Studies in Eschatology: Existence after Death
by Ulysses S. Bartz, A.M.
Pastor of the Hawthorn Avenue Presbyterian Church of Idlewood, PA.
The Abbey Press Publishers, 114 Fifth Avenue, New York, London, Montreal
1. A Study of Death 7
2. Immortality, in the Bible and Out 17
3. What do we know of the INtermediate State? 27
4. The Resurrection from the Dead 37
5. The Second Coming- The Judgment- The Millennium 49
6. Heaven: Where is it, and What will its occupations be? Recognition of Friends 62
7. Hell: Why is it, and What makes it? 75
1. A Study of Death
- 1. A Study of Death
- 2. Immortality, in the Bible and Out
- 3. What do we know of the Intermediate State?
- 4. The Resurrection from the Dead
- 5. The Second Coming — the Judgement — the Millennium
- 6. Heaven: Where it is, and what will its occupations be? Recognition of Friends.
- 7: Hell: why is it, and what makes it?
“For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Gen 2:17
“Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned.” Rom 5:12
Quotations from the Bible are from the Revised Version.
In entering upon this series of discourses a few words by way of preface are in order. It should be borne in mind that these are admittedly difficult subjects, because of the obscurity necessarily surrounding them. The wise investigator will therefore speak in more guarded tones than would be necessary to employ in other departments of theological research. On many of the topics relation to eschatology, or existence after death and the end of the world, no consensus of opinion exists. In fact, this has been, generally speaking, the least discussed of all the great divisions of religous inquiry.
And yet none is, in its very nature, more interesting. If death ended all, there would be no room for such investigation as we have proposed. But our gospel according to Jesus Christ affirms and insists that death is not the end of the human existence, however muc it seems to be. Our Saviour clearly taught, if it be admitted that He clearly taught any thing, that it is possible to live after death. Hence two questions immediately arise: 1. Who will live after death? 2. What will be the essential nature and the attendant conditions of that existence? The natural desire which we have to live, coupled with the belief, apparently innate also, that something of us persists as immortal, invests these questions with the deepest and profundest interest. Therefore, even though little can be certainly known on these matters, we all want to know whatever can be ascertained.
Evidently the starting-point must be that change which sooner or later comes over a human being which we call death. From that point we date the “hereafter”. But we cannot pass on to discuss what follows death until we know what death itself is. If death is annihilation, nothing follows it. On the other hand, if it is not annihilation, neither is it continuance of present existence; and what, then, is it? This is the preliminary question to the two already mentioned; and to its answer we now address ourselves.
Because in death there is a cessation of this present existence which we call life, it is evident that death stands in direct contrast to life. This contrast is especially manifested in two respects to the beholder. In life there is motion, in death there is none; in life there is word-or sign-language; that is, communication of thought; in death this is impossible. Now, in these two elements of self-motion and communication of thought resides the fundamental conception of human life. Self-motion shows an object to have life, and the power of thought-expression indicates that the life is human.
But it must be borne in mind that these indications have reference to the beholder, and not to the living being himself. We know very well, each one for himself, that there may be thought without communication of it. You look upon a sleeping person, and the only evidence of life there to you is the breathing and the blood color. Yet you are assured that the mind still exists and acts, because you have risen from sleep with the consciousness of thought exercised by your own mind. Therefore you know that it is possible for the mind to act, even though no evidence of such acting could possibly be found by another person. In other words, there may be a mind consciously acting independently of any external evidence of it, either in voice or eye or gesture.
We thus distinguish between the fact of life and the motion of life which attests the fact to another. This will appear more clearly by the use of an illustration. A man man be so paralyzed that neither with hand nor with foot could he make a gesture — not the slightest movement in response to his will. Yet his personality is just as clearly in existence as ever, for he can converse as usual. But suddenly that paralysis might overtake the muscles of his throat, and his voice would be hushed. Still his life would be manifest through his eyes. He could not convey all his thought and feeling that way, it is true, but you would not for a moment doubt that he still had as much as ever. But suppose that his eyelids, too, closed down with that paralysis; can that one thing, which seems like death to you, any more end the existence of that mind than either of the preceding strokes? It is unreasonable to suppose so.
What then is that which we term human death? Simply the destruction of all the external evidences of the power of thought. There is no reason to believe that that power itself becomes extinct or ceases to act, but rather every reason to believe otherwise. The avenues of its communication with the material world are simply closed; that is all. It receives no knowledge from it and can give none to it. But it can work on within itself, just as it does during sleep, or while in a trance. Death is simply breaking the connection of the mind with the outer world by the dissolution of this organism, the body, by which the connection was made. The mind itself remains, capable of its own essential processes.
