Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
WHERE are our family members, friends and neighbors who have died? If the ordinary affairs
of life, such as food, clothing, finance, politics, etc., which concern us for only a few years are
considered worthy of our thought and study, how much more concern should we have for the
eternal future of ourselves, our loved ones and mankind in general?
Before presenting the Scriptural answer, let us consider the conclusions of some of the great
thinkers on this subject:
The Agnostic Answer
They answer, “We do not know. We would like to believe in a future life, but we have no proof
of it. Lacking the evidences, we conclude that man dies as does the brute beast.”
This answer does not satisfy our heads or our hearts, which instinctively cry out that there must,
or should be, a future life. Man was created with powers of mind and heart so superior to the
brute that his pre-eminence in the Divine Plan should be expected. Furthermore, the brevity of
the present life – its tears, its sorrows, its experiences, its lessons – would be practically useless,
unless there be a future life, an opportunity for making use of these lessons.
The Non-Christian Religions
Two-thirds of the world is non-Christian, so the sheer weight of numbers should hold some
weight. They offer two general answers:
(1.) Prominent among them is Transmigration. They say, “When a man dies he does not die, but
merely changes his form. His future estate will correspond to his present living, and give him
either a higher or a lower position. We believe that we lived on earth before, either as cats, dogs,
mice, elephants, or what not, and that if the present life has been wisely used, we may reappear
as men of nobler talents, but if life has been misspent, at death we will be remanded to some
lower form of being, such as an elephant, a worm, etc.”
(2.) The other class believes in a spirit world with blessings for the good and a hell of varied
torments for the wicked. They say that when people seem to die they really become more alive
than ever, and that the very moment they die, they either go to the realms of the blessed or the
forever doomed. When asked where they received these views, they answer that they do not
know, but that they have been handed down to them from the past and have been accepted as
The Catholic Answer
We now turn to the one-third of the world’s population known as Christendom. They answer,
“Our opinion is divided, with more than two-thirds of us holding the Catholic, and nearly one
third the general Protestant view.” Let us consider the Catholic view (Greek and Roman) first.
They respond, “Our teaching is that when one dies he goes to one of three places: First, the
saintly go immediately to the presence of God, to Heaven. These saintly ones do not include our
clergy, not even our bishops, cardinals and popes. We also do not teach that many go to eternal
hell, but only the incorrigible heretics, persons who have had a full knowledge of Catholic
doctrines and who have willfully and deliberately opposed them.”
Billions to Purgatory
“According to our teaching, the dead in general pass immediately to Purgatory, which is a place
of purgation from sin – a place of penances, sorrows, woes, and anguish, but not hopeless. The
period of confinement here may be centuries or thousands of years, depending upon the
individual and various conditions. The great Catholic and poet Dante graphically describes the
tortures of Purgatory. Billions are there because ignorance does not save anyone. Millions of
Protestants are also there because they could not enter Heaven except through the Catholic
Church, nor would they be subjects of eternal hell because their rejection of Catholicism was due
to the confession of faith under which they were born.
“Nearly all Catholics go to Purgatory also, because the vast majority, not having attained a
saintly character, could not be admitted to Heaven until the distressing experiences of Purgatory
would prepare their hearts for Heaven. Catholics will not, however, need to remain in Purgatory
as long as will non-Catholics.”
Our hearts are heavy with the thought that our poor race, because of original sin, is already, as
the Apostle says, a “groaning creation,” and the present life of a few years is full of trouble. It is
sad and discouraging to think that when present trials and difficulties are past, such awful
experiences as Dante portrays, will for centuries be necessary in order to prepare us for
The Protestant Answer
Protestants received their name from their forefathers, who were Catholics, when they believed
they had discovered inconsistencies and unscriptural thoughts in the Catholic doctrines they had
been taught. They protested against these, and therefore were called Protestants. One of their
points of protest was that they could not find anything about Purgatory in the Bible, so they
discarded their views of Purgatory, which left them with Heaven and Hell, into one of which
every member of the race must go at death and there spend eternity. Each Protestant
denomination had hoped that it was God’s Elect, His Little Flock, who would go to Heaven,
while the remainder of mankind would be consigned to an eternity of torture.
