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Man and the Spiritual World

The Testimony of the Bible as to the Educational Character of the Spiritual World.

First, we notice that our Lord recognised this beautiful truth; not, indeed, in the form of a dogmatic statement, but certainly by implication. His disciples, at the time of His being with them, were not capable of receiving all the truths concerning His Gospel. Christ's own words show this. 'I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.' It was not until the illuminating power of the Holy Ghost had been bestowed upon them at Pentecost that they were able to perceive the interior meaning of much He had spoken to them by parables and otherwise.

Take Christ's parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

Therein he represents Dives as becoming less selfish, less concerned about himself, after death than he had been before. Was there not an educational character in regard to that painful experience in Hades?

May we not see in that experience the beginning of that which St Paul describes as a saving 'so as by fire'?

Take Jesus's words spoken to the dying robber. Will anyone venture to assert that an educational experience did not accrue to that godless, ignorant and debased man, from the fact of his being with Jesus in Paradise? Was not Christ's gracious promise to him prompted by the wish that Divine enlightenment should come to the poor wretch, who, when he died, had little or none of it? How reasonable the thought that the crucified robber was one in that vast congregation of spirits who listened to the 'Gospel,' as Christ preached it to the Antediluvians!

Again, take two such statements of our Lord as the following, and see how in the case of some, at all events, they must imply continued education after death. He said, 'Every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit' (John xv. 2 v.), and, 'I shall show you plainly of the Father' (John xvi. 25 v.). In the first passage, Christ lays down a great principle, viz., that a purging, i.e., an educational discipline, is a necessity for every person connected with Him, 'the Vine.' In the other passage, He promises to plainly show the Father, i.e., to reveal truths concerning God, only partially understood.

Now, suppose a person does not accept Christ as his Saviour until he is at the point of dying; and there are such cases. What then? That tardy act of faith will connect him with Jesus and make him a 'branch' in Him. But what of the purging and the fuller revelation of the Father? In other words — what of the moral and spiritual disciplining which Christ pronounces to be indispensable? What of the acquirement of that knowledge of God which Jesus declared to be a pre-requisite for the possession of eternal life? (see John xvii. 3 v.). Will those two great phases of educational work be accomplished in the act of dying? Surely not; they are slow and gradual works. Then what? Either Christ's statements must be pared down, and not every branch will be purged, and not every believer will be shown plainly of the Father; or the spiritual and mental education of one who turns to Christ on his death-bed must go on in the Life Beyond.

We turn now to a few of the Apostolic statements contained in the New Testament; reminding the reader that it is to this part of the Bible, more than to any other, he should look for enlightenment as to the interior truths of the Gospel, inasmuch as the Apostles were specially equipped by the Holy Spirit as the exponents of Christ's teaching.

Do their statements, then, either directly or indirectly teach the educational character of the Intermediate Life? We think they do; nay more, they seem to us incapable of any reasonable interpretation except in the light of that truth.

Consider some of the passages in which this truth is directly asserted.

In Phil. i. 6 v., St Paul writes—'Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.' What is the 'good work' that has been begun? Sanctification; Christ's difficult work of fashioning a human spirit into moral and spiritual likeness to Himself. What are we to understand by 'the day of Jesus Christ?' A period not yet reached when Christ shall be revealed to the universe as the Vanquisher of evil, and ' all things shall be subdued unto Him.' Now, according to St Paul, this good work, commenced in the Philippian Christians, was to be performed until then; that is to say, sanctification was not to stop short at death, but to go on in that Intermediate Existence that lay between earth-life and ' the day of Jesus Christ.'

The question is—Did St Paul mean what he wrote? If so, he taught education beyond the grave.

Take another statement of the same Apostle.

In 2 Cor. xii. 1-4 v., he tells the Corinthian Church of an experience that he had. Before the death of his physical body, he had entered the Spiritual World ('caught up into Paradise') and had heard unpublished or untaught words (untaught-words.gif) which it is not in one's power (3-ones-power-to-utter.gif) to utter. What is the inference? we ask. Is it not this? That in the Spiritual World there are attainments of knowledge incapable of being translated into mundane language, and that St Paul in going into that World was brought into contact with that knowledge. Surely in this passage we have a most positive declaration that Spirit-life is educational.

Again, St Paul's statement that a Christian may 'be saved, yet so as by fire' (1 Cor. iii. 15 v.) seems to point most clearly to educational discipline after death. The context shows that the Apostle was referring to the case of one wrongly building upon the 'foundation,' Jesus Christ; and asserts that 'the day' (evidently that of Christ) shall declare every man's work, and although the work may be destroyed and the man suffer loss, yet he 'himself shall be saved; yet so by fire.'

What are we to understand by this 'fire'? It cannot mean final condemnation, because the man is to be saved. Nor can it denote earthly discipline, as the saving by fire is declared to be a future event after the earth-work has been done. It can, then, only point to an experience in the Spirit-life, difficult and painful, no doubt, but at the same time remedial and educational in its character. We submit that this latter is the most reasonable construction to put upon the passage, and it harmonises with our Lord's description of the after-death experience of Dives, who, by the word 'Son,' addressed to him, was shown to be a member of the Jewish Church.

