The martyr Tyndale, defending the doctrine that the dead sleep, declared to his papist opponent: “Ye, in putting them [departed souls] in Heaven, hell, and purgatory, destroy the argument wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection.” “If the souls be in Heaven, tell me why they be not in as good case as the angels be? And then what cause is there of the resurrection?” 

     It is an undeniable fact that the hope of immortal blessedness at death has led to widespread neglect of the Bible doctrine of the resurrection. This tendency was remarked by Dr. Adam Clarke, who, early in the present century, said: “The doctrine of the resurrection appears to have been thought of much more consequence among the primitive Christians than it is now! How is this? The apostles were continually insisting on it, and exciting the followers of God to diligence, obedience, and cheerfulness through it. And their successors in the present day seldom mention it! So apostles preached, and so primitive Christians believed; so we preach, and so our hearers believe. There is not a doctrine in the gospel on which more stress is laid; and there is not a doctrine in the present system of preaching which is treated with more neglect!” 

     This has continued until the glorious truth of the resurrection has been almost wholly obscured, and lost sight of by the Christian world. Thus a leading religious writer, commenting on the words of Paul in 1Thessalonians 4:13-18, says: “For all practical purposes of comfort the doctrine of the blessed immortality of the righteous takes the place for us of any doubtful doctrine of the Lord's second coming. At our death the Lord comes for us. That is what we are to wait and watch for. The dead are already passed into glory. They do not wait for the trump for their judgment and blessedness.” 

     But when about to leave his disciples, Jesus did not tell them that they would soon come to him. “I go to prepare a place for you,” he said. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself.” [John 14:2, 3.] And Paul tells us, further, that “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.” And he adds, “Comfort one another with these words.” [1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.] How wide the contrast between these words of comfort and those of the Universalist minister previously quoted. The latter consoled the bereaved friends with the assurance, that, however sinful the dead might have been, when he breathed out his life here he was to be received among the angels. Paul points his brethren to the future coming of the Lord, when the fetters of the tomb shall be broken, and the “dead in Christ” shall be raised to eternal life. 

     Before any can enter the mansions of the blest, their cases must be investigated, and their characters and their deeds must pass in review before God. All are to be judged according to the things written in the books, and to be rewarded as their works have been. This Judgment does not take place at death. Mark the words of Paul: “He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained: whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” [Acts 17:31.] Here the apostle plainly stated that a specified time, then future, had been fixed upon for the Judgment of the world. 

     Jude refers to the same period: “The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the Judgment of the great day.”  And again he quotes the words of Enoch: “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all.” [Jude 6, 14, 15.] John declares that he “saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened;” “and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books.” [Revelation 20:12.] 

     But if the dead are already enjoying the bliss of Heaven or writhing in the flames of hell, what need of a future Judgment? The teachings of God's Word on these important points are neither obscure nor contradictory; they may be understood by common minds. But what candid mind can see either wisdom or justice in the current theory? Will the righteous, after the investigation of their cases at the Judgment, receive the commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” ”enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” [Matthew 25:21, 41.] when they have been dwelling in his presence, perhaps for long ages? Are the wicked summoned from the place of torment to receive the sentence from the Judge of all the earth, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire?” [Matthew 25:21, 41.] Oh, solemn mockery! shameful impeachment of the wisdom and justice of God! 

     The theory of the immortality of the soul was one of those false doctrines that Rome, borrowing from paganism, incorporated into the religion of Christendom. Martin Luther classed it with “the numberless prodigies of the Romish dunghill of decretals.” Commenting on the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes, that the dead know not anything, the reformer says: “Another proof that the dead are insensible. Solomon thinks therefore, that the dead are altogether asleep, and think of nothing. They lie, not reckoning days or years, but when awakened, will seem to themselves to have slept scarcely a moment.”  

     Nowhere in the Sacred Scriptures is found the statement that the righteous go to their reward or the wicked to their punishment at death. The patriarchs and prophets have left no such assurance. Christ and his apostles have given no hint of it. The Bible clearly teaches that the dead do not go immediately to Heaven. They are represented as sleeping until the resurrection. [1 Thessalonians 4:14; Job 14:10-12.] In the very day when the silver cord is loosed and the golden bowl broken, [Ecclesiastes 12:6.] man's thoughts perish. They that go down to the grave are in silence. They know no more of anything that is done under the sun. [Job 14:21.] Blessed rest for the weary righteous! Time, be it long or short, is but a moment to them. They sleep, they are awakened by the trump of God to a glorious immortality. “For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible. . . . 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.” [1 Corinthians 15:52-55.] As they are called forth from their deep slumber, they begin to think just where they ceased. The last sensation was the pang of death, the last thought that they were falling beneath the power of the grave. When they arise from the tomb, their first glad thought will be echoed in the triumphal shout, “O death, where is thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory?” [1 Corinthians 15:52-55.] 

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