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election and preference. John xv. 19, “ I have chosen you out of
“ (exelexamen) the world," &c. ; Acts vi. 3, “Wherefore, brethren,
' , look
out from among (ex) you seven men of honest report,” &c.; Acts xv. 14,“ Simeon hath declared, how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of (cx) them a people for His name; Acts xxvi. 23, “ That Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise from (ex, out from among) the dead,” &c.; Heb. v. 1, “For every high priest taken from among (ex) men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God,” &c.
Thus we discover that the promise of Jesus, when its complete force is apprehended, amounts to this : saints are to be resurrected out from among the dead ; and when so understood it affords us clear vision into the significance of Paul's words, “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Philip. iii. 11). To the ordinary reader, that is not, all things taken into account, a very intelligent statement; let the Greek, however, be rendered exactly, and immediately we realise and appreciate the intensity of his desires, the resurrection from amongst the dead. To win that“the better resurrection "—he was striving, enduring tribulation, and at all times prepared even for martyrdom itself. No wonder, for he knew beyond a doubt that it, and it only-resurrection from amongst the dead--would conduct him into "that world ” spoken of by his Lord and Redeemer. His intense anxiety was to be assigned a part in the “first resurrection ”-“the resurrection of the just -at the commencement of the Millennium, being aware that over him then, and over all in his gracious position, the "second death" would have no power.
“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection : on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Rev. xx. 6). 3rd.-In "that world marriage is unknown: they “neither
" marry nor are given in marriage."
The Sadducees asked Him whose wife the woman would be in the resurrection, and this is His reply. In order to make His doctrine appear absurd, at the least to thrust forward a difficultyan insuperable difficulty, as they thought-which it suggested to their embittered acumen, they framed their question, and Jesus sweeps it away by merely announcing that the institution of marriage would then be abolished, society would then be differently constituted, and the propagation of the race would cease. To contend that the distinction of sex will then be done away, would be extracting from the words more than they contain, and we decline to indulge in any speculations on the subject. Time will disclose the full meaning of the prediction, and we may tarry in contentment for the arrival of the celestial era, when we shall know even as we are known.
4th.—The resurrected, being worthy, are to be immortal : “ neither can they die any more.”
How are we to interpret" die” here ? Exactly as the Sadducees understood it. With them death was the opposite of conscious life, as when they narrated to Jesus the fact that “the woman died also.” Then, the death believers can never be subjected to again is identical in kind with that under whose dominion the Patriarchs, for instance, were held at the hour of the interview, and long before it occurred. They were unconscious in Sheol, the grave; their souls, the men themselves, were there. They, not a part of them merely, had seen corruption. For the present, they were as if they had never been. But to that state of desolation and oblivion they can by no possibility return after the resurrecting fiat has summoned them to newness of life. In their eternal home “ there shall be no more death” (Rev. xxi. 4). Now they rest in hope of a revival to
. conscious being, and that hope is one to which the infinity of Heaven's power, and the inviolability of Heaven's promise, is pledged. “These all, having a good report through faith, received not the promise ”—they did not at death ascend heavenward to enter on its possession--" God having provided some better thing for us, that they WITHOUT US should not be made perfect” (Heb. xi. 39, 40).
