By Frank G. Allen
“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child; now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then, face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know fully, even as also I was fully known. But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:9-13).
I am by no means satisfied that this language refers to the future state – the state beyond death. On the contrary, I incline to a different theory – that of the organic perfection of the church and complete revelation. Hence I shall not use it as an argument; but it suggests the theme before us, many able critics holding that it refers to perfection and knowledge in the future state. As it suggests our theme, but does not establish the truth of it, I simply use it as suggesting the proposition before us.
Except the question of salvation itself, perhaps no question is so absorbingly interesting to the child of God as that of knowing our friends in heaven. We all have friends and loved ones that have gone on before. They are waiting for us on the other side. Shall we meet them there? And when we meet them, shall we know them? Shall we know them as we knew them here? Shall we know them as they are, in their own personal identity? Know them as our loved ones whom we were expecting to meet on the other shore? Shall we remember them in connection with all we knew of them in this life? Or shall we meet them as strangers? Shall they, like all the rest of the heavenly host, be known simply as redeemed spirits, whose acquaintance is to be formed, and who possess no knowledge of an earthly life to distinguish them as those dear to us here? These are questions of absorbing interest to God’s children. On the answer depends the very nature of the future life, the very thing that constitutes it a future life. We have found from observation that God’s children have a great anxiety to have the question settled affirmatively; but many have their doubts and difficulties. If I can remove these, and leave one soul more resting in a firm unfaltering faith that we shall “know each other there,” I shall feel abundantly paid for my work.
I shall first notice –
Objections to the Theory.
1. The first objection urged against the theory is this: In the eternal world we shall be simply spirits, and how can formless, featureless spirits recognize one another? But I ask, gentle reader, how came you in possession of that idea? Search the chambers of memory and ask, whither did it come? Did you get it from the word of God? If so, what chapter or verse contains the thought? The idea is not once expressed in Holy Writ. The thought came from the creeds, not from the word of God. For instance, the Methodist Discipline says: “God is a spirit, without body or parts.” The Presbyterian Confession of Faith goes a step further and expresses it thus: “God is a spirit, without body, parts or passions.” A better definition of nothing, John Calvin and all his followers could never have made. If a thing has neither body, parts, nor passions, pray what has it? This nothingness is predicated of God, and of course the same is true of all other spirits. But this is all unwarranted assumption. It is true that God is spirit. “God is spirit, and they that worship him in spirit and in truth” John 4:24). He is not a spirit, as the Common Version has it; but simply spirit. It by no means follows from this, that He is bodiless. Pajul says: “there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44). He also says that when we are absent from our earthly bodies, we will be present with the Lord; and when we are thus present with the Lord we are clothed upon with a body prepared for us in the heavens. (See 2 Corinthians 5:1 and following.) The spiritual body is just as much a reality as the natural body. It is no more “formless and featureless” than the natural body. Indeed the form and features of the one are the form and features of the other. Of this I have not a shadow of a doubt. This objection, therefore, I regard as wholly destitute of foundation in truth.
2. Another objection, which is urged with more plausibility is, that if we know our friends whom we meet there, we shall miss those whom we do not meet, and when we know that they have failed to get there, we shall be unhappy as a consequence. This is quite plausible, and has staggered the faith of many. But it is purely fallacious. Let us calmly consider it.
Why do you conclude that it will make you unhappy to miss some of your friends from the heavenly shore? Because you love them, you say. Then consider that the Savior loves poor sinners with a love as infinitely above yours, as the heavens are above the earth. “Greater love hath no man than this, that one lay down his life for his friend” (John 15:13). But Christ gave His for His enemies. His love is infinitely beyond ours. And yet sinners whom He loves thus are going down to perdition every day. The broad road that leads to death is thronged with them. And yet the Son of God is not unhappy. “The fact that sinners miss heaven does not deprive heaven of its happiness to Him.” Then why should the missing of some whom we love render us unhappy? When we are with Him, and become like Him, conformed to His image, and having His mind, that which does not detract from His happiness will not detract from ours. Hence this objection, plausible as it first appears, is without foundation in fact. But we now turn to the positive side of the question and notice some of the things in its favor. It must stand or fall by the word of God. This is the final appeal.
