By Stephen Solomon White
The Immortality of the Soul
The first consideration, as we begin to look into the future, is the immortality of the soul. What is the nature of this immortality, if there be such? or in other words, what is meant by the immortality of the soul? This immortality is personal and not mechanical. Men will not just continue to exist forever as so many physical atoms. Immortality is not an everlasting existence based on the scientific notion which holds that all matter is indestructible. Dr. O. A. Curtis, after having listened to a preacher trying to prove immortality from the scientist's claim as to the indestructibility of matter, expressed indignation at such an argument. He declared that he had no desire to live on forever as no more than so many atoms. It was personal and not mechanical immortality in which he was interested, and such immortality is the only thing which can be meant by true immortality. To be personal, this immortality must be conscious and not unconscious. Further, it must be self-conscious. We must not only have conscious experience but we must be conscious of the fact that we are having conscious experience. This conception of immortality also excludes the possibility of reducing immortality to what is termed social immortality. This is sometimes referred to as the immortality of influence and means that the only way a man will live in the future is in his influence on society. He dies but his works go on blessing or cursing the world. There is undoubtedly such an influence, but it is not all that there is to life in the future.
Over and beyond this, immortality, when rightly understood, means that the individual will consciously exist as an individual forever.
What arguments are there for the immortality of the soul? It is one thing to set forth the nature of immortality, while it is quite another to prove that the immortality defined will be a reality. However, we believe that there are excellent arguments for personal immortality. There is the universal desire for immortality. Not only do men in Christian lands want to live after death, but those in non-Christian countries feel the same way about it. Not only do men in this age desire immortality, but men in every age have been tremendously interested in it. Roger Babson, in a preface which he wrote for a book on immortality, declared that if he were editor of the book he would have named it, "What Everybody Wants Most of All" (A. A. Gates, My Belief in Immortality, p.12). Of course, it must be admitted that desire does not necessarily mean that that which is desired must be a reality. On the other hand, it seems strange that men should long so universally for immortality and yet there be no possibility for th is longing to be satisfied.
Another fact which points to the immortality of the soul is the unfairness or inequalities of life. We know that this is not a just world. Too often the wicked flourish and prosper while the righteous suffer and are pressed by poverty. Too often crime goes unpunished. An attorney's secretary once declared to me that they won the cases they ought to lose and lost the cases they ought to win. Of course this was not meant literally, but it did emphasize in a vivid way the truth that justice is often not achieved in this life. This being the case, there must be a hereafter where the scales are balanced, where the glaring inequalities of this life will be made right. This is certainly implied in the following statement about the rich man and Lazarus: "But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented" (Luke 16:25).
Connected with the argument from the inequalities of life is the claim that immortality is essential to morality. What meaning can conscience have, with its call to do the right and leave undone the wrong, if this life is all and its injustices are final? Why talk about duty and virtue if this is the kind of world we live in? Morality can really have value only as it rests upon a belief in immortality. Otherwise, the slogan would be, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die."
Another important piece of evidence for immortality is that this life does not furnish time enough for the wonderful capacities of the human personality to realize themselves. When man has just reached his prime and the mind is ready to function at its best, the body begins to disintegrate. Several years ago Henri Bergson, the famous French philosopher, said that two things must be established scientifically before immortality could be accepted from the standpoint of the scientist. These two requirements were stated as follows: It must be proved first that the soul can exist apart from the body and second that its abilities are not exhausted in this life. He very cautiously asserted that some progress had been made in the direction of both of these. We mention this bit of information as to the late French thinker because it centers in the second point on the importance of man's capacities and the probability that they are not used to their full limit in this present life. This fact which the overcautious scientist only partially recognizes is undoubtedly true. Man's capacities are not exhausted in his brief and hurried stay here. Therefore, there must be a life beyond where men will have a chance to develop the endowments which have been so richly bestowed upon them.
