By the Rev. Edmund B. Fairfield, D. D., LL. D., Lyons, France
“SANCTIFY them through thy truth; thy word is truth.” Nothing but the truth is of real worth to any man. And in respect to all questions of eschatology the Bible is the only ultimate authority as to what the truth is. Thus far we all agree.
Those who dissent from the views presented in my first paper, hold as follows: —
1. That dying saints do not go at once to heaven, but to a place which is called in the Hebrew of the Old Testament “Shed,” in the Greek of .the New Testament “Hades;” and that they will only reach heaven at some point of time yet in the future.
2. That that point of time is spoken of as “the end of the world;” and that the Bible teaches that this world is to be literally destroyed or burned up. Especially do they hold that the Second Epistle of Peter declares that to be the fact.
3. That Paul teaches in 1 Cor. 15:51 that some Christians will die, and others will not; namely, those who are on the earth when the end comes.
4. That Christ’s resurrection was a type of ours, and that our natural bodies are to be raised and changed at the end of the world.
5. That the term “last day” and other similar forms of speech refer to this end of all things which is yet in the future.
6. That the Bible teaches that David is not yet in heaven (or was not at the first Pentecost after Christ’s ascension), and by logical inference others of God’s redeemed are not yet there.
It is my full conviction that all these are mistakes: whether or not this will be made to appear, the reader must decide. If it were possible, I would be glad to have him suspend his verdict till I am through with my argument.
In committing my first paper to the type, I knew full well that many points demanded further elucidation; but lack of space forbade. I am happy to have the opportunity now to present what I consider to be the Bible teaching on these other points, involved in this discussion.
In opening a second paper, I may be pardoned, in view of references which have been made to the first, for a few words personal.
1. I am a spiritualist in the Bible sense; but not at all a believer in what is called “modern spiritualism.”
2. Whether or not anything I have written is in harmony with Swedenborgianism, in any manner or degree, I do not know: if it is, I can only say, that it is not because I have borrowed it from Swedenborg, or any of his disciples. So far as I know, I have never read a page from any of their writings; certainly I have never heard a sermon or lecture from any Swedenborgian. Nor have I been taught my present views by any man. My chief books for study have been the original Scriptures with plenty of dictionaries, grammars, and concordances of all sorts.
3. I accept the Second Epistle of Peter as a part of the sacred canon, and find it thoroughly in harmony with the views hitherto presented, as I will show presently.
4. As to the question whether this view or that is “orthodox” or not, it is not worth while to bandy epithets or waste words. It has been both wisely and wittily said, that, “orthodoxy is our doxy, and heterodoxy is other people’s doxy” and aside from that definition, I know of but one ultimate standard by which all beliefs on these subjects are to be tried; and that is, THE Bible. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to these, it is because there is no light in them.”
To this simple standard I submit all the questions before us. My only inquiry is, what the word of God, properly interpreted, teaches. We come, first, to the question as to—
The Meaning Of Sheol, Or Hades
Does this mean the abode of departed spirits—good as-well as bad—between death and the final judgment? Is Paradise, or “Abraham’s Bosom” a portion of what is included under Sheol in the Old Testament, and Hades in the New? The two questions are in substance one, and perhaps the most fundamental in the whole investigation; for if the affirmative cannot be fully maintained, and, above all, if the negative can be proven to be true, the citadel which I have assailed is in ruins.
There are those who hold that the soul sleeps in utter unconsciousness between the death of the body and its ultimate resurrection at the end of the world: that none of the dead, save Enoch and Elijah, know anything, feel any-thing, enjoy anything, or suffer anything; neither will they,, until some future day shall bring them up again from their graves. As I have before said, these pages are not written to disprove such views. We all alike reject them as unscriptural and unspiritual.
Others who do not agree with me that resurrection and judgment come at death, and heaven and hell at once thereafter, hold to the doctrine of an intermediate abode for both the righteous and the wicked between death and a still future resurrection; that those occupying this abode are disembodied spirits—having consciousness, intelligence, and a high degree of happiness on the one hand, and misery on the other; and that this place is known in the Hebrew Scriptures as Sheol, in the Greek Scriptures as Hades.
