Brother Beebe: If not too much trouble, I would like to read your views on Hebrews 9:27. If death is the penalty of the law, how could it precede judgment? This may seem to show weakness in me, which I know is so, but please excuse.
Yours in bonds of love,
Wintersett, Iowa, Oct. 27, 1861.
REPLY: The text reads thus: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” The sentence is not perfect without the next verse, as follows: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation.”
If we consider the general mortality of the human family to be here intended, we should understand the demise or death of our earthly bodies, which is clearly an appointment of God. As he said to man, “For in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” And again: “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Regarding the execution of this sentence, as the penalty of the law of God, here was clearly a judgment preceding the execution of the penalty. And Paul says, Rom. 5:17, 18, “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” Thus we see that the infliction of death is the execution of judgment, and this judgment by the stern decree of God has become an appointment, extending to men, and to all men, as death has passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. This judgment however passed on all men from the date of the first transgression, “In the day,” he ate of the forbidden fruit. But the Scriptures speak of a judgment to come. By which however we do not understand that God has not already adjudicated the case of all the human family, and fixed their everlasting destiny, for he is of one mind, and none can turn him. But the term judgment, in its scriptural sense, as relating to God’s judgments, means the execution of the penalties of his law. Hence we read, He that believeth not is condemned already, and the wrath of God abideth on him; and of some at least it is written, ‘Whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” Hence when the inspired writers speak of a judgment that shall take place after the death of our mortal bodies, we understand the execution of the righteous decrees of the eternal Judge, even as the decree of God now stands and hath forever stood. We cannot, without disparaging thoughts of God, suppose him less capable to adjudicate the state of all men before the world began, than he will be when the world shall be no more. Can we conceive that he has learned anything that he did not always know; how then could he declare the end from the beginning, which he says he has done? Nor could there possibly be any less of equity, righteousness, or purity in his decisions maturely existing in his mind before, than subsequently to the existence of this world.
Paul speaks of an appointed day, when God will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath appointed; but he also tells us that this judgment shall be according to my gospel. Not on some new plan, law, or the development of something new to him. The judgment of all, both saints and sinners, is recorded in the Scriptures, just as it shall be executed. The wicked shall receive the judgment now in store for them, when God shall turn them into hell with the nations which know him not, and the saints shall also receive the judgments or what God has already decreed for them, when they shall be raised up from the dead in incorruption to be forever with the Lord.
But although we have thus written our views on the subject of the final judgment of the last day, we cannot understand the text proposed by our brother to be treating on the subject. The whole connection shows the inspired writer engaged in illustrating the Mediatorial work of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, and in regard to how he was once offered to bear the sins of many. Now if brother Nosier will observe the figure used in the tenth and eleventh verses of this chapter, he will, if we mistake not, find the key to this text. “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” The law of testaments then in requiring the testator’s death to give validity to the will, recognizes the appointment unto men once to die, and once dying is sufficient to make his will or testament perfectly valid. So Christ was once offered, not as Moses required the frequent offering of sacrifices, and shedding of blood under the Levitical priesthood, but he was once offered to bear the sins of many. How? As it is appointed unto men once to die, in order that their testament shall have force. Well, when a man has made his last will and testament, the document remains without strength until he, the testator, is dead. Then the testament is brought into the proper court for judgment, and upon the establishment of the facts which prove first that this is the last will and testament of the testator, and that the testator is dead, judgment is legally pronounced, the testament is judged, recognized and comes in full force. So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. Justice and law received the offering, and acknowledge the force and validity of the will, and therefore the heirs identified in his testament look for the complete execution of the will of the testator. And as the will of the testator in this testament was to bear the sins of many, and to put away their sins by the sacrifice of himself, this will is established beyond all controversy, and therefore to the saints, for none others are looking for him to appear in the glory of his resurrection, and triumph over death, hell and sin, nor do they look in vain, for unto them he shall appear the second time, but not with all our sins laying upon him, and law and justice still demanding the payment, for having put away sin, and all the sins which he bore, and all the iniquities of his people which were laid on him, he shall appear without sin, unto salvation. He dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. He has the keys of death and hell. To them who look for him he shall appear, it cannot be otherwise, and they shall see him as he is, holy, harmless, separate from sinners, and higher than the heavens; and what is more wonderful, is that when he shall appear, they shall be like him, for whom Jehovah did foreknow, them he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. The enraptured psalmist could sing, and so can all who are looking for him, and who love his appearing, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake with thy likeness.”
“O glorious hour! O blest abode!
I shall be near and like my God;
And flesh and sense no more control
The rising pleasures of my soul.
My flesh shall slumber in the ground,
‘Till the last trumpet’s joyful sound,
Then burst her bands in sweet surprise,
And in my Savior’s image rise.”
Elder Gilbert Beebe,
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 72 – 75