Swedenborg Study.com

Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

BooksArticlesSermonsMagazinesSciencesBlogsVideoWebsitesSite

Previous: III. The Resurrection Up: III. The Resurrection Next: B. Other Texts, commonly regarded as adverse to the True Doctrine, considered.

Noble's 'Appeal': III. The Resurrection:

A. The true Doctrine Proposed, and Texts cited in Opposition Considered

The next subject which seems most naturally to demand our attention, after having considered that of the Second Coming of the Lord, is that of the Last Judgment; for that the execution of the Last Judgment must accompany the arrival of the Second Advent, is universally believed by Christians, and is most plainly announced in the Word of God. But here a question of great importance arises;— Where is to be the scene of the last judgment ?—is it to be accomplished in the natural or in the spiritual world ? As the common opinion is, not only, as the apostle declares, that man is to be judged "for the things done in the body," but also, beyond what either the Apostle or any other divine authority has declared, that he is to be judged in the body, the general expectation is, that the body is to be called out of the tomb for this purpose; and, consequently, that the scene of the last judgment is to be in this world of nature. The Scriptures have conducted us to a quite different conclusion. We are satisfied, upon their authority, which here assuredly coincides with the plainest dictates of reason, that when the body is laid aside by death, we have done with it for ever; that man then becomes a living inhabitant of a spiritual world, in which he is to continue his existence for ever: and that, consequently, the Last Judgment can only be accomplished in the world in which all the human race are collected together,—that is, in the spiritual world, and not in the natural world, to which they who have once quitted it will return no more. Before then you can decide upon the subject of the Last Judgment, it is necessary that I should appeal to you upon that of the Resurrection.

Allow me then to state, in a few words, the sum of our views-upon this subject; they being such as we think are peculiarly adapted to recommend themselves, independently of all argument, to the Serious and the Reflecting.

We believe the true doctrine of the Scriptures, upon the important question of the Resurrection, to be this: That man rises from the grave,—not merely from the grave in the earth, but from the grave of his dead material body, immediately after death; that he then finds himself in a world, not of mere shadows, but of substantial existences, himself being a real and substantial man, in perfect human form, possessing all the senses and powers proper to a man, though he is no longer visible to men in this world, whose senses and capacities of perception are comparatively dull and gross, owing to their being still shrouded over with a gross body of unapprehensive clay.*

* See this statement, and other parts of this Section, explained and vindicated. in. "Strictures" upon a pamphlet by a Mr. T. Spencer, inserted by me in the Intellectual Repository and New Jerusalem Magazine, vol. iii., for 1834 and 1835, pp. 422—432, 582—594, and 656—663.

The latter part of this assertion, that the spirit of a man is a real substance, though not a material substance, and thus is the man himself, is capable of being proved, as may perhaps appear in the sequel, by most conclusive arguments, both from reason and Scripture: but I will here confine myself to the former part of the doctrine;—that man rises from the dead immediately after death. Virtually, this includes the other.

Permit me, then, here to give vent to my own feelings by saying, that this is indeed a "most glorious and heart-cheering doctrine;" whereas to suppose, with our opponents, that there is no real resurrection except the resurrection of the body, is to open the door to the most dark and gloomy apprehensions. What is become of the first inhabitants of this globe, and all who lived before the flood? Can any one seriously suppose that they are out of existence, or, at best, have only a very imperfect and uncomfortable existence, because destitute of that body which has been undistinguishably mixed with the elements for five thousand years ? and that they are still to pine for no one knows how many thousand years longer, before they will be themselves again, or can enjoy the happiness which Scripture everywhere promises to the saints, without anywhere hinting at the immeasurably long, dreary interval of suspense,

which they are to languish, through before they can enjoy it ? How does such a notion comport with the answer of the Lord Jesus Christ to the carnal-minded Sadducees, half whose doctrine, at least, has been translated into the creed of the opposers of the New Church: for the Sadducees affirmed, "that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit:"* and the opposers of the New Church, such at least as the one I have now chiefly in my eye, + affirm, that there is no real resurrection but that of the body. But is not the answer of the Lord Jesus Christ to the ancient Sadducees, an answer to these modern ones likewise? "Now that the dead are raised," saith he, "even Moses"—Moses, who never openly treats of the subject,—but "even Moses showed 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 the God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him."# Is not this affirming, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were living at the very time that this was written of them by Moses,—that they were not then slumbering in their graves ? Most truly does an accuser say, "that the doctrine of the resurrection may justly be called the key-stone of the gospel dispensation:" but to say, that the doctrine of the resurrection of the body is so, is grossly to pervert the plain meaning of the gospel-teaching. This writer, in his zeal for his body of clay, goes so far as to affirm, that to deny, not the resurrection, observe, but the resurrection of the body, if it is not the sin against the Holy Ghost, is, in his serious opinion, something very near it! and then, as if determined to cut us off from all hope of salvation, he adds, "to hear Christ say, 'I will raise him up at the last day,' and then tacitly [as he means to say we do] to give Christ the lie" (such is his shocking expression!) "must be a crime of no common description."$ But who that knows the use of language, would call the material body, him? The Lord is not here speaking of the body, but of the man; "I will raise him up at the last day;" not, "I will send his soul from heaven to gather up the ashes of his body." The words at length are, "This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day."||— Is it the body which thus seeth and believeth ?

