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Man’s Nature and Destiny

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    ACCORDING to Luke’s account of the crucifixion of our Saviour, Luke 23:33-46, one of the two malefactors who were crucified with him, said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy Kingdom.” And Jesus said unto him, Verily, I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Verses 42, 43. This says the immaterialist, “must ever stand as a clear announcement of the uninterrupted immortality of the soul.” (Landis. p.211.) The “clear announcement” is made out in this manner: Christ and the thief, it is claimed, both died that day; they both went to paradise that day; and their condition while there was, of course, one of consciousness and intelligence.MND 152.1

    There is one fact which stands somewhat in the way of this clear announcement; and that is, that Christ did not go to paradise that day. In answer to the popular view, we first set forth this unqualified proposition, and undertake its proof; and if this shall prove to be well grounded, the doctrine of annihilation will be found in a degree true; for the claims usually built on the scripture above quoted are utterly and forever annihilated by this fact.MND 152.2

    In entering upon the argument to show that Christ did not go to paradise that day, we first inquire what paradise is, and where it is. The word occurs but three times in the English version of the Scripture, all in the New Testament; two besides the verse under consideration; but these are amply sufficient to define and locate it.MND 152.3

    First, Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:2, says: “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago (whether in the body I cannot tell; or whether out of the body I cannot tell; God knoweth), such an one caught up to the third heaven.” In verse 4 he affirms that the place to which this man was caught up was paradise. This establishes the fact that paradise is in the third heaven.MND 153.1

    Again, in Revelation 2:7, we read the promise which the Saviour gives to the overcomers; and he says: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” This establishes another equally important fact, that paradise is where the tree of life now is. Now if the Scriptures anywhere give us any further information respecting the place where the tree of life is to be found, we have still further testimony respecting paradise.MND 153.2

    In Revelation 21 and 22 we have a description of the New Jerusalem, the holy city which is above. In chap. 22:1, 2 we read: “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it [the city], and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruit, and yielded her fruit every month.” By this testimony, we learn that the tree of life, which grows in the midst of the paradise of God, is in the holy city, fast by the river of life, which proceeds from the throne of God. Nothing could be more explicit than this. We have now found the paradise of the New Testament. It is in the third heaven, where the tree of life is, and where God maintains his residence and his throne. Whoever, therefore, goes into paradise, goes into the presence of God. If the Saviour went there on the day of his crucifixion, with the impenitent thief, he went into the presence of his Father.MND 153.3

    Bear this fact in mind, while we reverently listen to the words of the Lord, and believe what he says, while he himself testifies whether he went to paradise on the day of his crucifixion, or not. On the morning of his resurrection, the third day AFTER his crucifixion, he said to Mary who was about to embrace his feet, in accordance with the ancient custom of deference or worship, “Touch me not; FOR I AM NOT YET ASCENDED TO MY FATHER.” The third day, remember, from the crucifixion, and not ascended into paradise yet!MND 154.1

    Struck into a state of bewilderment by this stunning fact, Landis (pp.209,211) clutches wildly for some supports by which to rear again his prostrate structure. He feigns to find evidence in John 16:16, that Jesus told his disciples that at death he would go to his Father, - a scripture which very evidently has reference, not to his death, but to his bodily ascension, forty days after his resurrection. Then, referring to the fact that the word “ascend” is from anabaino, he says: “Now every tyro knows that in composition ana has very frequently [?] the force of again. Baino alone means simply to ascend; ana adds a shade of meaning.”MND 154.2

    It is frequently the case that writers try to drive others into an admission of their statements by representing that they will appear very ignorant and stupid to deny them. But Mr. L., not being a tyro, doubtless understands that nearly every statement in this criticism is false in itself considered, and every one of them wholly so, as applied to the case in hand. Ana, in composition with baino, does not have the force of “again.” In neither Liddell and Scott, Robinson, Greenfield, nor Parkhurst, is there any such definition as “ascended again” given to anabaino. Baino alone does not mean “to ascend.” No such definition is given to it in the standard authorities here named. It means simply “to go,” without any reference to the direction; other words, either in composition with it, or in the context, signifying whether this motion is up or down, forward or backward, over or under, etc. In no one of the eighty-one instances of the use of the word in the New Testament, is it translated “ascend again.” And finally, those texts which Mr. L. quotes as containing the word “again,” as Matthew 3:16, which he quotes, “Christ “went up again, or returned,” and Matthew 5:1, which he quotes, “He went up again into a mountain,” the word “again” is not expressed in the English nor implied in the Greek. In only one instance is the word “again” used with anabaino; that is Galatians 2:1, where Paul says, “I went up again to Jerusalem;” but here the word “again” is from another word (palin), explicitly inserted in the text, and anabaino is translated simply “went up.”MND 154.3

