Your word is a lamp
for my feet and a light
for my path.
Psalms 119:105

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Section 7

Not Dead But Sleepeth

When Jesus found the mourners bewailing the death of Jairus' daughter, He put them forth, saying, "The maid is not dead, but sleepeth." Then He awakened her. Man does not die the same as beast. Although death to man and beast is cessation of life, yet to man God has given precious promises of a future life by a resurrection. There are numerous assurances that mankind shall be restored from death to receive things promised. Therefore the Scriptures speak of man as not dying, but merely falling asleep. The unconscious sleepers are all promised an awakening in the Resurrection Morn. Jesus declared that all in their graves shall hear His voice and come forth--some to a life of eternal reward, for present faithfulness; others to a trial, or judgment, to determine their everlasting destiny.--John 5:28,29 R.V.

Jesus awakened Lazarus, whose sisters were Martha and Mary, at whose home He frequently stopped at Bethany. When Lazarus was seriously sick, the sisters sent Jesus the message, "Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick." To their surprise he allowed Lazarus to die. Mentioning the matter to His disciples, He said, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth," and later, "Jesus said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead." Jesus said not a word about the dead going to Heaven, purgatory or hell, as was once believed. See John 3:13;11:13,14; Acts 2:29-35.

This word sleep has long been used as symbolical of death. "Abraham slept with his fathers," and his fathers were heathens. St. Paul refers to "those who sleep in Jesus," and tells us "We shall not all sleep," referring to those who remain alive until the establishment of Messiah's Kingdom, and the First Resurrection--at the beginning of His Reign.

These sleep neither in Heaven, purgatory nor a hell of torment. The Bible declares, "They that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake," some to shine as stars, and others to be in contempt and shame, until they have demonstrated their repentance and loyalty.--Daniel 12:2.

"Cast Down to Hell"

Capernaum, the scene of the majority of Jesus' mighty works, is now marked merely by a ruin. In it we see fulfilled Jesus' prophecy, "Thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be brought down to hell"-- to Hades--the tomb. Symbolically that city was lifted to heaven in privilege as being the Master's own city during His ministry. Its great privileges meant great responsibility, and hence Jesus told them that if the same mighty works done in their midst had been done in Sodom and Gomorrah, they would have repented. He said, "In the Day of Judgment, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for you."

The Day of Judgment is undoubtedly the thousand-year Day of Christ's Reign, in which judgment, or trial, will be granted to the world, to separate "sheep" from "goats"-- to determine those worthy and those unworthy of everlasting life. That glorious Epoch will be a blessed Day of privilege, light and grace, in which all the darkness of sin will vanish. It will be "more tolerable" for those who sinned without light than for those who enjoyed great privileges and opportunities.

Bible students are coming to see that the Day of Judgment has been greatly misunderstood. It has been thought of as a time of condemnation, instead of which it will be a period of testing, to see who, under trial, will be found worthy and who unworthy of everlasting life, which Jesus died to secure for all of Adam's race desiring it on God's terms.

The first Judgment Day was in Eden. Father Adam because of disobedience was sentenced to death. For six thousand years his race has been under that sentence. Jesus died to release all from that sentence, and to grant to all an opportunity of everlasting life. Only a faithful few, an Elect class, have yet been blessed. Their judgment, or trial, is in advance of the world, that they may be with Jesus judges of the world during the world's trial, or Judgment Day--the thousand years.--1 Corinthians 6:2; Acts 17:31.

Sheep and Goats Parable

This parable pictures the Kingdom conditions after the Church is glorified and the Kingdom established. It will begin fulfilment "When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him." All nations, including those now asleep in death, will be on trial before Christ's Judgment Seat, to determine their willingness or unwillingness to come fully into harmony with God, and to receive the Divine blessing of life everlasting, or, contrariwise, to be destroyed in the Second Death.

Those developing the wayward, goat-like disposition will pass to Messiah's disfavor, represented by His left hand. At the close of the Millennium, the separation will have affected the entire human family, and have brought all into one of two classes. One class will be rewarded with "the gift of God, eternal life." The other class, unworthy, will get the punishment which God has provided, namely, destruction--kolasin, cutting off from life. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die."

Their destruction is symbolically represented by fire, and was illustrated by the fires in the Valley of Hinnom (mistranslated "Hell"), in which the garbage of Jerusalem was destroyed. The Valley of Hinnom (Greek, Gehenna) was once quite deep. Only dead carcasses were put into it, including those of very vicious criminals. It symbolized hopelessness--annihilation. Jesus used Jerusalem as a figure of the New Jerusalem. This valley--Gehenna--prefigured the Second Death, from which there will be no redemption--no recovery.

Gehenna was earlier called Tophet. When Israel became idolatrous, the image of Moloch was erected there and children were roasted alive in the arms of the image--sacrifically-- devilishly. Good King Josiah defiled it for garbage purposes.

Our pious fathers provided worse idols for us--Creed-idols! To these we were taught to sacrifice millions of heathens, and non-elect infants. But their day is gone! Thank God! Saner views of God are ours, and a truer interpretation of the Bible.

Kingdom Work Illustrated

Not only did Jesus and His disciples preach about the Kingdom, and teach about it in parables, but the mighty works which Jesus did were intended to foreshadow the still greater work to be accomplished by His Kingdom during His Millennial Reign.--Matt.4:23; Isa. 35:5,6.

This is intimated by the words, "These things did Jesus and manifested forth His glory." In other words, the works of Jesus were foregleams of the work of His Glorious Kingdom. Many of His mighty works were done on the Sabbath for the same reason. As the six days in the week represent toil and travail, the result of sin, so the seventh day represents the Millennium, "the rest of the people of God," secured to all who accept it through the merit of Christ's sacrifice.

