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THE FIRST GREAT DECEPTION

With the earliest history of man, Satan began his efforts to deceive our race.
He who had incited rebellion in Heaven desired to bring the inhabitants of the
earth to unite with him in his warfare against the government of God. Adam and
Even had been perfectly happy in obedience to the law of God, and this fact was
a constant testimony against the claim which Satan had urged in Heaven, that
God’s law was oppressive, and opposed to the good of his creatures. And,
furthermore, Satan’s envy was excited as he looked upon the beautiful home
prepared for the sinless pair. He determined to cause their fall, that, having
separated them from God, and brought them under his own power, he might gainIllustration-Book-Cover-The Great Controversy-text-logo
possession of the earth, and here establish his kingdom, in opposition to the
Most High.
Had Satan revealed himself in his real character, he would have been
repulsed at once, for Adam and Eve had been warned against this dangerous
foe; but he worked in the dark, concealing his purpose, that he might more
effectually accomplish his object. Employing as his medium the serpent, then a
creature of fascinating appearance, he addressed himself to Eve, “Hath God
said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Genesis 3:1. Had Eve
refrained from entering into argument with the tempter, she would have been
safe; but she ventured to parley with him, and fell a victim to his wiles. It is thus
that many are still overcome. They doubt and argue concerning the requirements
of God, and instead of obeying the divine commands, they accept human
theories, which but disguise the devices of Satan.
“The woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the
garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath
said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent
said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die; for God doth know that in the day
ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing
good and evil.” Genesis 3:2-5. He declared that they would become like God,
possessing greater wisdom than before, and being capable of a higher state of
existence. Eve yielded to temptation; and through her influence, Adam was led
into sin. They accepted the words of the serpent, that God did not mean what he
said; they distrusted their Creator, and imagined that he was restricting their
liberty, and that they might obtain great wisdom and exaltation by transgressing
his law.
But what did Adam, after his sin, find to be the meaning of the words, “In the
day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”? Did he find them to mean, as
Satan had led him to believe, that he was to be ushered into a more exalted state
of existence? Then indeed there was great good to be gained by transgression,
and Satan was proved to be a benefactor of the race. But Adam did not find this
to be the meaning of the divine sentence. God declared that as a penalty for his
sin, man should return to the ground whence he was taken: “Dust thou art, and
unto dust shalt thou return.” Genesis 3:19. The words of Satan, “Your eyes shall
be opened,” proved to be true in this sense only: After Adam and Eve had
disobeyed God, their eyes were opened to discern their folly; they did know evil,
and they tasted the bitter fruit of transgression.
In the midst of Eden grew the tree of life, whose fruit had the power of
perpetuating life. Had Adam remained obedient to God, he would have continued
to enjoy free access to this tree, and would have lived forever. But when he
sinned, he was cut off from partaking of the tree of life, and he became subject to
death. The divine sentence, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,”
points to the utter extinction of life.
Immortality, promised to man on condition of obedience, had been forfeited by
transgression. Adam could not transmit to his posterity that which he did not
possess; and there could have been no hope for the fallen race, had not God, by
the sacrifice of his Son, brought immortality within their reach. While “death
passed upon all men, for that all have sinned,” Romans 5:12 , Christ “hath
brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:10. And
only through Christ can immortality be obtained. Said Jesus, “He that believeth
on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see
life.” John 3:36. Every man may come in possession of this priceless blessing if
he will comply with the conditions. All “who by patient continuance in well-doing
seek for glory and honor and immortality,” will receive eternal life. Romans 2:7.
The only one who promised Adam life in disobedience was the great deceiver.
And the declaration of the serpent to Eve in Eden – “Ye shall not surely die,” was
the first sermon ever preached upon the immortality of the soul. Yet this
declaration, resting solely upon the authority of Satan, is echoed from the pulpits
of Christendom, and is received by the majority of mankind as readily as it was
received by our first parents. The divine sentence, “The soul that sinneth, it shall
die,” Ezekiel 18:20 is made to mean, The soul that sinneth, it shall not die, but
live eternally. We cannot but wonder at the strange infatuation which renders
men so credulous concerning the words of Satan, and so unbelieving in regard to
the words of God.
