear in the air, raise up all the dead saints, and snatch them away with the living believers to celebrate the wedding of the Lamb. There will be a period of tribulation on the earth, during which Israel will be converted and brought back to the Holy Land. At the end of the period of tribulation Christ will come down to earth and judge the nations. The sheep and the goats are separated, Satan is bound for a thousand years, antichrist is destroyed, the tribulation saints are raised up, and the millennium is ushered in. The kingdom now established is a kingdom of the Jews with world-wide dominion. Christ and His saints rule at Jerusalem, and the temple and its sacrificial worship is restored. The world is now speedily converted. After the millennium follows the final battle with Satan and his hosts, after which Satan is cast into the bottomless pit. Then follows the resurrection of the unbelievers and the final judgment at the great white throne. The Church is transferred to Heaven, and Israel remains forever on earth.
b. Objections to Pre-Millennialism. This theory is based on an unwarranted literalism in the interpretation of the prophets and fails to take account of the spiritual interpretation suggested by the New Testament. It makes the kingdom of God an earthly and national kingdom, while the New Testament clearly represents it as spiritual and universal. It goes contrary to those passages of Scripture which clearly represent the kingdom as a present reality, Matthew 11:12; 12:28; Luke 17:21; John 18:36, 37; Colossians 1:13. While the Bible speaks of the resurrection of the just and the unjust in a single breath, Daniel 12:2; John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15, and represents the resurrection of the righteous as occurring at the last day, John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24, it separates the resurrection of the righteous from that of the wicked by a period of a thousand years. Contrary to Scripture, it speaks of three (four) resurrections and four judgments. It fails to explain how glorified saints and sinners in the flesh can live and associate together in a world in which sin and death are still rampant. Finally, it erroneously seeks its main support in a passage (Rev. 20:16) which represents a scene in Heaven and makes no mention whatever of the Jews, of an earthly and national kingdom, nor of the land of Palestine.
B. The Resurrection.
Scripture teaches us that at the return of Christ the dead will be raised up.
1. SCRIPTURE PROOF for the Resurrection. It is sometimes said that the Old Testament contains no proof for the resurrection of the dead; but this is hardly correct. Christ finds proof for it in Exodus 3:6, cf. Matthew 22:31, 32. It is implied in the passages that speak of deliverance from sheol, Psalm 49:15; 73:24, 25; Proverbs 23:14, and is expressly taught in Isaiah 26:19, and in Daniel 12:2. The New Testament, however, contains clearer and more abundant proof. Jesus argues the resurrection of the dead over against the denial of the Sadducees, Matthew 22:2333, and teaches it very clearly in John 5:2529; 6:39, 40, 44; 11:24, 25; 14:3; 17:24. The classical passage of the New Testament is 1 Corinthians 15. Other important passages are 1 Thessalonians 4:1317; 2 Corinthians 5:110; and Rev. 20:13.
2. The CHARACTER of the Resurrection. The resurrection taught in Scripture is:
a. A BODILY Resurrection. There were some in the days of Paul, and there are many today, who believe only in a spiritual resurrection. But the Bible clearly teaches a resurrection of the body. Christ is called "the first fruits" of the resurrection, and "the firstborn" of the dead. This implies that the resurrection of His people will be like His, and this was a bodily resurrection. Moreover, the redemption in Christ is said to include the body, Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 6:1320. Finally, the resurrection of the body is clearly taught in Romans 8:11; and in 1 Corinthians 15. In this chapter Paul argues that the body of the resurrection will be identical with the body that was deposited in the earth, though it will have undergone important changes.
b. A Resurrection of Both the Just and the Unjust. Some present-day sects deny the resurrection of the ungodly. The Adventists and the Russellites both believe in their total extinction. It is sometimes said that Scripture does not teach the resurrection of the wicked, but this is clearly erroneous, Daniel 12:2; John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15, though it must be admitted that their resurrection does not stand out prominently in Scripture.
c. A Resurrection of Unequal Import for the Just and the Unjust. The resurrection of the just is an act of deliverance and of glorification. The body is raised from the grave and re-united with the soul, but the great point in their resurrection is that their bodies are now endowed with a life that is glorious and blessed. This transformation is wanting in the case of the wicked. In their case the re-union of body and soul issues in the extreme penalty of death.