It is to this question that we now come. And, in view of its importance, it is not too much to ask the reader’s candid, and considerate, and even patient attention. I bring the question at once before the Supreme Court of actual usage; for this is not only the highest court of final appeal from all the dictionaries and commentaries, but it is a court of original as well as appellate jurisdiction in all such cases.
First in order comes the Old Testament, in which the word Sheol is found sixty-five times. In the Authorized Version it is thirty-one times translated “grave,” thirty-one times “hell,” three times “pit.” In the Revised Version it is fifteen times translated “grave,” sixteen times “hell,” five times “pit,” and twenty-nine times is not translated, but the word Sheol is transferred.
I quote first the passages in which both versions agree in translating it “the grave”:—
In Prov. 30:16 both versions translate “the grave” as one of several things mentioned which are never satisfied.
In these fifteen instances the two versions agree in translating “grave”: and it would be hard to find any fault with this rendering in any of these cases except upon the extreme ground that Sheol always means the place of departed spirits, and never the place for depositing dead bodies. But the absurdity of such a position as that is manifest from a passage like that in Ecll. 9:10, which declares that there is no work, nor device, nor wisdom, nor knowledge there. This surely cannot be true in any world of spirits, good or bad. It is not possible to conceive of a spiritual being with no power of thought or knowledge or device. The very definition of a spirit as distinguished from a material substance is, that it is a somewhat that thinks, and knows, and chooses. Or from such a passage as Isa. 38:18, “The grave cannot praise thee; death cannot celebrate thee.” Those who believe that Sheol is the abode of all the ineffably happy redeemed ones, between death and a resurrection yet in the future, would not object to rendering the word, “grave,” in this passage. For to declare of all the saints in Paradise that they could not praise God, would be too much for the most extreme of all extremists.
This much, then, we must admit as inductively settled, namely, that Sheol sometimes means “the grave.”
The following two passages are those in which both versions agree in translating the word “pit”:—
In these two cases, referring to the same event, the idea of a physical burial is too plain to be questioned. Sheol is evidently not the place of departed spirits here. It was the earth closing over their bodies. And the word “pit “seems more appropriate than “grave,” though expressing the same general idea.
The following passages are those in which both versions agree in translating “hell”:—
The remaining examples are those in which the two versions differ, and we will study them more carefully, one by one. In quoting I give generally the accepted version.
Whichever of these versions we accept, is immaterial as to the question at issue. Sheol in neither case can be conceived of as the abode of the saints.
“Prevented me,” in the old English sense of “came in my way.” The Revised Version reads: —
I should prefer translating thus:—
My reasons are that this song of David is written in Hebrew poetry; and the law of parallelism that runs through it is better sustained by making the first clause correspond closely in meaning to the second.
But in no possible case is there any room left for conceiving of Sheol as a good place to live in.
The Revisers have needlessly obscured this passage by transferring the word “Sheol.” It incontestably means “grave” in many cases, and the whole connection in this passage is in favor of the accepted version.
Here again the revision gives us the Hebrew word. Why, it is not easy to say; when in a similar case of contrast in Amos they have made no change from the accepted version. But there is no suggestion of ineffable blessedness in any part of a place put into such violent contrast with heaven as Sheol is here.
The Revisers transfer Sheol again. But the whole connection abundantly justifies the accepted version.
In both these verses the Revisers say “Sheol.” But the law of parallelism requires, and the entire connection demands, that the reference should be understood to be to the place of deposit for the dead body, not the place to which the spirit is to go. Notice the words that intervene: “I have said to corruption, Thou art my father; to the worm, Thou art my mother and my sister.” These plainly refer to bodily decay.
For some reason the Revisers seem very reluctant to allow Job to speak of the grave; so they say “Sheol.” There is no reason for not translating the word in both these verses as the old version has done. “Grave” meets the connection entirely. My views of the main question do not at all affect my judgment in reference to these passages. For you will find that if you interpret Sheol as the place of the departed spirit, instead of the dead body, it is a place simply of retribution for those who are described as saying unto God, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways; and as living unrighteous lives and doing not good to the widow. They are persons of unmitigated badness who are here spoken of as going to Sheol.