- Our first argument shall be based upon
The Indestructability of the Memory.
Man is a compound being. He has a dual nature. He is composed of a mortal and an immortal part. The immortal part thinks, reasons, reflects, remembers. On it all moral, intellectual and spiritual impressions are made. This part never dies. It simply passes from one state of existence to another. It is what Paul calls the “inward man.” It dwells in the body. It is the “I” of Paul: “when I am at home in the body, I am absent from the Lord; and when I am absent from the body, I am at home with the Lord.” Since the inner man alone thinks, reasons and remembers; and since it never dies, but simply changes its place of residence, we see nothing from which we may infer that any impression upon it is marred or obliterated. There is nothing in the death of the body viewed from a physiological standing-point, or from that of revelation, that obliterates any thing from the memory, as far as we can see. On the contrary, the clogs and imperfections are removed, and memory perfected.
It is a debatable question whether one ever absolutely forgets any thing that he once really knew. We say that we have forgotten; but some trifling circumstance will bring to the mind what we thought was long since forgotten, and it is again as vivid as on the day it occurred. Visit the place of your childhood after a period of more than half a century. How the memory is crowded with things of which you had not thought for many years! Often had you said of certain things: “I have forgotten it.” But now it comes up again in all the freshness of childhood. You had not forgotten. Accumulating events had simply driven the thought back in the chambers of memory, and the dust of time had settled upon it; and now, so soon as there is a reproducing cause, it stands forth as fresh as if it were a thing of yesterday!
Sometimes when the mind is in an abnormal state, excited by fever, one will report with fluency and accuracy that which in a normal state he has “entirely forgotten.” But even if we do forget things with which the mind is not engaged, on account of the burden of subsequent things and the clogs of the flesh, this would not in the least affect the things of memory when one passes from under those hindrances to a state of perfection. What one knows then he will never cease to know.
- My second argument is based upon
The Nature of Rewards and Punishments.
“For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
The question of future recognition is not directly raised in the word of God. Like the existence of God, it is simply taken for granted. While it is nowhere discussed, it is astonishing how much of the New Testament would be meaningless if deprived of that idea. Take your New Testament and, beginning at the beginning, draw your pencil around all the passages in which that idea is involved, that could have no meaning without it, and you will be astonished at the amount of Scripture you will have to mark. Your attention will be directed to a number of such passages.
The passage just quoted expresses the principle on which is based future rewards and punishments. We are to be judged for the deeds done in the body. How can we be thus judged, and know that it is the righteous judgment of God, unless we remember the kind of life we have lived, and the deeds done in the body, for which we are judged? If we do not “obey the truth, but find pleasure in unrighteousness,” there will be heaped upon us “indignation and wrath.” If we know for what we are judged, and that our judgment is just, we are compelled to remember ourselves as ourselves, and the life we have lived, and why we have received this or that reward. The Bible teaches that we shall say “amen” to the judgments of God. Future rewards and punishments, in their very nature, demand a knowledge of this life as connected with that. They would be utterly meaningless without it. From the knowledge and memory which this principle of judgment demands, recognition follows as a consequence. We can not know ourselves and our past lives, as these rewards and punishments demand, without knowing those associated with us in the “deeds done in the body.”