Had man, after his fall, been allowed free access to the tree of life, he would
have lived forever, and thus sin would have been immortalized. But cherubim and
a flaming sword kept “the way of the tree of life,” Genesis 3:24, and not one of
the family of Adam has been permitted to pass that barrier and partake of the
life-giving fruit. Therefore there is not an immortal sinner.
But after the fall, Satan bade his angels make a special effort to inculcate the
belief in man’s natural immortality; and having induced the people to receive this
error, they were to lead them on to conclude that the sinner would live in eternal
misery. Now the prince of darkness, working through his agents, represents God
as a revengeful tyrant, declaring that he plunges into hell all those who do not
please him, and causes them ever to feel his wrath; and that while they suffer
unutterable anguish, and writhe in the eternal flames, their Creator looks down
upon them with satisfaction.
Thus the arch-fiend clothes with his own attributes the Creator and Benefactor
of mankind. Cruelty is Satanic. God is love; and all that he created was pure,
holy, and lovely, until sin was brought in by the first great rebel. Satan himself is
the enemy who tempts man to sin, and then destroys him if he can; and when he
has made sure of his victim, then he exults in the ruin he has wrought. If
permitted, he would sweep the entire race into his net. Were it not for the
interposition of divine power, not one son or daughter of Adam would escape.
He is seeking to overcome men today, as he overcame our first parents, by
shaking their confidence in their Creator, and leading them to doubt the wisdom
of his government and the justice of his laws. Satan and his emissaries represent
God as even worse than themselves, in order to justify their own malignity and
rebellion. The great deceiver endeavors to shift his own horrible cruelty of
character upon our heavenly Father, that he may cause himself to appear as one
greatly wronged by his expulsion from Heaven because he would not submit to
so unjust a governor. He presents before the world the liberty which they may
enjoy under his mild sway, in contrast with the bondage imposed by the stern
decrees of Jehovah. Thus he succeeds in luring souls away from their allegiance
to God.
How repugnant to every emotion of love and mercy, and even to our sense of
justice, is the doctrine that the wicked dead are tormented with fire and brimstone
in an eternally burning hell; that for the sins of a brief, earthly life they are to
suffer torture as long as God shall live. Yet this doctrine has been widely taught,
and is still embodied in many of the creeds of Christendom. Said a learned doctor
of divinity: “The sight of hell-torments will exalt the happiness of the saints
forever. When they see others who are of the same nature and born under the
same circumstances, plunged in such misery, and they so distinguished, it will
make them sensible of how happy they are.” Another used these words: “While
the decree of reprobation is eternally executing on the vessels of wrath, the
smoke of their torment will be eternally ascending in view of the vessels of mercy,
who, instead of taking the part of these miserable objects, will say, Amen,
Alleluia! praise ye the Lord!”
Where, in the pages of God’s Word, is such teaching to be found? Will the
redeemed in Heaven be lost to all emotions of pity and compassion, and even to
feelings of common humanity? Are these to be exchanged for the indifference of
the stoic, or the cruelty of the savage? No, no; such is not the teaching of the
Book of God. Those who present the views expressed in the quotations given
above may be learned and even honest men; but they are deluded by the
sophistry of Satan. He leads them to misconstrue strong expressions of
Scripture, giving to the language the coloring of bitterness and malignity which
pertains to himself, but not to our Creator. “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no
pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and
live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” Ezekiel 33:11.
What would be gained to God should we admit that he delights in witnessing
unceasing tortures; that he is regaled with the groans and shrieks and
imprecations of the suffering creatures whom he holds in the flames of hell? Can
these horrid sounds be music in the ear of Infinite Love? It is urged that the
infliction of endless misery upon the wicked would show God’s hatred of sin as
an evil which is ruinous to the peace and order of the universe. Oh, dreadful
blasphemy! As if God’s hatred of sin is the reason why he perpetuates sin. For,
according to the teachings of these theologians, continued torture without hope of
mercy maddens its wretched victims, and as they pour out their rage in curses
and blasphemy, they are forever augmenting their load of guilt. God’s glory is not
enhanced by thus perpetuating continually increasing sin through ceaseless
ages.
It is beyond the power of the human mind to estimate the evil which has been
wrought by the heresy of eternal torment. The religion of the Bible, full of love and
goodness, and abounding in compassion, is darkened by superstition and
clothed with terror. When we consider in what false colors Satan has painted the
character of God, can we wonder that our merciful Creator is feared, dreaded,
and even hated? The appalling views of God which have spread over the world
from the teachings of the pulpit have made thousands, yes, millions, of skeptics
and infidels.