Then we have the statement of the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who mentions 'the spirits of just men having been made perfect' (3-having-been-made-perfect.gif) (Heb. xii. 23 v.). He is trying to concentrate the thought of Christians upon a 'cloud of witnesses' in another World, by which they are 'compassed about,' and to which they are spiritually come. Among 'an innumerable company of angels' and departed members of the Christian Church ('the Church of the first born which are written in heaven'), he includes 'the spirits of just men having been made perfect.'

He is referring to such men as Abraham, Moses and others who, by their long sojourn in the Intermediate World, had attained perfection, and it is very significant that in describing their condition there, the writer uses the perfect participle, which denotes that their perfection had been lately acquired rather than at a time in the remote past at which they had left this world.

Here, again, we note a clear indication of an educational work beyond the grave.

We contend, also, that such passages as the following imply the same truth.

'Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect . . . but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus' (Phil, iii. 12-14 v.).

'For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known' (1 Cor. xiii. 12 v.). 'Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ' (Eph. iv. 13 v.).

'That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish' (Eph. v. 27 v.).

Now these magnificent forecasts of St Paul are prophecies of what he and the members of the Christian Church will be in the Hereafter. Moral perfection, full knowledge and Christ-like spiritual stature are to be attained. Yes, but when and how?

St Paul, we think, has answered the questions.

At the day of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost, Who beyond the grave and until that day will perform the good work of sanctification begun on earth.

Read in the light of this truth his words—'For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain'-—become pregnant with meaning. Stripped of the idea that there is no education, no advance towards fuller grace and more perfect knowledge in the World Beyond, they lose one-half of their significance.

There remains an important consideration that arises from a large number of statements in Scripture, and

points, we think, very conclusively to the educational character of life beyond the grave. It is this. The New Testament not only declares that there has been a preaching of the Gospel to persons departed this life, but also contains scores and scores of passages that can only be viewed as exaggerations, unless the Gospel is still being, and still will be, preached to untold millions who have never heard it, and will never hear it in this world. We will refer to those passages directly; but first, let us point out the direct bearing of this upon the subject under review.

What is the end of preaching? Is it not to enlighten, to morally and spiritually advance, and to bring persons to goodness and to God? If that be so, then preaching is a means to education; and education, moreover, in the highest sense of the word. Consequently, if it can be shown from the Bible that Christ's Gospel has been preached in the World of Spirit, and if there exist also the strongest of reasons, based on other Biblical statements, for supposing that that Gospel is still being preached, then surely the point must be conceded; and on the showing of Scripture itself, the Spiritual World to the vast majority of the human race must be an educational one.

Consider the statement that the Gospel has been preached in the World of Spirit.

An Apostle, specially endowed by the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, and previously brought into very close contact with the reality of the Spiritual World on the mountain of Transfiguration, distinctly and emphatically declared this truth. We have several times referred to his statement in i Peter iii. 18-20 v. and iv. 6 v.; and we must do so again in this place.

Many attempts have been made to explain away the plain and natural meaning of these texts, simply because theologians have been obliged to do this, or to reject the received teaching that mercy and education are impossible after death.

And so St Peter's statement, in order that it may not stand as a flat contradiction of a theological dogma, has had an unnatural sense forced into it. We do not believe that any Greek scholar would ever have dreamed of putting upon these words of the Apostle any other interpretation than that for which we contend, had it not been felt that they must be made somehow or another to fit in with 'orthodox' ideas. The words have been approached with the foregone conclusion that, of course, there can be neither a preaching of the Gospel, nor improvement, in the Life Beyond. The Word of God has had to give place to 'the tradition of the elders.'

Now take St Peter's words. He declares that Christ was 'put to death in the flesh' (i.e., at the crucifixion), 'but quickened in the spirit' (i.e., in that part of His being—His spirit-body—that survived physical death; and in which He was with the robber in Paradise on the same day); 'in which also He went and preached unto the spirits in keeping.' That is perfectly plain, although the attempt has been made to obscure this meaning by substituting 'by' for 'in,' and putting a capital 'S' to 'spirit.'

The Apostle then tells us who these spirits were. They were the Antediluvians who had physically perished in the Flood on account of their wickedness; but who after death had been brought by God's judgment to obedience. 'Which sometime' (implying, no longer) 'were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah.'

He next declares that the Saviour's preaching to those beings in the Spiritual World was a preaching of 'the Gospel'; that the object of its being preached was that they might be dealt with in the same manner as men in the flesh who would hear it, and that they might be brought by that Gospel to do in the Spirit-World what they had not done on earth—to live according to God. 'For for this cause was the Gospel preached also to the dead' (i.e., to those departed this life), 'in order that they might be judged according to' (i.e., by the same standard as, viz., the offer of Salvation through Christ) 'men in the flesh, but might live according to God in the spirit' (i.e., as beings in the Spiritual World).