* Acts xxiii. 8.
+ I allude to the Rev. Mr. Beaumont, whose "Anti-Swedenborg" called forth the first edition of this "Appeal;" and where I make any adverse quotations, without specifically naming the author, it is from that publication that they are taken. I notice none, however, but what, in substance, are common to most of our adversaries.
# Luke xx. 37, 38. See this subject fully examined in Strictures,
&c, Intellectual Repository for 1835, pp. 428—431.
$ Anti-Swedenborg, p. 50.
|| John vi. 40. See Strictures,
&c., ibid. pp. 583—589.

That man is not to slumber in a state of insensibility till the last day of the world, but that it is the last day with every man when he dies, is evident from the manner in which the Lord corrects Martha's mistaken notion respecting it. "Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day"* Here Jesus perceives that she had in her mind only the notion of a distant resurrection: wherefore he replies, "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and he that liveth and believeth in me, shall never die." + Here, because, in the divine idea, no life but spiritual life is worthy of the name, the privilege of enjoying it is confined to believers; but of these the divine Saviour declares, that their life shall never be perceptibly interrupted. They have begun to live here, and they shall live on to eternity,—"they shall never die." To affirm, then, that there is no real resurrection but the resurrection of the body, and to apply all that is said upon the subject in Scripture to this imaginary resurrection; to affirm, particularly, that it is the resurrection of the body which the Lord means, when he says, "I will raise him up at the last day; "—I will not adopt the coarse and profane language employed against us, by saying it is giving Christ the lie,—but I must say, it is not only directly contradicting him, but it is making him contradict himself. Jesus Christ affirms, that he who believeth in him shall never die; and to prevent men from wondering how this can be, when men do die, to all appearance, at the close of their life in the world, he assures them, that at the last day of this life they shall be transplanted into life eternal:— "Every one that seeth the Son, and believeth on him, shall have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day." That would be a strange sort of everlasting life, which was to be interrupted by an interval of no one knows how many thousands of years. Even supposing that the body were to live again, it is quite evident that it is not the life of the body of which the Lord is speaking, when he speaks of everlasting life, since the life of the body is not, upon any hypothesis, an everlasting life: consequently, it is not the body of which he speaks when he says, "I will raise him up at the last day." The whole declaration is only applicable to the spirit, which is the man himself, to which the body is only an instrument of service while he remains in a world and state where its services are required: "The flesh," as the Lord says in the same discourse, "profiteth nothing." # The spirit only is the real man: it is of the spirit only that life everlasting can be predicated: it is this only that can he raised to the eternal world: and this resurrection, the Lord assures us, the spirit shall experience, not after a sleep of ages, or at hest a state for ages of half conscious existence, but in all the vigour of true life, as soon as it is emancipated from the shell of clay.

* John xi. 23, 24. See this text largely illustrated as above, pp. 589—591, and the Scripture meaning of the last day, pp. 591—594. + Ver. 28. # John vi. 63.

Some, however, applying to the flesh all that is said in the Scriptures of the true resurrection, hesitate not to add reviling to their anathemas against those who can find in the Scriptures no such sentiment. "A doctrine," says one, "so glorious—so awfully sublime, so clearly taught in the sacred records [where it is not once mentioned]—so universally believed from the beginning of the Christian era [he might have said,—before the beginning of the Christian era, —for it is a purely Jewish doctrine, and from the Jews those Christians who did believe it received it]—so commonly believed by all sects and denominations of Christians even in our day, with the exception of Swedenborgians, who, as many will think, deserve not the name of Christians; this blessed doctrine, I say, is not to be given up at the ipse dixit of a madman," &c.* I make no remark upon the liberality and Christian candour of such observations, but appeal to you, my reflecting readers, to judge of them as they may deserve. But why is it that most Christians at this day hold the doctrine of the resurrection of the body? I answer, Because they have not searched the Scriptures for themselves, but finding much said in the Scriptures respecting a resurrection, and having been told from their childhood that the body is to rise again, they conclude, with our accuser, that the resurrection spoken of is the resurrection of the body. And as we, for denying it, are to be put out of the pale of Christianity; and because our accusers find it convenient to call the intelligent Swedenborg, who proves its falsehood, a madman;— (though the present writer admits that a man who could write as he did could not have been very mad, though he thinks he must have been a little mad +;) as, for these reasons, nothing that we can allege against it from Scripture or reason is to be listened to for a moment, we will call another witness. It will not be said, I suppose, that the great reasoner Locke,—the author of a work on the Reasonableness of Christianity, was not a Christian, or that he was a madman: and this great man has left on record a testimony of the conclusion to which every rational man, and every unprejudiced Christian, must come, who candidly examines the subject for himself. In his Third Letter to the Bishop of Worcester, cited also

