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THE GENERAL RESURRECTION.
III. The general resurrection will put an end to the separate state, when the bodies of all who shall have died from the beginning of the world, to that time, will be raised and come forth, in union with the souls which had been separated from them by death. This will take place when Jesus Christ shall come to judgment. This is frequently spoken of in the Scriptures, and expressly asserted in more places than it is needful to mention here, for those who read the Bible. Our Savior says, " The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth : they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." (John v. 28, 29.) When the apostle John had a vision of the general judgment, the general resurrection is connected with it. “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God: and the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works." (Rev. xx. 12, 13.) The apostle Paul treats particularly of the resurrection of the bodies of the redeemed as an important and essential doctrine of Christianity. (1 Cor. xv.)
We depend entirely upon divine revelation for the notice and knowledge of this doctrine of a future resurrection, as it could not be known by any other means. But when we find it revealed, it does not appear contrary to reason, but is agreeable to the dictates of it, and in no respect incredible, if the account the Scripture gives of it be properly considered and understood. There were, indeed, some professing Christians in the apostles' days, as there have been since, who denied this doctrine. This was the occasion of St. Paul's writing so particularly and lengthy upon it, in the chapter just now quoted. This doctrine was thought incredible, impossible, and ridiculous, by the heathen philosophers and others, in the days of Christ and his apostles. And this same incredulity has been transmitted down to this day, among those who pay little or no regard to the Bible. They say, it is impossible that all the same bodies which have died should be ever recovered and raised again. It is not thought necessary to state their objections, and answer them here, as this has been done over and over again, by many able writers. It will be sufficient to observe, that the remark which Christ made upon the Sadducees, who denied this doctrine as impossible, is applicable to them, viz., that they do greatly err, because they do not believe or understand the Scriptures, nor the power of God. When they can tell in what identity consists, and what is necessary in order to constitute the resurrection body the same with that to which the soul was united in this life, and what omnipotence and infinite knowledge and wisdom can do, and cannot do, with respect to this, and can prove that the Bible is not a revelation from God, then let them undertake to prove that the doctrine of a general resurrection of the same bodies which have died, or shall die, to the end of the world, is impossible or incredible.
The resurrection bodies of the redeemed will be beautiful and glorious, far beyond our present conception ;- they will be, like the glorified body of the Redeemer, every way fitted for a state of immortality, constant activity, and perfect happiness, as the eternal monuments of the power, wisdom, and goodness of Christ. They will have no defect, but be perfectly suited to accommodate and furnish the holy soul to all that activity, work, and enjoyment, which are implied in a state of perfect happiness. This is called, in Scripture, a spiritual body, which some have thought to be a contradiction. It is, indeed, beyond our comprehension. But where is the inconsistency or impropriety in calling that a spiritual body which is so much unlike any body which we know, or of which we can have any adequate idea, that it is perfectly suited to promote the perceptions, activity, and enjoyment of a holy mind, and answer every desirable end, with respect to all external objects?
The bodies of those who died in their sins will be an awful contrast to those of the redeemed. They will rise “to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Dan. xii. 2.) They will be every way suited to the souls which are wholly sinful, and enemies to God, prepared for condemnation, despair, and endless destruction.
THE GENERAL JUDGMENT.
IV. That there will be a general judgment, when all moral agents, angels, and men, good and bad, shall give an account of themselves, of their moral character and conduct, to God, their Judge, and receive of him, and be treated by him, according to what they are, and as their moral conduct has been, while in a state of trial, is expressly and abundantly asserted in the Scriptures. And this appears reasonable, desirable, and important, to all who have any proper conceptions of moral government, and are friends to it.
The precise time when the day of judgment shall commence is fixed, and Jesus Christ the Redeemer is appointed He says,
to be the Judge of all. This he commanded the apostles to publish, in preaching his gospel to the world, as Peter declares.
And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.” (Acts x. 42.) The apostle Paul, therefore, kept this in view in his preaching and letters. In his discourse to the assembly at Athens he introduces this as an important article: “ And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts xvii. 31, 39.) And when he spoke before Felix concerning the faith in Christ," he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come.” (Acts xxiv. 25.) And he often brought this into view in his letters.
