Or the Doctrinal Views of Universalists.
By Asher Moore, 1846
CHAPTER XV - THE GREAT CONSUMMATION
Though it cannot be denied that one great object of our Savior's mission into the world was to bring life and immortality to light through his Gospel, we are well persuaded that many passages of the New Testament, which are commonly applied to this subject, were never intended to express any such meaning. One of the chief sources of error on this subject is found in mistaken notions concerning the word resurrection. Many interpreters of Scripture seem entirely to forget, if they ever understood the simple fact, that this word means of itself nothing more nor less than rising, and does not, therefore, necessarily refer to the rising up of man into the future and immortal state of existence. The true signification of this word, as every candid and sensible theologian perfectly understands, must always be determined by the particular connection in which it occurs, and the nature of the subject to which it is applied. He that overlooks this important fact, and is carried away with the mere sound and commonly approved sense of the word in question, is liable to be strangely misled; and by applying to the immortal state of being expressions which refer exclusively to things belonging to this world, he is not prepared to understand what the Gospel does really say in regard to the spiritual and immortal life.
But aside from all other portions of the Scriptures, in the 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians the subject of discourse is so plainly stated, that there can be no difference of belief as to what the apostle there means by the term resurrection. And none, we think, will doubt that the life which all the kindreds of the earth are to experience after having died in the earthy nature, is an immortal life. If, therefore, we would know what shall be the condition of man in the future state of existence, instead of skimming over the whole Bible, and catching one word here and another there, and stringing them all together according to some favorite creed, we should steadily fix our attention upon some particular part of the Scriptures, where this subject is certainly treated. In this way we shall be likely to come at the truth. And having fully ascertained any fact stated in the Scriptures, we shall find in our examinations of other portions of the sacred record, that TRUTH is consistent and harmonious throughout.
There are but few discourses in the New Testament on the subject of man's future state of existence—strictly speaking, we should perhaps say there is but one. Our Savior, in his dialogue with the Sadducees, did indeed most explicitly teach the great doctrine of his Gospel on this subject. But all that he then said was spoken in reply to a question that was urged upon his attention, and which the querists supposed that he could not answer. His immediate disciples were slow of heart to believe in his own resurrection; and it was not until he had ascended to heaven, and sent forth the Holy Ghost upon them, that they were enabled to comprehend his sublime lessons of truth, touching the life that is to come. But the only connected and lengthened discourse in the New Testament, confined exclusively to this subject, is found in the chapter of which we have spoken. The apostle there addressed those who denied the important doctrine in question; and the manifest aim of his discourse was to show that the human race will be raised up from the dead into an immortal state of existence. We need not cite portions of the chapter to prove this fact; for it will be freely admitted on all hands. Still it may not be improper barely to glance at the whole chapter, that the entire subject of the discourse may be distinctly brought into view.
In the opening of the chapter the apostle repeats the Gospel, which he declares that he had before preached unto his brethren, when he assured them that Christ died for the sins of men, was buried, and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures—that he was seen alive again after his resurrection by above five hundred witnesses at once—(most of whom were still living-) and last of all he was seen by the writer himself, “ as one born out of due time.” Having asserted the resurrection of Christ, and proved the fact by referring to the testimony of a great cloud of credible witnesses, he thus questions his incredulous brethren: “Now if Christ be preached, that he rose from the dead, how say some among you, that there is no resurrection of the dead ?" He next speaks of the wretched and miserable condition in which he and his Christian brethren would be involved without faith in Christ, and the influence of a hope extending beyond the grave. The great fact of the Redeemer's rising from the dominion of death is again brought into view, accompanied with the declaration that in thug rising he became the first fruits of them that slept. “For (it is added) since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” And the grand consummation of the whole scheme of redemption, when the last enemy shall be destroyed, and all things shall be subdued unto Christ, even as he also shall be subject unto the Father, that God may be all in all, is next asserted in language not easily to be misunderstood.
The manner of the resurrection is afterwards illustrated, at least so far as the nature of the subject will admit, and the important questions are answered. “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” The simple but beautiful simile of a grain of wheat is introduced to show that the outward man shall perish, and mingle again with its native element, while the spirit within, which is the image of the Almighty, shall return unto God who gave it. And the reader is desired particularly to notice that it is not the mere resurrection of man that the apostle declares-not the mere fact that the human race will live after the dissolution of the earthy body: for he shows that man shall not rise up as he has been sown; but that he shall come forth from the dominion of death in incorruption, power and glory, with a spiritual body, and in a heavenly nature. Hence the emphatic declaration, “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly
But as corruption cannot inherit incorruption, the apostle proceeds to explain a great mystery by declaring that “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; (for the trumpet shall sound ;) and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” And when this great change after death shall have been affected," then it is added) shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory."
