We concluded our preceding article with the statement that we would again quote Justin Martyr in which he even stigmatizes as heretical the doctrine that souls are received into heaven immediately after death. Chapter 80 of his dialogue with Trypho, the Jew, reads as follows (in this quotation he also reveals his millennial tendencies):
And Trypho to this replied, “I remarked to you, sir, that you are very anxious to be safe in all respects, since you cling to the Scriptures. But tell me, do you really admit that this place, Jerusalem, shall be rebuilt; and do you expect your people to be gathered together, and made joyful with Christ and the patriarchs, and the prophets, both the men of our nation, and other proselytes who joined them before your Christ came? or have you given away, and. admitted this in order to have the appearance of worsting us in the controversied?”
Then I answered, “I am not so miserable a fellow, Trypho, as to say one thing and think another. I admitted to you formerly, that I and many others are of this opinion, and believe that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise. Moreover, I pointed out to you that some who are called Christians, but are godless, impious heretics, teach doctrines that are in every way blasphemous, atheistical, and foolish. But that you may know that I do not say this before you alone, I shall draw up a statement, so far as I can, of all the arguments which have passed between us; in which I shah record myself as admitting the very same things which I admit to you. For I choose to follow not men or men’s doctrines, but God and the doctrines delivered by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this truth, and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians, even as one, if he would rightly consider it;would not admit that the Sadducees, or similar sects of Genistae, Meristae, Galilaeans, Hellenists, Pharisees, Baptists, are Jews (do not hear me impatiently when I tell you what I think), but are only called Jews and children of Abraham, worshipping God with the lips, as God Himself declared, but the heart was far from Him. But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, as the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.
In this quotation Justin Martyr declares very plainly that he believes in a thousand years in Jerusalem. However, he also declares that many others, true Christians, think differently. But he is very severe in his condemnation of those who teach that the souls of the departed go immediately to heaven upon death, declares concerning them that they are not Christians.
Of interest in this connection is also what we read in Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, Vol. II. On page 602 we read:
5. Impenitent Christians and unbelievers go down to the lower regions of Hades (Gehemra, Tartarus, Hell) into a preparatory state of misery and dreadful expectation of the final judgment. From the fourth century Hades came to be identified with Hell, and this confusion passed into many versions of the Bible, including that of King James.
Our readers may also be interested in this quotation from Philip Schaff, Vol. II, page 602:
6. The future fate of the heathen and of unbaptized children was left in hopeless darkness, except by Justin and the Alexandrian fathers, who extended the operations of divine grace beyond the limits of the visible church. Justin Martyr must have I believed, from his premises, in the salvation of all those heathen who had in this life followed the light of the Divine Logos and died in a state of unconscious Christianity, or preparedness for Christianity. For, he says, “those who lived with the r Logos were Christians, although they were esteemed atheists, as Socrates and Heraclitus, and others like them.”
Did Justin Martyr believe that also, Socrates was a Christian? To believe that this Greek philosopher was a Christian is rather difficult. One might conclude this, however, from this quotation. And on page 768 of the same volume Philip Schaff writes this:
The book On the Universe was directed against Platonism. It made ah things consist of the four elements, earth, air, fire, and water. Man is formed of ah four elements, his soul, of air. But the most important part of this book is a description of Hades, as an abode under ground where the souls of the departed are detained until the day of judgment: the righteous in a place of light and happiness called Abraham’s Bosom; the wicked in a place of darkness and misery; the two regions being separated by a great gulf. The entrance is guarded by an archangel. On the judgment day the bodies of the righteous will rise renewed and glorified, the bodies of the wicked with all the diseases of their earthly life .of everlasting punishment. This description agrees substantially with the eschatology of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian.
In chapter XXX1 of his treatise against heresies, Vol. I of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, page 560, Irenaeus’ writing on the preservation of our bodies as confirmed by the resurrection and ascension of Christ and of the souls of the saints during the intermediate period as being in a state of expectation, writes the following:
Since, again, some who are reckoned among the orthodox go beyond the pre-arranged plan for the exaltation of the just, and are ignorant of the methods by which they are disciplined before hand for incorruption, they thus entertain heretical opinions. For the heretics, despising the handiwork of God, and not admitting the salvation of their flesh, while they also treat the promise of God contemptuously, and pass beyond God altogether in the sentiments they form, affirm that immediately upon their death they shall pass above the heavens and the Demiurge, and go to the Mother (Achamoth) or to that Father whom they have feigned. Those persons, therefore, who disallow a resurrection affecting the whole man, as far as in them lies remove it from the midst of the Christian scheme, how can they be wondered at, if again they know nothing as to the plan of the resurrection? For they do not choose to understand, that if these things are as they say, the Lord Himself, in whom they profess to believe, did not rise again upon the third day; but immediately upon His expiring on the cross, undoubtedly departed on high, leaving His body to the earth. But the case was, that for three days He dwelt in the place where the dead were, as the prophet says concerning Him: “And the Lord remembered His dead saints, who slept formerly in the land of sepulture; and He descended to them, to rescue and save them.”
Hereupon Irenaeus quotes several passages of the Scriptures to show that Jesus, before ascending to His Father in heaven, was first in the heart of the earth, quoting, among other passages, that Scripture which draws a comparison between Jonah and the Son of Man. And then Irenaeus continues as follows:
2. If, then, the Lord observed the law of the dead, that He might become the first-begotten from the dead, and tarried until the third day “in the lower parts of the earth”; then afterwards rising in the flesh, so that He even showed the print of the nails to His disciples, He thus ascended to the Father; (if all these things occurred, I say), how must these men not be put to confusion, who allege that “the lower parts” refer to this world of ours, but that their inner man, leaving the body here, ascends into the super-celestial place? For as the Lord “went away in the midst of the shadow of death,” where the souls of the dead were, yet afterwards arose in the body, and after the resurrection was taken up into heaven, it is manifest that the souls of His disciples also, upon whose account the Lord underwent these things, shall go away into the invisible place allotted to them by God, and there remain until the resurrection, awaiting that event; then receiving their bodies, and rising in their entirety, that is bodily, just as the Lord arose, they shall come thus into the presence of God. “For no disciple is above the Master, but every one that is perfect shall be as his Master.” As our Master, therefore, did not at once depart, taking flight to heaven, but awaited the time of His resurrection prescribed by the Father, which had been also shown forth through Jonas, and rising again after three days was taken up to heaven; so ought we also to await the time of our resurrection prescribed by God and foretold by the prophets, and so, rising, be taken up, as many as the Lord shall account worthy of this privilege.
So, according to this church father, there were heretics who, despising the handiwork of God, affirm that, immediately upon their death, they shall pass above the heavens and the Demiurge and go to that Father whom they had feigned. These heretics did not admit the salvation of their flesh and treated the promise of God contemptuously. Over against them the church father places the example of the Christ, in Whom, according to him, these heretics professed to believe. Christ dwelt for three days in the bosom of the earth, as foretold in the Scriptures, particularly by the example of Jonah who was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. And this, of course, will also be the experience of all His people, inasmuch as a servant is no greater than his master.
In our following article we will continue with our discussion on this doctrine of Hades as set forth by the church fathers during this early period of the church in the New Dispensation. Then we expect to quote from Tertullian. He has an interesting chapter on: Whither does the soul retire when it quits the body? He also cites opinions of philosophers which are all more or less absurd. He also sets forth the Christian idea of the position of Hades and the blessedness of Paradise immediately after death. And he then sets forth the privilege of the martyrs. It was Tertullian’s belief that the martyrs were accorded special privileges in distinction from other people of God. But this must wait until our following article.