“ We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. So, then, every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom. xiv. 10-12.) “Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise of God. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (1 Cor. iv. 5. 2 Cor. v. 10.) “I charge thee, therefore, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and kingdom.” (2 Tim. iv. 1.)
Jesus Christ is the appointed Judge. This appears wise and desirable, that he who is God manifest in the flesh, and by this medium and in this sense the visible God, should take this high and infinitely important and honorable station, and decide the character and eternal state of all moral agents, especially of man. This will be a bright and glorious manifestation of Deity in the human nature, when he shall come in the glory of the Father, with all the signals of divinity, attended with all the holy angels, and shall raise the bodies of all the dead, and summon all before him as their final Judge, taking upon him an office and business infinitely too high and great for a mere creature. This will strike conviction into the mind of every intelligent creature, that he is really God and man. And it is highly proper and important that he who stooped so low, and took upon him the form of a servant, and submitted to reproach and contempt, and to die an ignominious and cruel death by the hands of wicked men, for the salvation of sinners, should be thus rewarded and honored, and every knee be made to bow to him, as God and their final Judge. (Phil ii. 8–11.) Nothing could be more pleasing, and give greater joy and happiness to the redeemed and the holy angels, than to have the Redeemer thus exalted and honored as the Judge of all, and nothing more disagreeable and confounding to devils and wicked men.
The place in which the general judgment will be attended will be such as shall be in the best manner suited to such a transaction, — to accommodate the Judge, and all concerned in the business of that important, solemn day. It will be so contrived and situated, that every one of the vast assembly which shall then be collected will be under advantage to see the Judge and all that is done, and hear every word that shall be spoken by the Judge, or by any one else, through the whole process. The apostle Paul says, “ The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. iv. 16, 17.) It hence appears that this scene will not be on this earth, but in some more convenient place, which shall be fixed and formed for that purpose, which Christ, by whom all worlds were made, can effect at once with infinite ease. It is not certain, from the apostle's mentioning clouds and the air, that it will be in the atmosphere of this earth: for if this be meant by the air here, which is not certain, though the redeemed shall meet Christ in our atmosphere, this may be that they may accompany him to some other more distant place where the judgment shall be, and to which all intelligent creatures in the universe will be brought.
The design of the general judgment is not to inform the Judge, that he may know the character and actions of all, so as to be able to pronounce a proper and righteous sentence upon them, for he is omniscient; but it is to make known to creatures upon what grounds he proceeds in giving rewards and inflicting punishment, that all may be under the best advantage to see and approve the righteousness and propriety of the final sentence. Therefore, in the Scripture it is called “the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” (Rom. ii. 5.) In order to this, the moral character of every one will be laid open, and set in a true and clear light, so that all the spectators shall be under the best advantage to see it. Every single person must be called forth, and take his turn to be scrutinized; and all he has done, whether secretly or more openly, will be made manifest to all creatures, while all attend to every particular, for there will not be one inattentive spectator there. All disguise and hypocrisy will be detected, and every exercise of heart and outward action, with the motive and design, will be made to appear in a true light. In this the Scripture is very express: "For God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ec. xii. 14.) “ There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, neither hid that shall not be known. Therefore, whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the house-tops. I say anto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." (Matt. xii. 36. Luke xii. 2, 3.) “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts." (Rom. ii. 16. 1 Cor. iv. 5.) “So, then, every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom. xiv. 12.) “ And they were judged every man according to his works.” (Rev. xx. 13.)
It hence appears that the day of judgment will not be finished in the space of a natural day of twenty-four hours, but the process may continue and go on during the term of many thousand years, - much longer than from the creation to the commencement of that day. Though days, and years, and time as we now measure it, will then be at an end, yet there will be a succession of events, and of ideas and perceptions, among creatures; and this must continue without end. And it must take time, as we now term it and conceive of it, for creatures to recollect and take a particular view of every character that has existed,- of all that has been done, secretly or openly, by every particular person, of angels, devils, and men, from the beginning of the world to that time, even though the exhibition shall be made in the best and most advantageous manner, and creatures shall be able to think and receive ideas with much greater celerity than men can in this state. Solomon seems to have reference to this long duration of the day of judgment in the following words: “I said in my heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work." (Ec. iii. 17.) That is, however long a term it may take to bring every purpose and every work of men into view, so as to judge them according to their works, yet time will not be wanting, and God will take time enough for it. VOL. II.