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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 31: Of the State of Man after Death and Of the Resurrection of the Dead - Commentary

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Chapter 31: Of the State of Man after Death and Of the Resurrection of the Dead

This chapter concerns itself with Eschatology, which is the doctrine of the last things. It discusses questions concerning what happens after we die, the second coming of the Lord Jesus, and the resurrection of the just and unjust.

I hold to the Amillennial view of Eschatology, therefore what is written here will reflect that Eschatology. Basically, Amillennialism teaches that the thousand years of Revelation 20 are symbolic for the whole time between Christ's Ascension and Second Coming. When He comes that will be the end of everything. The rapture, general resurrection and final judgment will take place, then God will usher in the World to Come. There are neither multiple resurrections nor multiple judgments. There are no 7 years of Great Tribulation. There are no two peoples of God, Israel and the Church. Rather, the Church is the Israel of God. The promises of restoration and blessing pertain not to the Fallen World, but to the World to Come. We do not believe that the Bible teaches a golden age on this Fallen Earth.

In paragraphs 2-3 there is a case for Amillennial Eschatology and a critique of Premillennialism throughout the sections.


§1 The Intermediate State

  1. The bodies of men after death return to dust, and see corruption; but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous being then made perfect in holiness, are received into paradise, where they are with Christ, and behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies; and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell; where they remain in torment and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day; besides these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.
    1. Gen. 2:17; 3:19; Acts 13:36; Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:22[1]
    2. Gen. 2:7; James 2:26; Matt. 10:28; Eccles. 12:7
    3. Ps. 23:6; 1 Kings 8:27-49; Isa. 63:15; 66:1; Luke 23:43; Acts 1:9-11; 3:21; 2 Cor. 5:6-8; 12:2-4; Eph. 4:10; Phil. 1:21-23; Heb. 1:3,4:14-15; 6:20; 8:1; 9:24; 12:23; Rev. 6:9-11; 14:13; 20:4-6
    4. Luke 16:22-26; Acts 1:25; 1 Peter 3:19; 2 Peter 2:9

The body returns to the dust from whence it came, but the souls are immortal from the time they begin to exist; they cannot just disappear and go out of existence. They will exist without body in heaven or Hades until Christ comes to end the world and bring in the New Heavens and New Earth. The elect then will receive a glorious body like that of Jesus and enjoy endless fellowship with the God Triune, while the reprobates will receive physical bodies just to be tormented in the lake of fire.

The Intermediate State describes the time between death and the resurrection of the body, this includes a discussion of the immortality of the soul, heaven and Hades.

The Immortality Of The Soul

While people are buried and their bodies return to the dust from whence they came, their souls do not cease to exist, they are immortal. While the body decomposes and returns to dust, the soul of man lives evermore. It is important to define the usage of the word “immortal” and “immortality” here. This immortality which the souls of men and angels possess is obviously not like the essential immortality of God. In 1 Timothy 6:16 we read that God “alone has immortality”. This ...


Review of Dean Davis' The High King of Heaven on Amillennialism

...to the End Time debate.

This book is nothing like the others that I’ve read on Amillennialism (Kingdom Come, The Bible and the Future, The Case for Amillennialism), it dares to go and try to interpret the difficult texts in support of premillennialism. It is anti-premillennial as well as, but in lesser tone against Postmillennialism. This is all done in a tone of brotherly love. I enjoyed that aspect of the interaction.

Amillennialism

This book lays out the classic view of Amillennialism which is Dean Davis[1] believes (as others also do) is the classic Eschatology of Church History and the Reformation.

