<< PARADOX XI: Man’s Resurrection in his Spiritual Body >>
For I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
And though after my skin, worms destroy this body,
yet in my flesh shall I see God.—Job, xiv., 25, 26.
Now this I say, brethren, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom God;
neither does corruption inherit incorruption.—1 Corinthians, xv., 50.
THE real Christian has no fear of death. But I venture to assume if the question were put to the first ten thousand persons whom we should meet who bear the Christian name, we should find that with nine thousand nine hundred and nine-nine of the number the fear of death is one of the most serious of fears they have. It would seem to follow from this, that we are in a condition exceedingly distant from that which was intended to be brought about by real Christianity.
The fear of death may perhaps arise not altogether from a sense of sin. There is a fear always of that which is mysterious and unknown. That of which we have no clear conception we contemplate with uneasy feelings. It is quite possible that many thoughtful and earnest souls would fear death less, if they but understood better the real character of both life and death. They would have more trust, more of that sense of security which our Lord evidently intends to give to us all when He says Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. John xi., 26.
Let me ask, what is death? According to the ordinary conception it is a cessation of life, followed by man knows not what. It is regarded in a state of most anxious apprehension, as a condition from which most persons shrink. The legislators of this and most other countries act on the conviction that death is the most terrible punishment which the law can inflict.
They put their worst criminals to death. Yet nothing can be truer than the declaration which our Lord made from time to time, that in reality, the true man, the real Christian, the angel-minded man, never does die at all. Whosoever keepeth my sayings, the Lord Jesus says, shall never see death. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood shall never die, but shall have eternal life, and so in a great variety of other declarations. The truth which is unveiled to us in the Sacred Scriptures, is, that although we are changing our mortal covering every moment, and at length we throw it off altogether, the man never dies. He passes from this sense below to a higher and nobler sense in the eternal world, to live more, not to live less. That this is really the doctrine of the Sacred Scriptures, you will find from end to end of the hallowed Book. At the commencement of Revelation it is true that Adam was told Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return, but this is evidently spoken only of that which is dust, the body. The outward form is dust, and returns to dust. The same idea is given in another part of the Scripture when it is said that the dust shall return to the earth whence it was, and the spirit to God who gave it. This is the doctrine of the whole Scripture.
We pass from this intimation to the first of whom death is predicated at all, and we come to that declaration to which our Lord refers when speaking of the Resurrection, namely, the declaration that was made to Moses in the wonderful scene at the bush. Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; for He is not a God of the dead but of the living, for all live unto him. The very language in which death is applied to patriarch after patriarch in the early histories of the Divine Word would evidently give this idea. It is said of very few of them that they died; if the term death be mentioned in relation to one it is immediately added He was gathered to his people. Abraham, it is said, was gathered to his people, the same is said of Isaac, and the same is said of Jacob—He was gathered to his people. Thus only taking notice of the real man, of that which consisted of affections, and thoughts, and energies; that which gave life to the body, for the body never was the man, never was the real being, but only his covering useful for this world, but incapable of entering the other. When you come to the book of Job you will find that the same idea, is recognized from time to time, throughout the Book. There is a very early instance of it in the 7th chapter, where it is said in the 19th verse:–How shall they do that live in houses of clay. Where the description of the immortal man is not that he is a house of clay, but that he lives in a house of clay. A little higher up in the chapter it is written As the cloud is consumed and vanished away. So he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more, he shall no more return to his house; he shall no more be found in his field. That which goes down to the grave was merely the cast off covering of the man; merely the house of clay in which he lived; a house that hid been perpetually renewed, but was now left behind. Job elsewhere teaches that it is the real man, the immortal soul in a spiritual form that quits the body at death to enter a world new to us, but from which he will never return. Thus he refers to his departure. Before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death.–Job xi., 21. Again, when a few years are come then I shall go the way whence I shall not return.–Job xvi., 22.
Of the body, he says again As the waters fall from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up so man lieth down, and riseth not till the heavens be no more. They shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.Job xiv., 11, 12.