The thought of man's capacities leads us to the thought of his personality as a whole. The dignity and worth of man's personality demands his immortality. although sin has marred it, it still retains enough of its former glory to place it in a class by itself. The image of God which was his to begin with has not been completely destroyed. No wonder Shakespeare said, "What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action, how like an angel! In apprehension, how like a god!" No wonder the Psalmist declared, "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour" (Psalm 8:4,5). No wonder God saw enough possibilities in man, even after he had sinned, to give His only begotten Son that he might not perish but have everlasting life! No wonder a recent writer emphasizes man's superiority over the animal world thus: "If dogs were to develop a written language and write plays like those of Shakespeare, if they were to erect edifices like the Empire State Building and build ships like the Queen Mary, if they were to construct telephones and radio stations, if they were to develop an intricate moral code and write histories of ethics, if they were to discover and classify the laws of nature and use them for their own purposes, we might begin to speak of the humanity of dogs. Until they do these things, we may leave them comfortably upon the subhuman level".  Man's personality has dignity and worth, and this fact demands that it shall not come to an end with the death and decay of the body. The creator of so significant a creature could not be such as to condemn it to so short an existence as falls within the limits of this earthly life.
In the past there were quite a few scientists, and even today there are some, who belittle the idea of man's immortality in a universe as vast as modern astronomy has discovered. This situation has been described as follows: "Science tells us that the Milky Way is a galaxy of stars, from ten billion to a trillion. And there are thousands of these galaxies in the heavens above us. Also, the microscope opens up to us the universe of the little things that the eye cannot see. The earth becomes a little speck tossed out into space, a drop of water in the ocean, a grain of sand on the seashore. Compared with the universe, the earth, man's home, is like a grain of sand. Why, then, should the inhabitant of this tiny bit of matter expect to go into the universe a son of the infinite God, and live forever?"  The same writer answers this question as follows: "The vastness of the universe is matched by the human personality. God is concerned with quality as well as with mass. The scientist who measures the stars is greater than the stars. The mind and its directing will, going abroad among the stars and galaxies, is greater than they. And the vaster the universe which man has discovered, the vaster and more significant his intellect. The man looking through the telescope is more than the spaces his thought travels and the masses he measures and weighs. . . . The vaster the universe, the clearer the title to immortality of the beings who can think such a universe. And is it not to be expected that such a being would live on to share with his Maker the wonders into which he has been born and has lived? It is quality that counts with God. The diamond which you hold between your thumb and finger may be worth more than a thousand tons of coal, or more than a hundred farms, the gray matter of man's brain may be more significant than a million suns."  It must also be added that the personality is much greater than the brain it uses. The vastness and wonder of the physical universe as revealed in modern times adds to rather than takes from the dignity and worth of human personality and its demand for immortality.
Still there are some who would add another proof for the immortality of the soul. They would make this one the most important of all. This argument is the goodness of God. A good God could not do otherwise than to conserve human personality, His highest creation, and the center of all that is worth while. There can be nothing truly valuable except in relation to personality; and God could not be good and fail to conserve that which is valuable and worth while. There is another way to state this argument. If there were a universe without God as its source, one would expect it to ignore and even crush personality. It would be mere blind matter and could not make a place for truth and beauty and goodness, the great moral and spiritual values -- values which can reside only in personality. Immortality for man in such a universe -- if one could conceive of man as existing under such circumstances -- would be an impossible notion. Why should man live on and conserve truth and beauty and goodness in a universe that could have no regard for them? On the other hand, how could finite personality, a repository of moral and spiritual values, be created so as to perish in a universe created and supervised by an infinite person who is supremely interested in preserving these values?
The resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is so well substantiated by the Gospels and Epistles, is conclusive evidence of immortality for the Christian. The classical statement of this truth is found in I Corinthians 15:3-23,55-58. He who conquered death for Himself can surely conquer it for those who have committed their lives into His hands. The Spirit that raised Christ will raise us (Romans 8:11; II Corinthians 4:14). Further, we are confident that He who has quickened our spirits which were dead in trespasses and sins can and will quicken our mortal bodies.
2. The second coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus is coming back to earth again. His first coming was in humiliation. He came to die for the sinner. His second coming will be in triumph and glory. The Gospel of Mark sets forth this truth thus: "And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory" (13:26. See also Matthew 24:30 and Luke 21:27). When Christ ascended, two heavenly messengers appeared and comforted those who looked on with these words: "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven" (Acts 1:11). The Lord's second coming was very close to the heart of the Apostle Paul. It was the most prominent theme of his teachings as to the future. I Thessalonians 4:16-18 gives us one of his most significant passages. It reads as follows: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
In Revelation we read: "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Revelation 22:12). These passages emphasize the certainty of our Lord's return. They also teach that this return is to be visible and personal.
