North Berwick, Maine.
DEAR KINDRED IN CHRIST JESUS: – The Holy Ghost affords strong consolation to the heirs of promise in the gospel of Christ. It is his covenant work to minister the consolations of Christ unto all who are Christ’s. They are called, the called of Jesus Christ, and in this fellowship and hope of their calling they are taught that they are but pilgrims and sojourners here in the world, and find their hearts inspired to look beyond the things of earth and time, even into eternity, for the consummation of their blessedness, of which by faith they have foretastes, in Christ Jesus. “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” – Psalms lxxiii. 24. And the apostle Paul at the finishing of his course exclaimed, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” – 2 Tim. iv. 8. This expectation of believers in Christ shall not he cut off, and their faith shall not be ship- wrecked, for it is the faith of God’s elect, of the operation of God; Christ is the author and finisher of it, and it overcomes the world, and we receive the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls. The chosen of God do not die in unbelief, they do not die in despair, they do not die without hope, for “the righteous hath hope in his death.” – Prov. xiv. 32. The good hope through grace sustains in the sacred moments of the dissolution of the body. Death is yours, O believer, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s, (1 Cor. iii. 21-23,) and in death we are not separated from the love of our God in Christ Jesus our Lord, (Romans viii. 38,) and this all the ransomed of the Lord shall prove. “These all died in faith.” – Heb. xi. 13. They yield up their spirit, as Stephen did, to the Lord Jesus, (Acts vii. 59,) and our spirit in departing from the body in death departs to be with Christ, which, saith the apostle, is far better. (Phil. i. 23.) “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” – 2 Cor. v. 8.
“As they draw near their journey’s end,
How precious is their heavenly Friend ;
And when in death they how their head,
He’s precious on a dying bed.”
The finished work of Christ is our soul’s anchor, sure and steadfast, entering into that within the vail, whither our Forerunner is entered, and all the redeemed, his followers, shall arrive there, too, to dwell with our dear Savior in eternal glory. So, dear children of God, we shall not be swallowed up in unbelief when we die. You will not depart in your sins, in hopeless despair; O no, for that would be to disannul the everlasting covenant of grace, ordered in all things and sure. Therein God says, “I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” – Jer. xxxii. 40. The believer in our Lord Jesus Christ lives whilst he is dying; he lives through all the ordeal of the dissolution of the body, the earthly house of this tabernacle, and when his body lies cold in death he lives. The shaft of death, which is by sin, cannot reach us in our life, which is hid with Christ in God. O, when the believer departs from this world and leaves “this trembling house of clay” his soul and spirit in departing are received by our covenant Head, Jesus Christ. Christ said unto Martha, “Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? This was not spoken of the bodies of believers, as the preceding verse shows: “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live;” meaning that the body, though” dead, should be raised up again, immortal and incorruptible, at the last day, as Jesus taught in John vi. 339, 40, 44, 54, and Martha believed. (John xi. 24-26.) But the soul does not sleep, or die, when the body dies. This our dear Savior has most explicitly taught us, saying, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Matt. x. 28; and in Luke xii. 4, 5: “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” He that believeth on Christ hath everlasting life. Our life is hid with Christ in God. Christ liveth in me, and I in him, and it is blessedly comforting to know that my life, founded in such relationship and unity with the incarnate Son of God, cannot be infringed upon or invaded by any death. Sin and death are in relationship to the first man Adam; but “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” – Psalms cxvi. 15. (I hope to trace a little later how and why this is precious.) Our bodies die. “The body without the spirit is dead.” – James ii. 26. So it is written, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” – Eccl. xii. 7. “The righteous perisheth [dieth], and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds [their bodies sleeping in the dust of the earth], each one walking in his uprightness.” – Isaiah Ivii. 1, 2. Their spirits are with Christ in paradise with God. “To-day shalt then be with me in paradise.” – Luke xxiii. 43. The martyr Stephen when dying exclaimed, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God; and they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge, and when he had said this he fell asleep, and devout men carried Stephen to his burial and made great lamentation over him. They did not bury his spirit with his body, for his spirit was not stoned by his persecutors; they could not kill his spirit. His spirit departed, and was received by the Lord Jesus. Stephen in his body is buried in the dust of the earth, and Stephen in his spirit is with Christ in heaven. How sacred is the narrative in Deut. xxxiv. 5, 6: “ So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in the valley in a land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.” ,We read in Jude, ninth verse, “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil, he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” But Moses’ spirit did not die in his departure from his body. No such thing is taught in the holy Scriptures as the sleep or death of man’s spirit when the body dies. Man’s spirit was not formed of the dust of the earth, and does not go with the body to the earth as it was, but is separated from the body in death. So we read of Jacob’s wife, Rachel: “It came to’ pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died,) that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin.” – Gen. xxxv. 18. And we read, Elijah “cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again. And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth.” – 1 Kings xvii. 21-23. “Her spirit came again.” – Luke viii. 55. So we find on the mount of transfiguration that, “Behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.” – Luke ix. 30, 31. When the incarnate Son of God, the Head of the church, gave himself a sacrifice for our sins, and he through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, he gave himself, in his manhood, soul and body, a sacrifice for the sins of his people. Thus we read, “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” – Isa. liii. 10-12. In 1 Peter ii. 24: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (See Heb. x. 5- 10; Col. i. 22.) Come, poor sinners, and behold Christ the Lord, the man of sorrows, in Gethsemane. O, there our Emmanuel exclaimed, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. He poured out his soul unto death, and “being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Thus in soul and body Christ once suffered for our sins, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. David speaketh concerning Christ: “I foresaw the Lord always before my face; for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” Read Acts ii. 23-36, and the Holy Ghost give you understanding. Christ upon the cross said, “It is finished,” and “with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost,” and there hung his sacred, holy body upon the cross in death. The human spirit of his verily human body, of the seed of Abraham, which the Son of God took upon him in his incarnation, departed, and thus our Lord Jesus Christ by the power of his own eternal Godhead gave up the ghost, lay down his life that he might take it again. “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” Only the God-man Christ Jesus could say this.