in the note at the end of the chapter on Identity and Diversity, in his Essay on the Human Understanding, he says, "The resurrection of the dead I acknowledge to be an article of the Christian faith: but that the resurrection of the same body, in your Lordship's sense of the same body, is an article of the Christian faith, is what, I confess, I do not yet know. In the New Testament (wherein I think, are contained all the articles of the Christian faith,) I find our Saviour and the apostles to preach the resurrection of the dead, and the resurrection from the dead, in many places: but I do not remember any place whore the resurrection of the same body is so much as mentioned; nay, which is very remarkable in the case, I do not remember, in any place of the New Testament, (where the general resurrection of the last day is spoken of,) any such expression as the resurrection of the body, much less of the same body" At the conclusion of a long series of powerful remarks, some more of which I shall have occasion to quote, Mr. L. adds, what many would find a useful caution against a too great facility in taking for granted, that all that is usually delivered as the doctrine of Scripture really is such. "I must not part with this article of the resurrection," says he, "without returning my thanks to your Lordship for making me take notice of a fault in my Essay. When I wrote that book, I took it for granted, as I doubt not but many others have done, that the Scriptures had mentioned, in express terms, the resurrection of the body:—but upon the occasion your Lordship has given me, in your last letter, to look a little more narrowly into what revelation has declared concerning the resurrection, and finding no such express words in Scripture as that 'the body shall rise, or be raised, or the resurrection of the body,' I shall, in the next edition of it, change these words of my book, 'the dead bodies of men shall rise,'—into those of Scripture, 'the dead shall rise.' "Afterwards, in strict agreement with our sentiments, which affirm that man rises with a real substantial body, though not with a material body, Mr. Locke adds, "Not that I question that the dead shall be raised with bodies; but in matters of revelation I think it not only safest, but our duty, as far as any one delivers it for revelation, to keep close to the words of the Scripture; unless he will assume to himself the authority of one inspired, or make himself wiser than the Holy Spirit himself."

* Anti-Swedenborg, p. 49.
+ "It does appear to many, that either much learning, or something else unknown, had made Baron Swedenborg mad, if not in the highest, yet in a lower degree."
Anti-S. p. 6. And in pp. 7 and 8 some important doctrines of Swedenborg's are admitted to be excellent.

In these few sentences, it must, I think, be generally felt, that Mr. Locke has fully anticipated all the arguments of our accusers as professed to be drawn from Scripture, and has shown that the passages adduced by them as proving their favourite notion, in reality prove no such thing. Whether Mr. Locke's own views on the subject were in all respects correct, is unimportant; he has sufficiently evinced, that the doctrine of the resurrection of the body cannot be proved by Scripture. We will, however, run over the texts most frequently brought against us, to demonstrate that Mr. Locke is right in his assertion,—that not one of them speaks of any resurrection of the body.

The first three of the texts so commonly adduced are taken from a class of testimony which Mr. Locke would not admit in this case,— the books of the Old Testament; for certainly, whenever the writers of the Old Testament speak of a resurrection, they speak of it in a manner so evidently figurative, that no judicious person would rely much upon an argument drawn from the literal sense of their expressions. It is true that the Lord Jesus Christ draws thence an argument against the Sadducees, which we receive as most conclusive evidence of the reality of a resurrection, and that it takes place immediately after death: but here we have the Old Testament expounded by an infallible Interpreter, and we receive the important truth upon the authority of the Interpreter, rather than because it is plain, to ordinary apprehensions, in the text from which he deduces it. Indeed, we are authoritatively assured by the writers of the New Testament, that the doctrine of the resurrection is not, in the books of the Old Testament, openly revealed. The Apostle's assertion, that "life and immortality were brought to light through the gospel," would not be true, if life and immortality had been brought to light under the law. In defiance, however, of the authority of the Apostles, many would fain have us believe, not only that the doctrine of the resurrection, but that of the resurrection of the body, may be clearly proved from the Old Testament.

How often is the array of texts on this subject opened with the celebrated passage of Job! "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me." (Job xix. 25, 26, 27). This text, however, which is commonly understood to teach the resurrection of the body, affords a remarkable instance of the mistakes into which it is easy to run, when we read Scripture with pre-conceived opinions in our minds. For who does not see, whose eyes are not closed by his pre-conceived opinions, that this text has nothing at all to do with the subject ? Job is here speaking of the wretched state of affliction to which he was then reduced, and declaring his confidence that God would interpose to deliver him before his death,— not at the end of the world. We read in chap, ii., that Satan, after having grievously afflicted Job in his property and family, demanded "permission to touch his bone and his flesh," and that "he smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown." Accordingly, Job complains, a few verses before those just quoted, of being wasted away to mere skin and bone; which he expresses by saying, "My bone cleaveth to my skin, as to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth." (Ch. xix. 20.) Because his friends reproached him, imputing his misfortunes to his wickedness, he adds, "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O my friends, for the hand of God hath touched me. Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh ?" (Ver. 21, 22.) —that is, why still treat him as though he had not been sufficiently punished, though his flesh was all wasted away. Wherefore he proceeds to express his confidence, that, notwithstanding their uncharitable judgment of him, he may still rely on God as his Vindicator, Redeemer, or Deliverer, and that God will at last appear in his behalf; not at the last day of the world, (neither does the word day occur in the original,) but at the conclusion of his, state of trial. When he adds, "and though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, [where, likewise, neither worms nor body are mentioned in the original,] yet in my flesh shall I see God;" he does not mean to comfort himself with the thought, that though his body must now die, it will rise again, and he shall see God in his flesh, perhaps ten thousand years afterwards: but he expresses his confidence that, though wasted to a shadow, he shall not die, but shall see God interpose in his behalf while he still is living in the flesh and has not put it off by death. Therefore he adds, that he shall see God for himself, and his own eyes shall behold him and not another's; meaning, that God will not put oil' the vindication of his innocence till after his death, in which case, though another might see justice done him, it would be no benefit to himself, but that he himself shall experience the deliverance: and this notwithstanding his anguish, mental and bodily, was aggravated to such a degree, that, as he adds, "his reins are consumed within him." Accordingly, all this pious confidence of his was justified by the event, and his hopes were completely fulfilled. At the end of the book God himself is represented as interposing. In the passage we have been considering; Job says. "In my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold and not another." In the last chapter he says, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee." (Chap. xlii. 5.) In the passage we have been considering, Job declares his reliance that he should see God interfere as his Redeemer or Deliverer: in the last chapter, God does interfere in this character; "and the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends; also, the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before." "And after this lived Job a hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his son's sons, even four generations. So Job died, being old and full of days." (Ver. 10, 16, 17.) Can the parallelism between the expectation and the accomplishment be more complete ? What violence then is done to the text, when the conclusion of the history is disregarded, and Job's hopes are referred to an imaginary resurrection of his body! Surely, to put this text in the front, to prove the resurrection of the body, when it has no relation to a resurrection of any sort, is equivalent to an acknowledgment that the resurrection of the body is not a doctrine of the Scriptures.