We submit that of no words in the Bible is the meaning plainer than of these. They teach not only that there has been a preaching of the Gospel after death for a purpose educational in the highest degree, but they also teach that a work of education had been going on in the Spirit-World among disobedient sinners before that Gospel was preached to them by Jesus.

We also asserted that there exist the strongest of reasons, based on statements of Scripture, for warranting the belief that the Gospel is still being preached in the World Beyond. In a companion work to this volume ('Our Life after Death') I have dealt with this phase of the subject at considerable length; so a brief consideration of it must now suffice.

There are in Holy Scripture a very large number of passages that declare that God's purpose of salvation in Christ was made in view of the human race as a whole. Christ is represented as the Saviour not merely for a favoured few—the 'elect'—but for all mankind. That is to say, a knowledge of Christ, and the acceptance of Him as a Saviour, must be a possibility to every human being who has lived, or shall live, unless the Bible does not mean what it states. The theology that has denied that God's saving mercy can operate outside the narrow circle of 'election,' and has viewed the Christian Church not, as St James represents it, merely as the 'first fruits of God's creatures' (James i. 18 v.), but as the entire harvest of redemption, has wholly failed to understand the meaning and purpose of election. There is, undoubtedly, an election of some to certain Christian privileges in this world denied to millions and millions of others; but to make this election a Divine scheme whereby all those others are excluded from the pale of salvation, and hopelessly left to drift into perdition, is a thought that could only have been begotten in the age of an Augustine or a Calvin. And it is a slander upon Him Whose name is ' Love.' We ask the reader to think over the following, taken from scores of Biblical passages of the same import.

Jesus said, 'God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son' (John iii. 16 v.). 'God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved' (17 v.).

'I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me' (John xii. 32 v.).

St John wrote: 'He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world' (1 John ii. 2 v.).

'The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world' (1 John iv. 14 v.).

St Paul wrote: 'Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth' (1 Tim. ii. 4 v.).

'Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time' (1 Tim. ii. 6 v.).

'We trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe' (1 Tim. iv. 10 v.).

Now the question is—How are we going to deal with these magnificent statements of Holy Writ?

Two methods are open to us. We can ignore them at the bidding of a theology that has practically closed its eyes to the fact that they exist; or we can look these passages honestly, fairly, and thankfully, in the face. If we do the latter, we shall shut ourselves up to the conviction that there must be a preaching of Christ's Gospel in the Intermediate World. It is not true that God loved the world; it is not true that He wills that all men should be saved; it is not true that Christ will draw all men unto Himself; and it is, certainly, not true that He is the Saviour of all men, if millions of millions of our fellow-creatures—in fact, the whole of the human race, except a comparative handful—are to lose salvation, because God has affixed this miserable little span of earth-life as the only period in which a knowledge of Christ is possible, and at the same time has so circumstanced these millions of millions that never in this world have they so much as even heard the Saviour's name. How, in that case, we ask, can Christ be 'a ransom for all, to be testified in due time'?

Admit the truth that the preaching begun by the Saviour in the Spirit-World is still continued by those of His Church who are now there, and that it will be continued as long as there remains one human soul to whom the Christ has not been offered, and at once all difficulty vanishes. Then, and only then, can it be true that the Father's love embraces the world, and that Jesus is the Saviour of all men. Millions of millions of men and women have died in absolute ignorance of the Father's love, and the Son He gave; millions in the same condition are dying every year; and if but one of those perish because the Gospel was not preached to him, every one of those passages of Scripture just instanced must be recast. It seems to us we have no alternative but to admit that there must be a preaching of Christ Beyond, whereby the Spiritual World is made an educational life, or to acknowledge that God's love and Christ's work have been overstated by the Bible. Lastly, there are passages in the Epistles that clearly show that the knowledge of Jesus is to be extended to earth's myriads in the World Beyond.

St Paul states: 'For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead' (i.e., the departed) 'and living' (i.e., those still on earth) (Rom. xiv. 9 v.). 'That in the dispensation of the fulness of times, He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in the heavens, and which are on earth; even in Him' (Eph. i. 10 v.). 'God hath given Him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth'(Phil. ii. 9 and 10 v.). By the phrase 'under the earth' St Paul was referring to Hades. The common idea in the Apostles' time was that the spirits of men after death dwelt somewhere in the bowels of the earth. The point to be noted is this, that every knee in this World of Spirit is to bow at the name of Jesus. Those words mean nothing, unless they imply a universal knowledge of the Saviour, and with that knowledge infinite possibilities of blessing to the sons and daughters of Man.

We appeal, therefore, to reason and faith, to our moral instincts and the Bible, in support of the view that the Spiritual World is an educational one.

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Other Books by Rev. Chambers:

"Thoughts of the Spiritual" (1905 American Edition)
"Problems of the Spiritual" (1907 UK Edition)

Rev. Arthur Chambers Returns From "Death" To Speak Through The Zodiac Circle
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