"WITH WHAT BODY DO THEY COME?"
THE following is a quotation from the Easter Sermon of T. DeWitt Talmage, D.D., with comments thereon. Mr. Talmage said,
"'Why should it be thought with you an incredible thing that God should raise the dead?' Things all around us suggest it. Out of what grew all these flowers? Out of the mold and earth. Resurrected. Resurrected. The radiant butterfly, where did it come from? The loathsome caterpillar. That albatross that smites the tempest with its wing, where did it come from? A senseless shell. Near Bergerac, France, in a Celtic tomb, under a block, were found flower seeds that had been buried 2,000 years. The explorer took the flower seed and planted it, and it came up, it bloomed into bluebell and heliotrope. Two thousand years ago buried, yet resurrected. A traveler says he found, in a mummy pit in Egypt, garden peas that had been buried 3,000 years ago. He brought them out, and on June 24, 1844, he planted them, and in thirty days they sprang up. Buried 3,000 years, yet resurrected!
"Do not this waking up of men from trance, and this waking up of grains buried 3,000 years ago, make it easier for you to believe that your body and mine, after the vacation of the grave, shall rouse and rally, though there be 3,000 years between our last breath and the sounding of the archangelic reveille? Physiologists tell us that while the most of our bodies are built with such wonderful economy that we can spare nothing, and the loss of a finger is a hindrance, and the injury of a toe-joint makes us lame, still we have two or three apparently useless physical apparati, and no anatomist or physiologist has ever been able to tell what they are good for. Perhaps they are the foundation of the resurrection body, worth nothing to us in this state, to be indispensably valuable in the next state. The Jewish rabbis appear to have had a hint of this suggestion when they said that in human frame there was a small bone which was to be the basis of the resurrection body. That may have been a delusion. But this thing is certain, the Christian scientists of our day have found out that there are two or three superfluities of the body that are something gloriously suggestive of another state."
A writer in the American Practitioner and News, a medical journal, comments as follows,--
"In the celebration of the great festival of the Church commemorative of the risen Lord it was expected that the [R1852 : page 189] sermons delivered would repeat with poetry, eloquence, and sometimes with logical force, whatever science, history and philosophy may have contributed to the argument of the resurrection; but the scientific world was hardly prepared for such a breath-taking novelty as that put forth by the great Brooklyn divine.
"In truth, the facts of science give little if any support to the hypothesis of the resurrection of the physical body; and, recognizing this, wise preachers generally confine themselves to St. Paul's allusion to the seed, etc., and call upon their hearers to take the rest upon faith.
"The statements that seeds have been preserved for thousands of years, and then have grown, is on a par with the stories of frogs and other lower forms of life that have lain imprisoned in clay or rock for centuries or kiliads, and have been found still living when their prison houses were broken by the miners. The truth of the statements has been wisely questioned; but, if they be true, they give no help to the argument for the immortality of the soul, and, with greater force be it said, absolutely no support to the hypothesis of a resurrection of the physical body.
"It is strange that any man in possession of the truth, and with a mind capable of reasoning upon the truth, should parade any such analogical rubbish before an audience of cultivated men and women! For such arguments can have no weight till the fable of the Phoenix rising from his own ashes and the resurrection of a dead tree from the decaying compost of roots and branches can be scientifically demonstrated.
"'Tis not worth while to argue such questions, since there can be no analogy between a resurrection of a body out of grave mold and the development of a plant or animal from an impregnated seed or egg. One is only a case of delayed development, while the other can be nothing less than the reconstruction of dead and disintegrated elements.
"As for the hypothesis that there is in the body an indestructible germ that will resist death, and on resurrection day reconstruct the body, there is nothing in all the realm of anatomy and physiology to support it. It is an ancient conceit, and has far less significance than the fable of the Phoenix. And to say that this hypothesis gains any support from the fact that there are in the body some organs whose function is not fully understood is absolute nonsense. Dr. Gilbert asks Dr. Talmage to look at the decayed and tissue-stripped wrecks at the end of a season of dissection. We would invite him to look at the ashes and caput mortuum after a cremation, and find the elements out of which the old body of the subject is to be reconstructed....
"The hypothesis of the resurrection of the physical body [R1853 : page 189] can find no support in either science or philosophy. If it is to be received as truth, let it be taken on faith as a fact of revealed religion; but do not let us make it ridiculous by trying to support it upon far-fetched facts and impossible analogies."