So plain, indeed, is it, that this text of Job has nothing to do with the subject, that this acknowledgment has forced itself on the most eminent of those who contend for the resurrection of the body. This admission, for instance, is made by the learned Dr. Hody, the author of the celebrated work, De Bibliorum Textibus Originalibus, in his work entitled, The Resurrection of the Same Body Asserted: and he cites, to the same purport, the following remarks of Grotius, which I translate as closely as possible: "Not a few Christians have used this text to prove the resurrection: but to do this, they are compelled in their versions to depart much from the Hebrew, as has been observed by Mercer and others. The Hebrew," adds Grotius, "is to this effect: 'I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he at last will stand in the field (that is, will be victor). Although they (his distempers) should not only consume my skin, but also this, (namely, the fat which is under the skin,) nevertheless in my flesh I shall see God (that is, shall experience his favour): I, I say, with these my eyes, I, not another for me. My reins have failed within me, (that is, my inmost parts are devoured with indignation at your reproaches.)'"—Dr. Hody, having observed "that Bishop Pearson calls this exposition 'a very new one,' " adds, "But in that he is mistaken, for 'tis no more than what St. Chrysostom long ago thought on, and did not dislike." The fact is, that this passage was only known, to the early Christians, through the medium of very inaccurate translations; and having been once applied to the doctrine of the Resurrection, and prescriptively regarded as belonging to that subject, it afterwards required no small share of learning to discover, and of resolution, as well as of candour, to acknowledge, the impropriety of the application. Hence, though the discovery of its inapplicability has long since been made, few are willing to confess it; and it still continues to be cited as pertinent to the question, though it now yields an argument only to the ignorant. +"

+ See this text of Job, and other passages from the same took, examined at large in the Intellectual Repository for 1825, pp. 649—651; and for 1826, pp. 148-156.

The next citation presented for notice is the following: "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope; for thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption." * This, however, is so palpably beside the question, that it is needless to waste words in exposing its inapplicability. The declaration is made respecting a Holy Being, whose body was not to see corruption; but the bodies of all men do see corruption: consequently, this declaration does not relate to the bodies of men in general. Probably, then, most readers will prefer, to the application of the words adopted by our adversaries, the application of them by the Apostle Peter: "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. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he, seeing this before, spake of the Resurrection of christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption" + Such was the force of this reasoning, that three thousand souls were converted by it: but the argument was a mere sophism, and they who yielded to it were not converted but entrapped, if, as some would pretend, the words are as true of David, and of every other mortal, as of the Lord Jesus Christ.

* Ps. xvi. 9, 10. + Acts ii. 29, 30, 31.