- My third argument is based upon some facts associated with
When Christ was transfigured before three of His disciples, there appeared and remained with them Moses and Elijah (see Luke 9:28-36). Moses had been dead near fifteen hundred years, and his body sleeping in an unknown grave. Elijah had not seen death, for God took him. The body of one had returned to dust, and that of the other had been “changed,” as those will be who are found awaiting the Bridegroom. But they both appeared to the disciples and talked with them. The difference in the disposition of their bodies seemed to make no difference in their existence at that time. This is in harmony with Paul’s teaching that the body with which we are “clothed upon” at death does not differ materially, so far as can be observed, from that which we shall have when our vile bodies are fashioned like unto His glorious body. Moses and Elijah appeared as themselves. They were recognized as such. They were “two men.” They were not “formless, featureless spirits,” but men. And they appeared “in glory.” They were, therefore, in the glorified state; and yet they were men, as much as Moses and Elijah were men on the earth. They talked with Jesus about His death, which was soon to take place at Jerusalem. It follows, therefore, that in their home in glory they knew about the Savior’s work upon the earth, and they knew that He was soon to die at Jerusalem. It is not said that Jesus talked to them about His death, but they talked to Him. They, therefore, had to know the things of which they talked. Since these saints were men in their state of glory, and knew the important things going on upon the earth in connection with the scheme of redemption, we must infer that the same is true of others. And this means a knowledge of the two worlds as they have been experienced; of our continued personality, and the recognition of those associated with us.
- My fourth argument is based on the principle involved in the angel’s remark to John, near the close of the book of Revelation, that he was one who
Kept the Words of This Book.
When John saw and heard the grand things shown him by the angel, he fell down before him to worship. But the angel forbade it. He said to John: “I am a fellow-servant with thee, and with thy brethren the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book; worship God” Revelation 19:20; 22:8-9). From this it appears that the angel that communicated to John al the grand things of the book of Revelation was a fellow-servant with John, and with the prophets, and with those who kept the words of this book. The expression “this book” must mean the word of God, of which the book of Revelation is a part. Angels have never been under the law which has been expressed from dispensation to dispensation, under which the human family have been placed. They have never “kept the words” of the book which God gave to guide the human race. We have no intimation that any but the descendants of Adam were ever governed by the Bible. Hence the “angel” that revealed to John the things contained in that book, had once been an inhabitant of the earth. Since he was a fellow-servant with John, and also with the prophets, it is highly probable that he was one of the prophets. At any rate, he was a man, a descendant of Adam, in a state of “glory,” as were Moses and Elijah. It follows from his statement that he knew himself as a certain one, and his earth life was all known to him. The book of Revelation gives us something of his knowledge, though infallibly guided by the hand of God. We infer that all others know themselves in connection with their past lives as he did. Every known fact of Holt Writ demands this. This necessarily implies recognition. The two lives are bound together by a chain of memory. That life is but a continuation of this, not a new one.
- My fifth argument is based on facts revealed as
A Case of Special Pleading
found in the seventh chapter of Matthew. Here the Savior says: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22-23).
Here the Savior represents a scene which will take place at the judgment. There will doubtless be thousands engaged in it. They plead their case for divine favor. They tell what they did by the name of Jesus. Not in His name – that is, by His authority – but by the use of His name. This distinction is brought out by the construction of the Greek. They remember what they did while here in this life, and those associated with them. The two worlds, the connection between them, and their idea of meriting divine favor, were all vividly remembered. This knowledge and exercise of memory are not peculiar to that class. All have the same faculties. They remembered themselves and their associates and their earthly life. It was all a personal reality to them. All this demands recognition. Take that idea out of it, and such language could not be used.
- My sixth argument is much of the same character. It is based upon
The Savior’s Conversation at the Judgment,
as recorded in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew. He here represents all nations as sanding before Him. And He separates them, the righteous from the unrighteous, as the shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. He places the good on His right hand, and he bad on His left. Now mark the conversation between them. “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” They remembered doing some of these things to the Savior in person, but few of them having lived in that age and country; hence they say: “Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee: or athirst, and gave thee drink?” etc. And the Son of God replies: “Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even the least, ye did it unto me.” Then He turns to those on His left and tells them to “depart, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels.” He then gives them he reason why they are thus cast into eternal punishment: they did not the things which those on His right hand did, and for which they were blessed. Now, we ask, how could such a conversation be held if both the good and the bad did not remember their past lives, and how they treated the disciples of Jesus? The good remembered the things for which they were blessed, and the bad remembered the things for which they were condemned. They all remembered their life upon the earth; remembered others, and their treatment of them. The Savior would not tell people why they were condemned, if they knew nothing of the reasons. It would all be meaningless to them. Like when one prays in an unknown tongue, they could not say “Amen” to the sentence of condemnation. All this demands a memory and a knowledge of ourselves and others that necessarily results in future recognition
- My seventh argument is founded on
Paul’s Experience in Paradise.