Since coming out of the Dark Ages, more generous views have prevailed. Very few would now
accept the thought that the vast majority of mankind will suffer eternal torment, however, the
creeds remain unchanged in large part.
The creeds have perplexed thinking Protestants, for although they resist the thought that two
thirds of our race are bound for a hell of eternal torment, they also reason that they are not fit for
Heaven. Surely, if we must object to Purgatory as being unscriptural, we must also object to the
eternal torment of most of the families of the earth as being unscriptural, especially when the
Bible declares that all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 12: 3) through Christ –
blessed with a knowledge of the Truth and an opportunity to come into heart-harmony with God
and to attain eternal life.
There are two main Protestant theories on this subject:
(1.) The Calvinistic thought is that Divine Wisdom and Power planned for man’s creation in
advance, knew of the fall of man in advance, and therefore created a great place called hell, and
that it is manned by fire-proof devils for the torment of the race, except for the Elect. Love and
Justice were left out of this plan.
(2.) The other prominent theory, the Arminian, which is probably held today by the majority,
insists that both Love and Justice created the world and arranged the torment, and that Wisdom
and Power were not consulted; therefore, God has gotten into difficulty because while seeking to
be just and loving toward His creatures, He lacks the power to give them the needed aid.
The entire difficulty has been that only the opinions of man have been consulted instead of the
Word of the Lord. Let us now consider the clear, plain, reasonable, just, loving and wise program
of the Heavenly Father, Who through the Prophet declares: “As the heavens are higher than the
earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts”
(Isaiah 55: 9).
And what else should we expect than this, that God would be better than ourselves? Our Lord
said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for
them which despitefully use you” (Matthew 5: 44). “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst,
give him drink” (Romans 12: 20). In view of this, how strange to think that God would torture
His enemies eternally; and even those do not become believers under present adverse conditions!
From only the one standpoint can we get order out of confusion and regain the proper respect for
our Creator and His dealings with our race. That is the standpoint of the Truth as revealed to us
in the Bible.
All of the above theories are based upon the assumption that death does not mean death – that to
die is to become more alive than before death. In Eden it was God who declared to our first
parents, “Thou shalt surely die,” and it was Satan who declared, “Ye shall not surely die.” Our
common mistake has been that we have followed the wrong teacher, the one of whom our Lord
said, he “abode not in the Truth,” and he is the father of lies (John 8: 44).
These false doctrines have prevailed for many centuries, but gained an ascendency in the Church
during the Dark Ages, in fact, they caused much of the darkness. Had our forefathers believed
God’s testimony, there would have been no prayers for the dead, masses for their sins and
frightful thoughts respecting their torture. The Scriptures agree from beginning to end that “the
dead know not any thing” (Ecclesiastes 9: 5), and that “His sons come to honour, and he
knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them” (Job 14: 21).
It is the Scriptures that tell us that the dead experience neither joy nor sorrow, pleasure nor
suffering; that they will have no knowledge of anything until their awakening in the
Resurrection. The wise man said, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for
there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave (sheol), whither thou
goest” (Ecclesiastes 9: 10). The dead are perished in the tomb; and the perishing would be
absolute, complete, unless a resurrection be provided for their deliverance from the power of
death. Hence we read, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3: 16).
The Bible teaches that man was created in the image and likeness of his Creator; that he
possessed perfect life in Eden and might have retained it by full obedience. But he failed in his
trial and came under the death sentence: “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely
die” (Genesis 2: 17). There the dying process began, and after 930 years brought Father Adam to
the tomb and involved all of his children in his weakness and death sentence. He died in the very
day which the Apostle Peter explains was not a 24-hour day, but a thousand-year day: “One day
is with the Lord as a thousand years” (2 Peter 3: 8).
