The Resurrection of Judgment
The Lord, in the 5th chapter of the Gospel of John, declares as distinct the "resurrection of life" and "the resurrection of judgment." I have before noticed that the word "damnation" in this place (as in ver. 24. the word "condemnation") is the ordinary word for "judgment."
Dr. Farrar, it is well known, has raised the question as to whether the former word and its cognates really occur at all in the New Testament. I should agree with him entirely in discarding them in favour of a consistent rendering of the Scripture words all through.* But he means that this should go a good deal further, and evidently to expunge, if possible, the thought of what we now mean by "damnation" from Scripture along with the word. But "damnation" is only eternal judgment, in the true (not his) sense of "eternal," and "eternal judgment" is asserted in the fullest way. And when he tells us that the "judgment of Gehenna" is "something utterly different from the "damnation of hell," we must entirely differ from him: but this will come up anon. The fact is that the unutterably solemn meaning now attaching to damnation has only grown out of the impression which that eternal judgment has made upon those who believed the Scripture statements.†
*In such passages as 1 Cor. xi. 29, 1 Tim. v. 12, Rom. xiv. 28, the ordinary rendering is impossible and misleading, as he rightly urges.
†Mr. Cox objects, that if any "take the ‘judgment' of God as equivalent to ‘damnation,' that can only be because they conceive of the divine judgments as though they were confined to the future life, whereas the Scriptures constantly affirm that God judges all men, good and bad, every day and all day long; and because they wholly misapprehend the character of the divine Judge and Father" (Salv. Mun., p. 51, Amer. edit.).
It is Mr. Cox who does not apprehend the difference between the judgment of the Father, now for our profit, and the judgment of the day in which "the Father judgeth no man." The two are contrasted by the apostle: "The time if come that judgment must begin at the house of God and, if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And, if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the sinner and the ungodly appear?" (1 Pet. iv. 17, 18; compare ch. i. 17, 18; John v. 22-24; 1 Cor. xi. 31, 32).
But God's judgment has with Mr. Cox no such meaning as would bring terror to an ungodly soul. Of a sensualist living prosperously in the world he asks, "Where is the judgment of God? Where is it? Why, there in the man himself, and in his base content with a lot so base"!
But in some places "damnation" is even inferior in force to that word "judgment," apparently so much less strong. In that before us for instance its use has obscured the solemn reality that none can come personally into judgment before God, except to be condemned. This is everywhere what Scripture asserts, and here with a force perhaps little less than that of any. For it is only "they that have done evil" who come forth to a "resurrection of judgment" at all. How plainly this should tell us that the saints cannot be numbered among those spoken of as raised for judgment according to their works before the "great white throne" (Rev. xx. 11-15).
Yet this very passage in the gospel has been assumed to prove a general resurrection of saints and sinners together, because it is said" the hour cometh in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth," etc.; while a simple comparison of three verses before this would demonstrate that the "hour" in which the Son of God has been quickening dead souls has lasted now eighteen hundred years* from the time He spoke. The Lord merely asserts here the general fact that all shall hear His voice, while He contrasts in the most absolute way the character of the two resurrections to which He summons them.
* written in the 19th centure
People imagine that but one obscure passage (which is not obscure however) in a book of visions is the only one which can be brought forward for a "first resurrection" of the righteous, whereas in fact almost every passage that speaks of resurrection infers it in some shape. There is even a special phrase for it, "the resurrection out from the dead" (ek nekros), as to which the disciples (who knew well the general truth of resurrection) inquired "what the rising from the dead should mean" (Mark ix. 10). It was of this special resurrection the Lord spoke, when in answer to the Sadducees He said that "they which shall be counted worthy to obtain that world" - the world to come - "and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage, neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels: and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection" (Luke xx. 34-36). How could people be "counted worthy" to obtain a general resurrection which no one can lose or be the children of God as being the children of a general resurrection?
Then again, where the apostle is expressly speaking of the order of the resurrection, he gives it as, "Christ the first fruits; afterward, they that are Christ's at His coming." What more misleading, if all were to rise at the same time?
Once more, in 1 Thess. iv. 16, when the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, we are told, "the dead in Christ shall rise first," then the living saints be changed, and all caught up together to meet the Lord in the air; and this before He appears to the world at all: for "when Christ who is our Life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col. iii. 4).
The passage in Revelation moreover is not obscure. We have a vision; then the interpretation of the vision. "I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls* of them that had been beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, nor in their hands, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again till the thousand years were finished." This is the vision: and so simple in character that the interpretation repeats much of it over again. "This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: upon such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years."
*Dr. Carson, in a violent attack, more suo, on pre-millennialism has urged against literal resurrection, that we cannot say, "the souls of" people, without meaning literal souls. But it is an entire mistake, as we have seen long ago. It is a very common Hebraism.
Thus the millennium is literally such, and the resurrection is literal, for these are given in the interpretation of the vision, not the vision itself. And, after the thousand years are over accordingly, we see the rest of the dead rise, and here plainly is the "resurrection of judgment," in which by that very fact the saints can have no part. All is thus consistent, clear, and intelligible. For all is true.
There is little said as to the resurrection of the unjust in Scripture. The fact is affirmed. The nature of it is nowhere spoken of. It would seem therefore the only possible thing to say nothing about it. But as Mr. Constable proclaims it a point "of prime consequence" to know the unrevealed, and has written rather a long chapter upon it in his work so often cited,* we must needs follow him into the darkness. His arguments apply so little really to the view of things which we have taken, that we need dwell comparatively on very few of them.
*Nature and Duration of Future Punishment, ch. viii.
He first of all professes his firm belief in the resurrection of the wicked, but holds that they are raised to die again. Here he is opposed to Scripture as we have seen. In Scripture resurrection is the final end of death, for "it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment." He, on the contrary, holds that the bodies of the wicked are raised, "still natural bodies as they were sown, resuming with their old life their old mortality, as such subject to pain, and as such sure to yield to that of which all pain is the symptom and precursor, physical death and dissolution." He rests this conclusion "mainly on the supposition that no change passes upon them at their resurrection... if no change passes upon them they must needs yield to the bitter pains which accompany the second death."
He urges that the "Augustinian theorists" admit this, and so have to affirm immortality and incorruption of the wicked as raised. They therefore have to apply the language of 1 Cor. xv., where the corruptible puts on incorruption and the mortal immortality, to the resurrection of the ungodly; and when asked upon what grounds they do so, they answer that there cannot be a resurrection without a change. This he disproves by referring to Lazarus and others, and as to 1 Cor. xv. insists that it applies only to the resurrection of the just.
He then turns aside for a short time to show that the resurrection of the just is the only one which is a fruit of redemption; and if Christ says, "I am the resurrection and the life," He thus proclaims Himself the source of the "resurrection of life" alone. Mr. Constable identifies then (as we have done) the resurrection from the dead with this, and further states that the quickening of the mortal body is exclusively confined in Scripture to the just, especially referring in proof to the "if" of Rom. viii. 11: "If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you." Thus "the resurrection of the just is the fruit of redemption: the resurrection of the unjust has nothing to say to it... Christ came to give no fatal gift which should force everlasting existence upon myriads who asked not for it, and would shun it with all their hearts."
Thus the resurrection of the wicked being no part of redemption, Paul could not, in 1 Cor. xv., include it at all. This he proceeds to prove at length, but, as we fully believe it, there is no need to follow him in his proof. He concludes that the change to incorruption in the case of the wicked is essential to the theory of everlasting misery; and, since there are no grounds for holding this change, the theory which requires it falls to the ground.
Thus an immense argument is built up upon the two props of ignorance and supposition. Mr. Constable occupies a number of pages with what we have reduced to perhaps three times the number of lines, for reasons already stated, but we have given the substance. There are two or three considerations which hinder our acceptance of his argument.
We grant fully that the resurrection of the just is distinct in character from the resurrection of the unjust; and that it is the former alone which is the fruit of Christ's redemptive work. We shall have more to say of this when we examine, as we hope to do, Mr. Birks' view. We fully believe also that the resurrection described in 1 Cor. xv, does not include in any way that of the wicked. "It is raised in power," "it is raised in glory," "it is raised a spiritual body," could not apply to any but "the just." Mr. Constable is wrong, however, upon one point: for the "change" the apostle speaks of is not said of the risen saints, but of those who are alive and remaining when Christ comes. "The dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we" - the living - "shall be changed. For this corruptible (applying to the dead) shall put on incorruption; and this mortal (referring to the living) shall put on immortality." Mortality cannot be affirmed of the dead, and here certainly, as in 1 Thess. iv. 16, 17, the two classes are recognized. The "change" applies to the living alone.
We dissent from Mr. Constable's view of the matter, in the first place, because his argument proves too much. If the wicked are to be raised in a condition of mortality, it is course impossible that they could exist forever, that is, in the body. But it is equally impossible that they could exist for "the ages of ages," as to which certainly Scripture affirms their torment. He must reduce these indeed to a minimum in order to harmonize them with his theory. Nay, more, a resurrection which is a mere restoration to a present condition involves certain things of which we must all be fully aware. It involves the being sustained by food to repair the continual waste of a corruptible body: and thus he might have forcibly urged that hell would be soon cleared by starvation, except upon the supposition of such a supply as we are certainly in no wise justified in making. In any way "ages of ages" must be a myth, a dream, an impossibility in the nature of things, as great as that of eternity itself.
But again, Mr. Constable's view ignores the true nature death, as I have shown it, a necessarily temporary provision in view of sin's entrance into the world, and to be finally done away, when "death and hades are cast into the lake of fire;" and also that "after death" is "the judgment." If death be this exceptional temporary thing, it is plainly a false view that the resurrection of the wicked even will be to a condition of mortality; or that, if not, it must be the fruit of redemption, and a work of grace inconsistent with eternal judgment. On the contrary, "a resurrection of judgment" it is expressly stated to be, and not grace, but the pursuance of the original creative plan, only suspended for a time and for a purpose.
This in no wise hinders the "resurrection of life" being due to Him who is "the resurrection and the life," for the "image of the heavenly," the likeness of Christ in which the saints are raised, is something immeasurably beyond what man naturally, if sinless, would have attained.
That there should be difficulties in connection with a subject of which Scripture says so little as it does about the resurrection of the unjust need not surprise us, and will not those who consider but the mysteries which surround our present life. It may be true that "incorruption" is not the state of the resurrection of judgment, and this not involve at all what annihilationists insist upon. We know too little to say much; but to bring our ignorance to bear against what is clearly revealed is at least wholly unjustifiable; and this is what Mr. Constable is doing in this case.
Mr. Hudson has somewhat upon this subject which while we are upon it we may briefly glance at. He says of the unjust -
"It is hard to believe that they are raised up by a miracle which ends in their destruction, or that accomplishes nothing but a judgment, which in this view must appear simply vindictive. If they have no immortality, why are their slumbers disturbed? But if their resurrection is connected with the redemption, by a law that finds illustration in analogous facts, this difficulty may be removed. Damaged seeds that are sown often exhaust themselves in germination. And we have noted the fact, that of insects which pass through the chrysalis state to that of the psyche or butterfly, many, from injuries suffered in their original form, utterly perish in the transition. Now the Glad Tidings of the Redemption, quickening and invigorating the soul with new life, may so far repair the injury done it in the fall, that even the unbelieving, who derive many benefits therefrom in this life, may not altogether perish in the bodily death. . . May not such truths, as food to the souls even of those who do not cleave to Him who is the Truth and the Life, cause death itself to be divided, as the proper effect and token of the Redemption? And for judgment, it is as if the unjust, hearing the voice of God in the last call to life, should be putting on a glorious incorruption, and should perish in the act."*
*Debt and Grace, pp. 368, 264.
This is a step beyond Mr. Constable, and it seems hard to understand how in this way the wicked rise at all. Certainly judgment upon these abortions would be scarcely possible. Nor is the resurrection of the wicked either an effect of redemption or a blighted natural process, but an act of divine power alone. It is "God who quickeneth the dead." Nor again does it appear on this ground how the heathen could ever rise. But it is useless taking up seriously what must be the idlest of speculations in the absence of revelation. They that have done evil will come forth to the resurrection of judgment. That is revealed; and that death will be over and ended when judgment begins and this alone completely negatives the conclusion of annihilationism.
|« Previous chapter||Next chapter »|