We do not know when Jesus will come back to earth again. Jesus Himself taught that only the Father had this knowledge. "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father" (Mark 13:32. See also Matthew 24:36). After all, the future is in the hands of God, and Jesus cautions against seeking to know it. When His followers became inquisitive as to the restoration of the kingdom of Israel, Jesus answered them thus: "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (Acts 1:7). There will be signs of His coming, but a knowledge of the exact time will not be within the grasp of man's mind.
While the Bible does not reveal the exact time of the second coming of Jesus, it does teach that His coming is imminent or at hand. Constant expectancy characterized the attitude of the New Testament writers and disciples toward the second coming. They were on the alert for the immediate return of their Lord. This is the attitude which should possess the true disciple of every age. He has the upward gaze and is filled with the hope that his Master may return at any moment.
The many exhortations to watchfulness on the part of the disciples of Christ are in harmony with this truth as to the imminence of His return. If His return is imminent, then we must ever be on the watch for it. "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come" (Matthew 24:42). "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 25:13). "Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch" (Mark 13:35-37).
Closely connected with the idea of watchfulness is that of readiness. "Therefore be ye also ready for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 24:44). The Master's coming is to be sudden, as sudden as the lightning which "cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west" (Matthew 24:27), but those who follow Him must be ready. They must not permit the day to come upon them unawares (Luke 21:34). The parable of the ten virgins sets this truth before us in a vivid manner. At midnight the coming of the bridegroom was broadcast. The five wise virgins were awakened and went out to meet their Lord. They had oil in their lamps and were consequently ready for His coming. While the foolish virgins went to buy oil for their lamps which were going out, the door was shut. They were not ready for the coming of their Lord. We may spend our time on detailed and strange interpretations in connection with this parable, but the one and only important truth in it is that some were ready when Christ came and others were not. God forbid that you and I should be in the latter class!
How may we be sure that we are ready for His coming? By a policy of watchful waiting? No! Some have claimed that the reaction on the part of those who believe strongly in the imminent return of their Lord is to watch and wait. This should not be the case. The proper reaction is watchful working. While we watch for His return we shall do everything that we can to introduce others to Him so that they too will be prepared for His coming. Another way of stating the same truth is to say that we must be up-to-date Christians if we would be ready when He comes. By this we mean that We must now be actively forwarding His kingdom. Christian experience is essential, but the highest Christian experience is not a stopping place. It is good to cross over Jordan and set foot on the land of Canaan, but we cannot dwell there if we would be ready when Jesus comes. We must go on up unto the hill country and conquer new territory.
The thought of the imminent return of Jesus is used as a stimulus to the highest type of Christian experience and living by the writers of the New Testament. Peter, after telling us that the Lord is not slack concerning His promises, gives us these words: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness" (2 Peter 3:10,11). James writes: "Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (5:8). Peter sets up the second coming as a motive for holy conversation and godliness and James uses it to inspire us to patience and the establishment of our hearts. Paul begins his apocalypse (II Thessalonians 2:1-12) with these significant words: "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ -- " Notice that the basis of His beseeching or exhortations is the second coming. Again, in the third chapter of First Thessalonians we have this benediction: "Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints" (3:11-13).
One more outstanding Pauline passage is found in First Thessalonians 5:23: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." The twofold theme of Paul's First Epistle to the Thessalonian Church is holiness and the second coming. The thought and prospect of the latter moves one to seek and attain the former in both experience and expanding life, while the former is the special preparation which one should have in order to be fully ready for the latter. "who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart" (Psalm 24:2,3). He who would stand unafraid before the holy Christ when He returns must have clean hands and a pure heart.
The coming of Christ in glory and power is symbolic of the final triumph of Christianity. The Revelation of John which has so much to do with the second coming deals with a conflict which ends in glorious victory. One writer has summarized the message of Revelation thus: "The book is a picture of the persecuted Church, a prophecy of her certain deliverance by her heavenly Redeemer, a delineation of the supremacy and triumph of Christ over every foe, and the glory which awaits His faithful disciples." Christ's coming means victory and glory for Him and His Church.