Once more Sheol must do service for the new version. But I think the reader will agree with me that to render the word “grave” is better than either. The parallelism is complete if we say: —
A most manifestly correct translation; the two clauses illustrating the Hebrew parallelism most happily: —
Sometimes the Revisers would seem to be so possessed of Sheol as to be well-nigh dispossessed of all critical sense or reason. But I am not concerned in this for the sake of my cause: because if Sheol means here the place of departed spirits and not the grave, then to say that there is nobody there to give God thanks would settle it forever that it is not the place for the redeemed saints. For if anything is taught in the Bible, and accepted by Christians generally, it is that the saved in the world to come are full of praise and thanksgiving. If I could believe honestly that the word here referred to the abode of departed spirits, this passage alone would prove beyond the possibility of a doubt that none but lost spirits are there. But I think it means grave; and other passages must be relied on to prove that truth. And here is one—the very next in regular order: —
Surely the Revisers, inasmuch as they have fifteen times translated the word “hell “as the accepted version does here, will let this stand without change! But no! The Sheol craze happened to be on them, and so the Hebrew word appears untranslated. But no foreign speech can disguise the meaning of this passage. Let Sheol stand if you please. It only becomes another synonym for the place of punishment. The wicked shall be turned into Sheol. Is it anywhere said that the righteous shall be turned into Sheol? Never once! And yet, according to the view which I am told by my critics1 is the “orthodox” doctrine, it is equally the place, and always has been the place, for the righteous who are saved, and the incorrigibly wicked who are lost. None of the redeemed spirits, except Enoch and Elijah, have as yet gone anywhere else! Nor will they go anywhere else until this world is burned up! Alas, if that event should yet be a thousand millenniums off!
It is agreed, most reasonably I think, that Sheol could not be here translated “grave,” because the connection shows that this consignment to Sheol is punishment meted out to the wicked; and to say that the wicked should be turned into the grave with all the nations that forget God would have no force, because everybody knows that all—good and bad alike—die and are buried. But do not those who reason thus, so logically and unanswerably, see that, by the same reasoning, Sheol cannot be the place of all departed spirits—
good as well as bad? For in that case, as the grave is the common receptacle of all bodies, so Sheol would be the common receptacle of all spirits: and to say that the wicked are sent there would be saying just nothing at all! There would be no sense in representing that which comes alike to all as the punishment of the wicked, and them only. And yet the whole context shows that it is a most emphatic denunciation of divine judgment upon evil-doers. Hear the words: —
Surely, then, the righteous shall not be sent there!
Ps. 18:6 is but a repetition of 2 Sam. 22:6; and I need not repeat what is said above.
The Revisers say “Sheol.” But I see no reason whatever for hesitating to stand by the accepted version. “Grave” corresponds to “pit” in the parallel clause. The Psalmist had been delivered from threatening death. Nephesh, which is here translated “soul,” is often translated “life.” “My soul “is in numberless cases the equivalent of “me.” But if any one insists on reading Sheol, and understanding it as the place of departed spirits, it is still evident that it is not the name of a good place to go to. The Psalmist didn’t think of it as “Abraham’s bosom “from which he had been rescued.
Whichever version we accept, this passage is evidently an imprecation upon those deserving punishment for their unrighteous deeds. Sheol in any case is certainly not Paradise.
In each of these three cases the Revised Version uses “Sheol.” The reason for this change is not very obvious. When the writer says of those whom he is describing, that they “abide not;” that “they are like the beasts that perish,” it would seem plain that the accepted version, which speaks of their beauty consuming in the grave, must be the true one. To this employment of the words “my soul,” there is not the slightest objection. The word nephesh is defined by all the lexicons “the animal soul,” “the bodily life,” and sometimes is used of the body even after it is dead, as we shall see presently. But if Sheol is allowed to stand, it is still very apparent that the Psalmist is representing the outcome of a merely worldly life as anything but desirable. Such as live it are not on their way to “Abraham’s bosom.”
