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Of the locality of this intermediate state little, indeed, can be said. Speaking of our Lord's descent into the world of spirits St. Paul says, 'Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth ?' (eis tà κατώτερα της γης.) It was underneath the earth that the Jews fixed the abode of the departed, and so far St. Paul seems, by using this expression, to countenance the notion; as also when he speaks of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth. But these expressions are too vague to found any definite opinion upon, as to the locality of the intermediate state.
But when we come to the names of this interme. diate state, we tread on firmer ground, though even then the very appellations indicate the dim mysteriousness that broods over it. The Hebrew name is Sheol, which is rendered in Greek by the word Hades, which means the Unseen or Invisible. In the English version of the Bible this is translated hell,' which is derived from an old Saxon word meaning “to hide.” This term, therefore, imports the hidden state. But here it must be remarked that the word hell is used in our Authorized Version of the New Testament in two different senses, and as a translation of two different Greek words, now of one and now of the other. Sometimes it stands
for the place of perdition, and is the rendering of Matt. xxii. 33. the word Gehenna, as in the following passage, ‘Ye
serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell ?' In the majority of instances it is the rendering of Hades, as when St. Peter applies the language of David to our Lord, • Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt _CHAP. XVII. Thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption ’; or P8. xvi. 10. as when it is said that Christ has 'the keys of death Rev. i 18. and hell.' In this sense it is used in the Creed. He descended into hell,' i.e., into Hades. This, then, is the name by which Holy Scripture designates that invisible region, whither after death the spirits of all men, good and bad alike, are gathered, awaiting the judgment of the great day.
But here must be noted a distinction. Into Hades all souls are gathered, the good and the bad. But there is separation between them. This is clearly intimated in our Lord's parable of Dives and Lazarus. While, then, Hades denotes the whole region of disembodied spirits, we are led to believe that it consists of two great compartments or divisions, occupied respectively by the just and the unjust. To distinguish the former of these, the abode of the happy dead, the Jews called it Abraham's Bosom or Paradise, both of which names our Lord made use of, the first when He described Lazarus as carried by Luke xvi. 22. angels into Abraham's Bosom, and the second when He said to the thief upon the cross, ‘This day shalt Luke xciii. 43. thou be with me in Paradise.'
Having ascertained thus much concerning the unseen world of departed spirits, we now enquire what Scripture intimates as to their state and condition in it. And, first, we gather that it is one not of insensibility but of consciousness. True, the departed are said to be asleep, but this is descriptive of the body, not of the spirit. Even in our natural sleep the spirit only becomes more intensely active by the partial suspension of bodily functions, rang
ing wide in realms of thought and mounting to heights of imagination, of which it is incapable when the body is awake. Shall we, then, think that when delivered from the burden of the flesh the spirit passes into insensibility, or rather that it becomes more intensely conscious, more unfettered in its powers ? Surely the mere reason of the case suggests the latter, and Scripture unmistakably implies it. We may not, indeed, build a dogma or a theory upon a parable, yet if the parable of Dives and Lazarus teaches anything, certainly it tells us that the state of disembodied souls is one of consciousness; of blessed consciousness on the part of holy spirits, of direful consciousness to the unholy ones. 'Son, remember,' said Abraham to Dives. Where there is the faculty of remembrance, there cannot but be consciousness. But, in truth, is it not placed beyond
all dispute by the words of our Lord, in reply to the Luke xx, 37, 38. Sadducees who denied a resurrection ? Long after
they had departed this life, Jehovah called Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Now God is not the God of the dead but of the living; they therefore, though dead, are yet the living, for all live to Him. ‘All live to Him. Mark these words, for they not only assert the continued existence of the departed saints, but they suggest the nature of it. They live, it is a real and conscious existence, then; they live unto God. Do not these words seem to imply some peculiarity and eminency of life, that they have been brought into closer contact and communion with the Father of Spirits ? The saints of earth live to God, and yet we say of them, when they die, that God has taken them to Himself,
meaning thereby that He has taken them into more immediate consciousness of and communion with Himself. And was it not just the thought of this that made St. Paul feel that to die was gain? And Phil. i. 21. yet to him to live was Christ; how then could he gain by being dead ? Surely in this
Surely in this way, that the spirit, divested of its vile body, should be capable of and come into nearer contact with the Lord. There- Phil. i. 23, 24, fore, though willing to abide in the flesh for a while, for the sake of his converts, his desire was to depart and to be with Christ, as being far better. The Christian believer is in this life privileged to have communion with God, yet, with reference to the more immediate access enjoyed by the disembodied spirit, does St. Paul say that to be at home in the 2 Cor. v. 6, 8. body is to be away from our home in the Lord, and therefore was he willing to go from the home in the body and to come to his home with the Lord.
Further, we learn from Scripture that the intermediate state is one of rest. 'I heard a voice from Rev. xiv. 13. heaven,' says St. John, “saying, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours. Yes, it will be rest. Rest from the toils and turmoils of this life, rest from its cares and anxieties, rest from the infirmities and corruptions of the body, rest from the assaults of Satan and temptations to sin. There the wicked cease from Job iü. 17. troubling, and there the weary be at rest.' Then, Luke xx. 36. they can no more die. Therefore are they free from all that fear of death which, though stripped of its sting to them that are in Christ Jesus, still looms before us grim and ghastly. They can no more die,
CHAP. XVII. but are waiting only for their perfect consummation
and bliss, on the redemption of the body from corruption, and its reunion with the spirit.
The life then of the sainted dead, we may believe, is one of blessed hope and holy expectation; and if, as before said, it be one also of nearer communion with God and Christ, we may believe it to be a life of progress and development; a state in which the affections of the soul and the faculties of the spirit are growing, maturing, ripening for the final and eternal inheritance. And may we not further think that the life of the saints in Paradise is one also of mutual recognition and more perfect communion with each other? For if now they have communion, but often jarred and interrupted by differences of thought and feeling, shall not that communion be continued, only more perfectly in a more perfect state, even as their present fellowship with the Father and the Son will then be closer and more complete?
To sum up, then, what Scripture reveals, or leaves us to infer, concerning the intermediate state of the saints in Hades, we gather that it will be a life of intense and blissful consciousness; a better life than this; better as being nearer to God, better as emancipated from all weakness and wickedness incident to the body; a life free from fear and full of hope; a deathless life; a life of closer communion with each other; a life of moral progress and spiritual advancement towards and in preparation for the perfect state. For, though blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, yet is it not completed blessedness. Happy as is their intermediate state,