Till the heavens be no more, was a Hebraism for that which should never happen.
So that Jobs full doctrine, was, that when the spiritual man left his body, he entered into another world, whence he would never come back and his bodily form would mingle with his native dust, never to rise again, for him.
It is one of the interesting facts of mans physiology that every moment–not every day or month, or year only, but every moment–active changes are going on in the human body. At the beginning of each year a mans body is far different from what it was at the beginning of the year before.
Every breath we draw, every portion of food we eat, every hour we live, there is a certain change going on, so that when we all separate this evening after our discourse is completed, we shall none of us go away with precisely the same body with which we entered this church. There is a curious little fact that tends to illustrate this. It may not have been remarked by every one, at least of the younger portion of my auditory. It is this. The pauses between one breath and another are different in length. When we breathe in, we almost immediately breathe out again, having made a very slight pause. But, before we take another breath, we pause twice as long. The reason of this is evident. The breath comes out loaded with cast off material which has been turned out of the blood in the lungs, and by this beautiful law of Divine Providence we wait after the breath has gone one, until this poisoned air has passed away, then we breathe in fresh air again, and so we proceed every moment. Every breath is thus a medium of continual change, so that this house of clay, this material structure in which we live, uses a vast stock of matter. If all were gathered together that we have made our own, and then put off from the first breath of childhood down to our expiring breath, we should have accumulated a mass equal to more than twenty bodies. This makes no difficulty to one who believes Job, that he who goeth down to the grave shall come up no more. But to one who thinks that the body must rise again, the difficulty is serious, indeed. Is all that has been a mans body to be raised up. If all, what a mass he will be? If only some, which part, and why a part only. Will it be the first complete body, or the second, or the middle one, or the last? The last, we must remember, is the most imperfect of all. Nay, the fact is, some people never have had a complete to body during their whole life. They are born without eyes, without arms, or without legs: they have only an incomplete body. Although they have change going on, there is never a complete form during the whole period of their existence. If the resurrection body is to be as the old writers used to express it, precisely the same body, such a parson as I described would have to remain a mutilated man to all eternity. All these difficulties come from confounding between the body and the man, between the bark and the tree. All nature, however, as well as all Scripture, illustrates the true doctrine of the resurrection.
Take the caterpillar and the butterfly. Every one knows that the caterpillar leads its little obscure life on its leaf. There it creeps and eats, lives and dies to all appearance. But it is only the outside case that dies, It breaks open in the spring, then comes forth in far more beautiful form, the representative of the risen soul. This higher being was within the other. Thus, too, with a seed; there is the outer part, and the inner life. The Apostle Paul puts it thus, and expressly likens it to man and his body. The body thou sowest is not the body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain, but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.–1 Corinthians, xv., 37, 38. From all this, we learn that man is an immortal being, tenanting for a time moral body. Divine Providence places him here, and when he has finished his career, he goes into the more perfect world with a more perfect body, never to return.
But then comes the question, what then does Job mean in the language of our first test, language which is familiarized to every one by its being used at the ordinary funeral-service. Yet, as we have seen, the doctrine of the Book of Job appears to be exceeding different from what the passage expresses. In fact, we venture upon the bold assertion that when the Book of Job was written, there was no one in the whole world that thought even of such a thing as the earthly body being raised into the eternal world. This Book of Job is believed by many, perhaps by most learned commentators, to be one of the oldest, if not the very oldest, in the sacred Scriptures. The early parts of the Book of Genesis are, doubtless older but this book is far earlier than the time of Moses. It was a book of the church, that existed before the Israelitish dispensation. And, at the time of the ancient church, before the patriarchal times, no one thought of the resurrection of the body. Even, at the present day by far the largest portion of the inhabitants of the world never dream of the resurrection of the earthly body. Indeed if we bear in mind that this book relates to a period of a very ancient time, and that such a thing had never been mentioned in any revelation, or hinted even in the hieroglyphics of Egypt; that this passage in the Book of Job is the first in which people suppose anything was said of the resurrection of the material body, it would be for thoughtful men to ask, whether they think such a doctrine would be introduced in this particular language and at that particular time in the worlds history, not as a revelation, but as an incidental expression!
