Soul, Death, & Grace Chapter 3
THE RIGHTEOUS AND DEATH
We have reviewed among other things regarding Jesus during death, that He was in the tomb until the Father called Him forth. We now wish to see if resting in the grave from the time of death until the resurrection is part of death’s experience for people other than Christ, if they are not quickly resurrected. If so, does the length of time one stays in the state of death affect the location of the dead ‘person’? Is there a shift, for example, from sleeping in the tomb, to sleeping in Jesus? We know that Christ was in the grave from Friday evening to early Sunday morning, and that Lazarus was buried four days, and still in the grave, but what about those people who are dead for centuries, where the body has completely returned to dust?
Notice the following concepts.
Group I: Materials describing those who die as going down into the grave.
- “The bible clearly teaches that the dead do not go immediately to heaven. They are represented as sleeping until the resurrection… They that go down to the grave are in silence.” GC, p. 550.
- “He is suddenly snatched away by death, and he goes down to the grave with the character formed during his lifetime….” COL, p. 270.
- “In consequence of Adam’s sin, death passed upon the whole human race. All alike go down into the grave.” GC, p. 544.
- “Our personal identity is preserved in the resurrection, though not the same particles of matter or material substance as went into the grave.” 6 BC, p. 1093.
Group II: General descriptive statements about people in death.
- “God’s Word declares that the dead know not anything, their hatred and love have alike perished.” Ev, p. 249.
- “In the grave he has no power to choose anything, be it good or evil; for in the day when a man dies his thoughts perish.” COL, p. 270.
- “Blessed rest for the weary righteous! … They sleep; they are awakened by the trump of God to a glorious immortality…. As they are called forth from their deep slumber they begin to think just where they ceased.” GC, p. 550.
- In his letter to the people at Thessalonica, “Paul endeavored to instruct them regarding the true state of the dead. He spoke of those who die as being asleep – in a state of unconsciousness….” AA, p. 257.
- “Christ represents death as a sleep to His believing children. Their life is hid [To be ‘hid with Christ in God’ can mean to have an intelligent, immovable faith in the Father and in Jesus; in their relationship to one another, and to people (see DA, p. 664). Therefore in this context the phrase can mean to die while thus believing.] with Christ in God, and until the last trump shall sound those who die will sleep in him.” DA, p. 527. Their life will be knit by hidden links to the life of Jesus. Cf. COL, p. 149.
- “The spirit, the character of man, is returned to God, there to be preserved. In the resurrection every man will have his own character.” MS 76, 1900, quoted in 6 BC, p. 1093.
- “The life giver will call up His purchased possession in the first resurrection, and until that triumphant hour … every sleeping saint will be kept in safety and will be guarded as a precious jewel, who is known to God by name.” SD, p. 359.
The facet of the question we are exploring about the righteous in death that now presents itself is, if one had died and is in a tomb, does Christ have a work to do before the dead can come out of the graves – their prison houses – that is, before they can return from the land of the enemy?
If one were to answer, yes, would this work be conceived of as having been accomplished at the time of the cross, or would the conception be that the victory gained at the cross would only be realized at the later time when Christ should exercise His power in harmony with the authority His victory through suffering and dying gained Him?
Notice the following concepts as a milieu for thought:
- “As Christ ascends while in the act of blessing His disciples, an army of angels encircle Him as a cloud. Christ takes with Him the multitude of captives. He will Himself bring to the Father the first fruits of them that slept, as an evidence that he is conqueror of death and the grave.” 1 SM, p. 306.
- Paul points his brethren to the future coming of the Lord, when the fetters of the tomb shall be broken, and the ‘dead in Christ’ shall be raised to eternal life.” GC, p. 548.
- “Thus it will be when the voice of Christ shall be head from heaven. That voice will penetrate the graves and unbar the tombs, and the dead in Christ shall arise.” DA, p. 787.