A text more plausibly applied to this question is cited from Daniel; where also, though it is not so obviously remote from the subject, a little reflection may convince any one, that the prophet is not speaking of the resurrection of the body. He says, "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." (Ch. xii. 2.) Now most people believe, that, whether the body rises again or not, the resurrection extends to all whose bodies are deposited in the dust: yet this passage only says, that many of them that sleep in the dust shall awake: and this difficulty is so insurmountable, that the more candid of the advocates for the resurrection of the body acknowledge that this passage cannot relate to the subject. If we are to abide strictly by the letter in the words sleeping in the dust, we must abide by the letter in the word many: hence, if we make the passage say, that many of the bodies which lie in the dust shall be raised, we make it say as positively, that some of them shall not be raised: and thus we involve the whole in contradiction. Dr. Hody, who was so anxious to find evidence for the resurrection of the body that he often adduces such as is extremely equivocal, nevertheless considers that this passage of Daniel is best referred to the restoration of the Jews, or of the church, being excluded from reference to a general resurrection, by the introduction of the word many: and his arguments are well worth notice. "I most freely acknowledge," he says, "that the word many makes this text extremely difficult. I know what expositors say; but I am not satisfied with any thing that I have hitherto met with. Some tell us that many is sometimes used in the Scriptures to signify all:—but this does not clear the difficulty. For there is a great difference between many, and many of. All they that sleep in the dust are many; but many of them that sleep in the dust cannot be said to be all they that sleep in the dust.—Many of does plainly except some."—Being still, however, reluctant to give up this passage as a proof of his favourite sentiment, Dr. Hody acknowledges, that as the text could not be accommodated to the doctrine, he was once disposed to accommodate the doctrine to the text. "I was once," says he, "inclined to believe, and the fancy was grounded upon this text, that there may be some who shall not be raised up at all at the last day: and who were they, think you, who I fancied were not to rise? Such heathens as lived morally well, and according to the light that is given them. I was loth to rank them among the miserable; and I could not see how they could be saved. I was willing therefore to believe that there might be some middle way contrived by Providence; and that was annihilation." An admirable expedient, indeed! which at once relieves the mind from the pain attending the horrid notion so generally prevalent, that nothing but eternal fire is reserved even for the best of that immense portion of mankind who have not been visited by the light of the gospel, and converts this text of Daniel into good proof of the resurrection of the body! Dr. Hody, however, was too honest to be satisfied with such a subterfuge; wherefore we will leave it to those who are not so candid, or so scrupulous.

To sleep, and to sleep in the dust, are phrases belonging to that peculiar style of language in which the Scriptures are written, and which is framed from the correspondence, analogy, or mutual relation, established by the Creator between natural things and spiritual; which is such, that the former regularly answer to the latter, and afford exact images for giving them expression; as I have endeavoured to explain in a distinct work on that subject. In this style of language, to sleep, and to sleep in the dust, mean, to be in a merely natural and sensual state of life; and to awake from this state to everlasting life, is to arise to a state of truly spiritual life, accompanied with eternal happiness; while to awake to shame and everlasting contempt, is to pass indeed into a spiritual state, but such a one as belongs to infernal spirits, accompanied with eternal misery. Thus to sleep in the dust, and to awake thence, have no reference whatever to the unconscious dead body, but to the man, of whom the dead body no longer forms any part. Hence we read, both of the wise and the foolish virgins, that while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept; and surely no one ever referred the expressions, in this instance, to the body in the grave. So when the Apostle, paraphrasing the prophet, says, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light;" * he certainly does not allude to the sleep of the grave, or address the dead bodies there, but calls those who are slumbering in a merely natural state, and who are spiritually dead, to arise to a state of spiritual light and life. Thus also, when Isaiah exclaims, "Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem; "+ none understand the call to be addressed to the dead bodies of the Jewish people mouldering in the dust of the grave. Equally unfounded is the application of this prophecy of Daniel, respecting them that sleep in the dust, to dead carcases in the tomb.

In the preceding paragraph I have explained the above text of Daniel according to its spiritual sense, because I am of opinion that it really does relate, as they who apply it to the resurrection of the body suppose, to the last judgment; and it is only in its spiritual sense that it refers to that event. But they who apply it to the resurrection of the body take it in its merest literal sense. That it has also, subordinately, a literal or natural sense, I readily admit: but in that sense it certainly relates neither to the resurrection of the body nor to the last judgment. Let any one examine the context, and then decide whether, in the literal sense, it can possibly refer to the last judgment; if not, neither can it, even in that sense, refer to the resurrection of the body. The preceding chapter is occupied with an account of the wars between the king of the south and the king of the north; and these were understood, by all the ancient commentators, to be the Greek kings of Egypt and of Syria: indeed, so well do the predictions apply to the affairs of those princes and times, that the celebrated philosopher and opposer of Christianity, Porphyry, made the very exactness of the prophecy an argument against its truth, pretending that it must have been written after the events had come to pass. Thus, according to the ancient interpreters, as may be seen in Prideaux and others, the eleventh chapter ends with the death of Antiochus Epiphanes, whom most of them regarded as a type of Antichrist. The death of Antiochus took place in the 164th year before the Christian Era; and in the year preceding, Judas Maccabaeus, having delivered his country from the power of her oppressors, purified and repaired the temple, and founded the feast of the Dedication; which I mention, because the observance of this feast by the Saviour himself (John x. 22) seems to include a recognition of the importance, and indeed of the divine origin, of the

* Eph. 11. + Isa. Hi. 2.

reform and restoration effected by Judas. Now the eleventh chapter of Daniel having ended with the death of Antiochus, the twelfth chapter begins with declaring, that the Jews should experience a deliverance at the same time: "And at that time" it reads, "shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth up for the children of thy [Daniel's] people [the Jews]: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." This certainly appears very suitable, in its literal sense, to the deliverance which the Jews obtained, after the dreadful oppressions they had previously undergone, by the instrumentality of Judas Maccabaeus, co-incident as this was with the end of the reign of Antiochus: accordingly, this part of the prophecy, also, is thus applied by the ancient interpreters. Well then; in the outward sense, the passage respecting them that sleep in the dust must be a figurative description of some of the circumstances which then took place; for it immediately follows the words last cited. In this application, doubtless, they that slept in the dust, were they who had submitted to their heathen masters and conformed to the manners and worship of their oppressors, as the latter rigorously required; they who awoke to everlasting life, were they who sincerely returned to, and assisted in re-establishing, the worship of the true God, and thus obtained everlasting honour in this world and happiness in the next: and they who awoke to shame and everlasting contempt, were they who, having become heathens in heart as well as in manners, opposed the efforts of their countrymen to obtain emancipation, and thus incurred everlasting disgrace both here and hereafter. But certainly, no bodies of Jews deceased then arose, either to promote or oppose the noble labours of Judas.