But no! Job in reality said nothing about the resurrection of the body. Regard the passage attentively. The words worms and body make us think of the grave, where the body is associated with the worms. But worms is not properly in the test at all. It is in italics. And you know those words were placed in italics by the translators, which were not in the original test, and do not properly belong to the Bible. Destroy this body–yes body a person may say body is there. But it is not. Body is in italics also. The passage has nothing to do either with worms or body. But then perhaps a person may think it has some relationship to the supposed last day in which bodies are to be raised again, because in the verse going before, it says I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he will stand at the latter day upon the earth. But day is in italics. Thus you perceive that all those words which seem to imply that after the body has been buried it will be raised at some period; all these words are really in italics, they are not in the Scripture at all. And, to read the passage correctly, you must read it without them. You will find then that all the passage states is, that Job was in the greatest possible distress. He lied been suffering with great anguish in a body worn by ulcers and almost wasted away with great anxiety of mind. He was permitted by Divine Providence to be tried to the utmost in order that it might be seen how man could be purified and chastened by sorrow and affliction, and be prepared for a higher life and for greater blessing. This is the object of the whole Book of Job, and what he announces is this, that he had now scarcely anything left but his skin, nay, he says a little earlier that he has only escaped by the skin of his teeth. But yet he had faith in the Lord, and hope that after his skin was bone, he would still be safe. Destroy this, he says, whatever was under the skin, and yet in my flesh I shall see God. That is to say, before I die, I shall see God. God will appear, and vindicate, and deliver me, yet, while I am in my flesh.
The latter day, that is spoken of, does not mean latter end of the earth, but the latter end of Job, the latter end of his trial. This hope of his was fulfilled. The Almighty appeared to him. At the xlii. Chapter, the 5th verse, we have these remarkable words, after Job held submitted himself and acknowledged the Divine mercy in every way:I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee. The very thing that he said would come to pass had been realized. He was able to see God as his deliverer while he was yet alive. And, in a subsequent verse, it is said, God blessed his latter end more than his beginning, for He gave him twice as much as he had before, and thus manifested that the Divine benediction was upon him.
In this way you will perceive there is no strange doctrine introduced here. The strange words of the translators are alone responsible for a doctrine which has no warrant in eternal truth.
In the New Testament, the teaching both of our Lord and His Apostles, is in harmony with the plain declaration of our second text: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. We say. How can it? The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom; it is a kingdom of thought, of mind, of principle; it is the life-word, and how can flesh and blood enter into a world of mind? You might just as well suppose that the arm may enter into the thought. Matter cannot enter into mind.
It will be well also to notice the word inherit; it is not said cannot go into the kingdom of God. The teaching of Scripture is, that the man is raised–the immortal man, when we put off our outward fleshly covering, advancing to the brighter and better world. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. We have said, mark the word inherit, for the notion to which I have been referring is, that the bodies are to be brought up again, and then they are to be made spiritual, and they are to go then into the kingdom of heaven. But man has a spiritual body now, and if the material body were to be raised up, and then to be made spiritual, he would have two spiritual bodies.
The earthly body is to be changed, it is said, at the resurrection day.
What is meant by changing? When I change sixpence I mean that I put away the piece that I had, and I not six other pieces instead. But if a body is to be brought up and then to be changed, why that is only bringing it up and then putting it away again; putting it away and getting another instead. Why not have the other at first? Why bring this body up, and then change it? Bring it up, and put it down.
