Your word is a lamp
for my feet and a light
for my path.
Psalms 119:105

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Where Are the Dead?

From God's word, we are assured that the dead are really dead and that all their hopes as respects the future are centered, first upon the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus, accomplished at Calvary, and secondly, upon the work or resurrection which, at his second advent, he is to accomplish for those whom he redeemed. If per chance you have a shade of disappointment as respects a saintly brother or sister, father or mother or child who you hoped was already in heaven, then as a consolation look at the other side of the question -- behold how many of your loved ones, friends and foes and neighbors, according to your theory and all the prevalent theories, have been suffering untellable woe since their death and would be suffering similarly for long centuries to come -- consider the relief of mind and heart you get from the knowledge of the truth: that they are not alive anywhere, but simply dead, or more poetically, they are "Asleep in Jesus," in the sense that he is their Redeemer, in whom all their hopes of a future awakening reside.

Death, Not Torment, the Penalty

The mistake is made in assuming eternal torment the wages of original sin, when the scriptures explicitly declare that "The wages of sin is death" -- not eternal torment. (Rom. 6:23) We search the Genesis account of man's fall and the sentence imposed, but find no suggestion of a future punishment, but merely of a death penalty. Repeating it the second time the Lord said, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." (Gen. 3:19) But he said not a word respecting devils, fire and torment. How, then, did the Adversary deceive our fathers during the "dark ages" with his errors, which the apostle styles "doctrines of devils" (1 Tim. 4:1)? Note the fact that none of the prophecies mention any other than a death penalty for sin. Note that the New Testament likewise declares the same. St. Paul, who wrote more than one-half of the New Testament, and who assures us that he did not shun to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), says not a word about torment. On the contrary, discussing this very matter of sin and its penalty, he says, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (Rom. 5:12) Note that it was not eternal torment that passed upon one man nor upon all men, but death. If some one suggests that death would not be a sufficient penalty for sin, all we would need to do would be to point him to the facts and thus prove his suggestion illogical. For the sin of disobedience Adam lost his paradisaic home -- lost eternal life and divine fellowship, and instead got sickness, pain, sorrow, death. Additionally the billions and billions of his posterity, disinherited so far as the blessings are concerned, have inherited weaknesses, mental, moral and physical, and are, as the apostle declares, "A groaning creation." -- Rom. 8:22.

God's Penalty a Just One

Let no one think the death penalty unjust and too severe. God could have blotted out Adam, the sinner, thus fulfilling the sentence. He could have blotted out the race instantly. But would we have preferred that? Assuredly not. Life is sweet, even amidst pain and suffering. Besides, it is the divine purpose that present trials and experiences shall prove useful as disciplines; to prepare us for a wiser course than father Adam took, when we shall be privileged to have a further individual trial. Our race would have been without hope of future existence, just as agnosticism claims, had it not been for divine compassion and the work of redemption.

Notice again why our Lord died for our redemption and see in that another evidence of the penalty. If the penalty against us had been eternal torment, our redemption from it would have cost our Lord that price. He would have been obliged to suffer eternal torment, the just for the unjust. But eternal torment was not the penalty; hence Jesus did not pay that penalty for us. Death was the penalty and hence "Christ died for our sins." "He by the grace of God" tasted "death for every man" (Heb. 2:9). Whoever could pay Adam's penalty could settle with divine justice for the sins of the whole world, because Adam alone had been tried -- Adam alone had been condemned. We, his children, were involved through him. Behold the wisdom and the economy of our Creator. The scriptures assure us that he condemned the whole world for one man's disobedience, in order that he might have mercy upon all through the obedience of another -- Christ. We were condemned to death without our consent or knowledge. We were redeemed from death without our consent or knowledge.

Some one may inquire, "Are we, therefore, without responsibility? Will there be no individual penalty upon us for individual wrong doings?" We answer, "A just recompense of reward" (Heb 2:2) will be meted out to all. But our eternal destiny can be settled only by ourselves, by our individual acceptance or rejection of the grace of God. The scriptures clearly inform us that every sin, in proportion to its willfulness, brings a measure of degradation which involves "stripes," chastisements, corrections to regain the lost standing. (Luke 12:47,48) Thus the more mean and more wicked a man or woman may be, the greater will be his or her disadvantages in the resurrection time, and the more he will then have to overcome to get back to all that was lost in Adam and redeemed by Christ.