But why must this connection be broken?
12 Studies in Eschatology.
Since our minds delight in taking knowledge of and communicating with things apart from themselves — as evidenced by our dread of death — what unwelcome necessity makes the separation inevitable? In brief, why must the body wear out and be dissolved? Some have thought that it was mortal from the first. They point to the death of all plant life, and all animal life below man, and claim that he was never meant to be an exception. But this view does not harmonize with Gen. 2: 17: “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” — unless the word “die” be taken to refer only to spiritual death. That physical death is included, however, is shown in the curse pronounced upon Adam, “Till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.”
We conclude from this that mortality began to work in Adam and Eve from the very day they sinned. And because it wrought in them it continued to work in all their descendants, and still continues. As Paul says, in Rom. 5:12, “Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all
A Study of Death. 13
sinned.” Our bodies go to the grave because sin made them mortal. Had sin never been fastened upon us, we should have been exempt from death. How disease and accident and wearing out would have been avoided we do not know, and need not try to guess.
We have spoken of spiritual death. There is such a thing, and it was undoubtedly also in consequence of sin. But its real import is apt to be much mistaken. Let us bear in mind that physical death is simply the cessation of correspondence between the mind and the material world, by no means involving the annihilation of the mind itself. Then must spiritual death be simply the cessation of correspondence between that mind and the Spirit of God, but again by no means involving the annihilation of the mind. Hence a human being may go to both physical and spiritual death at the same time, and yet be as truly a personal, living being as when he was in the flesh. He is as far from annihilation, from ceasing to exist, as ever he was. Eternity is before him as really and consciously as if he were not spiritually dead.
In striking confirmation of this view of
14 Studies in Eschatology.
death, as we take it, is the remarkable saying of our Saviour on the occasion of His raising the daughter of Jairus. You remember that He rebuked the hired mourners by the statement, ‘The child is not dead, but sleepeth.”
The skeptic now would fain have us believe that the body was still alive, but those unbelievers knew better than that. But not perceiving the parabolic meaning, they laughed Jesus to scorn for His declaration. And what was that hidden meaning? That the child was still a living, personal, conscious being, though communication through her body with the world had ceased. And how did He prove it? By calling to her as a person, ”Damsel!” and by appealing to her conscious thought and memory, “Rise up.” He treated her, in other words, just as if she had been lying sleeping and He wished to rouse her.
So also He did Lazarus, having used a similar expression in regard to his death. When He said, “Lazarus!” He addressed a selfconscious personality. When He cried “Come forth,” He appealed to that person’s sense of position, and his memory of muscular action, and his will. All that was necessary was first
A Study of Death. 15
to stir the sleeping mind into full consciousness, and then it was ready to act as it had always acted when in the body.
Therefore death is a sleep in that the mind, when no longer associated with the body, is in that peculiar state of consciousness which characterizes a dream. It is not clear, definite, full, as it is in waking hours. But what it can do in a dream it can do after death. There is only this difference: that then it cannot receive knowledge from the outside world, for the cable is cut. It is shut up to its own acquired contents of memory to work upon.
And so it must remain until an Omnipotent voice shall summon it back to its tenement and put it once more in communication with the world of objective realities.
And so our beloved dead would better be termed our beloved sleepers. Those minds which we have come into loving, pleasure-giving contact with are still acting. Verily, verily they have not ceased to exist — they cannot cease. They are but asleep, they dream.
What occupies their thoughts, their dreams, must depend on what they thought of here in the flesh. We, too, shall sleep and dream.
1 6 Studies in Eschatology.
Having begun to exist, we can never stop.
The power of thought is indestructible. Then what shall be our attitude toward that which we call death? If our theory is correct, a single sentence will answer the question: what we are ever afraid to think of here, we shall be afraid to think of hereafter; if by the grace, the mercy, and the blessing of God there is nothing we are afraid to think of here, afraid to take account of before conscience, we need not dread the dreaming which inevitably awaits us.
Let us then, in the words of the poet Bryant,
”So live, that zvJicn thy summons comes to
join The innumerable caravan, that moves To the pale realms of shade, zvhere each shall take His chamber in the silent halls of death, Thou go not, like the quarry slave, at night Scourged to his dungeon; but, sustained and soothed By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave, Like one zvho wraps the drapery of his couch About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams,”