Besides, if the body attained the privilege of entering heaven in its changed state, that would be inheriting the kingdom of God. When we say a person inherits something, me mean that he had it not before, but that he comes into possession of it. The Apostle does not say that flesh and blood cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he sags it cannot INHERIT the kingdom of heaven. Thus, it is not only not immortal now, but it cannot ATTAIN immortality. It not only cannot go into the kingdom of heaven as it is, but cannot in its own nature be made to inherit the kingdom of God. Besides, why go the roundabout way of getting the material body up out of the grave, and then dissolving it, and getting another–a spiritual body–instead, when we have a spiritual body now? The spiritual body, before regeneration, is the same as the carnal mind, and is the body dead in trespasses and sins, which has to be quickened.–Eph. ii., 1, 5. It is the body of sin, the old man;Roman vi., 6, the body of death,Rom. Vii., 24; the body dead, because of sin,Rom. viii., 10; the vile body, to be made into the likeness of the Lord’s glorious body.–Phil. iii., 25. The resurrection of this body, is its transformation by the power of the Word, and the co-operation of faith and love, into the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.–Eph. iv., 24. The corrupt mind (ver. 33.) is the corruptible which shall put on incorruption, the mortal (or deathly) which shall put on immortality. And, if we have done this, at the last, when nature ceases with us, the voice of heaven like a trumpet call will raise us to life, as in the twinkling of an eye, full of immortality and blessedness. Death is swallowed up in victory.
The Apostle said he died daily,–l Cor. xv., 13; and so must we die daily to sin if like him, by any means me may attain to the resurrection of the dead.–Phil. iii., 11.
The death and resurrection to be attained during our life in the world, are the things indispensable to us all. He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not came into condemnation, but is PASSED from DEATH TO LIFE.–John v., 24.
The great philosopher Locke remarked to Bishop Stillingfleet, (against whom he maintained the doctrine which we are now setting forth, that the resurrection of the same body was never asserted in Scripture), It does seem to be impossible for anything to come out of the that was not in it. But, earthly bodies, when the souls) have left them, are immediately subjected to the operation of the general laws of nature, and are very rapidly disorganized, and ultimately take their place in the general elements of nature. The gases composing them, pass into new forms, so that the same matter becomes part of vegetables, animals, human bodies again, and again and again. They enter into our harvests, and then into our food, and then into bodies, afterwards into the earth, and so on. So, that in a century after death, speaking in general terms, the whole mass of human bodies, is dispersed into its essential elements. The bodies as a rule are no longer in the graves at all. And if they are not in the graves they cannot be brought out of the graves.
And, so we may see how clearly the Divine Providence, in His wondrous laws of nature, has shown that the matter of dead bodies is not wanted, out of which to make spiritual bodies. And why? Because spiritual things have their own body. There is a spiritual body. The soul itself is in a spiritual body now.
The apostle Paul so clearly and directly teaches the whole doctrine of mans spiritual resurrection, in the chapter before us, that it is wonderful that any Christian should have overlooked it. In fact, it never would have been overlooked, only that some nations, in the decline of their spiritual nature, turned all spiritual views into carnal things.
The Babylonians, who had been fond of spiritual and symbolic teaching in their early days, a few centuries before Christ, became carnal and natural, changing their heavenly ideas into earthly ones. They had known that love in the early and pure times of their church was a spiritual fire, and that the Lord Himself was a spiritual sun. But as they became carnal they turned the idea of the spiritual sun into that of the earthly sun, and became sun-worshipers.
They turned the idea of spiritual fire into that of natural fire; and so they made flames in t heir temples, thought these were holy, and kept them constantly burning. So, likewise, they turned spiritual bodies into natural bodies when they again, first had its rise among these people, the ancient Babylonians, in their period of degeneration. The Jews, when they went as exiles into Babylonia, learned it from them, as they learned many other carnal and idolatrous notions from other Gentile nations. It was not from Divine revelation, but from Babylonish tradition, and Babylonish superstition, that the doctrine had its rise.
The apostle Paul went through the whole doctrine again. Beginning at the 33rd verse of this chapter, he said, after speaking about the resurrection of man and showing that the Lord in this, as well as in everything else, led the way to renewed certainly on this subject, by his own triumph over death, he observes, Some men, will say how are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come? Here, you see, he clearly distinguishes between the dead themselves, and the bodies of the dead. How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come? To talk of wanting the earthly body up again, at some future time, was so very strange a notion, one that the Apostle evidently thinks so extravagant, that he applies to it very vigorous language. He says Thou fool, to a person asking what body a man is to have? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is NOT THE BODY THAT SHALL BE. Well, but that is the very idea that many persons have been so anxious to maintain. The body they now have is the body that shall be. The Apostle says, IT IS NOT.