The theory of eternal torment is one of the false doctrines that constitute the
wine of the abominations of Babylon, of which she makes all nations drink.
Revelation 14:8; 17:2. That ministers of Christ should have accepted this heresy
and proclaimed it from the sacred desk, is indeed a mystery. They received it
from Rome, as they received the false sabbath. True, it has been taught by great
and good men; but the light on this subject had not come to them as it has come
to us. They were responsible only for the light which shone in their time; we are
accountable for that which shines in our day. If we turn from the testimony of
God’s Word, and accept false doctrines because our fathers taught them, we fall
under the condemnation pronounced upon Babylon; we are drinking of the wine
of her abominations.
A large class to whom the doctrine of eternal torment is revolting, are driven to
the opposite error. They see that the Scriptures represent God as a being of love
and compassion, and they cannot believe that he will consign his creatures to the
fires of an eternally burning hell. But, holding that the soul is naturally immortal,
they see no alternative but to conclude that all mankind will finally be saved.
Many regard the threatenings of the Bible as designed merely to frighten men
into obedience, and not to be literally fulfilled. Thus the sinner can live in selfish
pleasure, disregarding the requirements of God, and yet expect to be finally
received into his favor. Such a doctrine, presuming upon God’s mercy, but
ignoring his justice, pleases the carnal heart, and emboldens the wicked in their
iniquity.
To show how believers in universal salvation wrest the Scriptures to sustain
their soul-destroying dogmas, it is needful only to cite their own utterances. At the
funeral of an irreligious young man, who had been killed instantly by an accident,
a Universalist minister selected as his text the Scripture statement concerning
David, “He was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.” 2 Samuel
13:39.
“I am frequently asked,” said the speaker, “what will be the fate of those who
leave the world in sin, die, perhaps, in a state of inebriation, die with the scarlet
stains of crime unwashed from their robes, or die as this young man died, having
never made a profession or enjoyed an experience of religion. We are content
with the Scriptures; their answer shall solve the awful problem. Amnon was
exceedingly sinful; he was unrepentant, he was made drunk, and while drunk
was killed. David was a prophet of God; he must have known whether it would be
ill or well for Amnon in the world to come. What were the expressions of his
heart? “The soul of King David longed to go forth unto Absalom; for he was
comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.”
“And what is the inference to be deduced from this language? Is it not that
endless suffering formed no part of his religious belief? So we conceive; and here
we discover a triumphant argument in support of the more pleasing, more
enlightened, more benevolent hypothesis of ultimate universal purity and peace.
He was comforted, seeing his son was dead. And why so? Because by the eye of
prophecy he could look forward into the glorious future, and see that son far
removed from all temptations, released from the bondage and purified from the
corruptions of sin, and after being made sufficiently holy and enlightened,
admitted to the assembly of ascended and rejoicing spirits. His only comfort was,
that in being removed from the present state of sin and suffering, his beloved son
had gone where the loftiest breathings of the Holy Spirit would be shed upon his
darkened soul; where his mind would be unfolded to the wisdom of Heaven and
the sweet raptures of immortal love, and thus prepared with a sanctified nature to
enjoy the rest and society of the heavenly inheritance.
“In these thoughts we would be understood to believe that the salvation of
Heaven depends upon nothing which we can do in this life; neither upon a
present change of heart, nor upon present belief, or a present profession of
religion.”
Thus does the professed minister of Christ reiterate the falsehood uttered by
the serpent in Eden – “Ye shall not surely die.” “In the day ye eat thereof, then
your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods.” He declares that the vilest
of sinners – the murderer, the thief, and the adulterer – will after death be
prepared to enter into immortal bliss.
And from what does this perverter of the Scriptures draw his conclusions?
From a single sentence expressing David’s submission to the dispensation of
Providence. His soul “longed to go forth unto Absalom; for he was comforted
concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.” The poignancy of his grief having been
softened by time, his thoughts turned from the dead to the living son,
self-banished through fear of the just punishment of his crime. And this is the
evidence that the incestuous, drunken Amnon was at death immediately
transported to the abodes of bliss, there to be purified and prepared for the
companionship of sinless angels! A pleasing fable indeed, well suited to gratify
the carnal heart! This is Satan’s own doctrine, and it does his work effectually.