The Revised Version, instead of “quick into hell” translates “alive into the pit;” which, I think, is a preferable rendering. In either case it is a woful doom that is invoked upon “bloody and deceitful men.” But in view of what is said, that such “shall not live out half their days,” it is plain to me that it was an early removal from the scene of their violence and treachery, that was invoked upon them, rather than any future punishment in Sheol. By no possible interpretation, however, is any room left for encouragement that those who are consigned to this region will find any Elysian Fields in its entire domain.
The Revisers translate “pit.” But with any translation or no translation, the context makes it too plain for question that the Psalmist praises God with all his heart, and promises to do it forever, because in the divine mercy he has been delivered from going to Sheol. I don’t think it had ever entered into his remotest thought that Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph, and Job, and Moses, and Aaron, and all the rest of the glorious dead, of whom the world was not worthy, had gone there, and nowhere else; and gone to stay through unnumbered centuries!
The Revisers find a chance for their favorite Sheol here. And yet when one marks the connection it is hard to see how they could bring themselves to abandon the accepted version. Read right on and see: —
The writer of this psalm is unknown. It is evidently the work of some one terribly afflicted by some loathsome and unclean disease, of long standing. Who knows but it was some old man dying of the leprosy?
The parallelism here is better sustained by the accepted version than by any other. “His soul,” as in so many cases, is the equivalent of “his life,” or “himself.” And besides: nephesh is not the Hebrew word appropriate when a disembodied spirit is spoken of. Yet the Revisers find another place for Sheol! The argument is all on the side of the accepted version. There is absolutely no reason for not translating it “grave.”
The Revised Version says “Sheol, or, the grave.” “The grave “is obviously the better rendering. This makes the two clauses parallel. But it is plain, upon the face of it, that if “Sheol “be here understood as referring to the abode of departed spirits, the passage gives no countenance to the theory that Paradise is a part of it. It is an abode of pain and sorrow. I do not think, however, that it should be rendered anything but “grave.”
The Revisers write “Sheol.” But failing to translate cannot disguise the true meaning. It is in contrast with heaven. Heaven is above; Sheol is below. Heaven is the abode of happiness; never once is Sheol represented as the abode of anything but sorrow and sufferings. Heaven is a place of holiness; it is the wicked who are sent to Sheol. Never once are the good spoken of as going there. Never once!
The Revisers change to “Sheol.” But I can see no good reason for hesitating to translate “grave” as the old version does. This is a suitable parallel for “pit” in the other member of the distich.
If death is used here in the literal sense, then grave would constitute the proper parallel in the second member. If it is used in the figurative sense of moral or spiritual death, then the accepted version should stand. Of the path of the strange woman, death in every sense is the end. The context will justify either interpretation. I would prefer to stand by the accepted version.
This passage is like the last. The same remarks apply.
Let the accepted version stand. There is certainly in any case no suggestion of Paradise anywhere in either of these three verses. Death, not life. Woe! Woe!! Nothing else.
There is certainly no hint of an abode of blessedness lurking anywhere about this proverb, whatever the translation may be.
This is a case so plain that no strange sounds in any foreign tongue can possibly disguise the meaning. The wise are travelling in a different direction from Sheol. They are going up; Sheol is beneath. But if all the saved as well as lost are bound to go there, and abide there for centuries without number, then the wise man couldn’t depart from it by any possible degree of wisdom. This is one of the passages that must settle the question. Sheol when used unequivocally of the abode of spirits is always of spirits lost through folly and sin. The way of the wise is above, so that by following that, he shall keep out of Sheol! There is no provision made for him there. Paradise that he seeks, is entirely in the opposite direction.
This is another of the same class of passages that are too clear and absolutely unequivocal to be hidden under any unknown tongue.
Parental discipline is here recommended as a means of correcting a wayward boy so as to save him from going to Sheol. But if Sheol is the place of all departed spirits— good and bad alike—how could good conduct save him from going there? Evidently the writer of this proverb had not been enlightened in the theology that teaches that Sheol embraces Abraham’s bosom in its domain. In his limited knowledge of his mother tongue he thought that Sheol was simply a place of punishment for the incorrigibly wicked, and recommended even a most rigid discipline, if necessary, to save a bad boy from going there! He ought to have known that good boys, as well as bad, must go there; for in that very country Paradise was a most important section! Alas, that even Solomon, with all his wisdom, didn’t know about Sheol!