As this is fully discussed in a previous sermon on that special theme, I shall treat it here very briefly.
When Paul was caught away to the “third heaven,” where he saw and heard soul-enrapturing things, which he was not permitted to tell, he did not know whether he was in the body or out of it (see 2 Corinthians 12:1-4). Every thing pertaining to himself and the surroundings was so natural and life-like that he could not tell whether he was in the body, as in his ordinary life, or whether he had left his body behind when he was caught away. It follows, therefore, that the body which he had, if he was out of his old one, was so like the old one that he could not tell the difference. And it may not have been his old one. Such an experience out of the old body is possible, else Paul would have known that he was not out of the body. Such naturalness and life-likeness make the knowing of ourselves and our associates in this life, as we know them here, an absolute necessity. When we are so like our former selves as to not know the difference, of course recognition there will be just it is here.
- My eighth argument is founded on the facts stated in regard to the rich man and Lazarus. Here, according to the Savior’s statement, we have
A Case of Actual Recognition.
Whether this be a parable or a historical fact, it matters not. In either case it teaches the same lesson. A parable never represents a thing as occurring that never occurs, or that may not occur.
It is fair to presume that the acquaintance between the rich man and Lazarus was not very intimate in this life. But when they met in the unseen world, they recognized each other. The rich man knew Lazarus and knew himself (see Luke 16:19-31). When he prayed for Lazarus to be sent to give him a drop of water, he was told to “remember” that in this world he had his good things, and Lazarus his evil things. He was told to reflect upon the way he had lived on the earth; how he had treated Lazarus, and lived only for self. He was not only told to remember, which establishes the fact that the Son of God recognized the exercise of memory as a fact in the spirit world, but he actually did remember, and did recognize the beggar whom he had turned hungry from his gate. He also remembered that he had five brothers living in sin as he had done, and he remembered the teaching of Moses and the prophets, that if they died in impenitence, they would come to the same place of torment. This amounts, therefore, to an actual demonstration of the fact of our proposition.
- My ninth and final argument is based upon
The Saints’ Shout of Victory.
The Lord will descend from heaven with the spirits of the redeemed to awaken and glorify their sleeping dust, to call it in glorious triumph from the place of sacred rest and reunite it with the spirit that had thus long been separated from it. At this glorious time Paul represents the saints as standing on the verge of their empty grave and lifting their voices in a grand shout of victory: “O death, where now is thy sting? O grave, where now is thy victory? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). How could they shout victory over the grave, and thank God for their victory, if they did not remember having lived upon the earth, having slept in the grave, and that it was through the Lord Jesus Christ, their glorious Redeemer, that God gave them the victory over death and the grave? And a new song will be given to them, the song of redeeming love, a song that angels can not sing. “Unto him who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Only redeemed humanity can sing this song; and no one could sing it if he did not remember that he had lived on the earth; that he was defiled by sin, and that he was cleansed from it by the blood of the Lamb. Hence no one could honor Christ as his Savior and Redeemer, but for this memory. The honor and love and praise of Christ and of our Father through all eternity depend on the truth of our proposition! But for that memory and knowledge of the two lives and the two worlds which make recognition a necessity, we could never know our relations to Christ and our indebtedness to Him for salvation. Hence we could never know and love and honor Him as our Savior and Redeemer. I therefore regard the proposition as true, beyond all possibility of mistake. Heaven, with all that heaven means, depends upon it. Indeed, without, there could not be a future life. If in that world we do not remember this, that life would be as independent of this as this is of any preceding it. It would be a new life and a new world, but it would be no part of this – hence not the future of this.
