(The following is the last article Elder Lester ever wrote and most appropriate since a short while thereafter he answered the call to enter eternal rest.)
I have been requested to write on the subject of the resurrection of the dead. I say of the dead, none but the dead are comprehended in this subject. Some of our able brethren north of us treat upon the subject entirely as to how it is with those who are dead, and not as to how it is with the living, for the living have never entered into the state of death but they are subjects of time and are vitally affected by the things of time and not of eternity, while the entity of the dead has passed from time into eternity, therefore the real existence or entity is in eternity while the dead in their natural condition are yet in time buried here in the earth, and as such know not anything, and we do not understand in their entity they are aware of the passing events in time. Therefore in this separated condition we do not seem to know anything In the sense that we are dead; hence Paul says “behold I show you a mystery, we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” How long is this? It is so short it is immeasurable. That is how long we do not sleep yet we do sleep, in some sense. “Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” and they shall not be prevented by those of us who are alive and remain; and we shall be changed, resurrected and caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Our hope comprehends this blessed estate, not the grave but with the Lord in the air, in the spirit. “This mortal must put on immortality” and “this corruptible must put on incorruption” so when this shall have taken place “then shall have been brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” When does this take place? Thigs are brought to or come to pass in time when we shall find that we are more than conquerors over death and the grave and mortality is swallowed up of life; and we are with the Lord and so shall we ever be.
One says “all my appointed time will I wait till my change come.” Till the resurrection comes. That is what it means, a change. It is sown a natural body, and it is raised a spiritual body.
It is a common thought with our people that when one dies his spirit goes to God and we bury the body, but in the resurrection the spirit comes back and reunites with the body and both go on to heaven together, but I do not find such scripture in the book. (The italics are our's. R.L.D.) Our existence is a mystery and can not be explained. I am not attempting to explain it in these thoughts but rather show that I do not know anything about it really, but as we preach the wisdom of God in a mystery so I write. I hope that the hearts of some of our readers might be comforted to some degree at least.
There is a difference from the way we look at the resurrection and the way it really is. There is a difference from the way that Christ was raised up and the way His people are. He lay in the grave and saw no corruption while they are corruption itself, and His resurrection proves that the dead are raised up. When Christ died the bodies of many of the saints arose from the dead and came out of their graves after His resurrection. They arose when he died and came forth after he arose; His death was their life and His ascension was their resurrection. He was not a pattern for their resurrection but He was it. “In am the resurrection and the life. If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me.” The substance or virtue of His entity, His divinity draws His people from the grave, they hear His voice and they come forth, at the present time and in time to come. We know that we, like a corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die else we abide alone. God has ordained it that we die and has made the act of death the swallowing up of life. In this figure we find we die as we live or as the powers of death are being enforced in us at the same time the virtues and powers of life are being wrought in us. God has set seed time and harvest time and we know these are and that they must come in their own order. The good farmer prepares the soil as fallow ground and at the proper time and manner he breaks up this fallow ground and works it down so as to create and hold the season for germination of the seed and he sows the wheat into the ground and the season, the moisture, heat and other qualities take hold upon and destroy it in a sense but he looks for a great transformation, first the blade then the stalk and finally the full ear on the stalk. Paul knowing that some fool would want to know how the dead are raised up and with what body do they appear and he refers him to sowing the wheat a thing that he knows.
God is a great husbandman; He farms creation, we see or read how He prepared everything for His work. He made all manner of life to bring forth after its kind and He made man, and while He made him of the earth in common with everything else yet he was of a different substance, and He commanded him to multiply and replenish the earth. And He made a helpmeet for him whereby he should multiply. He planted him in the garden of Eden but He did not fence the garden; He did not clothe the man and his helpmeet but left them in the innocence of their nature and nakedness and the devil was in the garden, and they being susceptible of his influence he approached them in such a form and manner as to corrupt their morals, and lust which is of the devil had its conception, and he destroyed their innocence and multiplication set up and came into the family. This was God's way of multiplying without regard to His divine purpose in the election of grace. We are not to understand that the wisdom and eternal purpose of God so ram ahead as to provide the election of grace and in order to its utility so arranged to bring man into a state of sin and death as to need the election and salvation of grace. The affairs in the garden of Eden were to accomplish for which man was made to multiply and replenish the earth. The first man Adam was of the earth earthy, the second man Adam was the Lord from heaven. The things of the first man are incidental to the things of the second man, but they do not lead up to them, but those of the second man go back to those of the first man. It seems that while Christ was in the grave He went and preached to the spirits that were in prison. Salvation flowed out from the cross or from the grave of Christ, back to the former sea and forth to the hinder sea. The former subjects of grace are not made perfect without the latter. “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation;” not yesterday, not tomorrow, but now. I am He that was dead and am alive and behold I live forever.
We note that as the corn of wheat was dying it was living, the virtues that brought about its death brought about its life. It roots downward and springs upward and brings forth fruit. Its association is consequent upon its dying rather than upon its living and yet we live because He lives. We do not live to die but we die to live. “If we be dead with Him we shall also live with Him.” Therefore as we die we begin to live. If man dies shall he live again? We die to the grave but we live unto God. Though our flesh be devoured yet in it we shall see God. Our friends come and spread flowers upon our grave but if we have died in hope we do not need those flowers we know nothing of. We are not there, our entity is with God. It must be in the grave or with God. If with Him we are resurrected from the grave. We come into our living entity. But in our mortal state or condition we have answered the sentence, “Dust thou art and unto dust shall thou return;” and none but the poet has said that this dust shall be bidden to rise.
It is a common belief among us that we shall rise from the grave. That is the best we can do with such a mystery. You ask me where we buried my mother and I can show you the stones that mark her tomb, but you ask me where she is and my faith says she is in the Paradise of God, that her conscious existence is there an I in the final ending with her there will be nothing of her in the grave, for the grave shall give up its dead, death shall give up its dead. They that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God and shall come forth. That must be in the sense that the dead are in the grave at the time that is and is to come, which implies a mystery.
We must again refer to the corn of wheat that falls into the ground and dies. And we note that as it dies it lives and tho' it comes up yet it leaves its impress in the ground but it is not there. We look for it in the harvest. “Them which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him” and there they are ever with the Lord in the air and so shall they ever be with the Lord.
March 15, 1929.
P. G. LESTER
(Was Editor of Zion's Landmark)