During six of these great Days, the death sentence has rested upon mankind, though God hinted
at relief by the statement that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head
(Genesis 3: 15); and it was further elaborated to Abraham, saying, “In thee and in thy seed shall
all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12: 3) (Genesis 28: 14). But not until four of the
great thousand-year Days had passed did God send forth His Son to redeem the race, by meeting
Father Adam’s penalty, by dying, “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God”
(1 Peter 3: 18). As a result of that redemptive work accomplished at Calvary, there is to be “a
resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” – a recovery from the death sentence, the
tomb (Acts 24: 15).
It has been a mistake in assuming eternal torment as the wages of original sin, when the
Scriptures explicitly declare death to be the penalty. By searching the Genesis account of man’s
fall and the sentence imposed, there is no suggestion of a future eternal torment, but merely of a
death penalty. How, then, did the Adversary deceive our fathers during the Dark Ages with his
errors, which the Apostle describes as “doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4: 1)? None of the
prophecies mention any other than a death penalty for sin. The New Testament declares the
same. The Apostle Paul, who wrote more than one-half of the New Testament, assures us, “I
have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20: 27), yet he does not say a
word about eternal torment. On the contrary, he says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into
the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”
(Romans 5: 12).
Some might suggest that death would not be a sufficient penalty for sin, but that conclusion is
illogical. For the sin of disobedience, Adam lost his paradisiac home, his perfect life and Divine
fellowship, and instead got sickness, pain, sorrow and death. Additionally, all of his posterity,
reasonably estimated at 40,000 million, have inherited weaknesses, mental, moral and physical,
and are, as the Apostle declares, a groaning creation (Romans 8: 22). Surely, no reasonable
person would say that the penalty has been insufficient, and that Justice could and does further
demand that these millions shall at death be tormented by demons to all eternity!
The death penalty is neither unjust, nor too severe. God could have blotted Adam and the whole
race out of existence instantly; but He determined that present trials and experiences shall prove
useful as disciplines to prepare us for a wiser course than Father Adam took, when we shall be
privileged to have one full individual trial. Our race has hope of a future existence because of
God’s compassion and the work of redemption.
Our Lord died for our redemption. If the penalty against us had been eternal torment, our
redemption from it would have cost our Lord that price – He would have suffered eternal
torment, the Just for the unjust. But eternal torment was not the penalty, therefore, Jesus did not
suffer that penalty for us. Death was the penalty, for “Christ died for our sins.” By the grace of
God, He tasted death for every man (1 Corinthians 15: 3) (Hebrews 2: 9). Adam alone had been
tried and condemned. We, his children, were involved through him. The Scriptures assure us that
God condemned the whole world for one man’s disobedience, in order that He might have mercy
upon all through the obedience of another – Christ. The wisdom and economy of our Creator
shine brightly in this arrangement!
So, Are we without responsibility? Will there be no individual penalty upon us for individual
wrong doings? We answer that our eternal destiny can only be determined by ourselves, by
individually accepting or rejecting the grace of God. The Scriptures declare that every sin, in
proportion to its willfulness, brings a measure of degradation which involves chastisements,
corrections, in order to regain the lost standing (Matthew 12: 36) (Luke 12: 47, 48). The meaner
one may be, the greater will his disadvantage be in the resurrection time, and the more he will
then have to overcome, to get back to all that was lost in Adam and redeemed by Christ.
During His First Advent, our Lord’s miracles foreshadowed the great work which He, with His
glorified Church, will accomplish for the world during the Millennial Age. Then all the sick,
lame, blind and dead will be revived, and if obedient, will ultimately be brought to full
perfection; and the disobedient will be destroyed in the Second Death (Acts 3: 23). Our Lord’s
most notable miracle was the awakening of His friend, Lazarus, from the dead. Jesus had been
gone for several days when Lazarus became sick. Though He knew about Lazarus’ condition,
Martha and Mary sent Him a special message, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is
sick” (John 11: 3). They knew that Jesus had the power to heal, even by the word of His mouth,
but He remained where He was and allowed Lazarus to die. Then He said to His disciples, “Our
friend Lazarus sleepeth” (John 11: 11). To clarify, He finally added, “Lazarus is dead. And I am
glad for your sakes that I was not there” (John 11: 14, 15).