This proverb is equally true whether Sheol be translated “grave” or “hell.”
There remains but one more passage of the sixty-five in which Sheol is found in the Hebrew Bible. It is—
I have reserved this to the last because it is in the New Testament as well as the Old; and because it is more relied on than any other to show that Sheol means the abode of departed spirits, good as well as bad. For this is a Messianic psalm—a prophecy of Christ. And his spirit is not to be thought of as being even for the shortest time in hell. The general interpretation makes this passage to mean that the spirit of Christ at his death was to go, like all other disembodied spirits, to Sheol, while his body was in the tomb; but it was soon to be recalled from Sheol to be reunited to the body before decomposition took place.
This was my former understanding of it; but I am perfectly convinced that it is not the true one.
1. This interpretation would require that the Hebrew word which is here translated “soul” should refer to the disembodied spirit of our Lord. But nephesh is scarcely the proper term for that. The Hebrew word ruach rather. If any of my readers will take a Hebrew concordance and go through the passages in which the two words are used; or if he will take Young’s Concordance and under the words “soul,” “life,” and “spirit,” examine their usage, I think he will agree with me.
2. Nephesh, which is here translated “soul,” frequently refers to the person in general; as, e. g., Job 9:21, “I am perfect; I regard not myself” (R.V.). In the Hebrew it is “my soul.” In innumerable instances everywhere, for “my soul,” “his soul,” etc., may be substituted the personal pronoun “me,” “him,” etc.2 For example: “Lest he tear my soul like a lion;” “delivered my soul from the sword;” “he restoreth my soul;” “delivered my soul from the wicked;” “they lie in wait for my soul,” etc., etc. Substitute “me” in place of “my soul,” and the meaning is complete.
3. Nephesh is sometimes used for the human body even where the adjunct “dead” is applied to it. I give the instances, that the fact may appear beyond dispute.
In all these passages the word nephesh is the Hebrew which is translated “body;” and the connection is such as to justify it most manifestly. Both the Authorized Version and the Revised Version agree. I know of no critic that questions it. And these examples show how broadly the word is applied to the personality of the human being; and how little it is limited to what we call the “soul,” even in the lowest sense of that term.
Were we to translate the passage before us: “Thou wilt not leave my body in the grave,” we should be fully sustained by these instances. Were we to translate: “Thou wilt not leave me in the grave,” many passages would show that we should be justified in so doing. Which of the two would be preferable will appear hereafter.
4. It has been seen that by the agreement of both versions, and by the imperative demand of the context, Sheol must often be translated “grave,” and nothing else; and that in a few other instances where it is translated “pit” it means a place of physical burial.
5. We have also seen that in every case where the word is used unequivocally of the abode of spirits, it is always of wicked spirits; never otherwise.
6. The parallelism of the two clauses of this sixteenth verse throws important light upon the proper translation. The law of parallelism as illustrated, for example, in the tenth chapter of Proverbs, and often elsewhere, requires that the two parts of the distich should form a contrast with each other; thus,—
But in the Psalms almost uniformly, and obviously in the sixteenth psalm, which is under consideration, the two parts of the distich express the same thought in varying forms of speech. Thus, for example, in the sixth verse: —
Applying this law to the tenth verse, let us see, first, what is the obvious meaning of the second clause. It is translated thus: “Neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption.” Peter in Acts 2:31 paraphrases this: “Neither did his flesh see corruption.” And this is the obvious meaning of it, for the plain reason that we have no conception of a soul going to decay, but only the body. Translating the two members of the distich: —
makes the parallelism complete. It is the prophecy of an early bodily resurrection—both parts of the verse plainly referring to the body, neither of them to the spirit.