Should we be surprised that, with such instruction, wickedness abounds?
The course pursued by this one false teacher illustrates that of many others. A
few words of Scripture are separated from the context, which would, in many
cases, show their meaning to be exactly opposite to the interpretation put upon
them; and such disjointed passages are perverted and used in proof of doctrines
that have no foundation in the Word of God. The testimony cited as evidence that
the drunken Amnon is in Heaven, is a mere inference, directly contradicted by the
plain and positive statement of the Scriptures, that no drunkard shall inherit the
kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:10. It is thus that doubters, unbelievers, and
skeptics turn the truth into a lie. And multitudes have been deceived by their
sophistry, and rocked to sleep in the cradle of carnal security.
If it were true that the souls of all men passed directly to Heaven at the hour of
dissolution, then we might well covet death rather than life. Many have been led
by this belief to put an end to their existence. When overwhelmed with trouble,
perplexity, and disappointment, it seems an easy thing to break the brittle thread
of life, and soar away into the bliss of the eternal world.
God has given in his Word decisive evidence that he will punish the
transgressors of his law. Those who flatter themselves that he is too merciful to
execute justice upon the sinner, have only to look to the cross of Calvary. The
death of the spotless Son of God testifies that “the wages of sin is death,” that
every violation of God’s law must receive its just retribution. Christ the sinless
became sin for man. He bore the guilt of transgression, and the hiding of his
Father’s face, until his heart was broken and his life crushed out. All this sacrifice
was made that sinners might be redeemed. In no other way could man be freed
from the penalty of sin. And every soul that refuses to become a partaker of the
atonement provided at such a cost, must bear, in his own person, the guilt and
punishment of transgression.
Let us consider what the Bible teaches further concerning the ungodly and
unrepentant, whom the Universalist places in Heaven as holy, happy angels.
“I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.”
Revelation 21:6, 7. This promise is only to those that thirst. None but those who
feel their need of the water of life, and seek it at the loss of all things else, will be
supplied. “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and
he shall be my son.” Revelation 21:6, 7. Here, also, conditions are specified. In
order to inherit all things, we must resist and overcome sin.
The Lord declares by the prophet Isaiah, “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall
be well with him.” “Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him; for the reward of
his hands shall be given him.” Isaiah 3:10, 11. “Though a sinner do evil a
hundred times,” says the wise man, “and his days be prolonged, yet surely I
know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him; but it
shall not be well with the wicked.” Ecclesiastes 8:12, 13. And Paul testifies that
the sinner is treasuring up unto himself “wrath against the day of wrath and
revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man
according to his deeds;” “tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that
doeth evil.” Romans 2:5, 6, 9.
“No fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, which is an idolater,
hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Ephesians 5:5 , Revised
Version. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall
see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14. “Blessed are they that do his commandments,
that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates
into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and
murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” Revelation
22:14, 15.
God has given to men a declaration of his character, and of his method of
dealing with sin. “The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and
abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity
and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.” Exodus
34:6, 7. “All the wicked will he destroy.” “The transgressors shall be destroyed
together; the end of the wicked shall be cut off.” Psalm 145:20; 37:38. The
power and authority of the divine government will be employed to put down
rebellion; yet all the manifestations of retributive justice will be perfectly
consistent with the character of God as a merciful, long-suffering, benevolent
being.
God does not force the will or judgment of any. He takes no pleasure in a
slavish obedience. He desires that the creatures of his hands shall love him
because he is worthy of love. He would have them obey him because they have
an intelligent appreciation of his wisdom, justice, and benevolence. And all who
have a just conception of these qualities will love him because they are drawn
toward him in admiration of his attributes.
The principles of kindness, mercy, and love, taught and exemplified by our
Saviour, are a transcript of the will and character of God. Christ declared that he
taught nothing except that which he had received from his Father. The principles
of the divine government are in perfect harmony with the Saviour’s precept, “Love
your enemies.” God executes justice upon the wicked, for the good of the
universe, and even for the good of those upon whom his judgments are visited.
He would make them happy if he could do so in accordance with the laws of his
government and the justice of his character. He surrounds them with the tokens
of his love, he grants them a knowledge of his law, and follows them with the
offers of his mercy; but they despise his love, make void his law, and reject his
mercy. While constantly receiving his gifts, they dishonor the Giver; they hate
God because they know that he abhors their sins. The Lord bears long with their
perversity; but the decisive hour will come at last, when their destiny is to be
decided. Will he then chain these rebels to his side? Will he force them to do his
will?