* * *
The foregoing conclusions based upon a scientific examination of the facts are in most thorough accord with God's revelation--the Bible. It is the statement, "I believe in the resurrection of the body," made by various church-creeds, but not by the Bible, that misleads so many. Many think the expression a quotation from the Scriptures, and hence endeavor to believe it, despite every evidence of fact and reason to the contrary. The Bible never makes the absurd statement that the bodies which we bury will be raised again. On the contrary, in explaining the philosophy of the resurrection, and illustrating it, Scriptures state most emphatically, "Thou sowest not that body that shall be."--1 Cor. 15:36-38.
It is a fact that very many corpses become fertilizers for the roots of trees, which absorb their elements, and that thus, during centuries, the constituent elements of many human bodies have passed repeatedly from tree to fruit and from fruit to animal organism again. And to believe that in preparing the resurrection body God will use his omnipotent powers to recover every atom of matter which once composed the old body is absurd; especially when he has said nothing of the kind, but does speak to the contrary. Indeed, if it be true that our bodies are continually in process of decomposition and change, which waste is continually supplied by food, and that a complete change of the entire system is accomplished every seven years, then a man dying forty-nine years old would have had substance enough for seven bodies if every atom of it were given back to him in a resurrection body. And if such a conclusion seems foolish, is it not equally foolish to suppose that God will seek the elements which composed the body at the time of death, as necessary for his work of reconstruction? He who has created all things is surely as able to create bodies from new matter as from the old elements, which should require to be sought for throughout the animal and vegetable kingdoms. It is such foolish misrepresentations of the Scripture teachings which makes infidels of many men of sense;--who do not examine the Bible on the subject for themselves, but judge it by the testimony of its professed expounders, Dr. Talmage and others.
THE GENERAL RESURRECTION.
By the term general resurrection we mean that provision for attaining everlasting life which God has provided for humanity in general. As the Church of this Gospel age is "not of the world," but a specially select or elect class, "chosen for a purpose," so their resurrection is to be totally different from that of the world. Their resurrection is called in Scripture the first or chief resurrection, in which only the "blessed and holy" will have a share. We leave the consideration of that special resurrection until after we have considered the general resurrection.
While the fact that a resurrection is provided for all through Christ's death is abundantly stated in the Scriptures, minute and detailed descriptions of it are not given. God evidently did not design to acquaint the world with the detail of his plans before the time; and he furnished only such data as would enable his Church to reason it out in the light of the present due time.
To understand why God has provided a resurrection for all is important in its bearing upon the subject. It is because Jesus Christ by God's grace tasted death for every man--because he thus redeemed all from the death penalty inherited through father Adam. God's object in providing a ransom co-extensive with the fall was that, as by Adam's disobedience many were made sinners and shared [R1853 : page 190] his death penalty, even so, by the obedience and sacrifice of "the man Christ Jesus," all may by faith in him be justified from sin, and attain eternal life through resurrection.
Our Lord declared that eventually, "All that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man and come forth; they that have done good [the justified and approved of God through Christ] unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil [all not so approved] unto the resurrection of damnation [literally, judgment]." (John 5:28,29.) The resurrection unto life, refer to the saints, the "overcomers," and will be considered later; we now have to do only with
THE RESURRECTION OF DAMNATION.
The expression--"unto the resurrection of damnation" would better be translated "unto resurrection by judgment." The translators of our common English version supposed that there was no hope except in the present life, and consequently could think of no object God would have in calling the unjustified from their graves, except to damn (i.e., condemn) them publicly, and send them to eternal torment; and they translated accordingly. Had they translated correctly, they or others might the sooner have gotten the true import of our Lord's words. Judgment (Greek, krisis) signifies a trial, with a sentence as a result. The world of mankind, by reason of Adam's disobedience, all passed under his sentence (Greek, krima, rendered "judgment" in Rom. 5:16) once, and consequently needed no more sentencing: the one sentence forfeited all rights to life on the part of Adam and his children: but our Lord was about to finish the great sin-offering at Calvary, and, as one of the results of his ransom-sacrifice, he declared, in the words under consideration, that there would result not only a resurrection of the justified to life, but also a resurrection by judgment of the, as yet, unjustified ones.