This completes the examination of the Old Testament. We come now to the New. As the Greek Septuagint ordinarily translates Sheol by Hades, this is the word found in the New Testament, the usage of which we are called to examine. It is found eleven times in the Greek text from which the Authorized Version was made; only ten times in that from which the Revised Version was made. The passages are the following: —
The Revisers have adopted the uniform plan of transferring the word Hades. But this passage is clear. Hades is contrasted with heaven. And it is evidently a bad place to go to. The whole context shows that it is a place of punishment. And if we assume that the term is used figuratively, as applied to the city and not to the people living in it, the whole force and significance of the figure depends upon this idea of its being a place of punishment. For Christ goes on to say that it shall be more tolerable for Sodom than for this city which had rejected the overwhelming testimony of his divine mission.
The gates of those old-time cities were often used as the place for the assembling of the rulers. The gates of Hades means the powers of Hades. But was Hades the abode of redeemed saints as well as lost souls? Evidently not. The gates of Hades were plainly conceived of as being a unit against the church. They were the powers of darkness, and nothing else.
Luke 10:15 is a repetition of Matt. 11:23.
This is in the parable of Dives and Lazarus. No introduction of a strange word can disguise the meaning here. This Hades is a place of torments. And when Dives would see Lazarus he must look up. “He lifted up his eyes” And Lazarus was afar off, and there was an impassable gulf between them. Hades was no good place to be in. And Abraham’s bosom was not a part of it, but another place “far off.”
Acts 2:27 and 31 are quotations from Ps. 16:10. And this verse has already passed under review.
This is a quotation from Hos. 13:14; and is properly translated grave. The Revised Version is from a different Greek text—”Θανατε”—”O death!”
The remaining passages are in the Apocalypse: Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13; 20:14. The last reads thus: “Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.” This is too plain for comment. The redeemed of the Lord were not a moiety of those in Hades, who are thus represented as cast into Gehenna.
The other passages in the Apocalypse are of the same sort.
What, then, is the conclusion of the whole matter? Every reader will draw his own. To me three things are plain.
1. That these words Sheol and Hades are sometimes used of the place of physical burial;
2. That they are sometimes used also as the place of punishment after death;
3. That they are never used in speaking of the future abode of the righteous dead.
This examination through which we have gone should be deemed the more satisfactory in determining the question of the meaning of these words, as understood by the Jews, and by Christ and the apostles, in view of the fact that they are used so many times; and by so many of the sacred writers, extending through so many centuries. A word used only once, or used only two or three times, might be very clear in its meaning from the connection in which it is found; but whether it might not also have another meaning equally well established, but of which no examples were found in the Bible—might be a very reasonable question to ask. But here is a word used seventy-five or seventy-six times—used seven times in the Pentateuch, four times in Samuel and Kings, eight times in Job, sixteen times in the Psalms, eleven times in the writings of Solomon, nine times by Isaiah, five times by Ezekiel, five times by the Minor Prophets, ten or eleven times in the New Testament, from Matthew to Revelation—used, first and last, in writings extending through fifteen hundred years—and yet never once a clear case of its being used of the abode of the righteous dead; and several cases in which its usage absolutely precludes the idea that it could possibly have been understood as providing an abode for them.
Whence, then, the notion sprang, that all the dead, irrespective of character, are consigned to Sheol for any period of time whatever—whether it is originally a mythological tradition, or rabbinical, or papal—or a mixture of the three —I do not care to discuss. But it is entirely clear that it is pure tradition, without so much as a single verse of the Bible upon which to rest the sole of its foot.
In the Old Testament, Sheol is the place for the wicked; but never once is any one of the righteous spoken of as going there. What is said respecting their future? “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever;” “Thou wilt guide me by thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory;” “Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty; they shall behold the land that is very far off,”—these, and such as these, are the words spoken of the righteous.