3. The TIME of the Resurrection.
a. Scripture Indications as to the TIME. According to Scripture the resurrection coincides with the return of Christ, and with the end of the world, and immediately precedes the final judgment. Notice how it is connected with the second coming of Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:23; Philippians 3:20, 21; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; with the last day, John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24, and with the final judgment, John 5:2729; Rev. 20:1115.
b. The Theory of a DOUBLE Resurrection. Pre-millenarians believe that the resurrection of the righteous and of the wicked are separated by a thousand years. They base their contention especially on 1 Corinthians 15:2328; 1 Thessalonians 4:1318; and Rev. 20:46. But none of these passages prove the point. The first does not speak of the resurrection of the wicked at all. The second merely says that the dead in Christ shall be raised up before the living saints are caught up in the clouds. And the third does not even refer to a bodily resurrection. Whenever the Bible mentions the resurrection of the just and the unjust together it does not give the slightest hint that the two are to be separated by a long period of time. It clearly teaches that the resurrection of the righteous, too, will be at the last day, John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24.
Questions for Review:
What is the difference between a-millennialism, post-millennialism, and pre-millennialism?
What is the view of post-millennialism?
What two kinds of post-millennialism should we distinguish?
What objections are there to this theory?
What is in general the pre-millenarian view?
How do Pre-millenarians conceive of the course of events?
What are the objections to pre-millennialism?
How can the resurrection be proved from the Old Testament?
What proof does the New Testament contain?
How can the resurrection of the body be proved from the New Testament?
Who deny the resurrection of the wicked?
What Bible proof is there for their resurrection?
How does the resurrection of the just differ from that of the unjust?
What does Scripture tell us respecting the time of the resurrection?
On what passages do pre-millenarians base their doctrine of a double resurrection?
What can be said against this theory?
The Last Judgment
The doctrine of the resurrection leads right on to that of the last judgment. It is one of the deepest convictions of the human heart and one that is not limited to Christianity, that all men will be judged in the future. The Bible teaches the coming of a final judgment in no uncertain terms. The Old Testament already speaks of it, Psalm 96:13; Ecclesiastes 3:17; 12:14, and the New Testament makes it even more prominent, Matthew 11:22; 16:27; 25:3146; Acts 17:31; Romans 2:510, 16; 14:12; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 9:27; 1 Peter 4:5; Rev. 20:1114.
1. The Judge and His Assistants. Christ, as the Mediator, will be the Judge, Matthew 25:31, 32; John 5:27; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Philippians 2:10; 2 Timothy 4:1. This honor was conferred on Christ as a reward for His atoning work, and constitutes a part of His exaltation. The angels will assist Him in this great work. Matt, 13:41, 42; 24:31; 25:31. Evidently the saints will also in some sense share in the judicial work of Christ, Psalm 149:59; 1 Corinthians 6:2, 3; Rev. 20:4, though it is not possible to determine precisely what part they will take.
2. The Parties That Will Be Judged. Scripture contains clear indications of at least two parties that will be judged. It is perfectly evident that every individual of the human race will have to appear before the judgment-seat, Ecclesiastes 12:14; Psalm 50:46; Matthew 12:36, 37; 25:32; Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Rev. 20:12. Some maintain that the righteous will be excepted, since their sins are already pardoned, but this is contrary to such passages as Matthew 13:30, 4043, 49; 25:3146. It is also clear that Satan and his demons will be judged, Matthew 8:29; 1 Corinthians 6:3; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6. Whether the good angels will also be subject to the final judgment is not so easy to determine, though some would infer this from 1 Corinthians 6:4. They are represented only as ministers of God in connection with the work of judgment, Matthew 13:30, 41; 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8.
3. The Time of the Judgment. Since the last judgment will be a judgment passed on the whole life of every man, it will naturally be at the end of the world, and will follow immediately after the resurrection of the dead, John 5:28, 29; Rev. 20:12, 13. The duration of the judgment cannot be determined precisely. Scripture speaks of "the day of judgment," Matthew 11:22; 12:36, and "the day of wrath," Romans 2:5. It is necessary to infer from these and other similar passages that it will be a day of exactly twenty-four hours. At the same time there is no warrant to conceive of the day of judgment as a day of a thousand years, as the Pre-millenarians do.
