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The Intermediate State

We now conclude our discussion of the Intermediate State as set forth by the fathers in this early period of the church of the New Dispensation with a final quotation from Hodge (Vol. III, 741 f.f.). In this quotation, the common views on this subject (again according to Hodge) are perhaps fairly represented in the elaborate work of the Honorable Archibald Campbell, writing on the doctrine of the middle state between death and the resurrection; and we quote:

First. That the souls of the dead do remain in an intermediate, or middle state between death and the resurrection. 

That the proper place appointed for the abode of the righteous during the interim between death and the resurrection, called paradise, or Abram’s bosom, is not the highest heavens where alone God is at present, fully to be enjoyed, but it is, however, a very happy place, one of the lower apartments or mansions of heaven, a place of purification and improvement, of rest and refreshment, and of divine contemplation. A place whence our Blessed Lord’s humanity is sometimes to be seen, though clouded or veiled if compared with the glory He is to appear with, and be seen in, at, and after His second coming. Into which middle state and blessed place, as they are carried by the holy angels, whose happy fellowship they there enjoy; so afterward at the resurrection, after judgment, they are led into the beatific vision by the captain of our salvation, Jesus Christ Himself, where they shall see Him fully as He is, and there they shall enjoy God forever and ever, or sempitemally. 

The souls of the wicked at death do not go into hell, but into a middle state, which state is dark, dismal, and uncomfortable, without light, rest, or any manner of refreshment, without any company but that of devils and such impure souls as themselves to converse with, and where these miserable souls are in dismal apprehensions of the deserved wrath of God.

So, the place of both, the righteous and unrighteous, while in the intermediate state, is neither heaven nor hell, but shall we say, a sort of interim place. We now continue the quotation;

Secondly, That there is no immediate judgment after death, no trial on which sentence is pronounced, of neither the righteous nor the wicked, until Christ’s second coming. And that, therefore, none of any age or class from the beginning of the world to the glorious appearing of our blessed Saviour at His second coming, are excepted from continuing in their proper middle state, from their death until their resurrection, whether they be patriarchs, prophets, Apostles, or martyrs. 

“Thirdly, That the righteous in their happy middle state, to improve in holiness, and make advances in perfection, and yet they are not for all that carried out of that middle state into glory, or into the beautific vision, until after their resurrection.

I am not in the position to prove or disprove this assertion that this doctrine was taught in this early period of the church of God in the New Dispensation. Here we read that the righteous, while in this middle state, improve in holiness, make advances in their perfection, although it is also stated that this improvement is never of such a sufficient nature as to make it possible for them to be carried out of this middle state and to enter into the final and heavenly glow.

Fourthly, That prayers for those who are baptized according to Christ’s appointment, and who die in the pale and peace of his Church, which the ancients called dying with the signs of faith, I say that prayers for such are acceptable to God as being fruits of our ardent charity, and are useful both to them and to us, and are too ancient to be popish. 

Lastly, That this doctrine for an intermediate state between death and the resurrection, as I have proved, it, does effectually destroy the popish purgatory, invocation of the saints departed, popish penances, commutations of those penances, their indulgences, and treasures of merits purchased by supererogation.

As an example of the prayers for the dead he gives the following extract from the Office to be used at the Burial of the Dead in the first Liturgy of King Edward the Sixth: “O Lord, with whom do live the spirits of them that be dead, and in whom the souls of them that be elected, after they be delivered from the burden of the flesh be in joy and felicity; grant unto this thy servant that the sins which he committed in this world be not imputed unto him, but that he, escaping the gates of hell and pains of eternal darkness, may ever dwell in the region of light, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the place where is no weeping, sorrow, nor heaviness; and when that dreadful day of the general resurrection shall come, make him to rise also with the just and righteous, and receive this body again to glory, then made pure and incorruptible.” 

Jeremy Taylor, bishop of Down and Connor, says: “Paradise is distinguished from the heaven of the blessed; being itself a receptacle of holy souls, made illustrious with visitation of angels, and happy by being a repository for such spirits, who, at the day of judgment, shall go forth into eternal glory.” 