    Rarely do we meet with an instance of more reckless desperation in the line of criticism. And what is the object of it? - It is to have us understand that when Christ says, “I am not yet ascended to my Father,” he means to say, I am not yet ascended again to my Father. And from this he would have us further draw the lucid inference that Christ had ascended once, that is, in his disembodied spirit, between his death and resurrection, and now tells Mary not to touch him, because he has not ascended again! It would be difficult to conceive of a more unnecessary and far-fetched inference. And that men will seriously contend for such a view, shows the orbless obstinacy with which they will cling to preconceived notions, though they have only the most groundless trifles to sustain them, rather than surrender them for more consistent views. Nothing can be more evident than that Christ, when he said, “I am not yet ascended to my Father,” affirmed in the most direct manner that since his advent into this world, he had not, up to that time, ascended to his Father.MND 155.1

    Rather than thus summarily lose the argument that the thief was still conscious in death, and that the soul is therefore (?) immortal, another attempt is made to adjust the matter thus: Although Christ did not go to his Father, he nevertheless went to paradise, which is not where the Father dwells, but the intermediate resting-place of departed souls. Do we then understand them? We found them, a little while ago, arguing from Ecclesiastes 12:7, that the disembodied spirit did return to God; which they claimed to be proof positive that the soul is immortal, and thought it would puzzle the annihilationists not a little. Do they now give this up, and admit that the soul or spirit does not go to God, but only into some intermediate place, called paradise? It matters not to us which position they take, only we wish to know which one it is. We cannot hold our peace, and allow them to take one position on one text and another on another, to avoid the embarrassments into which their theory plunges at every turn.MND 156.1

    That paradise is no intermediate state, a half-way house between the grave and the resurrection, we have fully shown; for we have the positive statements of the Scriptures to show that paradise is in the third heaven, where God sits upon his throne; and Christ told Mary, the third day after his crucifixion, in so many words, that he had not yet ascended there.MND 156.2

    But besides this, we have other positive evidence that Christ did not go to heaven nor to any intermediate half-way place between his death and resurrection. The Scriptures tell us explicitly just where he was during this time, and the place was not Gehenna, the place of punishment for the damned, where it is claimed he went to preach to the spirits in prison; and it was not paradise. To those who came to the sepulcher, the angels said (Matthew 28:5, 6), “Ye seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he is risen; that is, that he, the Jesus who was crucified, was in that very place till he left it by rising from the dead. Who may set aside such testimony?MND 157.1

    The popular interpretation of Christ’s language to the thief thus utterly failing, we are thrown back upon the text for some other explanation of the phraseology there used: “Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”MND 157.2

    There are but two probable ways in which this language can be interpreted: One is, to let the phrase “to-day” refer to the time to which the thief had reference in his request. He said, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into 1Although the Greek word here is en which literally means “in,” it is doubtless used in the sense of eis which means “into;” as is sometimes the case with en, according to the lexicons. There are ten instances in the N. T. where it must have this meaning: thy kingdom He looked forward to the day when Christ should come into his kingdom. And if the “today” in Christ’s answer refers to this time, then the “day” in Christ’s answer refers to this time, then the sense would be, “Verily I say unto thee, To-day, or this day, the day to which you refer, when I come into my kingdom, thou shalt be with me in paradise.” The word “to-day” is from the Greek, semeron; and all the definitions we find of it would seem to confine it to present time, excluding an application of it to the future. This interpretation, therefore, we think cannot be urged.MND 157.3