4. The Standard of Judgment. The standard by which saints and sinners will be judged will evidently be the revealed will of God. Gentiles will be judged by the law of nature, Jews by the Old Testament revelation, and New Testament believers by this revelation plus the requirements of the gospel. God will give to every man his due. There will be degrees in the punishments of the wicked as well as in the rewards of the righteous, Matthew 11:22, 24; Luke 12:47, 48; 20:47; Daniel 12:3; 2 Corinthians 9:6.
The Final State.
A. The Final State of the WICKED.
Three points call for consideration here:
a. The PLACE to Which They are Consigned. The place of punishment is usually called "Hell." Some deny that Hell is a place and regard it merely as a subjective condition, in which man may find himself even now, and which may become permanent in the future. But the Bible certainly uses local terms right along. It speaks of a "furnace of fire," Matthew 13:42, of "a lake of fire," Rev. 20:14, 15 of a "prison," and "abyss," and "tartarus," 1 Peter 3:19; Luke 8:31; 2 Peter 2:4, all of which are local terms.
b. The STATE in Which They Will Exist. It is impossible to say precisely what will constitute the punishment of the wicked. Positively, it may be said that they will be totally deprived of the divine favor, will experience an endless disturbance of life, will suffer positive pains in body and soul, and will be subject to pangs of conscience, anguish, despair, and weeping and gnashing of teeth, Matthew 8:12; 13:50; Mark 9:47, 48; Luke 16:23, 28; Rev. 14:10; 21:8. There will be degrees in their punishment, Matthew 11:22, 24; Luke 12:47, 48; 20:47. It will be commensurate with their sinning against the light which they had received.
c. The DURATION of Their Punishment. Some deny the eternity of the future punishment. They maintain that the Scriptural words for "everlasting" and "eternal" may simply denote a long period of time. It is true that these words do have a limited meaning in some instances, but in such cases this is generally quite evident from the context. Moreover, there are positive reasons to think that these words do not have such a limited meaning, when they serve to designate the duration of future punishment. In Matthew 25:46 the same word describes the duration of the bliss of the saints and the penalty of the wicked. If the latter is not unending, neither is the former, and yet the everlasting blessedness of the saints is not doubted. Finally, other expressions are used, which do not admit of a limited interpretation. The fire of Hell is an "unquenchable fire," Mark 9:43, the worm of the wicked "dies not," Mark 9:48; and the gulf that separates saints and sinners is fixed and impassable, Luke 16:26.
B. The Final State of the RIGHTEOUS.
a. The New Creation. The final state of believers will be preceded by the passing of the present world and the establishment of a new creation, Matthew 19:28 speaks of "the regeneration," and Acts 3:21 of the "restoration of all things." Heaven and earth will pass away, Hebrews 12:27; 2 Peter 3:13, and a new creation will take its place, Rev. 21:1. The future creation will not be an entirely new creation, but rather a renewal of the present creation, Psalm 102:26, 27; Hebrews 12:2628.
b. The Eternal Abode of the Righteous. Many conceive of Heaven also as a condition which men may enjoy in the present and which will become permanent in the future. But the Bible teaches us to think of Heaven as a place. It is the house of our Father with many mansions, John 14:2. Believers will be within, while unbelievers are without, Matthew 22:12, 13; 25:1012. The righteous will not only inherit Heaven, but the entire new creation, Matthew 5:5; Rev. 21:13.
c. The Nature of Their Reward. The reward of the righteous is described as eternal life, that is, not merely an endless life, but life in all its fullness, without any of the imperfections and disturbances of the present, Matthew 25:46; Romans 2:7. The fullness of this life is enjoyed in communion with God, which is really the essence of eternal life, Rev. 21:3. While all will enjoy perfect bliss, yet there will be degrees also in the blessedness of Heaven, Daniel 12:3; 2 Corinthians 9:6.
Questions for Review:
What Scripture proof is there for the last judgment?
Who will be the Judge?
Who will assist Him in the work?
What parties will be judged?
When will the last judgment be?
How long will it last?
By what standard will men be judged?
How can we prove that Hell is a place?
In what will the punishment of the wicked consist?
How can we prove that their punishment will be unending?
Will the new creation be an entirely new creation?
What proof is there that Heaven is a place?
What is the reward of the righteous?