Those who have chosen Satan as their leader, and have been controlled by
his power, are not prepared to enter the presence of God. Pride, deception,
licentiousness, cruelty, have become fixed in their characters. Can they enter
Heaven, to dwell forever with those whom they despised and hated on earth?
Truth will never be agreeable to a liar; meekness will not satisfy self-esteem and
pride; purity is not acceptable to the corrupt; disinterested love does not appear
attractive to the selfish. What source of enjoyment could Heaven offer to those
who are wholly absorbed in earthly and selfish interests?
Could those whose lives have been spent in rebellion against God be
suddenly transported to Heaven, and witness the high, the holy state of
perfection that ever exists there – every soul filled with love; every countenance
beaming with joy; enrapturing music in melodious strains rising in honor of God
and the Lamb; and ceaseless streams of light flowing upon the redeemed from
the face of Him who sitteth upon the throne – could those whose hearts are filled
with hatred of God, of truth and holiness, mingle with the heavenly throng and
join their songs of praise? Could they endure the glory of God and the Lamb? No,
no; years of probation were granted them, that they might form characters for
Heaven; but they have never trained the mind to love purity; they have never
learned the language of Heaven, and now it is too late. A life of rebellion against
God has unfitted them for Heaven. Its purity, holiness, and peace would be
torture to them; the glory of God would be a consuming fire. They would long to
flee from that holy place. They would welcome destruction, that they might be
hidden from the face of Him who died to redeem them. The destiny of the wicked
is fixed by their own choice. Their exclusion from Heaven is voluntary with
themselves, and just and merciful on the part of God.
Like the waters of the flood, the fires of the great day declare God’s verdict
that the wicked are incurable. They have no disposition to submit to divine
authority. Their will has been exercised in revolt; and when life is ended, it is too
late to turn the current of their thoughts in the opposite direction, too late to turn
from transgression to obedience, from hatred to love.
In sparing the life of Cain the murderer, God gave the world an example of
what would be the result of permitting the sinner to live, to continue a course of
unbridled iniquity. Through the influence of Cain’s teaching and example,
multitudes of his descendants were led into sin, until “the wickedness of man was
great in the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil
continually.” “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with
violence.” Genesis 6:5, 11.
In mercy to the world, God blotted out its wicked inhabitants in Noah’s time. In
mercy he destroyed the corrupt dwellers in Sodom. Through the deceptive power
of Satan, the workers of iniquity obtain sympathy and admiration, and are thus
constantly leading others to rebellion. It was so in Cain’s and in Noah’s day, and
in the time of Abraham and Lot; it is so in our time. It is in mercy to the universe
that God will finally destroy the rejecters of his grace.
“The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus
Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23. While life is the inheritance of the righteous,
death is the portion of the wicked. Moses declared to Israel, “I have set before
thee this day life and good, and death and evil.” Deuteronomy 30:15. The death
referred to in these scriptures is not that pronounced upon Adam, for all mankind
suffer the penalty of his transgression. It is the “second death” that is placed in
contrast with everlasting life.
In consequence of Adam’s sin, death passed upon the whole human race. All
alike go down into the grave. And through the provisions of the plan of salvation,
all are to be brought forth from their graves. “There shall be a resurrection of the
dead, both of the just and unjust;” Acts 24:15. “for as in Adam all die, even so in
Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22. But a distinction is made
between the two classes that are brought forth. “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 5:28,29. They who have been “accounted worthy” of the
resurrection of life are “blessed and holy.” “On such the second death hath no
power.” Revelation 20:6. But those who have not, through repentance and faith,
secured pardon, must receive the penalty of transgression – “the wages of sin.”
They suffer punishment varying in duration and intensity, “according to their
works,” but finally ending in the second death. Since it is impossible for God,
consistently with his justice and mercy, to save the sinner in his sins, he deprives
him of the existence which his transgressions have forfeited, and of which he has
proved himself unworthy. Says an inspired writer, “Yet a little while, and the
wicked shall not be; yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not
be.” Psalm 37:10. And another declares, “They shall be as though they had not
been.” Obadiah 1:16. Covered with infamy, they sink into hopeless, eternal
oblivion.