“Divinity back to his frame
The life he had yielded restored,
And Jesus entombed was the same
With Jesus in glory adored.
No nearer we venture than this,
To gaze on a deep so profound,
But tread, whilst we taste of the bliss,
With reverence, the hallowed ground.”
Shall we say the soul of Christ, which was not left in hell, and his spirit which he commended and gave up into the hands of the Father, that his soul and spirit slept in death after the crucifixion, during the time that his incorruptible body slept in death three days and three nights in Joseph’s new tomb, until the resurrection upon the first day of the week? Christ Jesus, our dear Redeemer, taught otherwise in his comforting answer to the crucified, dying thief. “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” – Luke xxiii. 43. This the apostle declares to be the third heaven. (2 Cor. xii. 2-4.) The Sadducees were veritable materialists, annihilationists, they knew not the Scriptures nor the power of God. They taught that when men died there was no more future being to them than there is to dead animals, birds of the air, creeping things and fishes of the sea. “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.” It was in relation to these matters that Paul cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the “dead I am called in question.” – Acts xxiii. 6-8. The elect and redeemed of the Lord are said when they die to “sleep in Jesus.” They are “fallen asleep in Christ.” They are the blessed dead which die in the Lord. They are described as the dead in Christ. “For 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” – 1 Thess. iv. 16-18. The elect of God during the time of their earthly sojourn are called unto the fellowship of God’s dear Son, and by the work of the Holy Spirit in their souls are joined to Jesus Christ, their living, heavenly, spiritual, new covenant Head. They are believers in Christ, and have everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but are passed from death unto life. They are in experimental vital union with Jesus. “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” – Eph. v. 30. And so they live by faith during their earthly pilgrimage in union with Christ, and in this relationship and order they die, they “sleep in Jesus,” to awake at the last trump, to arise to everlasting life, in the image and order of their Head, Jesus Christ, the last Adam, the Word made flesh, the Lord from heaven. “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order; Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s, at his coming.” With the ungodly, the nonelect, it is not thus. When they die they are not “fallen asleep in Christ,” they are unredeemed from their relation to and sin in the first man Adam, and die in their sins, in unbelief, in condemnation, under the curse of the law. Christ said, “I go my Way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.” “For if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” – John viii. 21, 24. In this order and relationship and image they die, and in this image they shall arise when the voice of the Lord shall call them forth from the graves to the resurrection of damnation, (John v. 29,) to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel xii. 2.) God shall despise their image, and these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal. (Matt. xxv. 46.) There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust, (Acts xxiv. 15,) and as a man dies so in the resurrection he shall arise, every man after his own order. All the elect of mankind are redeemed by Christ’s precious blood from the curse of the law. He, their new covenant Head, has put away their sins by the sacrifice of himself, they therefore do not (as unbelievers do) die in their sins. Christ is the author and finisher of their faith, all the ransomed church therefore die in faith. Christ “died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.” – 1 Thess.v. 10. “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” – Romans xiv. 8, 9. When Christ confuted the Sadducees he told them they knew not the Scriptures nor the power of God, and said, “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, [the Sadducees neither believing in the resurrection of the dead, nor in angel or spirit, taught that in death man’s being suffered annihilation] but of the living: for all live unto him.” – Luke xx. 37, 38. The Savior did not teach in this that the resurrection was consummated, past already with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for that would contradict several explicit testimonies of the Scriptures, and the Scriptures cannot be broken. Christ himself was yet to suffer, and to be the first that should rise from the dead. (Acts xxvi. 33.) Jesus Christ is the first begotten of the dead. He is the Head of the body, the church, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he might have the preeminence. The members of Christ’s body, the church, are not risen before himself, who is the Head of the church. This is not the order of the resurrection of Christ and the church. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward they that are Christ’s, at his coming. (1 Cor. xv. 23.) Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus. O believers in Emmanuel, are not our souls sometimes in earnest expectation of this glorious liberty and manifestation of the children of God? For it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we shall then be released from the bondage of corruption, triumphant over the grave; we shall come forth immortal, incorruptible, changed and fashioned like unto the glorious body of our Lord Jesus Christ. We know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is, and in the redemption of our body from death, corruption and the grave, and our glorified spirit united again to our then glorified body, we shall in our whole spirit and soul and body be holy and blameless before our God in love, conformed to the image of Christ, our Husband and Redeemer, the heavenly One. The apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost preached that David foresaw the resurrection of Christ, and Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, taught that David was not risen from the dead, saying, “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.” “David is not ascended into the heavens.” – Acts ii. 29, 34. And this is recorded of Abraham: “These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years. Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre.” – Gen. xxv. 7-9. It could in truth be said of Abraham as it was declared of David, he is both dead and buried, his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Abraham is not ascended into the heavens, his resurrection was not past already. But Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all live unto God, saith Christ. They are not annihilated, as the mocking Sadducees taught. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in their bodies are sleeping in the dust of the earth, yet in their souls that departed in the dissolution of their bodies they are living together with Christ in glory, and the language of Christ, who is the resurrection and the life, is as verily applicable to the patriarchs as unto all other saints. Jesus said, “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall be live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” – John xi. 25, 26. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in their sleeping bodies are asleep in the dust of the earth, but in their departed spirits; absent from their bodies they are present with the Lord, and as with all the departed saints, whose deaths are precious in the sight of the Lord, they live with Jesus Christ in heaven; they all live unto him. Jesus died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him; and the bodies of the dead in Christ, now sleeping in the dust of the earth, sleep in hope of a glorious and triumphant awaking to everlasting life and glory at the coming of Christ at the last day. The ransomed and glorified spirits of his saints, Whose bodies sleep in the dust of the earth, shall come with our Lord Jesus Christ at his second and personal coming. “ For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” – 1 Thess. iv. 14-18. The glorified spirits of those who have fallen asleep in Christ shall in that moment take possession of and be united again to their resurrected bodies, spiritual, immortal, in power and glory, and the believers in Christ who are alive, and remain when our Lord Jesus Christ shall come, shall in that moment be changed and put on immortality and incorruption. O how comforting and glorious is the doctrine! Saith the apostle, “Behold, I shew you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incor ruption, and this mortal must put on im mortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorrnption, 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. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory’? The sting of death is sin: and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“I shall be with him when he comes
Triumphant down the parting skies,
And when his voice breaks up the tombs,
Among his children I shall rise.
Among his children I shall stand
When quick and dead his throne surround,
Blest with a place at his right hand,
And with immortal glory crowned.”
When in death we are putting off this tabernacle, which, saith Peter, I must do shortly, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me, (2 Peter i. 14,) when the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, and the soul is in departing, to be with Christ, which is far better than to abide in .the flesh, and when in dying the Lord Jesus receives our spirit, this is not the resurrection of the dead. To so teach is to ignore the teachings of the Scriptures of the resurrection of our mortal bodies to immortality and incorruption at the last trump, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. This would also signify that our “bodies which are the members of Christ,” and are bought with a price, had perished forever in the dust of the earth. But, believer, thy body and spirit are Christ’s, and in hope of the resurrection we are in earnest expectation, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body. “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But 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.” – Romans viii. 9-11. There is no cessation or break in the continuity of the power and blessedness of the life of the spirit of the believer in Christ Jesus. Absent from the body we are present with the Lord. In death we are not separated from him, and God’s love to us in Christ Jesus. “To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” We depart in the death of our body to be with Christ, which is far better. The apostle Paul, a man in Christ, was caught up to the third heaven, into paradise, whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell; God knoweth. (2 Cor. xii. 141.) Therefore in the abundance of the revelations given unto him he knew, beyond many, how far better it was to depart and to be with Christ, and the psalmist in the comfort of his hope exclaims, “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave; for he shall receive me.” – Psalms xlix. 15. The enemies of the cross of Christ mind earthly things,'but “our conversation [citizen state of life] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” – Phil. Iii. 18-2l,. How blessed! This is the faith of the gospel, and when at Christ’s coming all the ransomed church in their whole spirits and souls and bodies shall be blameless in love before him, conformed to his image, caught up to meet our Lord Jesus Christ, and we shall be forever with him.
“Then shall the church, the Lamb’s own bride,
Both crowned and seated by his side,
Outshine the sun’s meridian ray;
While Jesus, smiling at the sight,
Shall then, with a supreme delight,
The travail of his soul survey.”
In hope of the resurrection of the dead, I am your brother and companion in Christ’s gospel,
FREDERICK W. KEENE.
Signs of the Times
Volume 84, No. 10.
May 15, 1916