In considering the meaning of "resurrection by judgment," it is needful that we recognize a difference between mere awakening from the sleep of death, and full resurrection. The awakening that we may expect for the world will be similar to that of Lazarus of Bethany, of the son of the widow of Nain and of Jairus' daughter;--the restitution of a small measure of life, such as had been previously enjoyed. But so far from this awakening being a full, complete resurrection, it will be only the first step necessary in that "resurrection by judgment" which is to be thrown open to all. That awakening will be after the Kingdom of Christ and his bride (the overcomers, the saints) has been fully established;--after the nations then living shall have been brought under the influence of the Kingdom, and been considerably blessed by the knowledge of the truth, then fully revealed.
As soon as they are awakened the knowledge of the Lord will begin to reach them, and then their judgment or trial will begin. If obedient to the knowledge which will then reach them, they will gladly accept Christ as their Redeemer and King, and come under subjection to the terms of his New covenant; and then, under the provisions of that time, their restitution will begin. It will progress rapidly or slowly according to the degree of their zeal and love for the Lord and for righteousness. It will thus be a restitution by judgment, or a resurrection by or according to judgment: a judgment according to their obedience or disobedience.
Thus resurrection, secured for all by our Lord's death, will be granted or offered to all; but it will be forced upon none. Whoever does not choose to gladly accept it, whoever does not enter into the very spirit of the Lord and his righteous arrangements, will be accounted a "sinner," and will be cut off from life at the close of his first century of experience if he does not by that time heartily accept, or if at any time afterward he should grow weary of well-doing.
Full resurrection--full raising up to the grandeur of life and nature lost in Adam will, therefore, not be attained by any of the world (sharers in the "resurrection by judgment") until the close of the Millennial age of trial and restitution. (Restitution by trial and resurrection by judgment are synonymous expressions.) And even then, it will be only such as shall be "accounted worthy"--only such as, by that time, under the discipline of that age shall have developed characters fully in conformity with that of our Lord. Their perfection will be the resurrection of all that was lost by Adam and redeemed by Christ;--perfect manhood, as Adam possessed it when in God's image, before he sinned and fell; but with the addition of knowledge and character, incident to the experiences of the fall, the redemption and the thousand years restitution, uplifting and resurrection by judgment.
Some have raised the question whether or not God whose "work is perfect" could recreate and awaken men in an imperfect condition. We reply, No; God does not deal with or judge in any manner the imperfect man. Hence, as soon as Adam became a transgressor God sentenced him and abandoned further trial. In accordance with this we have the statement, "The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." Thus the law of God's Empire stands firm that "all unrighteousness is sin," and that "the wages of sin is [not another trial, but] death." Meantime God's mercy, without impairing his law, provided Christ as the Ransomer and Judge of fallen man;-- to judge them in their imperfection and to bring them up to perfection. Indirectly this will be God's judgment, as we read, "God hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained" --Christ. (Acts 17:31,32.) And the Apostle explains that "Christ died and revived [oldest Greek MSS.] that he might be Lord both of the dead [mankind] and living [angels, etc.]." (Rom. 14:9; 1 Pet. 3:22.) He gained this right to judge and to help fallen man by purchasing him with his own life,--"a ransom for all." The angels who "kept not their first estate" needed not to be [R1854 : page 190] purchased before they could be judged or tried; because they had not been sentenced to death and are not in death. But the fallen angels are to be granted a trial (1 Cor. 6:3), [R1854 : page 191] and hence it is stated that our Lord shall "judge [both] the quick [living] and the dead at his appearing and kingdom."
However, the fact that mankind are all said to be "dead" does not imply that they must all become totally unconscious in death, nor that any will be judged or tried while unconscious in death. On the contrary, Adam was a "dead" man as soon as God pronounced the sentence of death upon him, although he was 930 years in dying; for life represents the perfect state in which there is no element or degree of death. Thus the Apostle writes to the Church, Ye are "passed from death unto life [reckonedly]." And our Lord said to one, "Let the dead bury their dead." "He that hath the Son hath life [reckonedly, already]; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (1 John 5:12.) The same thought of judging or trying the "dead" is put before us in Rev. 20:12. "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God:...and the dead were judged," etc.
In perfect accord with this view (and no other) is that peculiar statement of John 5:25: "Verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming* when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall LIVE." According to the general conception this should read, they that live shall hear, but this would not have been true and in harmony with the plan; hence the peculiar and guarded expression used, which is only appreciable as we come to see more deeply into God's plan for that coming age. All are dead--under death's dominion; death has passed upon all. The Redeemer has come, the ransom has been paid, and in due time all the dead "shall hear (be brought to a clear conception of it), and they that hear (receive and obey it) shall [in due time] LIVE"--reach perfection of life-- perfection of being.