Physical Death, Bodily Resurrection, and the Judgment
Three other facts should be mentioned in connection with our study of the future, before we discuss hell and heaven. They have already been implied in much that we have written. The first is physical death. It is universal and is the result of sin. It is the racial penalty for sin. The second is that the Bible teaches a bodily resurrection and not just a spiritual resurrection. Third, there will be a judgment, either formal or informal, where rewards and punishments will be meted out to each individual.
The Bible teaches that there is a hell. The following passages prove this fact. In the judgment scene found in Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus says: 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Another striking statement from the lips of Jesus is found in Matthew 8:12: "But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." To these two passages, let us add one more which was also uttered by Jesus. It seems to me to be the most terrible in all of the Bible. Hell is described as "the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:43-48). Three times these awful words are recorded. We are told that it would be better for us to go through this life maimed-- minus a hand or a foot or an eye -- than to remain whole and because of the offense of one of these members go into hell. Of those who know not God and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul writes thus: "who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (II Thessalonians 1:9). Saint John writes as follows as to the final doom of the wicked: "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). These are only a few of the passages which might be quoted that teach either directly or indirectly the fact that there is a hell.
The scriptures which we have presented teach that the wicked, the finally impenitent, are to go to hell. Their state in hell will be one of intense suffering, suffering which will be both physical and mental. The story of the rich man as well as the biblical passages already referred to teach this truth. He suffered physically -- there was no water to quench his burning thirst; he suffered mentally -- his memory was ever present, he constantly became more conscious of the gulf which he had dug between himself and God, and he was distressed lest his brethren would come to that place of torment. But I hear someone say that this account of the rich man and Lazarus is only a parable. It does not say so. Besides, you would even make hell worse if you proved that it were a parable. Parables are only pictures; and if the realities which they represent are bad, they are worse than the representation of them. If Jesus gave us only a parable when He told us about the rich man and Lazarus, He implied thereby that hell was worse than this picture which he had presented.
This suffering which the wicked are to fall heir to in hell is endless. There are those who tell us that the wicked are annihilated -- blotted out of existence. They base their proof largely on such words as death, perdition, destroy or destruction, and the term lost. But these words never mean annihilate in the Bible where they refer to the future of the wicked. Dr. Mullins has this to say in this connection: "Death in Scripture means the absence of life, and as applied to the soul it means the absence of fellowship with God. Perdition means the moral state resulting from this separation from God and His holiness. Destroy means to overcome or render inoperative. . . . The word lost means separated from God and without power of self-recovery" 
Again, if eternal means endless duration when applied to God (Romans 16:26; Hebrews 9:14) and endless duration when applied to the future state of the righteous (Matthew 25:46; II Corinthians 4:17; Hebrews 5:9), I see no reason why it should not signify that when used in connection with punishment and destruction (Matthew 25:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:9). Besides all this, we have Christ's own verdict on this question. He has this to say: "Their worm dieth not" and "the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:43-48). He joins those who hold that the suffering of the wicked in hell is endless in duration, and His authority is final. Immortality is natural to man and not something which is acquired. The wicked will live forever as well as those who choose Christ. Therefore, their suffering will be without end, as surely as the joy and glory of the righteous will be without end.
Let us remember that hell was created by sin and not by God. There would not be a hell if there were no sin or sinners. This rules out forever the notion that there is no hell because God is too good to bring it into existence. Further, those who hold that everlasting punishment is too severe a consequence of the rejection of Christ, should bear in mind the awful price that the triune God paid in order to make salvation possible for men. There is no sin that can compare with the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ. At infinite cost to Himself and the entire Godhead He made provision for man to have a second chance.
Although the lot of all of the wicked will be endless suffering, this condition will vary as to degree. "The Judge of all the earth will do right. We need have no misgivings as to this point. The degree of light men possess; the degree of fidelity to the light; the use of the opportunities and powers with which they are blessed; the circumstances which condition their lives; in a word, every fact which has any bearing upon human guilt and responsibility will be considered. It follows from this that not all the wicked will suffer the same degree of punishment."  Some of the scriptural proofs for this fact are as follows: Servants beaten with many stripes as over against those who are beaten with few (Luke 12:47,48); some wicked cities which will have better standing at the judgment than others (Matthew 11:21-24); every man will be dealt with according to his works (Romans 2:12). This truth is certainly taught in the Bible, but the full comprehension of it cannot be attained by men here below.
