Clay Village, Ky., September 1879.
MY DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - Sister Foree, of Turner’s Station, Ky., requests me to give my views on Hebrews 9:27, and as you have recently written on the same text, I should think it unnecessary, were it not her request that I should more particularly treat on “the judgment” contained therein. It reads, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment, 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.”
The apostle in the preceding chapters shows the wide contrast between the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood and the priesthood of Christ, as well as the superiority of the latter over the former.
None of the offerings under the former covenant could put away sin, but the latter did put away sin by the sacrifice of himself – “by one offering perfected forever them that are sanctified.” Heb. 10:14. The entrance of sin into the world brought death with all its woes; hence judgment passed upon all men, for that all have sinned, and hence the dreadful sentence, “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.”
Thus it was appointed unto men once to die, and after this [appointment] the judgment. As my sister requests my views particularly on this judgment, I will now proceed to give them. The passage is frequently quoted, “after death the judgment.” I may differ with some of my brethren on this point, but if wrong, I desire correction. “After this the judgment.” After what? The word this is a definite adjective, denoting a specific person or object. I think undoubtedly that it is after the appointment, and not after death, for the judgment immediately follows the appointment. “And so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned;” and thus “the judgment was [in the past tense] by one to condemnation.” And again, “As by the offense of one, judgment came [in the past] upon all men to condemnation.” Rom. 5:16,18. I recollect once hearing a Methodist preacher comment on this text, and he seemed to have no use for any part of it except the death and judgment, which he used for the purpose of alarming his hearers, or scaring religion into them. He quoted as usual, after death the judgment. He dwelt alarmingly on the great day of judgment after death; had the Judge seated upon his throne, and each individual arraigned before him, and witnesses summoned, himself to be one of the principal ones. “But,” said he, “there are some that don’t believe in such a judgment as this, but the scriptures prove it too plainly to be denied.” He then referred to John 16:8, “He will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come,” emphasizing very emphatically on “to come,” when it was his own interpolation, and did not belong to the text, as he might have discovered by quoting on to the close of the 11th verse, for there it is said, “the prince of this world is judged” – in the past. I look for no other judgment after death but the passing of the sentence, and think that is all that the scriptures give any account of. I therefore think, as before quoted, that judgment has already passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. I have understood that Elder Leland calculated in his day, that if all who had lived since the creation, and all who then lived, were then on the earth, they would be sixteen deep over its entire face. Should that be the case, [and I think the calculation a reasonable one] it would probably require some thousands of years to arrive at a final decision according to the opinion of the Methodist preacher. When the apostle says, “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.” There will be no further need of litigation there. How blind, to conclude that the Lord will need witnesses to prove what men have been doing here! Then, as before observed, I think that judgment passed upon all men immediately after the appointment that men should die. “The judgment was by one man to condemnation.”
“So Christ was once offered.” As it was appointed unto man once to die, so it was appointed that Christ should be offered to die. Here is a great mystery. Christ was offered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, and when his enemies crucified him they did no more than what God’s hand and counsel before determined should be done. Acts 4:28. And thus they fulfilled the scriptures in condemning him. We sometimes hear great lamentations over the entrance of sin into the world. I think it was just as impossible that it should fail to enter, as it was impossible that Christ should fail to save his people from their sins. Had it not so entered, the work of salvation would have been a nullity. I am confirmed in this opinion by an expression of Paul in Rom. 6:17, where he says, “God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin.” And why thank God for that? Evidently, had we not been the servants of sin, we could not have been the subjects of salvation. It has been a query in my mind whether the condition of man, so far as this world is concerned, was really worsted by the entrance of sin into the world. Let us sit down in Adam’s condition before the fall, without the necessity of labor, speculation, or the need of gain of any kind – everything plentifully provided for our sustenance, without the intervention of thorns, thistles, or other noxious growths, to give us necessary exercise, how miserable would we be! Let us try it now, even if everything needful were afforded us, how would we enjoy ourselves? I verily believe that when the earth was cursed for man’s sake, it was for the sake of his enjoyment. Had we not been thus condemned there would have been no necessity for the justifying righteousness of the Savior. Had it been the will of God to prevent the entrance of sin into the world, he could, no doubt, have done so; but he did not prevent it, and therefore judgment came upon all men to condemnation. Thus the entrance of sin into the world, and death by sin, opened the channel for the great and mysterious work of the salvation of sinners from their sins, as well as for the display of the justice of God in the condemnation of ungodly sinners for their sins.