It will be necessary for all of the "body of Christ," the saints, to die; for sacrifice, even unto death, is their covenant; but it will not be necessary for every individual of the world to go down into the unconsciousness of the tomb in order to comply with the sentence upon Adam;+ for as we have shown they are already legally dead and can get no life except from Christ, the Redeemer and Life-giver. If we were to be held to the letter of the penalty, it would mean that we would not only surrender every spark of life, but that it is forever forfeited. It is from this penalty--as a whole--that we were redeemed by the precious blood. Hence, he who has become Lord [rightful controller] of the dead can stop the dying at any stage he may please, and begin the life-giving processes of the New Covenant. We may expect therefore that as soon as the Church has been exalted to Kingdom glory the restitution or revivifying or raising up processes will begin--with those "dead" men and women then (in the ordinary sense of the word) "alive." When it shall have progressed considerably (possibly a century or two later) the process will extend to the awakening of some of those "dead" ones who had lost every spark of life. When their judgment shall have proceeded to a reasonable degree, others will be awakened, until all that are in the graves, "the dead, small and great," will be standing judgment before the great white throne which God has so graciously provided and promised.
This method which God has adopted, of "resurrection by judgment"--a resurrection which will not be complete until the thousand years are finished--is manifestly a wise one. It affords every possible opportunity for even the most debased to take of the water of life freely. It gives say twenty times as much experience with the effects of righteousness as each had known in the unsatisfactory pleasures of sin in the present life. It carries the identity of man, from the time of his experiences with sin, on to the completion of his experience in divine favor and righteousness; whereas much of the benefit would be lost in any other manner of resurrecting the world of which we can conceive. If resurrected (lifted up to perfection) at the moment awakened, men would not know themselves or each other, --so great would be the changes mentally, morally and physically.
THE RESURRECTION OF THE JUST.
The resurrection of the just or righteous is marked off in Scripture as totally distinct from the general or world's resurrection above considered; but the name just does not signify that any of Adam's race can be said to be "righteous" or perfect, in the absolute sense, but that the overcomers, the Church, are reckoned so,--accepted as perfect in the Beloved, their Lord and Redeemer.
[R1854 : page 192]
This resurrection of the just began with our Lord, the only actually just or perfect one. He was not of Adam's seed, but was holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners. It will be completed in the resurrection of "the Church which is his body." It is therefore called "His resurrection" (Phil. 3:10), "the resurrection" (Emphasis in the Greek--1 Cor. 15:42; Phil. 3:11), the first or "chief resurrection."--Rev. 20:6.
This is called "the resurrection of [or to] life," in contrast with the "resurrection by judgment" (John 5:29), because those who are accounted worthy to share this resurrection will have already passed their judgment or trial in the present life; and will have been accepted by the Lord as "blessed and holy," "overcomers;" and therefore it will not be necessary for them to pass through the thousand years' judgment with the world. Nor will it be necessary for them to wait for life until the end of the world's judgment, trial or probation. (1 Cor. 11:32.) Having been already declared "worthy" (Rev. 3:4,5), they will be given the gift of life, the life, perfection in life, at the beginning of Christ's reign of glory and power--for they are to reign with him as his Bride and joint-heirs. Hence it is that in describing the resurrection of the Church the Apostle (1 Cor. 15:51,52; 1 Thes. 4:16,17) declares that (instead of being awakened imperfect and requiring a thousand years to reach perfection, as will those of the resurrection by judgment) the members of the true Church will, at the appointed time, each receive life in complete measure instantly--"the dead in Christ" first, and afterward those who are alive and remain at that time.
While telling us through the Apostle that we can see the glories of our resurrected condition only dimly now, the Bible nevertheless gives us some clue to our future condition. It describes the resurrected condition of the Church, the overcomers, saying, "Thus is the [Greek emphatic, special] resurrection of the [Greek emphatic, special] dead, --It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown an animal body, it is raised a spiritual body."--1 Cor. 15:42-44.
This was advanced truth to the Church, whose highest conceptions as Jews had been a resurrection in a body of flesh, an animal body, subject to many of the present blemishes. But the Apostle led them up, step by step, to see the reasonableness of his statement. He began by showing the possibility of the dead coming to life again. He next showed that if the resurrection of the dead be denied it would imply a disbelief in Christ's resurrection; for if it was possible for God to raise Christ from the dead, it is equally possible for him to raise whoever else he may choose, and this he shows is the hope set before the Church in the gospel.--Verses 16-21.
