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Vol. IV.] • MARCH, 1888. [No. 3.
Some of the most determined criticism to the positions taken in The Fire Of Ood's Anger that has yet reached us has come from our Millenarian friends. The leading principle of that book is that Resurrection, whenever it reaches a man, is redemptive. This requires the view, that the punishment of the sin which attaches to him in this life is inflicted in death, and during the death-state (sheol)in which he abides before resurrection. His "day of judgment," therefore must also lie, this side of resurrection. It must precede, indeed, his captivity in hell (sheol). His confinement there as a "spirit in prison" must be the result of a previous sentence, and in execution of the law that "the soul that sinneth it shall die." The common view that such a lost spirit is confined there awaiting' sentence is without warrant of Scripture.
In proof of this we appealed to such passages as Luke xvi, where the rich man is seen as already in hell, being in torments,—to the declaration of Jude vii that Sodom had already suffered the vengeance of eternal fire, and to the revised rendering of 2. Peter ii. 9, which shows that the unrighteous are now kept " under punishment." Our special proof, however, was found in the fact that all our Saviour's warnings against being cast into hell (Mark ix. etc.) are much more naturally interpreted as applying to an impending loss of man's present body and soul, rather than of a future resurrection body. We also showed that the common interpretation of the judgment scene in Matt. xxv. 31-46, which locates it beyond the resurrection, is not fairly deducible from the text, and is out of analogy with the parallel passages referring to this event, such as 1st Thess. ii. 9. Leading Millenarian interpreters, such as Drs. Pierson and Brooks, the late James Inglis and others, have taken this view, that this passage relates to the judgment of the living nations of mankind, and not of the dead. We have only differed from them in viewing it as already begun (before that generation passed away), and that the end of this age would witness but the consummation of a world-judgment which began when Jesus was exalted to be both Lord and Christ.
A writer in the Messiah's Herald of Boston has been assailing at length this fundamental position of our book, and laboring to prove that the " all nations" gathered before the Son of Man are the countless masses of the dead. Tho main argument relied upon is that the Son of Man comes in His glory before this judgment, and that Scripture always con nects the resurrection of the dead with His coming. Passages are referred to, such as 1. Thess. iv. 16, 1. Cor. xv, to prove this. These connect the resurrection of the saints with the Lord's coming. They are of no special value, therefore, in this discussion. The passage made most of is 2d Tim. iv. 1. But the reading of it in the New Version does not assert that the judgment of the quick and the dead is all deferred to a future appearing. It reads—" I charge thee in the sight of God and of Christ Jesus, who shall (mellei) judge the quick and the dead, and by His appearing and His Kingdom." We have never denied that the judicial work of Christ reaches beyond this present age, or that it will not extend itself over all the dead in the ages to come. On the other hand this is the very thing affirmed in the chapter on "The Resurrection of Judgment," But what we have denied is that in this sense of an assize, or judicial trial to determine individual destiny, this is deferred to some distant day of judgment after all the dead are raised. The death-sentence is passed upon the sinner long before, and executed too. And hell closes its gates upon him long before his resurrection. And our critic quotes no passage tha denies this. On the other hand we quote decisive declara tions of Jesus that the word concerning His enthronement and coming as Judge would be fulfilled before that generation passed away, and His many emphatic words that the loss of the soul, or life, in hell is an immediate peril.
And this leads us to face the matter boldly, and to assert that not only the coming of the Son of Man, but the events associated with it, the rule and judgment of the world, the resurrection of the dead and the reign of the saints, must be viewed as already begun, although not manifested. We have repeatedly said that we must break with our Millenarian brethren at this point, in that they insist on viewing all these things as events of the future. Whereas it is only the "manifestation" of them for which we wait. They exist now as facts, although the world sees them not. It is a fact that Jesus is now enthroned as Lord and Christ (Matt, xxviii. 18. Acts, ii 33-36). And His "coming" is a present as well as a future fact (Matt. xvi. 28, xxiv. 34. Rev. ii. 25, xxii. 12). Such passages view His parousia as a presence breaking in unawares upon the individual and upon the world at many points along its history, as for instance at the destruction of Jerusalem: although these crises in the lives of individuals and of nations are but prelibations of the open manifestation of His presence at the end of the age. • And it is a fact that such periods are periods of judgment and proofs that He is now judging the world in righteousness. It is a fact also that the graves began to give up their dead after He arose (Matt, xxvii. 52, 53), and that eminent saints, like Paul, looked for a speedy resurrection (2d Cor. v. 1, 2d Tim. iv. 6-8), as did also, at a later date, the martyrs (Rev. xx. 4), as all early church history attests. And if raised, such saints must be associated with their Head in His present administration over the world from behind the clouds, as preparatory ^to the open assertion of His dominion when the clouds shall bo rent. The great mistake of modern Millenarianism is in its so emphatic assertion of Christ's future coming and kingdom, as to blind men to the facts of His present rule and judgment. Our eyes need to be opened to that which is near us and around us, as well as to be peering into the heavens for that which *s to be disclosed from thence.
Therefore we say that we shall do violence to Christ's words and misconceive the meaning of His Messianic mission, if we thus constantly make remote what He declared was near at hand. And therefore we take Him at His word when He declares that the Son of Man was then about to enter upon His kingdom and judge the living nations of men, as the prophet Daniel—from whose vision (chap, vii.) the costume of the scene depicted was drawn—had foretold, and that He is now distributing men to the right or the left hand, bestowing upon them eternal life, or handing them over to the eternal fire. This fire is a concrete expression lor those destructive forces which consume the bodies and souls of men in death. And we have not the least doubt that the "nations" so sorted are the living generations of men who come and go on the earth, and pass before His judgment-seat during their earthly trial,—the righteous passing into the regions of life eternal, the wicked into the abyss of death there to abide in a bondage embittered and prolonged according to their deeds, until the hope of another opportunity in life may dawn upon them through the grace of Him by whom all who died in Adam shall, each in his own order, be made alive. This simplifies the whole matter. It makes the judgment-scat of Christ a present fact. It makes the punishment immediate, and not something awaiting a remote assize in the dim unknown. It does away with the figment of a prolonged probation during an intermediate state before trial. It relieves the orthodox muddle of a double judgment, of a resurrection that is confessedly due to Christ's redeeming work and yet has no other purpose than a doubling up of the sinners' damnation,—of a sentence to hell that is interrupted for a little while for the sake of another trial and sentence, to be followed by a second casting into hell. Surely the ways of our God are not thus crooked. His judgments are true and righteous altogether.
And this view of an ever present judgment that sorts men for life or for death is in the line of that law of life which Science has brought into such prominence in our day,—the survival of the fittest. It shows how only a select class are found worthy of immediate entrance upon that nobler life which is eternal, and verifies our Saviour's words that selfpruning and striving and the surrender to death of all the baser elements in human nature is necessary in all who tread the narrow way that leadeth into life. Up to this point Calvinism is right. And Professor Drummond's analogy