Key To The Understanding Of The Scriptures
by H.P. MANSFIELD
(8) Hope Through A Resurrection
Immortality Is Not Inherent.
Previous studies have shown that sin brought death, and that death became the common lot of all mankind, so that even the Lord Jesus was subject to it. At the same time, God, in His mercy, promised a Redeemer (Christ Jesus) who would triumph over sin and death, and by his own glorious resurrection to immortality, lead the way to life eternal.
This teaching is quite contrary to the widespread theory of an immortal soul that lives on after the death of the body. As we have shown, such a doctrine is not taught in the Bible, and mankind instinctively turns from it.
Despite the glowing pictures of heaven painted by preachers upon the canvas of their imagination, no one desires to taste of death in order to go there.
The Bible teaches that eternal life is not the natural inheritance of man, but something that must be sought (Acts 13: 46-48; Romans 8:13; Hebrews 5:9). Paul taught:
"God will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life." (Romans 2:6-7.)
If eternal life is something a person must seek, and which God will grant only on conditions, obviously it is not inherent in man in his natural state. And that fact is clearly taught throughout Scripture.
Consider the following well known text:
"God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16.)
Here the alternative is to "perish" or have "everlasting life" conditional upon belief and obedience -- for the word has that dual significance. If the latter were a natural heritage, however, a person could not utterly perish, whether he believed or not.
The Bible teaches that those who do not fulfil the conditions set by God will not receive eternal life (Romans 2:12; Galatians 6:8; Luke 12:46; Heb. 10:28-29; 2 Pet. 2:12). They will "perish' or be given over to death.
A Resurrection -- The Only True Hope.
It follows from logic, and from clear Bible teaching, that if man is mortal, and yet the reward that God has set before him is immortality, the only possible way to life eternal is through a bodily resurrection.
This is the clear teaching of the Bible. Paul taught:
"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man (Adam) came death, by man (Jesus) came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam (and all are in him by natural birth) all die, even so in Christ (and we become such by baptism) shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (1 Corinthians 15:19-23).
There is no mistaking the meaning of these words; they teach the doctrine of a bodily resurrection at Christ's coming. Again, Paul taught:
"The dead shall be raised incorruptible *... for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:52-57).
This teaching is clear, and needs little explanation. It proclaims the doctrine of a bodily resurrection from a state of death to one of eternal life. It provides no scope for belief in an immortal soul.
This is the consistent teaching of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It reveals that the first work of Christ at his return is to raise responsible believers from death, with the object of judging them, and rewarding them according to their works. Here is some of the evidence to that end:
"Jesus Christ shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom" (2 Timothy 4:1).
"Judgment must begin at the house of God" (1 Peter 4:17).
"Many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2).
"Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust. . . the earth shall cast out the dead" (Isaiah 26:19).
"For we (believers) must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things in body, according to that he hath done, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10).
"He that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting" (Galatians 6:8).
Hope in a bodily resurrection unto life eternal is the basis of all Apostolic teaching. Paul declared that he counted all things but loss, "if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" (Philippians 3:11). He was using the expression in its complete sense, as denoting a resurrection to life eternal, and he continued by declaring that this was the great objective of his life, for which he was prepared to sacrifice all else.
On the other hand, the Bible will be searched in vain, for a single reference to the alleged immortal soul. Not once are mourners comforted with the idea that the souls of the departed are in heaven, but rather that, if believers, they will rise from the dead at the return of Christ (1 Thess. 4:16, 18). The Bible teaches that no man hath ascended into heaven" (John 3:13), not even David, the man after God's own heart (Acts 2:34).
Paul made the hope of the resurrection a key-note of his defence of the faith. Before the Sanhedrin he declared: "Of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question" (Acts 23:6). Of Agrippa, he asked: "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?" (Acts 26:8). Before Festus he proclaimed: "There is a resurrection of the dead both of the just and the unjust" (Acts 24:15).
That was the belief and teaching of the Apostles. If our belief does not provide for a bodily resurrection from the dead, it is not in accordance with the revelation and purpose of God. And there is no room for both belief in a bodily resurrection, and the immortality of the soul. If man goes to his reward at death, for what purpose is a bodily resurrection and judgment at Christ's coming?
Who Will Be Raised?
The Bible teaches, however, that whilst all will not be raised, and, in fact, comparatively few will be raised, all responsible believers will be resurrected to appear before the judgment Seat of Christ.