And, rising in feeling with the grandeur and sublimity of this theme, the man of God closes his discourse in the following strain of triumph and rejoicing :-“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory ? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Such, then, is a very brief and imperfect synopsis of St. Paul's discourse, written with the declared intention of proving and illustrating man's resurrection from the dead, into a future state of immortality. He obviously considers man in his first and his second estates; and shows that as we now bear the image of the earthy, we shall hereafter bear the image of the heavenly."
And the amount of his whole argument is, that as our natural birth gives us the earthy nature of Adam, so will our resurrection from the dead, or our birth into the spiritual world, exalt us to a blessed participation of the heavenly nature of Jesus Christ.
The apostle, we conceive, speaks in the chapter before us, not merely of the first individual man who was created, but of the human race in their first or earthy existence. The reader may not be informed that the word Adam means not merely the first individual man to whom it was applied, but EARTHY. And we are all Adam or earthy in this world. We were not originally created and perfected with the nature and constitution which we are destined ultimately to bear. The present is but the beginning of our whole existence-only the incipient stage of our being-but the future and immortal life, where all shall bear the spiritual nature of the second man, is the permanent and unchangeable state for which we were created. And hence the plain and positive declaration of our Savior, that the subjects of the resurrection into the immortal existence shall be equal unto the angels, and the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
Man was at first made a little lower than the angels; but he was at the same time impressed with the seal of his Maker's paternity. He was created in the likeness and image of God, as a creature destined to an equality with the angels in heaven, and a divine sonship to “the Father of spirits.” And though considered merely with reference to his animal nature, it may in truth be said that “man hath no preeminence above a beast,” we are taught by the revelation of Christ that there is an inner man, which was created in the likeness of the Almighty, and which, like the germ of wheat, will outlive the perishable body, and be renovated in a purer and a better existence! There is in man an emanation from the Divinity, by which he is distinguished as the child of God, and which, we rejoice to believe, will be clothed with the glorious body of Christ, when mortality shall be swallowed up of life!
We are not ignorant of the fact that many Christian teachers assert with great positiveness that the divine image, originally impressed upon man by the great Artificer, has been entirely lost or destroyed by sin. But the proof of a position at once so monstrous and appalling, has never yet appeared to our minds. And to us it seems very plain that if a man should by some strange calamity forfeit his spiritual relation to the Deity, he would at once be absolved from all allegiance to the divine government, and would thenceforth stand upon a common level with the beast of the field! But a notion so manifestly repugnant to reason, and so utterly destitute of all Scripture authority, seems unworthy of an extended notice. When a passage of Scripture can be produced, which even appears to sanction the doctrine of man's loss of God's image, we shall feel bound to bestow upon it all due consideration. But assertions on this subject and the authority of human creeds avail nothing.
By the first man, or by man in his earthy estate, sin, sorrow and death, and all the ills to which mortals are subject, entered into the world. Our earthy nature is seen in the first Adam; and in this nature we behold weakness, corruption, an animal body, and last of all death. “By one man (says the apostle) sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Inheriting the same common nature, the whole posterity of the first individual man, have followed him in the way of transgression and death. In this nature the whole world is guilty before God; and in this nature all men die.
But in the second man, who is called “a quickening spirit "and" the Lord from heaven," we behold another nature, and the last and glorious estate of man. He came from the bosom of his Father, full of grace and truth, to bring life and immortality to light, in opposition to the sin and death introduced into the world by the first man. And hence the apostle says, Rom. v. 20, 21, “Moreover, the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign, through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Sin and death came by the first man; but they are limited in duration, and will be succeeded by the grace and life of “the Savior of the world." The reign of sin will be destroyed by the Redeemer, who has been appointed to finish sin, and to bring in everlasting righteousness; and all who have borne the image of the earthy man, will then be made alive and blessed in the nature of the heavenly For as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."
Here, then, we are presented with a great and glorious truth, which is too seldom noticed, and which we regret to say, is entirely disbelieved by many professing Christians. The first stage of man's existence is in Adam, in whom all die; and his last estate is in Christ, in whom all shall be made alive. The sure promises of God's word show that immortal life in the heavenly nature of Jesus Christ shall be co-extensive with the reign of sin and death in the earthy nature. And we are not obliged to rest the proof of this fact upon a single passage of the divine word, or upon any doubtful inference. The Scriptures in numerous places declare it in language too 'plain to be set aside, or explained in consistency with any other faith. Mark the following passage from Rom. v. 18, “ Therefore, as by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” By the sin which was introduced into the world through one man, all men are condemned in the flesh; even so by Jesus Christ the righteous, the free gift of justification unto life shall come upon all mankind. And the whole subject is briefly but most clearly expressed in these words, “ For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."