Verse 21shows that the right or authority to awaken the dead, and to bring some or all to perfection, was gained by our Lord by his death as a ransom for all (See also Rom. 14:9); and verse 22makes the statement that just as all who were in Adam shared his sin and death, so all who are in Christ share his victory and life. Angels were not in Adam, and did not share his sin and its penalty, death; neither did the lower animals. Only those who were in him, his unborn posterity, and they all without exception, shared both his sin and its penalty. So all in Christ will share his victory and have everlasting life;--but no others, for "he [R1855 : page 192] that hath not the Son shall not see life [in its perfection], but the wrath of God abideth on him."
"All in Christ" has therefore the sense of all vitally united to and related to Christ in faith and obedience;-- now the chosen "little flock" only, but by and by, in the Millennial "day of Christ," it will include "whosoever will" of all the ransomed race.
Having established this broad fact, that all in Christ shall be made fully alive, shall have "eternal life," the next step (verse 23) is to show that there are two orders or classes amongst these, (1) the Christ class--"the Church which is his body," and of which he is "the Head, God blessed forever" (Eph. 1:22,23; Rom. 9:5); and (2) afterward those who are Christ's during his presence [during the Millennial reign.]"
The first mentioned class is known in Scripture under the various titles, "joint-heirs with Jesus Christ" their Lord, "brethren," "the bride, the Lamb's wife," "the living stones" constituting, with "Christ Jesus the Chief corner stone," the spiritual or "holy temple" in and through which the world during the Millennial age shall have access to God, and the "royal priesthood" which under the great High Priest shall minister for those who would approach God during the Millennium, "the members in particular of the body of Christ. (Rom. 8:17; John 20:17; Rev. 21:9; 1 Pet. 2:5,9; 1 Cor. 12:27.) The second mentioned class which will include all of the human family accounted worthy of eternal life during the second presence or Millennial reign of the Christ (Rev. 20:4) are Scripturally known as the children of Christ to whom he will be the Everlasting Father--the life-giver to eternity. --Isa. 9:6.
Having thus explained the two classes that will get perfect life, eternal life, through Christ Jesus--the Bride and the children--the Apostle proceeds as we have just seen, to describe the first (chief) resurrection, that of the class termed the Bride, the Body of Christ,--the "overcomers" of the Gospel age,--showing that as they will all have finished their course, they will get the perfection of life instantly, being made without further process or trial incorruptible, glorious, honorable, powerful spirit-beings. And then, lest any should get the idea that all will be thus changed from flesh to spirit-beings in the resurrection, he adds (verse 44), "There is an animal body and there is a spiritual body." Then he proceeds to show (verses 45-48) that the first Adam is the sample of what an earthly or animal body will attain to in the resurrection, and that the Lord in his resurrection, "a life-giving spirit," is an illustration of the resurrection condition of the Church; and he assures [R1855 : page 193] us that so surely as we have been born of the flesh and thus attained something of the likeness of the earthly or animal man, so, being begotten by the spirit to the new, "divine nature," we, if subsequently born of the spirit, shall also bear the likeness of the Lord, the heavenly one, and ourselves be heavenly beings.--Verse 49.
Lest we should stumble into supposing that our resurrected bodies will be merely called spiritual, but yet actually be flesh and blood, as now, the Apostle adds, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God." The promise and hope held before the Church was always the hope of the Kingdom. For it all have prayed, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;" and our Lord said, "Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." (1 Cor. 15:50; Luke 11:2; 12:32; Dan. 7:18,22.) Attention is thus called to the fact that the Church, the "little flock," the kingdom class, which is to bless the world, is to be made spiritual, like Christ, and be no longer "flesh and blood," after its resurrection; while the blessing it is to bring to the willing and obedient of the world will be "restitution," of all the human powers represented in the first man created, the perfect, earthly, fleshly image and likeness of the invisible God, who is a spirit.
Then the Apostle, putting himself in the place of his readers, knew that their next thought would be--Ah, then! If all the Church must be spiritual to have a share in the Kingdom, and if the dead in Christ are to be raised spirit beings, like the Lord after his resurrection (who as a spirit being could be invisible to men, and was invisible during the forty days before his ascension except for the few occasions of a few moments each when he appeared in various forms as the angels have often done*), then how great would be our loss if we should be "alive"+ when the Lord comes and sets up his Kingdom?