Thus will be made an end of sin, with all the woe and ruin which have resulted
from it. Says the psalmist: “Thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out
their name forever and ever. O thou enemy, destructions are come to a
perpetual end.” Psalm 9:5, 6. John, in the Revelation, looking forward to the
eternal state, hears a universal anthem of praise, undisturbed by one note of
discord. Every creature in Heaven and earth was heard ascribing glory to God.
Revelation 5:13. There will then be no lost souls to blaspheme God, as they
writhe in never-ending torment; no wretched beings in hell will mingle their
shrieks with the songs of the saved.
Upon the fundamental error of natural immortality rests the doctrine of
consciousness in death, a doctrine, like eternal torment, opposed to the
teachings of the Scriptures, to the dictates of reason, and to our feelings of
humanity. According to the popular belief, the redeemed in Heaven are
acquainted with all that takes place on the earth, and especially with the lives of
the friends whom they have left behind. But how could it be a source of
happiness to the dead to know the troubles of the living, to witness the sins
committed by their own loved ones, and to see them enduring all the sorrows,
disappointments, and anguish of life? How much of Heaven’s bliss would be
enjoyed by those who were hovering over their friends on earth? And how utterly
revolting is the belief that as soon as the breath leaves the body, the soul of the
impenitent is consigned to the flames of hell! To what depths of anguish must
those be plunged who see their friends passing to the grave unprepared, to enter
upon an eternity of woe and sin! Many have been driven to insanity by this
harrowing thought.
What say the Scriptures concerning these things? David declares that man is
not conscious in death. “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that
very day his thoughts perish.” Psalm 146:4. Solomon bears the same testimony:
“The living know that they shall die; but the dead know not anything.” “Their love,
and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a
portion forever in anything that is done under the sun.” “There is no work, nor
device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”
Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10.
When, in answer to his prayer, Hezekiah’s life was prolonged fifteen years,
the grateful king rendered to God a tribute of praise for his great mercy. In this
song he tells the reason why he thus rejoices: “The grave cannot praise thee,
death cannot celebrate thee; they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy
truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day.” Isaiah 38:18,
19. Popular theology represents the righteous dead as in Heaven, entered into
bliss, and praising God with an immortal tongue; but Hezekiah could see no such
glorious prospect in death. With his words agrees the testimony of the psalmist:
“In death there is no remembrance of thee; in the grave who shall give thee
thanks?” “The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence.”
Psalm 6:5; 115:17.
Peter, on the day of Pentecost, declared that the patriarch David “is both dead
and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day.” “For David is not
ascended into the heavens.” Acts 2:29, 34. The fact that David remains in the
grave until the resurrection, proves that the righteous do not go to Heaven at
death. It is only through the resurrection, and by virtue of the fact that Christ has
risen, that David can at last sit at the right hand of God.
And said Paul: “If the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised. And if Christ be
not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are
fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” 1 Corinthians 15:16-18. If for four thousand
years the righteous had gone directly to Heaven at death, how could Paul have
said that if there is no resurrection, “they which are fallen asleep in Christ are
perished”? No resurrection would be necessary.
The martyr Tyndale, defending the doctrine that the dead sleep, declared to
his papist opponent: “Ye, in putting them [departed souls] in Heaven, hell, and
purgatory, destroy the argument wherewith Christ and Paul prove the
resurrection.” “If the souls be in Heaven, tell me why they be not in as good case
as the angels be? And then what cause is there of the resurrection?”
It is an undeniable fact that the hope of immortal blessedness at death has led
to widespread neglect of the Bible doctrine of the resurrection. This tendency was
remarked by Dr. Adam Clarke, who, early in the present century, said: “The
doctrine of the resurrection appears to have been thought of much more
consequence among the primitive Christians than it is now! How is this? The
apostles were continually insisting on it, and exciting the followers of God to
diligence, obedience, and cheerfulness through it. And their successors in the
present day seldom mention it! So apostles preached, and so primitive Christians
believed; so we preach, and so our hearers believe. There is not a doctrine in the
gospel on which more stress is laid; and there is not a doctrine in the present
system of preaching which is treated with more neglect!”