In just conformity then with the ancient scheme of literal interpretation, this passage can have nothing to do with the doctrine of the resurrection of the body.

Nor do the schemes of literal interpretation which many recent expositors have substituted for the ancient one, make this text at all more applicable to that doctrine. It has become the fashion to explain the latter part of the eleventh chapter in reference to events of modern times, and to read, in the first verse of the twelfth, the promise of a restoration of the Jews which is yet future, but which many believe to be immediately at hand; and the prediction respecting them that sleep in the dust, is then necessarily understood as figuratively describing the state of the Jews, and their conduct, at the period of this expected restoration. It is expressly so applied by Mr. Faber and others. But certainly, though the Jews themselves suppose that, when they return to Canaan, the bodies of all their deceased countrymen will arise and go with them, no Christian! concurs in so extravagant an expectation.

Thus, upon no consistent scheme of interpretation whatever, can this verse be made to relate to an actual revival of dead bodies.

We now pass, for the present, from the evidence of the Old Testament to that of the New: and though we shall here find explicit documents on the subject of the resurrection, we shall find Mr. Locke's assertion to be true, that it, likewise, never speaks of the resurrection of the same [or the material] body.

The first passage to be hence noticed, is one which has been much relied on by the advocates of the resurrection of the body; and yet it is attended with particulars, in itself and in its context, which make it utterly irreconcilable with that doctrine. "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation." (John v. 28.) The specific reference of these words we shall probably see when we come to consider the subject of the Last Judgment; but that they do not relate to any resurrection of deceased bodies, to take place many hundreds, probably many thousands of years after the words were uttered, is evident from this circumstance; that the great event referred to, whatever may be its true nature, is spoken of in the present tense,—the hour is coming,— indicating that the event was immediately about to take place. This is the usual import of the verb to come when used in the present tense, both in common language and in the language of Scripture. If the Divine Speaker had been referring to an event so distant as experience has now proved that the resurrection of the body, if ever it takes place, must then have been, he would not have said, "the hour is coming" but, "the hour will come;" as when he says, in Luke, "The days will come when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man:"—when he says, "the hour cometh, or is coming," he certainly means, is presently at hand. (See, for instance, John iv. 21 and 23.) But if the mode of expression be not itself deemed sufficient to put this beyond all doubt, all doubt must vanish when the parallel passage, three verses previous, is consulted, of which this is only a more detailed repetition. The Lord there says, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." (Ver. 25.) Certainly, "the dead," "all that are in the graves,"—cannot mean, literally, corpses in the tomb; for all these have never yet heard the voice of the Son of God, lived, and come forth; although the Lord declares that the hour of which he was speaking, when this should take place, then was. Whatever then may be intended by these divine declarations, we here have conclusive proof, that they do not announce the resurrection of the body. The language of the Divine Speaker must be figurative; in fact, it is that of analogy or correspondence. This is further evident from the next verse preceding, which introduces the subject: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life." (Ver. 24.) Here, those who are in a merely natural state, are spoken of as being in a state of death, notwithstanding they are living by natural life in the world. This evinces, that it is not of natural death that the Divine Teacher is speaking; consequently, "the dead," mentioned directly afterwards, are not they who are naturally dead, and "all that are in the graves" are not the dead bodies in the tomb. +

+ See the above explanation of this text, and of the use in Scripture of the expression cometh, or is coming, fully established in "Strictures," &c.. Int. Rep. for 1835, pp. 658—663,