This fact was simply and clearly proclaimed by Jesus. He declared: "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he Iive" (John 11:25).
"Believers" shall rise, taught Jesus. He thus showed that "light" or "knowledge" is the ground of responsibility towards God. A person who understands the will of God has a responsibility to perform it on pain of condemnation if he does not. "That servant who knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes" (Luke 12:47-48). Again, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). See also John 3:19; 9:41; 15:22.
On the other hand, many know not the purpose of God, nor His will. They "wander out of the way of understanding" and, according to Bible teaching, "shall remain in the congregation of the dead" (Prov. 21:16).
That is both just and merciful. The fundamental purpose of the resurrection is for judgment, and where there is no knowledge of what is required, there is no basis for proper judgment. The Bible teaches that such die, never again to live:
"Man that is in honour, and UNDERSTANDETH NOT, is like the beasts that perish ... they go to the generation of their fathers (in the grave); they shall NEVER SEE LIGHT" (Psalm 49:18-20).
"They (those without understanding) are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise; therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish" (Isaiah 26:14; 43:17).
"They shall sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake" (Jeremiah 51: 57).
"The slain that lie in the grave, whom Thou rememberest no more; and they are cut off from Thy hand" (Psalm 88:5).
"Without hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12).
"The understanding darkened, alienated from the life of God THROUGH THE IGNORANCE that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Ephesians 4:17).
Unfortunately, the majority of mankind are in a state of ignorance before God, being blinded in heart. That being the case, they are without hope. The serpent power of sin and death, remains triumphant. They live their little life "as a vapour" (James 4:14), and are soon gone. They experience their moments of triumph and disaster, of pleasure and pain, of success and sorrow, and then pass into oblivion, becoming as though they had never been. Their existance becomes but a rapidly fading memory which, to use a Bible term, finally "is forgotten" (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
Therefore, whilst believers will yet live again, those who remain in ignorance or in error shall pass into oblivion.
The Judgment Seat.
But those who have come to an understanding of God's will, both just and unjust (Acts 24:15), will be raised mortal from the grave, and together with living believers, will be brought before the judgment seat of Christ. This will be set up on earth, at some secluded spot (2 Thess. 2:1), such as Sinai (Deuteronomy 33:1-2), where Christ will adjudicate over those who have "learned of him" (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10-12). Those who "by patient continuance in well doing have sought for glory, honor and immortality" will receive eternal life (Rom. 2:7; Gal. 6:8). Those who have wilfully rejected the precepts of Christ, either by refusing baptism, or by failing to practise the principles set before them in his teaching, will experience "tribulation and anguish" as they are condemned and consigned to "the second death" (Revelation 2:11).
The righteous, however, will be given immortality (1 Cor. 15:53), by the bestowal of "divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), and thus will be changed into the likeness of Christ's present glory (1 John 3:2; Philippians 3:21). Their victory over the serpent power of sin and death will be complete and lasting, and the power of the grave will lose its hold on them.
As the immortal associates of Christ, they will reign with him on earth. That is what Christ promised Peter. The Apostle had claimed that he had left everything to follow Christ, and demanded to know what he would receive in consequence. Christ replied,
"Ye which have followed me, In the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold (i.e. more than he sacrifices), and shall inherit everlasting life" (Matthew 19:28-29).
The song of the Redeemed to be sung in the Age to come expresses the terms and status of the saved:
"Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:9-10).
"They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years" (Rev. 20:4).
Having conquered self, and gained the victory over the serpent power of sin and death, they will be competent to rule with Christ, and to assist in bringing all nations to God, that He might become "all in all."
"For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death . . . and when all things shall be subdued unto Him (God), then shall the Son also himself be subject unto Him (God) that put all things under him, that God may be all In all" (1 Cor. 15:28).
"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" (Rev. 21: 4).
At the end of the thousand years reign of Christ on earth, a perfected world, in which sin and death will have been completely eradicated, and all will be made immortal, will be offered unto God, that He might be triumphant everywhere, being "all in all."
Meanwhile, Christ has triumphed over the serpent power of sin and death, and offers to us the means whereby we can do likewise. In Revelation 1:18 he is represented as saying: "I am be that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore; and have the keys (i.e. the power to unlock) of hell (the grave) and of death" (by a resurrection to life eternal).
Our wisdom lies in taking hold of those means that are extended to us, and using them to attain unto the life eternal that will be granted us at Christ's coming if we do his will.
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 8
SUMMARY OF SECTION 2