In the New Testament it is in Hades where Dives lifted up his eyes, being in torments: but to the righteous it is said: “Great is your reward in heaven;” “your names are written in heaven;” “your treasures are in heaven;” “your citizenship is in heaven;” “your inheritance is reserved in heaven” Never once a word as to a part of the believer’s reward and treasure and inheritance being in Hades—never a word! When Christ exhorted his hearers: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on the earth, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” why didn’t he say to them, that as they were to spend a few thousand years in Hades, they ought also to have a good store there? The only reason I can think of is that he didn’t know anything about their going there! His words are: “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there ye may be also.” And the writer to the Hebrews tells us: “Christ is entered into heaven itself” (Heb. 9:24). There is not a shadow of any other teaching in the New Testament but that Christ’s abode is in heaven; and that the dead in Christ are with him in glory. But—
WHERE IS THE PATRIARCH DAVID?
Did not the apostle Peter declare in his sermon at the Pentecost that David had not at that time entered into his heavenly reward? Some of the old writers speak of a kind of interpretation that” sticks in the shell” (“hæsetin cortice”). We do well to guard against such superficial interpretation in this instance. Let us turn to the sermon of Peter and study it carefully with reference to this question of David’s status. It is reported in the second of Acts. The apostle quotes from the sixteenth psalm, and applies it to Christ. It was a Messianic prophecy. He shows that the words of the psalm could not apply to the “patriarch David,” because they manifestly refer to a literal resurrection of the natural
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body soon after death—before it had undergone decay. This could not apply to David in his own person, because he had had no such resurrection. “Therefore, being a prophet,” Peter continues, “and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins he would set one upon his throne; he, foreseeing this, spake of the resurrection of Christ, that he was not left in the grave, nor did his flesh see corruption.” He then goes on to set forth that Jesus was thus raised from the dead, of which fact the apostles were witnesses; and that God had exalted this same Jesus to a place of power in heaven, whence the Holy Spirit had come according to promise; adding: “David did not ascend into the heavens” (that is to say, to any such place of power and dominion), “but he himself had said” (quoting from the one hundred and tenth psalm), “The Lord JEHOVAH] said unto my lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Christ had been exalted to be lord: —not David. The phrase “ascended into the heavens” is used to express this idea of a peculiar exaltation to power and dignity, as is shown beyond question by Peter’s quotation from the one hundred and tenth psalm, which immediately follows, and which otherwise would not be at all in point. To paraphrase what the apostle says, it would run thus: “David did not prophesy of himself as exalted to any place of special power and preeminence: but it was of Christ that he thus spoke. For he elsewhere calls this Christ “Lord,” saying: “Jehovah saith unto my lord, Sit thou on my right hand till I make thy foes thy footstool. Let all the house of Israel, therefore, know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
This rendering of the thought gives force to the apostle’s quotation, and unity to his discourse; and such cogency to his reasoning, that we are not surprised to be told that those who heard “were pricked in their heart.” But now, upon the hypothesis that Peter intended to affirm simply that David was not in heaven when this sermon was preached at the Pentecost, see how utterly inane and inapt the apostle’s utterance becomes. On that hypothesis this is what he said: “Men, brethren, and fathers, David is not in heaven; for he himself declares, The Lord said unto my lord, Sit thou on my right hand till I make thy foes thy footstool.” It seems to me the hearers, instead of being pierced by the sharpness of the preacher’s logic, would have said one to another: “What has the preacher’s quotation to do with David’s not being in heaven? What is he driving at, any way?” There is neither logic nor force nor point to it unless David’s “ascent into heaven” means more than his simply being there as a common citizen. When Peter declares that he did not ascend into heaven, the whole connection shows that he means simply to deny that David was exalted to any such special glory and authority in the heavens as the sixteenth psalm would require; and that that psalm therefore was a prophecy of the Messiah, and had been fulfilled in Christ Jesus.
With all due deference, then, to the good brethren who appeal to Acts 2:34 as a writ of quo warranto against David’s rightful citizenship in heaven along with other redeemed sinners, I most respectfully claim that these words of Peter have no bearing upon that question.