But it not only is evident, upon comparing the context, that "all that are in the graves," cannot mean all dead bodies, but it is shown by Mr. Locke, in the place cited above, that the words themselves, could they be separated from the context, cannot, without the greatest inconsistencies, be applied to such a resurrection. It is to be observed that his antagonist, Stillingfleet, bishop of Worcester, though contending for the resurrection of the same body, had found it necessary, with all other advocates of that opinion, to define the same body not to be the same individual particles of matter as were united at the point of death, but the same individual particles of matter as were sometime or other, during man's life here, vitally united to his soul. To prove the resurrection of the same body, he quotes the above text. "From whence," says Mr. Locke, "your Lordship argues, That these words, 'all that are in the graves,' relate to no other substance than what was united to the soul in life; because a different substance cannot be said to be in the graves and to come out of them. Which words of your Lordship's, if they prove any thing, prove that the soul too is lodged in the grave, and raised out of it the last day. For your Lordship says, Can a different substance be said to be in the graves and to come out of them? So that, according to this interpretation of these words of our Saviour; No other substance being raised but what hears his voice; and no other substance hearing his voice but what, being called, comes out of the grave i and no other substance coming out of the grave but what was in the grave; any one must conclude, that the soul, unless it be in the grave, will make no part of the person that is raised;unless, as your Lordship argues against me, you can make it out, that a substance which never was in the grave may come out of it: or that the soul is no substance. But," adds Mr. L., "setting aside the substance of the soul, another thing that will make any one doubt whether this your interpretation of our Saviour's words be necessary to be received as their true sense, is, That it will not be very easily reconciled to your saying, you do not mean, by the same body, the same individual particles which were united at the point of death. And yet, by this interpretation of our Saviour's words, you can mean no other particles but such as were united at the point of death, because you mean no other substance but what comes out of the grave, and no substance, no particles, come out, you say, but what were in the grave; and I think your Lordship will not say, that the particles that were separated from the body by perspiration, before the point of death, were laid up in the grave. But," Mr. L. adds further, "your Lordship, I find, has an answer to this; viz. That by comparing this with other places, you find that the words [of our Saviour above quoted] are to be understood of the substance of the body to which the soul was united, and not of those individual particles that are in the grave at the resurrection.—But methinks this last sense of our Saviour's words given by your Lordship, wholly overturns the sense which you have given of them above, where from these words you press the belief of the resurrection of the same body by this strong argument; that a substance could not, upon hearing the voice of Christ, come out of the grave, which was never in the grave. There (as far as I can understand your words) your Lordship argues, that our Saviour's words must be understood of the particles in the grave, unless, as your Lordship says, one can make it out, that a substance which never was in the grave, can come out of it. And here your Lordship expressly says, That our Saviour's words are to be understood of the substance of that body to which the soul was [at any time] united, and not of those individual particles that are in the grave. Which, put together, seems to me to say, That our Saviour's words are to be understood of those particles only that are in the grave, and not of those particles only that are in the grave, but of others also which have at any time been vitally united to the soul, but never were in the grave." Mr. Locke has certainly here involved his eminent opponent in inextricable inconsistencies: nor can such inconsistencies be escaped by any one, who applies the above text to the resurrection of the same, or material body.

The next quotation formally brought forward is the Lord's discourse with Martha (John xi. 23—26) briefly noticed above: but how directly this contradicts the notion of a future resurrection of the body, instead of confirming it, we have already seen. It is true that to strain it to this purpose, an accuser would translate the last clause, "shall not die for ever," instead of "shall never die;" but every one who is acquainted with the idiom of the New Testament, knows that the words which, literally translated, are "shall not die for ever," mean precisely the same as the English phrase, shall never die. By this phrase, therefore, our translators have honestly rendered them, notwithstanding they, also, had a predilection for the notion, that everlasting life is to have a great chasm in it. As Dr. Doddridge justly observes, in his note upon this passage, "To render the words, —shall not die for ever, or eternally, is both obscuring and enervating their sense, and (as I have elsewhere shown, notes on John iv. 14, and John viii. 51, 52) is grounded on a criticism which cannot agree with the use of the phrase in parallel passages." The words expressly declare, that he who liveth and believeth in the Lord shall never die. Thus by this divine declaration, the change in the state of existence made by putting oft the body is treated as unworthy of any regard; it is represented as not even making a break in the course of existence; and we may be satisfied that the Divine Giver of everlasting life does not mock us with empty words, and call that everlasting life, or living for ever, which is presently to be discontinued, and, after a lapse of thousands of years, is to begin again!

Next we are presented with these words: "And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captains of the people, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead." (Acts iv. 1, 2.) No allusion, here, we see, to any general resurrection of dead bodies: Indeed, this passage only refers to the resurrection of Jesus himself; for according to the original it is,—"and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead; "—that is, that in the person of Jesus a resurrection from the dead had taken place; in other words, that Jesus had risen from the dead: which certainly constituted the main burthen of the first preaching of the apostles.—Again: "Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans and of the Stoics encountered him (Paul). And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection."! Still nothing about the resurrection of the body: indeed, this text also seems only to refer to the resurrection of Jesus."And have hope towards God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. “Except it be for this one voice, that I (Paul) cried standing among them, touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question among you this day." (Ch. xxiv. 15, 21.) Still not a word about dead bodies.—"Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection." (Heb. xi. 35.) Here the dead whom the women received again certainly were restored in their bodies; they not only rose again in their bodies, but, as the necessary consequence of such a resurrection, they also died again in their bodies: but they hoped for a better resurrection, that is, better than the resurrection of the body.—"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus-Christ, which, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Here, again, no resurrection is spoken of, but that of Jesus Christ.

"But the rest of the dead lived not again till the thousand years were finished: this is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection." (Rev. xx. 5. 6.) This passage refers to events that were to take place in the spiritual world, not in the natural, at the time of the last judgment, wherefore I shall consider it when I come to treat of that subject. At present I will only cite a little more of it, which the refuter who quotes it has judiciously suppressed, because, if suffered to appear, it would take the whole passage completely out of his list of proofs, and add it to ours. The preceding verse says: "I saw the souls" (mind this—the souls, not the bodies;—"I saw the souls) of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads or in their hands; and they (not the bodies, mind, but they, the pronoun referring to the souls before mentioned as its antecedent,) lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead," &c. Here then we find that these souls are called the dead, as having passed by death out of the natural world; as well as for another reason that will be mentioned hereafter: and as, while souls are mentioned, not a syllable is said of any bodies, or of the resurrection of the body, it surely is a palpable violation of the sacred text to apply this part of it to confirm such a notion.