The word amillennialism means no millennium. However, amillennarians do not deny the existence of a millennium, only that it begins after the Parousia and that it will last for a literal thousand years. Instead, they teach that the thousand years of Revelation 20 symbolize the present Era of Proclamation, during which time Christ reigns with (the departed spirits of) his saints in heaven. Amillennarians are, then, “present-millennarians.” Pages 23-24

Basically, Amillennialism teaches that the Millennium of Revelation 20 started from the cross and will end at the Second Coming of our Lord, spanning over 2 millennia up till now and is thus to be interpreted symbolically, rather than literally. The Millennium is the Gospel Era, or as Dean likes to call it, the Era of Proclamation.

This is a simple chart laying out the Amillennial vision of Salvation History.

The Kingdom of God

One of the very ups of this book was the extensive study of the Kingdom of God in the New and Old Testaments. My understanding of the Kingdom of God was really expanded.

A Definition of the Kingdom of God

Dean Davis defines the Kingdom of God as:

In essence, the Kingdom of God is the direct reign of God the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit, over his redeemed creatures; creatures who have been rescued from every spiritual and physical enemy, and restored to every spiritual and physical friend that God planned for them in the beginning. Also, the Kingdom is the blessed realm that this redemptive reign creates, and over which it forever rules. Page 65.

This he does not merely assume, but ably goes to prove it from the Bible, here is a summary of his five points:

  1. The Kingdom is the direct reign of God the Father (Mt 6:10)
  2. The Kingdom is a sphere of wholeness and blessing (Mt 9:35; 10:7-8; 12:28)
  3. The Kingdom is mediated by the Son of God (John 5:19, 30; 6:38;  8:28; 12:49; 14:10)
  4. The Kingdom is effected by the Spirit of God (Mt 12:28; Acts 1:4-8)
  5. The Kingdom is a realm beneath a reign (Mt 13:41-42; Rev 11:15)

Thereby is indeed the definition that he gives is justified and satisfactory.

The Two-Staged Kingdom

Amillennarians see the Kingdom of God coming in two stages, separated by the Parousia of our Lord:

  1. The Kingdom of the Son (already, the present Era of Proclamation)
  2. The Kingdom of the Father (not yet, the future World/Age to Come)

Now, the terminology used here is not meant to give the idea that the Son has no share in the second stage of the Kingdom or that the Father has no share in the first, but rather is taken from 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 where we learn that at the Coming of our Lord, the Lord Jesus will deliver His Kingdom, His consummated Kingdom to God the Father and will be subjected to Him. Thus, seeing a difference between the present Kingdom of the Son (which is...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scriptures - Commentary

...ty is a word which means clearness and in this connection, it teaches that the Scripture is clear on matters of salvation and obedience in its teaching. The doctrine does not mean that all things are alike clear in Scripture, as the Bible itself admits. Even the Apostle Peter writes about Paul’s letters that “There are some things in them that are hard to understand” (2Pet. 3:16). The Bible does not claim that everything which it teaches is plain in the same way as it teaches about Creation, God, Redemption and so on. There are things which are difficult, but there are things which are easy and plain for those who want to receive the truth of the Word. Issues like Eschatology are difficult in the Scripture, and not directly plain. There will always remain debate among Christians about this subject until the Lord returns to settle the debate. The subject of Calvinism and Arminianism is difficult for some, especially when the former is filled with caricatures and false representations. But the most important truths of the Scripture are set forth plainly: the truth of God as Creator (Genesis 1), the sinfulness and salvation of man by grace (Rom. 3:9-26, Eph. 2:8-9), the deity of the Lord Jesus (John 1:1-3, 14-18, 28:20), His virgin birth (Matt. 1:23; Luke 1:27, 34-35), His death, burial and resurrection (1Cor. 15:3-4), His Second Coming (Acts 1:11; Rev. 22:7), the deity of the Spirit (Acts 5:3-5), Monotheism (Deut. 6:4), the existence of Heaven and Hell (Matt. 25:46). Those things cannot be denied without damage to the perspicuity of Scripture.