The petty objections that may be imagined against the theory amount to nothing as compared to the grand realities of heaven, which absolutely depend upon that which makes our affirmation a necessity. The ancient Sadducees had their objections, which the Savior said grew out of the fact that they knew not the Scriptures nor the power of God; and the same cause still underlies all objections we have heard in modern times. The same old Sadducean objection is still raised, as to what one will do who recognizes a plurality of wives in the glory land? They seem to forget that we do not have wives in that glorified state. There will be no sex there, and no sexual relations. Our remembering that certain ones were our wives in this world, no matter how many, will amount to nothing when that relation no longer exists.
Many circumstances, well authenticated, seem to indicate that the dying gain glimpses of the eternal world before the spirit has left the body. Among the angels that have come to bear their ransomed spirits home, they seem to recognize the loved ones that have gone before. While we can not rely upon this as positive proof, and I do not use it as such, it is worthy of consideration. I remember a case, the facts of which I can vouch for. A nephew and namesake died about the age of six. He was a great favorite of his grandfather, who had preceded him to the spirit land about two years. He loved his grandpa dearly, and greatly lamented his death, for one so young. He talked about him a great deal after he was dead, but had gradually ceased to talk about him much before his own death. He lay in a state of seeming unconsciousness, and all were expecting the end at every breath. He had not spoken for some time. Finally a smile played over his face; his countenance lighted up with joy; his eyes opened and sparkled with delight, as he lifted his hands, pointing upward, exclaiming, “My grandpa! My grandpa!” and with his joy-lit countenance he ceased to breathe! Was his grandpa in the company that had come for him? Or was it all a delusion? The angels came for Lazarus and bore his spirit to paradise. We infer that they perform the same message of love for all of the Father’s children. As the spirits of the redeemed have visited the earth in some instances, which God has been pleased to reveal, may they not, with the angels, come to convey the loved ones to the Father’s house? The two worlds are doubtless closer together than many imagine. The border land is narrow. It is only a step from the one to the other. We can almost shake hands with those on the other side when the gates are left ajar!
With the mention of case of peculiar interest, recorded by Br. M.E. Lard, if I remember correctly, in one of the early numbers of his Quartery, I close.
An old sailor, who had spent many years on the deep, came inland to visit friends. He heard the pure Gospel of Christ, and obeyed it. In order to enjoy church privileges, no so dear to him, he gave up the sea, and settled in the State of Missouri. His wife, who had long been a faithful companion, was also a Christian. for several years, with a competency, they enjoyed the luxury of a quiet, comfortable home, beloved by their brethren, and delighting in the service and the worship of God. Finally the old man sickened and died. His end was full of peace, as his latter days had been full of love. His friends were gathered about his bed, expecting every breath to be the last. He had talked much about the heavenly home, but for a time he had said nothing. Finally he thus addressed his aged companion. “Mary, we have lived a long time together, but we have to separate now. We have often talked about the tings in the Father’s family on high, and wondered how they are. This will all soon be known to me. I shall soon be there, and know all about it as a glorious reality. I can’t tell it to you after I have learned it myself; but put your hand in mine, and when I am gone, if the sea is calm, the sky is clear, the port of heaven is open, and all is well, I’ll send you back a sign.” She put her faithful hand in his – that hand which had so often smoothed his troubled brow and lightened for him the burdens of life – and all in breathless silence awaited the end. He breathed a few times, and then his bosom sank as it only sinks when the spirit has taken its flight. The very breathing was suspended, as far as possible, while all waited with intense concern. At last, when they thought that was to be nothing more, he gave her hand a gentle pressure, and all was over! The sea was calm, the sky was clear, the port was open, all was swell, and he had sent her back the sign!