The Bible teaches that there is a heaven. The following passages prove this fact: Jesus said: "I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). John calls this place the holy city, the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2). This place is further described in Revelation: "And there shall be no night there," "And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof"; "And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life;" "And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and 6f the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him"; "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Revelation 21,22).
The scriptures which we have presented teach that the righteous, those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life, will go to heaven. Those who get to heaven will always remain there. Their sojourn in that city will be everlasting.
The blessings of heaven will be many. This is indicated by the scriptures cited above. This life is not only endless in duration but it will be unexcelled in quality. The conquest of medical science has been wonderful indeed. The frontiers which mark the outposts of the advance of this marvelous science are continually being pushed back. However, sickness has not been abolished. Hospitals are still needed. Physicians still find plenty to do. But in heaven it will not be so. There will be no pain (sickness or disease) there. The contagion of heaven will be health. Its forces will ride upon every breeze and dwell in every element. The leaves of the tree of life will be dispensers of health.
Disease brings on death, but in heaven where there will be no disease, there will be no more death. How comforting this is since we now live in the land of the dying! An eastern legend tells of a woman who sought a handful of rice in a home where death never entered. She had no difficulty in getting the handful of rice when she asked if they were all there -- father, mother, and children, the people shook their heads and invariably replied with sighs and sadness, that there was some vacant seat by the hearth-side. Someone has truly said that death is the commonest thing in life. But its day will end. There will be no graves on the hillsides of glory. Fadeless and immortal youth will be ours in the pearly white City.
Sorrow, trouble, the aching heart are all too prevalent in this world. The husband and father who has worked hard to provide for his family and has thereby managed to save a nice sum loses it through some untoward circumstance. Thus one of the great ambitions of his life is left unrealized. What mental suffering hounds him as he ekes out a mere existence for himself and his family! There is the mother who is suddenly left alone to rear several children. Who can measure her sorrow? There is the mother who has a prodigal son or daughter from whom she has not heard for years. The aching heart which results abides with her day and night. Then there are those who have burdens which are too deep and serious to mention. They never talk about them except to God. But in heaven there will be no sorrow or crying. God Himself shall wipe away all tears.
In heaven there will be no night. Night suggests the need for rest, repose, relaxation. These will not be necessary in the City of God. There will be no weariness there. Again, darkness is a type of sin; and a land without darkness will be a land without sin. All types of sin will be excluded from heaven.
A country in which there will be no sickness, death, sorrow, weariness, and sin will also have to be a land of cloudless day. This means that there will be no disasters or catastrophes. Tornadoes, floods, fires, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, hurricanes, wars, and similar calamities, will be ruled out in the holy City. No wonder our fathers and mothers sang:
So far, we have dealt largely with what heaven will not be. Let us emphasize now what it will be. Heaven will be a land of endless health and life, of perennial energy and activity, of continuous accomplishment without weariness. It will be a land of endless light, and righteousness and progress. In heaven we shall be like Jesus Christ, our Savior, for we shall see Him as He is. There the mysteries of this life will be cleared up. We shall no longer see through a glass darkly, we shall know even as we are known. Heaven will bring us a blessed time of reunion and fellowship. We shall meet our loved ones, friends, the saints of all the ages, and, best of all, our Savior. We shall meet Him face to face. This close fellowship with Him and with the others will be endless. "Over there we'll never say goodby. No parting words shall e'er be spoken in that bright land of flowers, But songs of joy, and peace and gladness shall evermore be ours.
There are degrees in the rewards of heaven as well as in the punishments of hell. In the parable of the talents each servant was rewarded according to his ability (Matthew 25:14-30). The parable of the pounds suggests the same truth (Luke 19:12-27). Paul tells us of the man whose work shall be burned, "but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (I Corinthians 3:15). There will be fullness of joy for all in heaven, but not all will have the same capacities. Our capacity there will depend upon our loyalty to Christ here.
20 Hough, L. H., The Christian Criticism of Life, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1941, p.139. Used by permission.
21 Gates, A. A., My Belief in Immortality, Harper and Brothers, 1928, p.195. Used by permission.
22 Ibid, p.199.
23 Mullins, E. Y., The Christian Religion in its Doctrinal Expression, The Judson Press, 1917, p. 492. Used by permission.
24 Ibid, p. 490.