“So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.” As it was appointed of God that man should die, as before observed, so also it was appointed that Christ should be offered and die for the sins of his people.
“When Adam to eat of the fruit was inclined,
It answered the purpose Jehovah designed;
No purpose of wisdom was altered thereby;
He fell for the lifting of Jesus on high.”
He therefore, by the appointment of God, of necessity, must “himself bear our sins in his own body on the tree.” What a wonderful exhibition of the love, mercy, grace and goodness of God! And with astonishment we ask, Why such love to such objects?
Imagine the well-beloved Son of God in the bosom of his Father, and all brilliant with glory before the world was, beyond the reach of enemies, of sorrow, grief or suffering of any kind; yet when sin entered into the world, with all its tragical calamities, when he saw his brethren, the gift of his Father, going down into a terrible whirlpool, sinking into a miserable chasm, a horrible pit; behold, the dear Redeemer leaves that Elysium adobe, bending his course downward to this world of wickedness, to suffer the affliction consequent upon our sins. How amazing too, that “it pleased the Lord to bruise him, to put him to grief.” Here was;
“Love divine, all love excelling,
Joy from heaven to earth came down.”
How we should rejoice in the immutability of God’s love; for, could sin, death and hell combined have changed that love, could he ever have offered his dear Son “to bear the sins of many,” even the sins of all his people?
“And unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin unto salvation.” Those who look for him, of course, are those who have seen him, or tasted that he is gracious, and none who get that taste ever lose the relish for it, but can sing with the poet;
“What peaceful hours I then enjoyed,
How sweet their memory still.”
To look for him in the true sense of the text, I think, implies an anxious desire for him, and where is the child of grace that has not that desire? When passing the deep waters of tribulation we look for him, for we know that in him only we can have peace. In the cold, dark and dreary night we look for him, for he alone can give us light. When hungering and thirsting after righteousness, we look for him, knowing that he can fill us with the bread and water of life; aye, he is “made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption;” he is all in all to us. Yes, we shall look for him even when the cold arms of death are about to enfold us. Then with what anxiety shall we be “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.” And when he appears the second time, O how vastly different from his first appearing! Not as the seemingly feeble babe of Bethlehem, consigned to a manger, because there was no room for him in the inn; not as when borne away to Egypt by his parents, to escape the wily vengeance of the Roman Procurator; not to fast forty days and nights in the wilderness; not to wear that “visage marred more than any man, and his form more that the sons of men;” not to receive the calumny, the reproach, the indignity that was unsparingly heaped upon him while once inhabiting this wicked world; not groaning and sweating drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane; not buffeted, spit upon, crowned with thorns and nailed to the cross, to groan, bleed and die under the ponderous weight of the sins of his people; no, but without sin unto salvation.
No tongue can tell, nor pen delineate the majesty, splendor and unsullied glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ when he shall appear the second time, without sin unto salvation.
My dear sister Foree, brothers, sisters, all, let us extol, reverence, adore and praise his holy name, and rejoice that he now reigns, and must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
“That head that once was crowned with thorns,
Is crowned with glory now;
A royal diadem adorns,
The heavenly victor now.”
“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death,” and after that destruction, with what rapture, with what excessive ecstasy shall we hail the second appearing of the majestic Savior, enrobed in all the transparency of his brilliant glory, and O, amazing and transporting thought, when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is,
“When shall I reach that happy place,
And be forever blest?
When shall I see my Father’s face,
And in his bosom rest.”
In love permit me to remain your brother,
J. F. JOHNSON.