When the Lord gave Israel the Law, God said to the people, “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off” (Deut. 30:11). The Israelites had to teach the law of the Lord even to their children. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” These things include the Ten Commandments in the previous chapter and the first greatest commandment to love God (Deut. 6:4-5). These things were to be taught and spoken to children, therefore, this shows the plainness of God’s revelation. This does not mean that there is no difficulty in the interpretation of the Law. Rather, most of it was understandable to the Israelites at that time. Undoubtedly, the reason that we have some difficulties in understanding of the Law would have to do with our context and knowledge of those times, which the Israelites probably did not have. The idea of the Scripture being clear to even children is repeated in the New Testament. In 2 Timothy 3:15, the Apostle writes concerning Timothy who “from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” From childhood he knew the Scriptures and from childhood, even the Old Testament Scriptures could make him wise for salvation through Jesus Christ. This much was clear even to children in the Old Testament, Paul asserts.

The difficulty in understanding Scripture does not lie in Scripture itself, but in our understanding of it. We are to blame. In none of His conversations with the Pharisees did the Lord blame the Scriptures of being unclear, rather, He always rebuked them and directed their attention to Scripture. He said, “You se...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 22: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day - Commentary

... intruded into the midst of history. The uninterrupted rest of the age to come has already begun. By faith we lay hold of Christ's rest and enter into the enjoyment of it (Heb. 4:1-11). We have put aside our own righteousness and now serve the living God with a clear conscience as the fruit of that rest, not in order to earn it by our sinful works (Heb. 6:1; 9:14). Thus every day is a Sabbath rest in Christ.[95]

But he is also quick to add that “there is also a not-yet aspect of our rest” and warns that “We must not indulge in an overrealized Eschatology”.[96] Thereby he does not deny the fact that there still is an obligation of keeping a Sabbath for the people of God. The Sabbath we keep now is a foretaste of the eternal Sabbath in heaven and in the New Earth. The entering into God’s rest now is thanks to the work of Christ in restoring and redeeming creation and thereby bringing “man again to enter God's rest…the long promised rest has been inaugurated in Christ.”[97]

Under The New Covenant

But is the Sabbath only a sign for the Old Covenant? Does the Sabbath have any “sign” function under the New Covenant? Does it only signify that God separated physical Israel and claimed them as His own? Aside from Dispensationalism, we all recognize that the church is the Israel of God. The church is the true people of God. God does not have two peoples, one earthly and one heavenly, but only one people united together in Christ and in the Covenant of Grace. This would imply that we should not restrict the promises made to Israel under the Old Covenant to the ethnic people of Israel, but carefully apply them to the true Israel of God. Of course, this must be done with care and with consideration of what the New Testament also says.

We have seen that the Sabbath is a visible sign of an invisible reality, namely, that God has sanctified His people and claimed them as His own. Do we have any reason to disregard this significance of the Sabbath under the New Covenant? I don’t think so. This is furthermore strengthened by the fact that (1) the Sabbath was not unique to Israel, but it was made for man at the Creation (Mark 2:27-28), and (2) the New Testament does not teach the abrogation of the Sabbath (as we shall see below). Yes, we understand that the Sabbath was specifically given in the texts above to Israel as a sign of the Mosaic Covenant, but is this sign limited only to the Old Covenant people of God? Does not God, giving us the Lord’s Day Sabbath, likewise show to us that He has set His people apart and claimed them as His own in the New Covenant also? The Old Testament assumes the abiding validity of the Sabbath in the last days (e.g. Isaiah 56, 58), and not its abrogation. Joseph Pipa writes concerning the moral nature of the Sabbath command pointing that even Gentiles within Israel were required to keep the Sabbath holy. He writes:

Nevertheless, Nehemiah [13:15-21] applied the Fourth Commandment to Gentiles as well as Jews. From this we conclude that the Fourth Commandment was more than a sign of God’s covenant people with Israel. He required Gentiles living in the land to keep the law as well.[98]

That the Sabbath was given as a sign of the Mosaic Covenant does in no way diminish its original institution, namely, on the seventh day of the Creation. From thence was the Sabbath made and instituted for man. It was not first instituted at Sinai, as we’ve tried to argue. Therefore, its application cannot be limite...