The last passage which our present adversary adduces against us is this. "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." I wonder he did not add the next verse, which appears still stronger: for the Apostle goes on to say . "Then we which are alive, and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air:" (1 Thes. iv. 16, 17.) But I suppose the reason why this quotation is declined was, because the language is so evidently figurative, that scarcely any can suppose that it is meant to be literally understood: and because, also, the Apostle here undeniably speaks according to certain mistaken notions, which prevailed in the first ages. The fact is, that this text does not so properly belong to the subject of the Resurrection, as to that of the Second Coming of the Lord; and as, according to what has been shown in the preceding Section, the true nature of the Second Coming of the Lord was not at that time plainly revealed, therefore the Apostles never speak of it but in that prophetical style in which it had been predicted by the Lord himself, and which cannot be understood till spiritually deciphered.* Thus we have seen, that all the primitive Christians, and the Apostles themselves, believed that it was to take place in that first age; and the language which Paul here twice uses,—"we that are alive and remain,"—evinces, that he, at the time of his so writing, entertained the expectation of living to see it. This, experience has proved, was a mistaken opinion altogether; yet with a reference to this mistaken opinion, asumed as true, all the Apostle's remarks are here framed. The Thessalonian Christians expected to live to witness the Lord's second coming, and then to be admitted into a kingdom of superlative glory, in a new heaven and earth to be created for the purpose after the destruction of the former: and they grieved for their deceased friends, fearing that none could enjoy the happiness of the Lord's new kingdom, but they who lived to behold its establishment. Assuming then this expectation of the Lord's appearing, in this manner, and in the life-time of that generation, to be true, the Apostle applies himself to remove their gloomy apprehensions respecting their departed friends. He opens the subject with saying, "But I would not have ye to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them, which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope: for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." (Ver. 13, 14.) Then he proceeds, "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord" [meaning that he here repeats what the Lord himself had declared, Matt. xxiv. 30, 31], "that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent [be beforehand with, or have any advantage over] them which are asleep." (Ver. 15.) The two verses cited above next follow; and they are purely a paraphrase of the Lord's own statement respecting his second coming, with the introduction of a clause respecting those who should be deceased, in regard to whom the Thessalonians were uneasy. The Lord had said, "They shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matt. xxiv. 30. 31.) The Apostle says, "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" [or "shall rise before," or "previously;" as is the sense of the word proton in Matt. v. 24, xii. 29, Mark ix. 11, 12, John xv. 18, xix. 39, 2 Thes. ii. 3, 1 Tim. iii. 10, &c.]: then we which are alive and remain shall he caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air." Here, observe, that no raising of dead bodies is mentioned or alluded to. "Them that sleep in Jesus," it is said, "will God bring with him," not, "will raise, them from the grave to meet him." As is well observed on this text by the celebrated Dr. Dwight: "Who are those whom God will bring with Christ at this time ? Certainly, not the bodies of the saints." Dr. Dwight indeed adds, "They [the bodies] will be raised from the grave, and cannot be brought with Christ." But he only takes for granted that the bodies will be raised, from his preconceived notions: the Apostle says no such thing. But he comes to the right conclusion: "The only answer therefore is, he will bring with him 'the spirits of just men made perfect.' " (Serm. 164.)

* See above, p. 7—17; and I beg the reader to bear in mind what was there advanced, as the subject is of great importance,
and what is here stated was there, I trust I may say, incontrovertibly proved.

Thus nothing can with certainty be here gathered from the Apostle's language, but that, as has been shown before, neither the manner nor the time of the Lord's second coming were then revealed ? Hence, with respect to the manner of it, we find the Apostle repeating, without explanation, the symbolic language in which the Lord had foretold it; and with respect to the time of it, we find him countenancing a most palpable error. Can any doctrine, then, with safety be drawn from his statement, beyond this; that they who "sleep in Jesus," actually are "with him,"—that is, that they are awake or alive towards him, though they are asleep towards us; or "that the dead in Christ were to rise" before his second coming, even though this was then daily expected,—in other words, that they rise in and with Christ as soon as they die here ? And even if we understand as literally as we can the Apostle's words respecting the dead in Christ rising first, and we (which must now he changed into they) which are alive and remain being caught up into the air, still it will not follow that dead material bodies are thus to rise, or that living material bodies are to be thus transported; for, when speaking in a similar manner in another place, to be considered presently, he says, that "we shall be changed" —shall change our material bodies for spiritual ones,— "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye;" evidently teaching that, happen how it may, we are to be dispossessed of that "flesh and blood," which, he affirms in the same place, "cannot inherit the kingdom of God," and which are so little suited for flying in the air.


Previous: III. The Resurrection Up: III. The Resurrection Next: B. Other Texts, commonly regarded as adverse to the True Doctrine, considered.
Up

 

Webmaster: IJT@swedenborgstudy.com