Elder Beebe: Will you or some of your able correspondents give through the “Signs of the Times” a Bible answer to the following question, Do the dead receive their reward at death, or at the resurrection? And oblige
A Friend to truth.
REPLY: We would not anticipate what any of our correspondents may have to say in reply to “A friend to truth,” for we are by no means sure that we understand the question. Death may be properly regarded as a reward; for the wages of sin is death. In this application of the term, the reward, so far as the dissolution of our mortal bodies is concerned, is received at death. But if your friend alludes to the joys of heaven, and the pains of hell, which are most commonly denominated by the Arminians, rewards and punishments, we believe those who die enter immediately into that state of happiness or woe to which they are destined. But we do not regard the resurrection or everlasting happiness of the saints as a reward for anything they have ever done to merit the favor of God. It is true that God told Abraham that He was his exceeding great reward; but the term thus used cannot mean a reward of merit, but rather an inheritance by vital union with Christ. And this was not said of something in anticipation, at death, or at the resurrection, for He said to him, “I am,” not, I will be. This is a gracious provision of the new covenant which God has made with the seed of Abraham, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people, and I will be merciful [not to their righteousness, for if they were righteous they would not need mercy, but] to their unrighteousness; and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”
This new covenant state is not reckoned of debt, but of grace, and all the saints enter into it as soon as they are brought into manifestation by the new birth, as children of Abraham. They have not to wait for it until the death or resurrection of their mortal bodies. The very moment that a sinner is quickened by the Spirit, he is a recipient of Eternal Life, and shall never perish nor be plucked out of the hand of Christ (John 10:28). His body must go down to the grave, according to the great decree, “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” But that eternal life, which is the gift, not reward of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, is immortal; it cannot die with the body, nor go down with it into the grave, for it is hid with Christ in God. The earthly bodies of the saints in which this immortal life is implanted, are to be put off. This mortal is to put on immortality, and death to the saints is to be swallowed up of life. This earthly house shall be dissolved and fall, and the saints shall be clothed with their house which is from heaven, which house is not made with hands, but is eternal in the heavens.
When men die they pass into a state of existence where time is unknown. Our association with time and things of time in this earthly state of our existence disqualifies us for a just conception of an eternal state, or of eternal things. How hard for us now to comprehend that time is a creature brought into existence with all other created things, to continue for a limited duration and then cease to be. Beyond its limitation, where time is not, there is no difference between the twinkling of an eye and all the years appointed for the duration of nature. As soon as we leave this world, we enter that world to which we are hastening; as soon as we leave these shores of time we launch into that boundless eternity which we are now so incompetent to comprehend. But however inconceivable the difference to our minds, we may rest assured that the very moment we pass from hence we enter upon our final destiny, unmeasured by days, months or years; fixed in an eternal state.
The joys of the saints, of which we have but an earnest here, will be complete as soon as we leave this world; and the perdition of the ungodly will be equally consummate and instantaneous. Such are our views, and only as our views have we expressed them; believing they are sustained by the Scriptures; if not so sustained they should be rejected as worthless; but if taught by the Word and Spirit, nothing can overthrow them.
May 1, 1867.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 17 – 18