Misconceptions Of The Final Judgment
One of my friendly critics thinks, that in stating that the judgment as ordinarily represented and conceived of would require many thousands of years, I did not correctly represent “the orthodox doctrine.” By referring to pages 79 and 80 of the January number for 1891, the reader may see just what was said, and so I will not repeat it. As illustrating the notion of the judgment to which I alluded, and as showing that I did not overstate the matter, I quote from a recent work on “The Moral System and Atonement”—a book of great ability and of undoubted orthodoxy—what is there said in reference to the day of judgment: —
The italics are my own, simply designed to call attention to those sentences which plainly indicate the writer’s view on the one point to which I referred. How much time will this day of judgment—which is for the very purpose of enabling all who have ever lived to “perfectly know all the secrets of every other soul as well as his own, and all their works and their whole character, and thus precisely why each one is judged as he is”—how much time will this require? Think of it! No doubt our capacity for taking in knowledge will be greatly increased in the future state. But how much time would the greatest genius that the world has ever known require to perfectly know the secrets and all the works and whole character of any single human being, even though that being had lived but thirty years, and lived a most uneventful life? Twenty-four hours, surely, would be far too short. But let this world’s history close at the end of six thousand years since the Adamic race began; and for every minute of those years it is estimated that on the average ten persons have lived and died thirty years old and upwards. And if only one hour be allowed for the review of each such human life, it would require three million and six hundred thousand years of sleepless and unremitting work for this judgment-day! And even then the three times as many persons under thirty years of age would not be judged at all! In truth, angelic powers of receptivity and comprehension would not be adequate in a million of years to pass judgment upon a quarter part of those who have thus far lived in this world’s history. A scientific statement of such a theory of the judgment is its sufficient refutation.
I quote this paragraph from the volume in which I find it—a volume which I had not read until after my first paper was in the hands of the printer—not only to make good the words I then indited, but to show how such a strong, clearheaded man as the author of it finds it necessary to explain and sustain his notion of the judgment-day. And in this way of putting it he but falls into line with many others who have preached and written in a similar strain.
My conception of the final judgment is very different. Every human soul comes to its final judgment at death. It is plainly declared that it is for deeds done in the body—nothing else. It is God’s judgment. It will be sufficiently vindicated by its intrinsic equity. The loyal soul will, with respect to all others than himself, have perfect faith that the Judge of all the earth will do right; and every soul, loyal or disloyal, will, in his own conscience, have fullest assurance that he himself has not been dealt with unjustly. Instead of sixty minutes which I shall give to finding out “the secrets and works and character” of each member of the human race,—thus spending ten thousand millenniums—I shall accept the sentence which Christ has pronounced with unfaltering assurance; though I imagine (should I be found at last among the redeemed) that it may take me many long hours to feel that I had a right to such a place. Instead of spending ages of ages in listening to the “open declaration of each soul’s destiny and the reasons for it,” I hope, according to the promise, to be as one of the angels of God, who are “all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation.” The absolute righteousness of the judgment to come will be sufficiently assured simply because it will be known to*be the righteous judgment of the righteous God, our Father, and of the redeeming Christ, our Elder Brother.
That the position I have taken “is a flat denial of any general judgment,” is a misconception. Every human soul will be brought into judgment, and every deed done in the body, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil. What more “general judgment” can be conceived of than that? It is a judgment not only “general,” but absolutely universal. No being escapes it; no outward act escapes it; no secret thought or purpose of the heart escapes it.
I simply deny in regard to it absolute impossibilities. I deny its postponement to some imagined future spoken of as the end of this material globe, because (1) The Bible, properly interpreted, nowhere speaks of any such event; (2) The teaching—both directly and indirectly—both explicitly and impliedly—is, that it comes immediately after death;
(3) The doctrine of the Bible everywhere is that the saved are in heaven; and it would be absurd to admit them to heaven before they had been judged worthy to go there;
(4) The rich man is represented as being in hell, while his brothers were still living upon the earth—with an impassable gulf between him and Lazarus, and it would be preposterous to send any man to hopeless perdition before judgment had been passed upon him; (5) We have found that in the biblical Sheol or Hades there is no spot left for the saved,— not one; (6) The theory of one judgment at death, and another at the end of this material globe, is a pure invention, unsustained by any Scripture, properly interpreted.
[To be concluded]
1) Bibliotheca Sacra, April, 1891, pp. 339-346.
2) See Gesenius’s Lexicon.