Now let us observe what a miserable lessening, as we view it, of the import of this assurance the common idea of a Christian's death produces on the Saviour's language. Surely it is unnecessary to explain at length what that conception is. Suffice it to write : the religious teaching of the period represents them-or their souls or their spirits--passing away at the final hour to glory. There is a little period of gloom, and then all is bright in the “ Happy Land ; " they are admitted forth with to the beatific vision ; they stand before the throne of the Lamb, and in an ecstasy of gratitude and adoration cast their crowns at His feet, singing the while, in concert with the angelic throng, the anthems of triumph and gladness. In all sobriety of mind, IS THAT DEATH ? Bears it any resemblance to death ? Rather is it not life in its sublimest form ? One wonders what they need a resurrection for, and where the immense comfort lies in the sacred pledge, “neither can they die any more.” The first death was the gate to heaven, surely no great calamity; a second might only once more be a transient eclipse, and another heaven bursts upon their enraptured gaze ! Enoch was translated that he might not see death, or die; but between his case and that of the saint who expires in the presence of weeping friends, and in the twinkling of a star is in heaven, where lies the immense difference ? They are both in glory, and it greatly puzzles us to know, if the saint who sees death is immediately carried by angels to eternal bliss, how much more favoured the ancient translated worthy could be. The “Master" must intend far more than our limping theology assigns to His speech. He employed no vain, meaningless words; and when He conveyed a promise, and especially such a magnificent one as this seems to be, He intended it to enclose substantial worth, commensurate with the vastness of His designs and the depth of His love.
We are compelled, therefore, to forsake what seems, in all candour, to be but a mirage of fable, for the enduring reality of truth. Death is death, not life ; and when our Lord affirmed resurrected saints can die ” no more, we are elevated to the contemplation of an unspeakable assurance. It is a promise from Him who “cannot lie” of being, instead of non-being; it is light instead
5 of the blackness of Hades ; it is immortality, not by nature, but the GIFT OF GOD imparted to those who, on the awakening morn, are to be constituted equal to the heavenly messengers.
Let it be added, the words, “neither can they die any more,” are far stronger than even an assertion that they are to live “ for ever," since “for ever" is used in Scripture, as with ourselves, in
. a varying, and indeed often in a very limited acceptation. Thank God, once more, there is something to fix the meaning of the phrase,
se, “everlasting life," and the words now engaging our attention leave its import beyond all controversy. They CANNOT DIE! Founded on that, and on the other testimonies of Jesus, such as “They shall never perish" (John x. 28), and “Because I live, ye shall live also ” (John xiv. 19), the believer's hope is built upon a rock solid and immovable as the throne of God. Uncertainty is absolutely debarred. The thought is overwhelming, the vision into the future indescribably glorious. In that paradisiacal scene there is light that will not grow dim; joy subject to no access of decay; inquiries that will not be arrested; love that the revolution of pauseless cycles will not quench ; songs that will not cease ; youth that cannot be weakened by age, and mental vigour that no activity may enfeeble, no catastrophe overthrow. That is immortality, and immortality through Jesus, "the Resurrection and the Life,' Who died for us that, whether we wake or sleep, we should "-at last in glory—" live together with Him” (1 Thess. v. 10).
5th.--Those admitted into “ that world” are equal unto the angels,” or, according to Matt. xxii. 30, "are as the angels of God
, in heaven.' The same historian represents the “Master” as instituting a
a parallel between the condition of the resurrected just and the heavenly intelligences named, and perhaps assigning the resemblance as a reason for the non-existence of marriage among the saved : “In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage : but are as the angels of God in heaven.” Luke rather connects it with the deathless existence they are to inherit : “ Neither can they die any more : for they are equal unto the angels.” Very likely it was intended to have a bearing in both quarters : towards the discontinuance of marriage, for saints in glory are as the angels; and towards their deathlessness; supplying, at the same time, a somewhat familiar illustration of it. In that respect they are on a level with the heaven-born messengers. Like those exalted worshippers, who have in no instance swerved from their allegiance, the ransomed ones are to be elevated above the circumstances of mortality, and so transformed that their relationships, and, for aught we know, their modes of intercourse, will be quite different from those we are acquainted with. It would not be justifiable to push the destined similarity beyond the points indicated by the prophetic description, so astonishing in the grandeur of its lines and colouring. In passing beyond what is written, we tread the fields of imagination, where we cease to expound and begin to invent. But while restraining ourselves within the limits of what is on the record, we may safely observe that, be the features of resemblance between the saved and the angelic society what they may, the standard of perfected being for His saints will be the resurrected and glorified Redeemer Himself. They “shall be LIKE HIM;” beaming after His manner in the effulgence of day; endowed with untiring energies; with powers of rapid and mysterious movement under their control, such as He showed when He tarried on earth for a brief time after leaving the sepulchre, and when He ascended to the loftiest seat in the celestial abodes; or when, in His boundless compassion, and for the world's weal, He revisited our sphere, illumined with excessive splendours, to make a captive of Saul, rushing blindly on in his persecuting fury.
