Ad Gloriam Dei

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31

"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Troubled by the Silence of the Dead?

WSC Q. 37 What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
A. The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united in Christ, do rest in their graves, till the resurrection.

I was talking to a saint this day who was troubled by the following texts and others like them:

The dead do not praise the LORD, nor any who go down into silence. (Psalm 115:17)

Will You work wonders for the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise You? Shall Your lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or Your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Shall Your wonders be known in the dark? And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? (Psalm 88:10-12)

This saint was troubled by the thought that they might fall into a place of darkness and silence, an almost limbo-like state at death.

Let us always remember some of the basic rules of interpretation: to interpret individual Scriptures in the light of the whole of Scripture and in the light of God's infallible truth and non-contradiction, and to interpret the harder passages in the light of the clearer.

The following passages make clear what is the destination of God's saints after death (see also Rev. 20:4): the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect... (Hebrews 12:23)

And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord... We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:6,8)

For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. (Philippians 1:23)

Clearly the believer's soul passes immediately into the glory of heaven and the immediate presence of Christ, so the original passages cannot be speaking of the soul passing into a limbo or soul-sleep (let alone purgatory).

How shall we understand these Scriptures? Is there a contradiction? No, there is an easy explanation as to how to understand the original passages. They are speaking from the perspective of the earthly plane only, and are not meant to be an absolute statement (as Calvin is wont to say).

If we look at Psalm 115, we can see that the psalm is speaking about God blessing His people on the earth and preserving them alive as a people, so that there is a continuity of witness by the covenant community throughout the history of the earth to the very end. The dead cannot praise God on the earth. When we look on their corpses, they lie in silence.
The Church of God will never die, but 'will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore'.

Again Psalm 88 can legitimately be understood on its own as an appeal to God by the Psalmist as he 'draws near to the grave' that he may be preserved alive to glorify God on the earth, whereas the dead cannot do this. When one considers it in the light of the other passages, this is the only legitimate interpretation of the passage.

Let us not be troubled by these things, but let us gird ourselves about with the belt of truth, taking up the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith to defend ourselves from the Devil's assaults upon the peace of our souls.

Let us consider how short our lives are on this earth: we are but dust and like a short-lived wild flower of the field. Let us use our brief moments on this earth for God's glory and the advancement of Christ's Kingdom, for the dead cannot do this.

During the Covenanter period, a compromising minister once commented, "What needs all of this ado? We will get heaven and they will get no more." When
Donald Cargill heard it, he replied, "Yes, we will get more; we will get God glorified on earth, which is more than heaven." God grant us the spirit of Cargill in living our lives. Continued...

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home