+While the world is said to be "dead," the word "alive" is used of the Church.
Mark! the Apostle's positive assurance is, that a change from the flesh and blood conditions of human nature must take place with all who would be inheritors of the Kingdom; for the change now commenced in the spirit of their minds must be fully completed, and in the resurrection God will give them bodies in harmony with their new minds; they must be fully "partakers of the divine nature" before they could share the realities of the Kingdom. The Apostle makes this so positive that his readers should have no cause to think that he expected a fleshly King, or fleshly joint-heirs with him in that Kingdom. The subjects of the Kingdom will undoubtedly be human beings; but the rulers will be spirit-beings, completely "changed;" for "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God."
Many overlook this, the real point of the Apostle's argument, and imagine that he has said that some of the Church, alive at the second presence of the Lord, will not die. But he says nothing of the kind. Indeed, if he had so said his words would be a contradiction of other statements of Scripture, which declare of the Church, the body of Christ, "Ye shall die like men;" and our Lord's statement, "Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life." Notice that the Apostle does not say that we shall not all die, but that "we shall not all sleep." Those living at the time of Christ's second presence, when he has begun the setting up of his Kingdom, will not need to sleep after they die, and thus wait for the Kingdom. Instead, to them the moment of death will be the moment of change; they will not sleep for a moment, but will be changed the same moment in which they will die, instantly, --"in the twinkling of an eye." This will be at or during the sounding of the Seventh or last trump,--in the beginning or early part of its sounding; for it is a symbolic trumpet, which will sound during the entire Millennium.
After describing thus particularly the chief resurrection of the dead to spiritual nature, body, powers, etc., and that those of the same class living at the time will experience a similar change without sleeping in unconsciousness, the Apostle returns to the consideration of the blessing of the world, by this elect Church, during the Millennium, and the full making alive of all in Christ during his presence and kingdom, saying,--
"So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality [when the Church has been glorified with her Lord], then shall be brought to pass [during that Millennial reign] the saying which is written [as a general promise to the world-- 'He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people will he take away from off all the earth.' By the close of that Millennial reign, it can be said] Death is swallowed up in victory! O death, where is [now] thy sting? [Sin and wilful sinners being destroyed by that time, there will be nothing thereafter to cause death.] O grave, where is thy victory?" The Lord with his Church, his bride, shall have conquered Adamic death and the prison-house of death, the grave, shall have been opened, and all the prisoners shall have had fullest opportunity to accept Christ, and the everlasting life which he will offer to all, under the terms of the New Covenant sealed with his own precious blood; and all desiring life upon those terms shall have received it; and all rejecting the gracious, righteous terms shall have been reckoned wilful sinners and been destroyed from among the people.--Acts 3:23.
"SHALL NEVER DIE."
"Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."--John 11:26.
This text, misinterpreted by many, is made the basis for a very erroneous theory; namely, the claim of some that they are already "living the resurrected life, and will never [R1855 : page 194] die." They assume a "holier than thou" manner, and adopt a vegetable diet, refusing animal food, etc., saying that animal foods are proper enough for common people, but not for those believers who have entered "the resurrected life." If their attention be called to the fact that our Lord ate lamb, fish, etc., and placed no restrictions, they reply: That was before his resurrection. You call their attention to the fact that he ate animal food (fish), twice at least, in the presence of his disciples, after his resurrection (Luke 24:41-43; John 21:13), and they are silenced for want of an answer, but not convinced; for they "love to have it so."--Jer. 5:31.
Satan evidently gets a pretty thorough hold upon their self-willed minds; for they begin to misapply Scriptures, by the wholesale, to fit their theory; and if you quote to them the teachings and practices of the apostles, to the [R1856 : page 194] effect that everything, that can be eaten with thanksgiving to God, is proper and not to be despised (1 Tim. 4:3,4), their answers show that they think themselves far beyond the apostles in wisdom and in divine favor. This of itself should be a warning, to all truly led and taught of the Spirit, to let alone and avoid anything with such tendencies to self-esteem and self-righteousness.