6th.– Those who enter " that world ... are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection."
This is their title-children, or sons, of God; and a higher and sweeter designation is unknown in the universe. It is first conferred on a member of our sinful, mortal race, when he believes the record about Jesus as God's gift to him of eternal life. Whoever accepts that-assures himself that the gift is his in Jesus-is born of the truth into the heavenly family. In sending His Son into the world, the Father made a gift of " everlasting life" to each of its inhabitants; and it remains with us to determine whether, by each saying for himself, “THE LIFE IS MINE!” we shall be enrolled for immortality; or, by refusing to adopt that appropriating language, doom ourselves to remain among the condemned, and, having put life away, finally to perish. In believing the message-holding it to be a true saying of God, and not a lie- men are renewed in character, enjoyments and aspirations; in short, become Jesus-like, whose meat and whose drink was to execute His Father's will. “Ye are all the children of God by faith in "
— by believing the testimony about—" Christ Jesus” (Gal. iii. 26). But this enrolment and change of character—the new birth-is only the commencing step in the heaven-born child's destiny. It involves untold privileges, bought with the Lamb's precious blood; and in its duration stretches forward parallel with "the ages of the ages." “ If children, then HEIRS; HEIRS OF God, and JOINT HEIRS
WITH CHRIST” (Rom. viii. 17). Now, to eyes unenlightened, it is a meagre privilege to belong to the Divine society; time, however, will correct that enormous blunder. Their Lord was once poor and despised -His position was altogether misapprehended; but how
l; is it with Him now? How will it be when He returns in flaming fire, attended by His holy myriads ? So with His true, humble, and spiritually-minded followers, when the gates of the resplendent future are thrown wide open : “Now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be : but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John iii. 2). Then comes the “ manifestation of the sons of God;" then they will know what it is to be a member of the heavenly circle ; then the unfoldings of Infinite Goodness will sur. pass their faintest conception in this clouded scene. When called from the slumber of the grave by their descended Lord-Himself “the first-born from the dead, " the new birth—fitness in every respect for their exalted life will be entailed upon them in its completest measure : the mortal putting on immortality, the corruptible exchanged for incorruption. That is the manifestation of their sonship. Then will be opened up to their understanding what the privilege means, and all that it involves. Then, but not till then, will such sayings as these be comprehended : “He hath chosen as in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love" (Eph. i. 4); “ Ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption "-from the grave-" of the purchased possession unto the praise of His glory (verses 13, 14); and on that day these words, when interpreted by the consummation of the event, will have an exceeding wealth of meaning, never dreamt of whilst the child of God was in this vale of tears, wearied with the agonies and soiled with the dust of conflict,-" If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature : old things are passed away ; behold all things are become new !” (2 Cor. v. 17).
That man-insensate, godless man-should have such a destiny within his reach, is enough to disturb, with unknown pangs of shame and remorse, the most hardened sinner. There it swells and broadens, like a noble river, disclosing a depth of mercy for each of us that an archangel may not sound. Happy they who, looking up to their Saviour, and on and on to the grandeur, and the glory, and the transport, and the vision, can say with faltering lips, but with immovable confidence in their hearts, It is all mine! Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us !” (1 John iii. 1).
7th.—" Only those who are accounted worthy shall obtain that world.
There can be no difficulty in understanding this restriction, and it is of the last moment to preserve it in mind. A mistake here is fatal and irreparable. The priceless blessings have been brought