But lest a doubt should still linger in the mind of some reader, let the question be fairly considered, How many of the human race die in the earthy nature of Adam?
The answer from every mind is, All men. In this nature all men live, and in this nature all men die. We believe that even Enoch and Elijah experienced death in some way, and that their mortal and corruptible bodies returned to the dust of the ground out of which they were taken. That there was something wonderful in their death, we shall not deny. But however difficult it may be to explain the account of their departure, the simple fact of their having borne the earthy nature, is sufficient to justify the conclusion that they underwent some change that was equivalent to the ordinary death of man. Or if it can be shown that they never passed through any such change, they must be regarded as strange and wonderful exceptions. But our concern is with all who die in the earthy nature. And leaving these particular cases entirely out of view, without attempting any explanation, none will deny that in this nature all men die.
How many, then, shall be made alive in Christ? We ask no man to respond. St. Paul gives the true answer in these words, “even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” And surely the apostle did not introduce the expression even so to mean that all die in the earthy nature, but that only a part will be made alive in the heavenly. If such were his real meaning, he has certainly not selected the most intelligible language to express it. Dr. EDWARDS says in reference to the words of the apostle now before us, “It is indeed a truth granted on all hands, that all mankind will be raised at the last day; but it does not hence follow, that the apostle in this verse is speaking of such an universal resurrection." But we should like to be informed where this “Truth” is taught, if not in the very passage before us.
In what part of the Bible is it more plainly declared? We are free to confess that if “universal resurrection” is not here taught, we are unable to find any proof of this doctrine in the word of God.
The Methodist Commentator, CLARKE, we think, acted far more wisely in reference to the verse in question. He commented on the verse which precedes it, and also on the one by which it is succeeded; but in regard to this particular passage, he did not venture one word. This was certainly more prudent and commendable than to contradict the apostle, and while assenting to the doctrine which he plainly declares, deny that he teaches anything of the kind. But Edwards seemed prepared to deny any thing that did not chime with his own merciless creed!
Rev. JOSIAH HOPKINS, a New England divine, says in his work called, “The Christian Instructor,” “Another passage, which is thought by many to support this doctrine, [universal salvation] is the following, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive." The reader will here notice, in the first place, that this author has not quoted the passage correctly. He has omitted the little word or even,' which is by no means favorable to his creed. But misquoting the Scriptures is a very common failing with men of his school—too much so, indeed, for us to hold him particularly responsible for such a fault. And after giving the passage in its mutilated form, he says, by way of explaining its meaning, “It is so perfectly plain that the apostle refers in this passage to the resurrection, and that only, it is a matter of surprise that it should ever be quoted upon any other subject.” Well, this is truly a marvelous comment. Whoever pretended that the passage does not refer to the resurrection, or quoted it upon any other subject. We certainly give it this very reference; and because it does thus refer, we maintain that it teaches the doctrine of universal salvation.
It has, however, been said that though all mankind will be made alive by the power of Christ in the resurrection, some will be admitted to the joys of heaven, and the residue will be doomed to the unceasing pains of hell. But it should be understood that anything whatever may be said, and all kinds of things have been said about Christian doctrine-though our proper concern is with what the scriptures say. Look carefully for a moment at the objection. All men shall be made alive in Christ, and yet a part of them shall be eternally tormented out of Christ! This seems to be very bad logic, to say the least. We have no liking for such reasoning though it may be called theological ; and we seriously doubt whether anything of the kind ever entered into the mind of Paul the apostle. We read that “ if any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature ;" also “that there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." And we are well persuaded that the best Christian believer on earth is not permitted to hope for anything more than life in Christ beyond the troubles of mortality and the gloom of the grave.
Besides, it should be well understood that St. Paul not only assures us that we shall all be made alive in Christ beyond death; but he plainly declares that “as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” It is therefore plain that to be made alive in Christ after having died in Adam, is not merely to be quickened into an immortal life; but it is to be made alive in the HEAVENLY NATURE. Why try to keep this important fact out of view? Or why pretend, against all good sense, and in opposition to Scripture truth, that any man will be the subject of dishonor and shame and suffering, in possession of a life that shall be heavenly and divine?
But we shall be told that immediately after declaring, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive," the apostle adds, “ But every man in his own order." This expression has been supposed to mean that some men will be made alive in happiness, and others in the most dreadful sufferings. But is anything of the kind here stated ? O, no; it is perfectly understood that in the entire chapter before us there is not one word in regard to any retributive judgment or any penal suffering. What semblance of authority, then, has any man to put forth the statement in question? What is the order of which St. Paul speaks? Plainly the order of time, and no other order. Mark his language:-“Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end." And when this end shall come, it is declared that all things shall be subdued unto Christ, even as he also shall be subject unto the Father, that God may be all in all. Whatever difficulty, therefore, may attend the attempt to explain the verse here mentioned, the fact is clear that in the end Christ will completely triumph over sin and death, and every soul of man will then be enabled truly to say, “ In the Lord have I righteousness and strength."