Welcome To The Staunch Calvinist

...et="_blank">Of Baptism And The Lord's Supper
  • Of Baptism
  • Of The Lord's Supper
  • Of The State Of Man After Death And Of The Resurrection Of The Dead (Intermediate State Hades, Sheol, Heaven; A Case for Amillennial Eschatology; critique of Premillennialism)
  • Of The Last Judgment (Endless punishment in Hell contra Annihilationism)
  • ...

    Review of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology

    ... can in fact be a nonexistent language, but in the words of John MacArthur “gibberish.” I have not studied this very deeply, but I cannot say that I agree. Dr Grudem argues that just because in Acts 2 tongues were actual languages, does not mean that that will always be the case because he believes that 1 Corinthians14 supports the idea of tongues not actually being a language sometimes.

    I cannot say that now I'm fully a continuationist, but I can say that I see now more support for continuationism and weakness for cessationism.

    The Doctrine of the Future

    Part 7 of this Systematic Theology deals with the study of the last things, Eschatology.

    Dr Grudem shows convincingly for me the support for the coming of Christ, the Final Judgment and Hell, the New Heavens and New Earth. With all these I agreed on most points, except the Millennium.

    Dr. Grudem is a Classic Premillennial. He fairly represents the four major views today:

    1. Amillennialism
    2. Postmillennialism
    3. Classic Premillennialism
    4. Dispensational Premillennialsm

    While he represents these views he argues against them and for Classic Premillennalism.

    I remain an Amillennial.

    Conclusion

    If you don't have this book in your library, get it now! You will not be disappointed. I will go back to it.

    I'm thankful for God's grace upon Dr Grudem's work and life and that he has produced such an excellent treatment of Christian doctrine faithful to the Holy Scriptures.

    He has become an example for me and a hero of how I should handle the Holy Scriptures.

    Footnotes

    1. ^ RC rightly says that everyone's a theologian ;)
    2. ^ Page 315.
    3. ^ Page 1050.
    ...

    A Review of O. Palmer Robertson's The Israel of God

    The Israel of God:

    Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

    By O. Palmer Robertson

    O. Palmer Robertson. The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Pub. 2000)

    For those who have come out of Dispensationalism or want to know what covenant theologians believe about Israel, this is the book. This is a book which deals with the place and identity of Israel in the plan of God. In six chapters Dr. Robertson discusses different topics regarding Israel from its identity to its future.

    Overall, I found this to be a very helpful and edifying book. The Bible and the truths of the New Covenant were the interpreting lens for everything. We do not look to outside events and force those within the Bible.

    The Occasion for the Book

    In the Introduction Dr. Robertson begins with a quotation from Bill Clinton when he was the president of the USA, about Israel:

    “'If you abandon Israel, God will never forgive you' ... it is God's will that Israel, the biblical home of the people of Israel, continue for ever and ever.” So spoke the President of the United States in a speech delivered before the Israeli Knesset assembled in Jerusalem. He was recalling with apparent approval the words of his desperately ill pastor. He concluded the speech by saying, “Your journey is our journey, and America will stand with you now and always.” (p. 1)

    It seems that this and such mindset was the driving force behind writing this book. The book is not polemic, but rather, it simply presents what the Bible as a whole teaches on some topics related to the Israel of God. It is obviously against Dispensationalism by its adherence to Covenant Theology, but it does not attack Dispensationalism directly. Its purpose is to set a positive case on what the Bible says without really engaging with the other side.

    Its Land

    The first chapter is dedicated to the Land of Israel. This is a hot issue nowadays. I will be the first to tell you that I hate politics and I don’t want to do anything with it and there is a lot of politics involved with Israel in the Middle East. I am not interested in political discussions. I am a theology nerd. I am interested in the theological claim of the land and God’s plan with the Jews.