Jesus was glad to let His friend fall asleep in death, because it would provide an opportunity to
perform a special miracle. When He and His disciples arrived in Bethany three days later,
Martha’s gentle reproof was, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Our Lord
said unto her, “Thy brother shall rise again.” Martha said unto Him, “I know that he shall rise
again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11: 21, 23, 24). Note that Jesus did not say that
Lazarus was in Heaven or Purgatory. Purgatory had not yet been invented, and our Lord’s
testimony is, “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven”
(John 3: 13).
Jesus explained that the power of resurrection was vested in Himself, that He could awaken their
brother. Martha insisted that it was too late, that putrefaction had already set in, but Jesus
insisted on seeing the tomb. He cried, “Lazarus, come forth” and “He that was dead came
forth” (John 11: 43, 44).
What Jesus did for Lazarus He implied He would do for Adam and his entire race. He stated,
“The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his [Jesus’] voice, and
shall come forth” (John 5: 28, 29). The remainder of verse 29 explains that there will be two
general classes of the dead to come forth: First, those who have had their trial and who have
passed it successfully; second, all the remainder of mankind who have thus far failed to have
Divine approval. The approved will come forth from the tomb unto a resurrection of life –
perfection. The disapproved will come forth “unto a resurrection of judgment” (see Revised
Version). There is a difference between a coming forth and a resurrection. The disapproved, on
being awakened, will have the privilege of rising up out of present degradation – mental, moral,
physical – to the glorious perfection which Father Adam enjoyed in the image and likeness of
His Creator. St. Peter refers to the uplifting or resurrection work as “the times of restitution of all
things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world
began” (Acts 3: 21).
Not Universalism Either
This does not imply universal eternal life, for the Scriptures declare that those who refuse to
profit by the opportunities of the Millennial Age, who refuse to be uplifted to perfection, shall be
destroyed from amongst the people in the Second Death – “They shall be as though they had not
been” (Obadiah 16). When our Lord entered the synagogue at Capernaum and was asked to read
the lesson, He chose the 61st chapter of Isaiah. There He read about Himself and His work, a
part of which was to open the prison doors and set at liberty the captives. He was not referring to
literal prisons, but the great prison-house, the tomb, which now holds approximately forty billion
persons. At His Second Advent, our Lord will open this great prison-house and cause all the
prisoners to come forth, just as truly as He did in the case of Lazarus, when He declared,
“Lazarus, come forth,” – so “all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.”
We have found all earthly authorities on this subject unsatisfactory. The Bible alone provides a
satisfactory answer, assuring us that the dead are really dead, and that all their hopes respecting
the future are centered, first, in the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus, accomplished at Calvary;
and secondly, upon the work of resurrection which He will accomplish for those whom He
redeemed, at His Second Advent.
Soon Satan will be fully bound and his unholy, invisible kingdom destroyed. Then the rule of the
holy, invisible Millennial Kingdom will come, and through its earthly representatives, agencies
will be established for enlightening and uplifting the whole race.
Genesis 12: 3
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
Matthew 5: 44
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Romans 12: 20
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
John 8: 44
44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
Ecclesiastes 9: 5
5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
Job 14: 21
21 His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them.
Ecclesiastes 9: 10
10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
John 3: 16
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Genesis 2: 17
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
2 Peter 3: 8
8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
Genesis 3: 15
15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
Genesis 12: 3
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
Genesis 28: 14
14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
1 Peter 3: 18
18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
Acts 24: 15
15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
1 Timothy 4: 1
1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
Acts 20: 27
27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
Romans 5: 12
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Romans 8: 22
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
1 Corinthians 15: 3
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
Hebrews 2: 9
9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
Matthew 12: 36
36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
Luke 12: 47, 48
47 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
Acts 3: 23
23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
John 11: 3
3 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.
John 11: 11
11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
John 11: 14, 15
14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.
John 11: 21, 23, 24
21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
John 3: 13
13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
John 11: 43, 44
43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
John 5: 28, 29
28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29 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.
Acts 3: 21
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
16 For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.
Isaiah 55: 9
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
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