    The other, and only remaining method of interpreting the passage, is to place the comma after “to-day,” making to-day and adverb qualifying the word “say.” The sense would then be, “Verily I say unto thee to-day, Thou shalt be with me in paradise,” at that period in the future when I shall come in my kingdom. 1Mark 1:16; Luke 5:16; John 3:35; 5:4; Acts 7:45; Romans 1:23, 25; 2 Corinthians 8:16; Galatians 1:6; 1 Timothy 3:16. It does not seem at all likely either that the mind of the thief was sufficiently enlightened, or that on this occasion he would so enter into particulars as to distinguish between the setting up of the kingdom and the second advent, and refer to his second coming after he had received the kingdom. He doubtless looked forward simply to that time when the Lord would be invested with his royal power, and come into possession of his kingdom.”MND 158.1

    This method of punctuation, if it is allowable, clears the subject of all difficulty. Let us then candidly consider what objections can be urged against it.MND 158.2

    As to the punctuation itself, we all know that that is not the work of inspiration; and withal, that it is of recent origin, the comma in its present form not having been invented till the year A.D. 1490, by Manutius, a learned printer of Venice. It is therefore allowable to change this in any manner that the sense of the passage, the context, or even other portions of the Scriptures may demand. So the Bible Societies (Ives., p.66) have found it necessary to change the punctuation of Matthew 19:20; and other passages are still in question. But the objector accuses us of making sad nonsense of the text by this change; and he asks, in bitter irony, “Didn’t the thief know it was that day, without Christ’s telling him?” Very true, as a matter of fact; but let the objector beware lest his sarcasm fall upon the Scriptures themselves. for such very expressions do occur therein. See Zechariah 9:12: “Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope: even to-day do I declare that I will render double unto thee.” Transposing this sentence, without altering the sense, we have phraseology similar to that of Luke 23:43; namely, “I declare unto you even to-day, I will render double unto thee.” The events threatened here were to take place in the future, when the Lord should bend Judah, etc. See context. So the phrase “to-day” could not qualify the “rendering double,” etc., but only the verb “declare.”MND 158.3

    Here, then, is an expression exactly parallel with that in Luke, and the same irony is applicable; thus, “Did not the prisoners of hope know it was that day when the declaration was made to them?” But let our opponents now discard their unworthy weapon; for here it is leveled against the words of inspiration itself. See also Deuteronomy 8:19; 15:15; 30:16; Acts 26:29.MND 159.1

    But when we take into consideration the circumstances of the case, we see a force and propriety in the Saviour’s making his declaration emphatically upon that day. He had been preaching the advent of the kingdom of heaven to listening multitudes. A kingdom he had promised to his followers. But the powers of death and darkness had apparently triumphed, and were crushing into the very grave both his prospects and his promises. He who was expected to be the king of the coming kingdom, stretched upon the shameful cross, was expiring in ignominy and reproach; his disciples were scattered; and where now was the prospect of that kingdom which had been preached and promised? But amid the supernatural influences at work upon that memorable day, a ray of divine illumination may have flashed in upon the soul of the poor thief, traveling the same road of death beside his Lord. A conviction of the truthfulness of his claims as the Messiah, the Son of God, may have entered into his mind, and a desire have sprung up in his heart to trust his lot in his hands, leading him to put up a sincere petition, Lord, in mercy remember me when the days of thy triumph and glory shall come. Yes, says the suffering Saviour, in the hearing of the mocking multitude, I say unto thee to-day - to-day, in this hour of my darkness and agony - to-day, when the fatal cross is apparently giving the lie to all my pretensions - to-day, a day of forlorn prospects and withered hopes, so far as human eyes can see - verily, to-day, I say unto thee, thou shalt be with me in paradise, when my kingdom shall be established in triumph and glory.MND 159.2

    Thus there is a divine force and beauty in these words of our Lord, as uttered on that occasion. How like a sun at midnight would they have broken in upon the gloom that enshrouded the sorrowing hearts of the disciples, had they fathomed their import! For who had occasion to sink in despair, if not He upon whom all depended, and that, too, when expiring under the agonies of the cross? But lo! no cloud of gloom is sufficient to fix its shadows upon his serene brow. His divine foresight, riding calmly over the events of the present, fixes itself upon that coming period of glory, when he shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied. There, in the hour of his deepest humility, he points them to the joys of paradise.MND 160.1

    Thus, by a simple removal of the comma one word forward, the stone of stumbling is taken out of this text, by making it harmonize with other scriptures; and thus the promise, by having reference to something in the future, and not to anything to be performed on that day, contains no affirmation of consciousness in death.MND 161.1

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