Indeed, if that which we sow, that which we put into the earth were the body that shall be, why put it into the earth at all? Why not take it with us? The Apostle states the analogy thus, Thou fool, the body then sowest is not the body that shall be, but bare grain; it may chance of wheat or of some other grain; and God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. That is to say, the human soul is precisely like the life in the seed. You place a seed in the ground, there is the life, and there is a body that covers it. The body, the outside substance of the seed, begins to corrupt and not directly.
But, within, the life clothes itself with a new form. The outward husk dies off, and becomes a part of the earth around, but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him. It is just the same with man. There is the soul in the body. The body is its clothing. It is the husk of the man. The husk perishes. The man himself rises in his own body, that is to say, THE SPIRITUAL BODY; the embodiment of his love, his thoughts, his purposes, his virtues, if he has been a good man; and thus he is as beautiful as he has been good. He is ugly as his vices if he has been a bad man. God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. It is the mans own form; what he has been making himself to be from the time when he began to determine his character. If he has been a noble, thoughtful, wise, loving man, then within the outward covering there has been induced a noble, heavenly, gentle, loving form. This inner form has gradually shone more and more through the covering of clay, and at length stands out when that covering is put away in all the beauty of an angel, God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
And, then, supposing some person to ask, But how is this? The Apostle goes on to illustrate it. He says it is not a matter for wonder. There are different kinds of bodies. There are terrestrial bodies, he says, i. e., earthly bodies; and bodies celestial, i. e., heavenly bodies. There are different kinds of flesh, even in this world. There is one flesh, he says, of birds, another of beasts, another flesh of fishes. He says, there are different kinds of glory; there is one glory o the sun, there is another glory of the moon, and there is another glory of the stars. So is the resurrection of the dead. When we pass into the eternal world, we take a body fitted for that world; we leave the outward body that is no longer needful, but we have a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.ver. 44.
The Apostle teaches the same doctrine in the second epistle to the same people, the Corinthians. At the beginning of the fifth chapter, you will find he takes up the subject again, and says, We know that if the earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, WE HAVE a building of God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.–ver. 1. Not, we shall have, but WE HAVE.
If the earthly house, that is, the earthly body, be dissolved, we have a heavenly body. And he says that he desires to be clothed upon with his body that is from heaven; he wishes no longer to be cabined and confined by this earthly matter; he longs to go into the world where his spirit can ultimate all that he loves. Here, although the body serves a glorious purpose upon earth, yet we are just like people that live in small cottages, we have to do our work and to bring forth the various purposes of our constant life, but under limited conditions. This is only the place of our training and experimentalizing. The same wise Providence that ordained us to be born little babies, ordained us to be born in earthly, confined bodies. Every one will see what an extremely awkward thing it would be if, with our inexperience and unwisdom, we had been born six feet high. If, with the waywardnesses of the child, we had the strength of the man, how little should we have been able to acquire genially and kindly all those laws of heavenly wisdom and goodness which our mothers teach us, and which help us to be gradually trained to be more thoughtful, as men, before we have the power of men. It is just the same with us in our spiritual being. We are here in order that we may learn to be angels first, in all the little, comparatively little, exercises of human life. We should learn to love God and to love our neighbor, and bring ourselves into obedience to the laws of order, and then pass into the eternal world. We are to live in a world of mind; where every love can go out and find its words and its works, and all its circumstances in complete harmony with itself. Here we all feel that we are confined by the laws and circumstances of the body. The mind is always far beyond what the body is. Who is there that has not found a hundred and a thousand times that while he has had a strong wish to bring out some truths that have glanced into his mind, and which he perceives, he has not got words wherewith to express himself. He can think a grand idea, but he cannot yet utter it. It is just the same with purposes. We can intend great things; we can earnestly desire them; but as yet we cannot bring them into act; we can neither express nor do the hundredth part of what we wish. We are here in training; and if we are trained to have an angels love and an angels thought when we pass into the other world, we shall have an angels power, an angels wisdom, and an angels form, and not till then.
The bad man is cabined also by various hindrances that keep him bound in various ways. He cannot bring out half or a thousandth part of the vice that is in him. Hence the importance of taking care that this life witnesses his conversion and regeneration.
The angel has no thought but what he can express, no purpose but what he can work out, no object but what he can ultimate and diffuses around. The Lord will say to every good man, Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make the ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. The good man has, by the Lord’s help, been faithful over a few things. He has been faithful as far as he could over the inward motives and purposes of his heart and mind; he has complained when he has desired to do good that he has had so little power. He has not had money, not had influence enough. But in the other life, world of mind, all these things will be in perfect order. His face, his form, his hands, his home, his whole circumstances, everything, will express the real character of his disposition. He will have a palace, just the representative of himself, as beautiful as he is good. All around him, his thoughts and affections will be represented in forms of loveliness. He will be able to do whatever he wants to do. There, other minds will be responsive to his mind; there, substance will be plastic to his will and thought; he will be made ruler over many things; all things, in fact, will be given him by the Lord richly to enjoy, so that he will be perfect without, as well as perfect within.
Let us, then, take this glorious doctrine, and animate one another with the feeling that when we pass away from earth, we are not going to non-existence, nor half-existence. We are not going to inhabit the clay of the grave, to be food for worms, it is only what we cast off that does this.
When Socrates was about to die, and he had many of his friends around him, great numbers of them spoke of the sorrow that they would experience, but of the great care that they would take of him after death, he said, Oh, but you must catch me first. The great law respecting the good is that proclaimed by the angels at the Lord’s grave, He is not here, he is risen. The flesh and blood left behind,–the outward form, are not the man. He is not here, he is risen.
You look, it may be, at the graves of those you value, because the body is there in which your loved ones dwelt, but do not suppose that they are there now. They are not here, they are risen. Angels have been near you all your life; never fear when death comes, they will not forsake you. There is only one death you need to fear, and that is, dying to goodness, to wisdom, to faith, and to love. Be careful that righteousness does not die with you. As to everything else, we never do die. We live more and more by every glorious purpose, by every advance in the regenerate life. Our youth is renewed like the eagles. The appearance of decay in old age is not a decay in anything of a heavenly character. We decay in the remembrance of words sometimes, for words are losing their value to us: we are rising to ideas. We decay in the knowledge of outward facts, in the power of doing many physical things, because our life is drawing inwards. We are soon coming to have nothing to do with the world in any way. It is with us as it is with corn. As its blade grows up at first young in the field, it has the outside full of vigor; the stem stands upright, but there is little in it. As the plant ripens, the pith and substance gather within, and form a bulb in the center, full of nutriment and full of use. The outside becomes shriveled, weak, and dry, ready to be put away as chaff. Well, let it be put away,–the ripened corn is gathered into the barn, and goes to feed, to comfort, and to bless mankind. So is life in us. In youth our outside life is vigorous, in age the hair may whiten, the cheek may be wrinkled, the outward form be less and less, but if we have been going on in real love to God and love to man, in true effort constantly to become more and more heavenly, our youth is renewed, real wisdom, real faith, real firmness in what is good, real angelic beauty, become more and more developed within us until the time comes that our companion angels beckon us hence. The death we thought was a skeleton about to strike us with his spear, is really a herald of heaven about to touch us with his scepter. He says, Come up hither. Like the Lord to His dying companion on the cross, it will be said to you, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. Luke xxiii., 43. The dim atmosphere of nature opens, and we behold angelic faces, we enter angelic company, and hear the angelic song, Oh death where is thy sting? oh grave where is thy victory?
Author: Jonathan Bayley—Scripture Paradoxes -Their True Explanation (1868)