Again, he says: “I have now made, it as evident as questions of this nature will bear, that in the state of separation, the spirits of good men shall be blessed and happy souls, — they have an antepast or taste of their reward; but their great reward itself, their crown of righteousness, shall not be yet; that shall not be until the day of judgment . . . This is the doctrine of the Greek Church unto this day, and was the opinion of the greatest part of the ancient Church both Latin and Greek and by degrees was, in the west, eaten out by the doctrine of purgatory, and invocation of saints; and rejected a little above two hundred years ago, in the Council of Florence.” 

It appears, therefore, that there is little difference between the advocates of an intermediate state and those who are regarded as rejecting that doctrine. Both admit, (1) That the souls of believers do at death pass into a state of blessedness. (this the undersigned, H.V., does not understand. How can the believer, if we reject the intermediate state, pass at death into a state of blessedness, unless these advocates believed that the believer passes into a state of blessedness, as according to body and soul.) (2) That they remain in that state until the resurrection. (3) That at the second coming of Christ, when the souls of the righteous are to be clothed with their glorified bodies, they will be greatly exalted and raised to a higher state of being. 

This concludes our discussion of the Intermediate State as set forth during this early period of the church of God in the New Dispensation. In our following article we will treat another phase of the doctrine in connection with the general doctrine of Eschatology, the doctrine concerning the last things. 

THE RESURRECTION 

Having called attention to the doctrine of the Intermediate State as set forth by the church during this early period of the New Dispensation, we now call attention to the doctrine of the Resurrection. Of this doctrine, as taught during this period, Hagenbach, in his History of Doctrines, Vol. I, page 217, writes as follows: 

Though traces of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, which is set forth by the apostle Paul in such a majestic manner, may be found in some conceptions of greater antiquity, yet it received a personal centre, and was made popular even among the uneducated, only after the resurrection of Christ. During the period of Apologetics this doctrine of the resurrection (of the flesh) was further developed on the basis of the Pauline teaching. The objections of its opponents, proceeding from a tendency limited to sense and the understanding, were more or less fully answered in the Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians, as well as in the writings of Justin, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Cyprian, and others. Most of the fathers believed in the resurrection of the body, and of the very same body which man possessed while on earth. The theologians of the Alexandrian school, however, formed an exception; Origen, in particular, endeavored to clear the doctrine in question from its false additions, by reducing it to the genuine idea of Paul; but at the same time, he sought to refine and to spiritualize it after the manner of the Alexandrian school. The Gnostics, on the other hand, rejected the doctrine of the resurrection of the body entirely; while the false teachers of Arabia, whom Origen combated, asserted that both soul and body fall into a sleep of death, from which they will not awake till the last day. 

In footnotes which appear at the conclusion of this quotation, Hagenbach observes that it naturally excites surprise that, while Paul represents the resurrection of Christ as the central point of the whole doctrine, the fathers of the present period keep this fact so much in the background; at least it is not, with all of them, the foundation of their opinions concerning the resurrection of the body. Some, e.g., Athenagoras, who yet devoted a whole book to the subject, and Minucius Felix, are entirely silent on the resurrection of Christ; the others also rest their arguments chiefly upon reason and analogies from nature (the change of day and night, seed and fruit, etc.). 

It was during the period of Apologetics (the age of the Apostolic Fathers, the period immediately after the apostles) that this doctrine of the resurrection (of the flesh) was further developed on the basis of the Pauline-teaching. In our Apostles’ Creed we read of the resurrection of the body. In the Holland version we read: De Opstandina des Vleesches, the resurrection of the flesh. Hagenback makes the observation that it belongs to exegetical theology to inquire how far the New Testament teaches a resurrection of the flesh, and what is the relation of the flesh to the body and to the resurrection of the dead. At any rate, according to Hagenback, the expression, resurrection of the flesh, soon became current, and thus it passed over into the so-called Apostles’ Creed. It will be interesting to call attention to this doctrine of the resurrection of the body as set forth by the church during this early period of the New Dispensation.