- “We are not parted forever but shall meet the loved ones who sleep in Jesus. They shall come again from the land of the enemy. The Life-giver is coming…. He bursts the bands of death, breaks the fetters of the tomb, the precious captives come forth in health and immortal beauty.” 2 SM, p. 260.
- “… the hope of the bereaved is in looking forward to the glorious day when the Life-giver shall break the fetters of the tomb, and the righteous dead shall arise and leave their prison house to be clothed with glorious immortal life.” 1 T, p. 40.
In such a concept as the one presented to us in the last three or four sources, the presence of resurrected ones with Christ connotes that He has conquered death and the grave. The connecting together of the two concepts, death and the grave, is of course expected in daily life but what might have not been before so clearly distinguished is that they are not identical.
Death is, in this context, that which puts an end to man’s normal interaction with other people, while the grave is where the dead one is held.
This dichotomy presents us with an unusual to formulate, but exciting implication – though we all know we can’t raise the dead, we don’t often find a formula suggesting a why.
This is a fascinating concept to add to our thinking; Christ bursts the bands of the tomb, the fetters of the tomb will be broken, the dead in Christ will be called to eternal life.
That is to say the dead are in the land of the enemy until they are called back.
Notice the following concepts.
- “’The hour is coming,’ Christ said ‘in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth.’ That voice is to resound through all the habitations of the dead; and every saint who sleeps in Jesus will awake to leave his prison-house.” SD, p. 359.
- “Amid the reeling of the earth, the flash of lightning, and the roar of thunder, the voice of the Son of God calls forth the sleeping saints…. Throughout the length and breadth of the earth the dead shall hear that voice, and they that hear shall live…. From the prison house of death they come, clothed with immortal glory….” GC, p. 644.
- “… the hope of the bereaved is in looking forward to the glorious day when the life-giver shall break the fetters of the tomb, and the righteous dead shall arise and leave their prison-house to be clothed with glorious immortal life.” 1T, p. 40.
Whether the dead would be considered as coming forth from their graves, and not from some other location, is the concept we wish to investigate next as this facet of our research concludes.
The following materials are illustrative of our findings. This issue was raised in general above but here we are looking at only our righteous-man model.
- “The precious dead, from Adam down to the last saint who dies, will hear the voice of the Son of God, and will come forth from the grave to immortal life…. There will be a close and tender relationship between God and the risen saints. This condition, which is anticipated in His purpose, He beholds as if it were already existing. The dead live unto Him.” DA, p. 606.
- “By the power of the Savior that dwelt in them while living and because they were partakers of the divine nature, they are brought forth from the dead.” SD, p. 359.
- “All come forth from the tomb the same in stature as when they entered the tomb…. But all arise with the freshness and vigor of eternal youth…. He will change our vile bodies and fashion them like unto His glorious body … all blemishes and deformities are left in the grave.” GC, pp. 644, 645.
- “The same form will come forth, but it will be free from disease…. It lives again bearing the same individuality of features, so that friend will recognize friend. There is no law of God in nature which shows that God gives back the same identical particles of matter which composed the body before death. God shall give the righteous dead a body that shall please Him…. A much finer material will compose the human body, for it is a new creation, a new birth. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (MS 76, 1900) 6 BC, p. 1093.
In these materials we have seen the righteous dead described with the following concepts:
- those who die go down into the grave
- the dead being in their graves
- unaware of anything that occurs around them
- their thoughts have ceased
- they are asleep, unconscious
- while asleep they are guarded and kept in safety as a precious jewel
- they sleep until awakened by the call of God
- When the sleepers awaken the spirit, or character that returned to God at death, is returned to them. This ensures the awakened one being the same kind of person – having the same character – after the resurrection as their loved ones remember them having had before death.
- when awakened they begin to think just where their thoughts ceased
- They come forth from the tomb. Neither the length of time one is in the tomb nor does the decomposition of the body affect one’s state, or place of rest, in death.
- They are brought forth by the power of the Savior that dwelt in them while living and because they were partakers of divinity.