Other texts, which they wrest to their own delusion, are such as--"He that hath the Son hath life." "He that believeth in me hath everlasting life." "You hath he quickened," etc., etc. They do not wish to examine the context, which would clearly show that we have everlasting life by faith, and must wait for its actual reception until the time "When he who is our life shall appear," and, by actual resurrection change, give us the eternal life, actually, in our new bodies. If their attention is called to their error they are disappointed, and pass to another of their proof-texts, and so on,--unconvinced, because unwilling to be convinced.
The strongest of their proof-texts is the one cited above, which they think may somehow belong to them, although they admit reluctantly that others believed on the Lord and died, all along during the past eighteen centuries. They still cling to their misapplication of the words,--"He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die;" and fancy that the apostles and others who died could not have been so advanced as themselves,--for the apostles ate animal food.
When the passage is examined in its connection (John 11:23-26), it will be seen that it refers to those who shall be fully made alive in the resurrection.
Not only is the resurrection power vested in our Lord, but also power to keep the resurrected believers alive everlastingly; --the dead shall be made alive, in the resurrection, and if they still believe will "never die."
"YOU HATH HE QUICKENED."
"You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins." "If the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he...shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by his spirit which dwelleth in you."
These passages speak of those who are "begotten of the spirit" and are awaiting God's due time, the resurrection, morning, to be "born from the dead." Figuratively, they are already dead to sin, and, figuratively also, alive toward God and righteousness. The new will, or new mind, being brought under the influence of the spirit of God has now a power for spiritual activity in God's service, and may reckonedly begin the resurrected life, in the sense of bringing word and act and thought into captivity to the will of God in Christ.
Nevertheless, we still have the newly begotten will or heavenly mind, "the mind of Christ," as a treasure in our earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7), and it will never be satisfactory, to God or to us (except reckonedly through Christ), until the treasure of the new mind or will, polished by the Lord, is set as a jewel in a heavenly, spiritual casket or body, by an actual quickening, as described in 1 Cor. 15:42-44.
"WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM."
To those who, after reading the foregoing and our other writings on the subject, still think that our risen Lord is a man, that he was put to death in the flesh and was quickened or resurrected in the flesh, and that the same body that hung upon the cross and was laid in Joseph's tomb is the Lord's present body,--merely caused to shine and therefore called a glorious body, a spiritual body, etc., --to such readers we can say little more. Some seem to be unable to comprehend that a spirit-body is not a flesh-body and a flesh-body not a spirit-body. Our Lord's words to Nicodemus make the subject very clear. He says, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit;" and that no one can even see the Kingdom of God, nor enter into it, except he be not only begotten, but also born of the spirit.--John 3:3-6.
On the one hand, while they admit that our Lord was a spirit-being before he was born into this world, and that as such he did not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39), some even deny that he changed his nature and became human, that "he was made flesh" (John 1:14), and claim that he was a spirit being all the time as before, and merely used the flesh as clothing and pretended that it was he, pretended to be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, pretended to be tempted like as we are, pretended to weep and pray, while really he was still as ever the mighty one incapable of suffering and death. They claim that our Lord did not die, but that it was merely the fleshly body which he used as a robe that cried, "My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?" and died. And yet these same people imagine that somehow Christ got so fastened to that body of flesh and bones that he could not get along without it since, although they will admit that such a marred and torn fleshly body is totally unsuitable for a spiritual heaven, they think that it was taken there, and that ever since our Lord is compelled to put up with its inconvenience and to bear the scars and marks of thorns and nails. These same people, of course, think similarly of the resurrection of the [R1856 : page 195] Church,--that the sin-deformed and maimed bodies of the present time will be resurrected and taken to heaven to be perpetual inconveniences and disagreeable reminders of the sins and blemishes of the present evil world.
Another class admits that when our Lord was "made flesh" his change from spiritual to human nature was complete, and that thereafter he was the "man Christ Jesus," and that it was necessary that he should be a man, because nothing else than a man's life could redeem the life of the man Adam and those who died in him;--that as by a man came death, by a man should come the resurrection of the dead. (1 Cor. 15:21.) They know, too, that the Scriptures say that Christ was rich, but for our sakes became poor (of a lower nature), and that he took the human nature for the purpose of tasting death for every man. They admit that he did all this and that the Scriptures declare that he who was "put to death in the flesh" was "quickened [resurrected] in Spirit," yet somehow they cling to our Redeemer's flesh-body of humiliation, which he took for a purpose and fully and completely used for that purpose of "tasting death for every man." (Heb. 2:9.) He is to die no more and hence has no further use for such a body. They forget to reason that if our Lord's nature could be changed once, from a spirit-nature to a human-nature, then it could be changed again, from human to divine nature. In some manner, however, they get quite confused on the resurrection and fancy (1) that all of the same dust must be in the resurrected body; or (2) that at least some of the particles of the old body must be there, as a start for God to work upon in producing the new body; or (3) that the new body must at least be flesh and bones, and exactly like the one buried.