    Dr. Robertson argues that the “concept of a land that belongs to God’s people originated in Paradise” (p. 4). Adam was told to work the land and multiply. That was the original ideal plan if the Fall had not taken place. Then the whole earth would have been God’s land and God’s temple. The land being a sanctuary is another aspect. This is why the Lord God tells Israel that “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people” (Lev 26:11-12). God places His sanctuary among His people like He did with the Tabernacle and Temple. This concept of the sanctuary of God among His people had its fulfillment in Jesus Christ of Whom it is written that He “tabernacled” among us (John 1:14). But it will also have its ultimate fulfillment on the New Heavens and New Earth (Rev 21:1-5).

    An important aspect which Dr. Robertson highlights is the fact that the land actually belongs to the Lord. As Leviticus 25:23 puts it, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.” The land is the Lord’s and the people of Israel are merely strangers and sojourners in the land with Yahweh. He gives...


    A Review of Hell Under Fire

    Hell Under Fire:

    Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment

    By Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson

    Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment. Ed. by Christopher W. Morgan, Robert A. Peterson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004).

    Had this book sitting on my shelf for a while and thought that it would merely be an academic book and a dry read. I couldn't be more wrong. Surely it was academic, but never on a level that made it impossible for an average Bible student to understand.

    The Book and Its Content

    The authors are top-notch theologians in our day who in this book respond to Annihilationism and Universalism, while at the same time give a biblical and holistic picture of hell. The subject of hell is sobering and terrifying. As believers we know that thanks to Christ we have been saved from this awful fate, which we should recognize--we rightly deserve. We likewise believe that all those without the Gospel of Christ, do not have a hope, are under the wrath of God and will everlastingly be under the wrath of God. It is terrifying to think of that and we cannot, without sympathy, discard the emotional appeal of Universalists and Annihilationists. The Bible is the sole infallible and highest authority for the Christian and if the Bible teaches that historical view of hell, then my emotions do not matter and cannot settle the truth about hell. It is as simple as that.

    This book contains 10 chapters dealing, containing among other things, 

    • a historical survey about hell up to our day (chapter 1, by Albert Mohler Jr.); 
    • the OT and hell (chapter 2, by Daniel I. Block); 
    • the Lord Jesus and Hell (chapter 3, by Robert W. Yarbough); 
    • Paul and Hell (chapter 4, by Douglas J. Moo); 
    • the Apocalypse and Hell (chapter 5, by G. K. Beale); 
    • Biblical and Systematic Theology as it relates to hell (chapters 7-8, by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, respectively); 
    • an examination of Universalism and its arguments (chapter 8, by J. I. Packer); 
    • an examination of Annihilationism and its arguments (chapter 9, by Christopher W. Morgan); and finally
    • Hell and pastoral theology (chapter 10, by Sinclair Ferguson).

    There is a ton to be learned in these chapters by the Bible student. What is to be learned from this book should not only fill our heads with information, but motivate us to share the Gospel with the lost because of the dreadful fate which faces them if they receive not Christ and His righteousness.

    The reason we believe in the existence and everlasting nature of hell and of its punishment is simply because we believe that Holy Writ teaches it. If it were not for the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who spoke more often about hell than Heaven, we would not believe in Hell, because it is so repugnant to our fallen natures.

    Interaction

    This work continually interacts with popular scholarship as it regards the nature of hell and the arguments for and against Annihilationism in Evangelicalism. Authors most cited and interacted with include John Stott, Clark Pinnock, David Powys and Edward W. Fudge. The authors of this work continually argue that Annihilationists do not look at the whole portrayal of hell as presented by Scripture, but rather choose to focus on and emphasize specific portrayals of hell with neglect to the rest. This accusation is also leveled against those who hold to the traditional view of Hell who emphasize the punishment aspect ...