"And the Dead Came Forth"

At his first advent our Lord's miracles foreshadowed the great work which he, with his glorified Church, will accomplish for the world during the Millennium -- then all the sick, lame, blind and deaf will be revived and, if obedient, will be brought ultimately to full perfection. The disobedient will be destroyed in the Second death. The most notable miracle which our Lord performed was the awakening of Lazarus, his friend. Jesus was gone several days when Lazarus took sick and, of course, knew about the matter. Nevertheless Martha and Mary sent him a special message, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick." (John 11:3) They knew of Jesus' power to heal, even by the word of his mouth. They had faith that if he could help strangers, he would surely be glad to assist his friend. But Jesus remained where he was and allowed Lazarus to die and a rude shock to come to the dear sisters. Then he said to his disciples, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth." (John 11:11) Then, coming down to their comprehension, he added, "Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there." -- John 11:14,15.

He was glad to let his friend fall asleep in death because it would provide a special opportunity for a special miracle. Then, with his disciples, he began the three-days' journey to Bethany. We cannot blame the sorrowing sisters that they felt hurt that the Messiah should apparently neglect their interests. They knew that he had the power to relieve them. Martha's gentle reproof was, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day." (John 11:21,23,24) Notice that our Lord did not say, "Thy brother is not dead; thy brother is more alive than he ever was; he is in heaven or in purgatory." Nothing of the kind! Purgatory had not yet been invented, and he knew nothing of it. And as for heaven our Lord's testimony is, in our text, "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven." Martha was also well informed. The errors of the "dark ages" had not yet supplanted the truth. Her hope for her brother was the Scriptural one -- that he would rise in the resurrection, in the last day, the Millennial day, the seventh of the great thousand-year days from creation.

Our Lord explained that the power of resurrection was vested in himself, that he was there with her, and could give relief to them without waiting. Martha told our Lord that it was too late, that putrefaction had set in by this time. But Jesus insisted on seeing the tomb and when he arrived at it, he said, "Lazarus, come forth." And we read, "He that was dead came forth." (John 11:43,44) Mark well that it was not the living that came forth, but that Lazarus was really dead. Mark well that he was not called from heaven nor from purgatory.

"All That Are in Their Graves"

What Jesus did for Lazarus he intimated he would ultimately do for Adam and his entire race. Note his words: "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth." (John 5:28,29) Does this astonish us? If so, the reason is not far to seek. It is because we have gotten so far away from the teachings of the Bible -- so fully immersed in the "doctrines of devils" (1 Tim. 4:1), so fully to believe in the serpent's lie, "Ye shall not surely die" (Gen. 3:4) -- so blinded to the Lord's declaration, "Thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:17), and "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).

The remainder of John 5:29 explains that there will be two general classes of the dead to come forth. The first, those who have had their trial and who have passed it successfully; the second, all the remainder of mankind who have thus far failed to have divine approval. The approved will come forth from the tomb unto a resurrection of life -- perfection. The disapproved will come forth unto a resurrection of judgment (see Revised Version). The coming forth is one thing. The resurrection is another. The apostle explains that they will come forth, "every man in his own order." (1 Cor. 15:23) On thus being awakened the privilege will be theirs of rising, up, up, up out of present degradation, mental, moral, physical, to the glorious perfection which father Adam enjoyed in the image and likeness of his Creator. The uplifting or resurrection work St. Peter refers to as the "restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:21).

Not Universalism Either

Nor does this mean universal everlasting life, for the scriptures declare that such as refuse to profit by the glorious opportunities of the Millennium, such as refuse to be uplifted to perfection, shall be destroyed from amongst the people in the Second death -- "They shall be as though they had not been." (Obadiah 16) Our Lord entered the synagogue at Capernaum and, being asked to read the lesson, chose Isaiah, the sixty-first chapter. He read respecting himself and his work -- that a part of it would be to open the prison doors and set at liberty the captives. We are well aware that our Lord did not open any of the literal prisons, such as John the Baptist was confined in. He made no effort to succor him. The prison-house which Christ will open is the great prison-house, the tomb, which holds billions of our race. At this second advent our Lord will open this great prison-house and allow all the prisoners to come forth, just as truly as he did in the example -- in the case of Lazarus. Nor will he call them from heaven, purgatory and hell, but, just as he declared,"Lazarus, come forth," "all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth" (John 5:28,29).