A few, driven to the extremity by the Apostle's words, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God," say, Oh, no! flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom, but flesh and bones can. They do not see that the term "flesh and blood" is another way of saying "human nature," as in the expressions, "All flesh is grass," and "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father in heaven."
With the wrong thought in mind they stumble over our Lord's statement (Luke 24:39), "A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have." Understood aright, this passage proves that our Lord's real body has not flesh or bones, for was he not at his resurrection made a "quickening spirit," and is he not now the express image of the Father's person, and is it not plainly written that "God is a spirit?" Our Lord, as one born of the spirit, was spirit since his resurrection, and demonstrated the fact on this very occasion by coming and going like the wind--they could not tell whence he came nor whither he went. "So is every one that is born of the spirit" and consequently is spirit. (John 3:6,8.) It was in order that he might not alarm them that he appeared in flesh and material clothing, and he wanted them to get the full benefit of this fact, and practically said, You are alarmed and think you see a spirit, but you see only flesh and bones, etc., you do not see a spirit, "a spirit has not flesh and bones as ye see me [to] have [or to possess]," assumed for the very purpose of communicating with you, and of a form well known to you for the past three years. He avoided the expression "flesh and blood" for that would have meant, A spirit hath not human nature as ye see me have; and this would have been untrue, for he was changed and was no longer human but highly exalted.
He to whom nothing is real except that which he can see or touch, is unprepared to understand spiritual things. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned." Such cannot believe in God except as a great man; they have seen nothing greater than human nature, and to them the words "divine nature" can mean nothing higher than shining human nature.
Our Lord gave the early Church a great lesson on this subject which they learned well; but it, like many other lessons, is wasted upon many who consider themselves part of the Christ to-day. He first taught them that he was no longer dead, but alive. To help them grasp the situation, [R1857 : page 195] the poor mangled body of his humiliation was removed from the tomb; although that body was not any longer he nor its elements even a part of his new resurrection body. Since "we shall be like him" in our resurrection, and since our resurrection is a part of "his resurrection" (Phil. 3:10; 1 Cor. 15:23), it follows that the inspired record of our resurrection would in every particular correspond to his, which was not so particularly described. (See 1 Cor. 15:42-45.) So, then, he was sown in dishonor, raised in glory; sown in weakness, raised in power; sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body. As we shall be changed if we are faithfully his, so he was changed and there put on incorruption, immortality. (Verses 52,53.) This was but the completion of his begetting of the spirit at his baptism: that which was begotten was the new, spiritual nature; it was the same that was quickened into activity in the work of sacrifice given him to do; and it was the same that three days after his work was finished was born. "That which is born of the spirit is spirit;" and he was thus "the first born from the dead," "the first-born among many brethren."
All this is implied, nay asserted, in the declaration, We shall be like him and see him as he is. (1 John 3:2.) Considered carefully with its connections, this statement proves much. The Apostle declares to the "sons," "It doth not yet appear what we shall be [but, if we are to be flesh-beings with present blemished bodies, or bodies at all like them, this statement would not be correct, for we know, alas, too well! what we are]; but we know that when he shall appear we shall [by being changed from mortal to immortal, from animal or human bodies to spiritual bodies, from flesh and blood to incorruption] be like him; for we shall see him as he is." The only conclusion is that if we be not like him, of the same (spiritual) nature, we could not see him as he is, for unless changed and made like he is, we would be like him as he was.
"Thou sowest not that body which shall be." The children of Adam are all of one seed, one kind, and in the general resurrection of judgment those accounted worthy will again have human bodies, like to the perfect sample, --the first man Adam, created in God's image. They will be of the same kind or nature, just as corn always produces corn, and oats always produce oats. The same kind of corn or oats is produced, but not the very grains that were buried. Those who experience a change of nature, from human to divine, now, through Christ, will not have human, Adamic bodies when perfected in the resurrection, but spirit bodies, now begotten and quickened shall be born in the resurrection,--like unto Christ's glorious body.