This has continued until the glorious truth of the resurrection has been almost
wholly obscured, and lost sight of by the Christian world. Thus a leading religious
writer, commenting on the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 , says: “For
all practical purposes of comfort the doctrine of the blessed immortality of the
righteous takes the place for us of any doubtful doctrine of the Lord’s second
coming. At our death the Lord comes for us. That is what we are to wait and
watch for. The dead are already passed into glory. They do not wait for the trump
for their judgment and blessedness.”
But when about to leave his disciples, Jesus did not tell them that they would
soon come to him. “I go to prepare a place for you,” he said. “And if I go and
prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself.” John
14:2, 3. And Paul tells us, further, that “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. Then we which are alive and remain shall
be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so
shall we ever be with the Lord.” And he adds, “Comfort one another with these
words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. How wide the contrast between these words
of comfort and those of the Universalist minister previously quoted. The latter
consoled the bereaved friends with the assurance, that, however sinful the dead
might have been, when he breathed out his life here he was to be received
among the angels. Paul points his brethren to the future coming of the Lord,
when the fetters of the tomb shall be broken, and the “dead in Christ” shall be
raised to eternal life.
Before any can enter the mansions of the blest, their cases must be
investigated, and their characters and their deeds must pass in review before
God. All are to be judged according to the things written in the books, and to be
rewarded as their works have been. This Judgment does not take place at death.
Mark the words of Paul: “He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the
world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained: whereof he hath
given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” Acts
17:31. Here the apostle plainly stated that a specified time, then future, had been
fixed upon for the Judgment of the world.
Jude refers to the same period: “The angels which kept not their first estate,
but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under
darkness unto the Judgment of the great day.” And again he quotes the words of
Enoch: “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute
judgment upon all.” Jude 6, 14, 15. John declares that he “saw the dead, small
and great, stand before God; and the books were opened;” “and the dead were
judged out of those things which were written in the books.” Revelation 20:12.
But if the dead are already enjoying the bliss of Heaven or writhing in the
flames of hell, what need of a future Judgment? The teachings of God’s Word on
these important points are neither obscure nor contradictory; they may be
understood by common minds. But what candid mind can see either wisdom or
justice in the current theory? Will the righteous, after the investigation of their
cases at the Judgment, receive the commendation, “Well done, good and faithful
servant,” ”enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” Matthew 25:21, 41, when they
have been dwelling in his presence, perhaps for long ages? Are the wicked
summoned from the place of torment to receive the sentence from the Judge of
all the earth, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire?” Matthew 25:21,
41. Oh, solemn mockery! shameful impeachment of the wisdom and justice of
God!
The theory of the immortality of the soul was one of those false doctrines that
Rome, borrowing from paganism, incorporated into the religion of Christendom.
Martin Luther classed it with “the numberless prodigies of the Romish dunghill of
decretals.” Commenting on the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes, that the dead
know not anything, the reformer says: “Another proof that the dead are
insensible. Solomon thinks therefore, that the dead are altogether asleep, and
think of nothing. They lie, not reckoning days or years, but when awakened, will
seem to themselves to have slept scarcely a moment.”
Nowhere in the Sacred Scriptures is found the statement that the righteous go
to their reward or the wicked to their punishment at death. The patriarchs and
prophets have left no such assurance. Christ and his apostles have given no hint
of it. The Bible clearly teaches that the dead do not go immediately to Heaven.
They are represented as sleeping until the resurrection. 1 Thessalonians 4:14;
Job 14:10-12. In the very day when the silver cord is loosed and the golden bowl
broken, Ecclesiastes 12:6, man’s thoughts perish. They that go down to the
grave are in silence. They know no more of anything that is done under the sun.
Job 14:21. Blessed rest for the weary righteous! Time, be it long or short, is but a
moment to them. They sleep, they are awakened by the trump of God to a
glorious immortality. “For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised
incorruptible. . . . So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this
mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that
is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” 1 Corinthians 15:52-55. As they are
called forth from their deep slumber, they begin to think just where they ceased.
The last sensation was the pang of death, the last thought that they were falling
beneath the power of the grave. When they arise from the tomb, their first glad
thought will be echoed in the triumphal shout, “O death, where is thy sting? O
grave, where is thy victory?” 1 Corinthians 15:52-55.

Translate more chapters: 

Prophecies Fulfilled

The Origin of Evil

The Impending Conflict

References:

  1. The Ellen G. White Estate
  2. King James Version (KJV) Bible – BibleGateway
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