If the question still be asked, Who are Christ's ? We may answer in the words of St. Peter, and say, “he is Lord of all.” The heathen are his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth are his possession. “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hands." Christ as the head of the spiritual creation, rose first ; afterward the members of the whole body will rise at the proper time; and when all for whom the Redeemer tasted death shall have been raised to heavenly and immortal life, the great end will come, and God shall be all in all ?
Hopkins cites the passage, “Afterward they that are Christ's at his coming,” and then says, “This passage very plainly intimates that there will be some who will not belong to Christ; and in what order such will be saved, it must be impossible to tell.” Now all this, though it might have satisfied the mind of the author, is a mere childish play upon words. If there be any argument here, we can prove by the same argument that there are nations which God never made! We read, Psalm lxxxvi. 9, "All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.” But nothing could be more stupid and senseless than to say in view of this passage, it very plainly intimates that there are some nations that God has not made; and in what order they are created, it must be impossible to tell! And yet such an inference from the passage in Psalms would be quite as logical and just as that which many persons have felt authorized to draw from 1st Cor. xv.23!
It may, however, still be affirmed that by the pronoun “we” the apostle must be understood merely as including himself, the persons addressed, and all others of like character. “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly!" The Rev. ALBERT BARNES says on these words, 66 The argument here is, that the connection which is formed between the BELIEVER and the Savior is as close as that which subsisted between him and Adam; and as that connection with Adam involved the certainty that he would be subjected to pain, sin, sickness and death, so the connection with Christ involves the certainty that he will like him be free from sin, sickness, pain, and death, and like him will have a body that is pure, incorruptible, and immortal.” And Dr. McKNIGHT has ventured to paraphrase the passage as follows:- “For as we, THE RIGHTEOUS, have borne the image of the earthy man in our body, because we wore to live a while on earth, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man in our body at the resurrection, because we are to live forever in heaven."
Here it is declared that it is the believers and the righteous who are to be made alive in Christ, because it is said, we shall bear the image of the heavenly. But as nothing is said in the passage itself or in the connection of believers or of righteous persons, why may we not restrict the meaning of the word we, still more, and say that it embraces none but the writer himself and the very individuals to whom he wrote? Surely, we have as much authority thus to limit it, as others have to limit it at all!
But as much is said in connection with our subject of believers and the righteous, what, let us here inquire, was the real character of the very persons whom the apostle addressed? —and certainly they were included in the word we. Hear what St. Paul himself says on this subject in the very chapter before us. “How say some among you, that there is no resurrection of the dead?” Again, he says to them in this same chapter, “For some men have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.” It seems, then, that some of them were disbelievers in the resurrection of the dead, and were withal destitute of the knowledge of God! And the epistles of St. Paul to the Corinthians give strong proof that some at least of that people not only denied the resurrection, and were devoid of a knowledge of their Maker; but that they were also addicted to the most vile and abominable habits of life! And these, the learned commentators in their profound wisdom tell us are the believers and the righteous, who are to be made alive in the heavenly nature of Christ, to the utter exclusion of unbelievers and sinners! They were indeed very much like the believers and the righteous in our own day! And if men sustaining the character which they bore in life, are ﬁnally to become holy and happy in Christ, we should like to be furnished with a description of the character of those who will be eternally cast off from all favor and mercy, because they are undeserving!
Alas! What sad work men make in their attempts to explain the Scriptures! ln seeking to make the word of God harmonize with their own fancies, they darken counsel by words without knowledge, and at last just succeed in obscuring the sense of what everybody would clearly understand, if it were not for their labored explanations!
But, friendly reader,
it is not of the righteous
believing that the apostle speaks in the
chapter before us; but of the human race—of all who bear the
earthy nature of man.
Faith and unbelief,
and retribution, are
other subjects, very
proper to be considered
but holding no connection
doctrine of St. Paul teaches us that, beyond all faith and
retribution, the vast family of Adam shall
be made alive and blessed in Christ. Such is the declared
purpose of God
in reference to the end of man’s existence. And while we cherish faith and hope
in Christ, because
they are full of
comfort and joy; and
while we are careful to maintain good works, because “These things are good and
proﬁtable unto men;”
let us ever rejoice
and give praise to
God for the blessed
assurance that where
sin abounds grace does
much more abound,
and that as we all bear
the image of the
earthy man, we shall also
bear the image
of the heavenly, even Jesus
is “THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD."