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sequence it is at death rendered back by every man to the God to whom it belongs. Redemption restores to the believer his possession of this spirit for life eternal; hence the believer, even when he is rendering up his spirit to God as the forfeit of original tranggression, still regards it as his, by the covenant of grace in Jesus Christ, and is able to use the very words that Christ used Himself - Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit.'
Stephen, when dying, used these words: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts vii. 59.) It is worthy of notice that this faithful witness, the first to lay down his life for his Master's sake, commends his spirit to the Lord Jesus, not to the Father. The context furnishes a sufficient reason for this. Stephen saw Jesus looking on. “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God," he exclaimed. What more natural, then, that the dying disciple should call his Lord, whom he knew to be “ The Resurrection and the Life,” to take his spirit into safe keeping till He returned to open the gates of hades, and set the prisoners free? Stephen was well aware that just “as the living Father had life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; and, that as the Father raiseth the dead, and maketh them alive, even so the Son maketh alive whom he will; that He is the Prince of Life, and has the keys of hades and of death; therefore, seeing Jesus standing at the right hand of God, it is no wonder that he cried, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
Let the reader observe that in the sacred narrative there is a clear distinction made between Stephen and Stephen's spirit, for the historian tells us that when Stephen had called on the Lord Jesus to receive his spirit, “he (Stephen) fell asleep; ” and that devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.” (Acts vii. 60; viii. 2.) Who was stoned ? Stephen. Who fell asleep? Stephen. Who was carried to his burial ? Stephen. Not Stephen's spirit. It went to God, who gave it--to Jesus, who will keep it safely, and restore it when He calls His faithful witness from the dead.
These truths are further illustrated and confirmed by the language used by the Evangelists, describing the death of our Lord Himself. "When Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit; and, having said this, He gave up the ghost (i.e., spirit).” (Luke xxiii. 46.)
“ Here Jesus,"—to quote once more from Mr. Constable's Hades -“ as a man is distinguished from the spirit which was in Him. He gave it up; He was separated from it. He was therefore not that which was separable, and separated from Him. When the spirit had gone to God, Jesus, the man, was left without the spirit, yet still Himself. The spirit of Jesus was not Jesus Himself. Jesus is dead ; His spirit is gone back to God; His lifeless body hangs upon the cross. Which of the two is Jesus ? The dead body, according to the Word of God. • When they came to Jesus
and saw that He was dead.' The lifeless body is called Jesus by His Apostle John, and not the spirit which had left Him. In the very same way the angels speak of Jesus to the women who came to anoint the dead body. Why seek ye the living among the dead ? He is not here, but is risen.'
Jesus died. His spirit went to God. Jesus was taken down from the cross, laid in Joseph's sepulchre, and rose from it alive on the morning of the third day. Such is the language of Scripture. How very different that of theologians !
Perhaps it may be thought that the words of David, spoken, according to the Apostle Peter, concerning our Lord—“Thou wilt not leave my soul in sheol” (Greek, hades), support the idea that, at death, the spirit goes to hades. The supposition contradicts other Scriptures. Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and called on Him to receive his spirit. The supposition, moreover, is based on the thought that soul and spirit are synony
This is a mistake. The late Dr. Eadie, whose deliverance is beyond suspicion of bias in our favour, and whose learning will not be questioned, says :-“It is obvious that the argument based upon the idea that Christ's soul went to sheol, and His body to the grave, has no foundation. The Hebrew does not warrant this distinction. Christ's soul, in such an idiom, is His entire person. Now what is meant by sheol (Greek, hades)? It is explained in the second clause. It is the place where corruption is to be seen, the region of the dead; so the apostles understood it. Though Messiah was to die, death's power was to be very limited ; He was not to be abandoned to his dark dominion."
This is confirmed by the Lord Himself: "As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so the Son of Man shall be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matt. xii. 40.) To say that these words teach that only the body of Jesus, and not Jesus Himself, was to be buried is unwarranted, and destroys the propriety of the comparison. It was Jonah himself, and not something belonging to him, that was confined in the belly of the fish ; and the Lord said, “ As Jonah was, so shall the
, Son of Man be.” The only difference is that Jonah was alive, and the Son of Man was dead. Yet it was He who was to be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth-not His spirit.
Nowhere in Scripture is sheol or hades said to be the abode of separate spirits. The Bible never speaks of the spirit of man going to hades at death, or being there between death and resurrection ; but, on the contrary, that when the body returns to the earth, the spirit returns to God who gave it. The spirit of man is
. not the man, but a Divine gift by which his life is sustained.
These findings are not only true, but very important. Th show the false character of prevailing religious sentiments, of the Romish doctrine of purgatory, and the invocation of departed saints. They show the unscriptural character of that wide-spread system of
Spiritism which professes to hold converse with departed spirits. But more, and better far, our findings show our ground of confidence for the cheering hope of resurrection from the dead, faith in the promise of the faithful and all-powerful God. He is faithful that promised ; and we commit the keeping of our lives unto Him as unto a faithful Creator.
Far mistaken are they who imagine that the Christian who believes that “the dead know not anything ;” and that, but for &
" resurrection, there would be no future life for the dead, finds himself without hope, peace, aud joy in the immediate prospect of death. During the last twenty-five years, within his own small range of observation, the writer has witnessed the expression of peace and hope in the hour of death in many cases of brethren and sisters-old and young and middle aged. The disciple of three score years and ten, and the tender youth of fourteen, consciously passing away from the sight of those who were to them the dearest of earth,-in full confidence and hope of meeting them on the resurrection morn; yet none of these then-some of them never-had any belief in “the survival of the soul.” In every instance their only hope of living again was in the return of their Lord to make them alive. And surely that was enough. He is faithful. “He that believeth in Me, though he may die, yet shall he live.” “I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of bades and of death!” Is it not much better to rest our hopes on the word of the Lord, than on the pleasing fancies of human imagination ? 51, Buccleuch Street, Edinburgh.
THE SON OF MAN JUDGING THE NATIONS.
(Continued from col. xv. page 406.) UR purpose now is to substitute an interpretation of Matt. xxv.,
which shall be free from the difficulties of the ordinary view. We hope to show that the entire paragraph applies not to the dead but to the living.
There are three classes of persons before us : those whom Christ calls His brethren; those He calls sheep; and those He calls goats.
Those whom Christ calls His brethren. We first inquire into their state, position, and circumstances outwardly, at or just before the appearance of Christ upon the throne of His glory. All this is by fair implication denoted by their having been hungry, thirsty, naked, strangers, sick and in prison, representing a complication of unparalleled troubles, distresses, and tribulations. Can we find in Scripture any people represented to be in those very distressing circumstances in the latter days of the present dispensation ? For to such days obviously the prophecy refers. In Jer. xxx. are the following words in relation to the Jews : Wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas, for that day is great ; so that none is like it. It is even the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out it.” This last clause forbids the application of
. the prophecy to anything in past history relating to that people, and must therefore point to the future.
To the same time reference is made in Daniel : “ And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth up for the children of thy people ; and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that time; and at that time shall thy people be delivered ; every one that shall be found written in the book.” Now, every Christian knows that the prophet Daniel was a Jew—that at the time he wrote, the Scriptures only recognised two divisions of mankind, Jews and Gentiles, that by “his people ” was meant the Jewish people, and that at the time when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, though it was a time of great trouble, yet that they were not then delivered, but were (those of them who survived the destruction) enslaved, and scattered amongst the nations, and therefore that this prophecy remains to be fulfilled. The time of unparalleled trouble of Daniel's people is the time when they are to be delivered from the hands of all their enemies, and that by the coming and miraculous interposition of their long-rejected Messiah, leaving us to infer that the trouble will be the means of leading them to look for His appearing, and preparing them for saying: “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
Now, to this time the Saviour refers in Matthew xxiv., a chapter which ought not to have been separated from chapter xxv., as they are one continued discourse. What can be a fitter description of this time of trouble to these people than that which represents them as hungry, and having nothing to eat, as thirsty and having nothing to drink, as strangers, and having none to take them in, as naked, and having no clothing to put on, as sick, and having none to visit them, and in prison, and no one to come unto them? If this be not a description of a complication of calamities of a time and state of the unparalleled trouble, we know not what is. Here then is a prophetic description of a people looking, as to their outward state and circumstances, very much like those whom the Saviour calls “ brethren." His brethren they are literally, according to the flesh.
The cause of this time of unequalled trouble to them will be their taking shelter under the power of one who will arrogantly assume the prerogatives of the Messiah. “I said Christ, to the Jews) am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” (John v. 43.) In this passage the Saviour speaks conditionally. He does not affirm that another will come in his own name, but if one should thus come he would be received by the Jews. From other parts of Scripture, however, we learn that there is one to come “in his own name," and who is described as a monster, or beast, with several heads and horns, energised by Satan, and upon pain of death claiming the homage which belongs to God only, by whose tyranny will be developed the great tribulation, through which the Jews as a body will have to pass. This is the last great “Antichrist,” even as admitted by post-millennial commentators. Great allowance must be made for the old writers who supposed him to be the Pope of Rome. Antichrists in the sense of opposition to Christ's authority there have been in all ages ; antichrists in this sense there now are, and many of them, and mixed up with all the professing Christian sects throughout Christendom, and in this sense most of the Popes of Rome have been antichrists for many centuries ; but the antichrist is yet to come. How soon he may come or reveal himself it is impossible to say. But the present unsettled state of things all over the world seems to indicate the approach of the dreadful crisis called by the prophet Daniel “ a time of trouble” to his people, such as they and their forefathers had never known before. And this we believe is the time referred to by the Saviour in the last paragraph of Matt. xxv., and that the people of whom whom Daniel wrote was the people whom He calls His brethren.
He says nothing here of the antichrist, or of the subordinate kings with him, or their armies, or of their doom. These matters are revealed in other parts of Scripture. They being guilty of direct acts of cruelty towards the brethren of Christ, will by His coming be cut down at one stroke. These the Lord shall consume by the Spirit of His mouth, and destroy by the brightness of His coming. We would however notice that the Lord makes mention of no place where the gathering of all nations shall be. But in the last chapter of the prophecy of Joel, the place of gathering is mentioned, and the object of it, and all in favour of Israel and Judah in the future. “For, behold, in those days and at that time. when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and I will bring them down into the valley of Jehosaphat, and will plead with them there for My people, and for My heritage, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted My land.” And if you attentively consider the remainder of the chapter, you will see that the whole scene, as to place, refers to Mount Zion and Jerusalem, which we understand literally, and as to persons, refers to Judah and Israel, which we also understand literally; and that this prophecy points to the future is obvious from the great moral change to be produced upon the minds and hearts of the Jews when they shall be again fully recognised as the people of God, and Christ will not be ashamed to call them His brethren.