The turning of water into wine represented how the plain things of the present time, the simplicity of present Truth, will yet be transmuted by the Lord into the joys of the Kingdom, at the Marriage Feast in glory.

The cleansing of the lepers represented cleansing from the leprosy of sin. The one who returned to give glory to God represents the fact that only a "little flock" appreciate the favor of sins forgiven during this Age.

The healing of the sick represented the great fact that all diseases (mental, moral, physical) will be healed by Messiah, the "Good Physician," Royal Priest, typed by Melchisedec.

The opening of the blind eyes and of the deaf ears represented the greater fact that in due time the eyes and ears of understanding of all mankind will be opened, and God's glory will be appreciated. "All flesh shall see it together."--Isa.40:5.

Our Lord's Transfiguration on the Mount was another illustration of the Kingdom. His disciples knew not whether it was a reality or a vision, until Jesus said, "Tell the vision to no man until The Son of Man be risen from the dead." Later, St.Peter declared that what they saw in the holy mount represented Messiah's Kingdom.--2 Peter 1:16-18.

Hosanna in the Highest

Toward the close of Jesus' Ministry He came to Bethany, to the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary-- the same Lazarus whom He had awakened from the sleep of death. Mary chose this opportunity to anoint the Master's feet with Precious Ointment, which He declared was an anointing for His burial.--Matthew 26:12.

The next day He sent for an ass and rode thereon into Jerusalem, after the manner of Israel's kings. When Jesus came in sight of Jerusalem, He wept over the city, exclaiming, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the Prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, but ye would not! Now, I say unto you, Your house is left unto you desolate! Ye shall see Me no more until that day [of Messiah's glory] when ye shall say, 'Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!'" (Matthew 23:37-39.) Meantime the Kingdom is not abandoned, merely delayed. Messiah's Bride will be only partly Jewish. "Israel hath not obtained" the coveted chief favor; but the Elect obtained it.

The multitude caught the spirit of the occasion, that Jesus was the promised King, and hailed Him as Messiah. They scattered clothing and palm-branches before Him, implying that the best of Earth was not too good for One so great. Meantime, they shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" The long-promised Messiah of David's line! "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of Jehovah!"--Matthew 21:9.

The Pharisees, who did not believe, thought the procedure sacrilegious, and told Jesus to stop the shouting. Jesus replied that the Prophet Zechariah (9:9) said, "Shout," and therefore there must be a shout. "If they should hold their peace, the very stones would cry out." God had declared it; there must be a shout; the prophecy must be fulfilled.

Cleansing the Temple of money-changers and merchants followed our Lord's triumphal entry into the city.

The Cost of the Kingdom

The Bible surely tells us that the way to the Kingdom is difficult and narrow, that the cost of being disciples of Jesus is self-denial and cross-bearing. Many wonder that the promises are thus restricted and not to all who strive to do right, without faith or self-sacrifice.

The parable of a camel creeping through a Needle's-eye illustrated how the rich must unload their wealth if they would prepare to share the Kingdom. The little gate in the larger one was called a "Needle's-eye."

Bible students now explain that difficulties are attached to the gaining of the Kingdom because God desires a very choice little company for that glorious position. He has made the trials so severe that only the saintly will avail themselves of the opportunity to gain the Kingdom.

The young ruler asked Jesus: "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus referred him to the Law, which promised eternal life to any Jew who would keep it. The young man replied that he had done his best, but still was dying. Jesus loved him for his good endeavors, and pointed him to a new way to life everlasting, by self-sacrifice as His disciple. Additionally he might become a joint-heir with Jesus in glory, honor and immortality.--Mark 10:17-25; Romans 2:7;8:17.

Two dear disciples asked to sit next Jesus on the Throne of His Kingdom. The Master replied, Are you able [willing] to drink of My cup of self-denial, self-sacrifice, ignominy and shame? Are you able to be baptized into My death--to self- will, to cutting off from every earthly privilege, if such be God's providence for you?--Matthew 20:22; Mark 10:35-38.

Those loving disciples answered that they were ready for anything, with the Master's help. He assured them and us that He will furnish trials and assistances, and that if faithful to the end, we shall have a crown of life. But the honors and glories of the Kingdom will not be determined by grace, but by Justice.--Matthew 20:23; Revelation 3:21;2:10.

The Memorial Supper

Five days after Jesus rode on the ass, offering Himself as Israel's King, came the Passover, typical of the passing over of the Church of the First-borns.

Jesus was the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. In order to do this, He must be the Passover Lamb. St. Paul says, "Christ our Passover is slain, therefore let us keep the feast." Jesus ate the typical Passover lamb with His disciples. Then He took unleavened bread, and fruit of the vine, as representing His own flesh and His own blood, and instituted an antitypical Passover Supper.

Jesus' followers were to do this in remembrance of His death as the antitypical Lamb. He said, "Except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of The Son of Man, ye have no life in you." Of course, the outward performance would be nothing except as it would symbolize heart experiences. In their hearts, Jesus' followers must realize that His death is the Ransom- price for the sins of the whole world; that without it there would be no everlasting life. Such believers constitute the Church of the First-borns, who pass into life in advance of the world--in the First Resurrection.--Revelation 20:6.

St.Paul shows a still deeper meaning to the Memorial Supper. All the followers of Jesus are represented in the One Loaf that is being broken, and as sharing in the One Cup of suffering, shame, ignominy and death. (1 Cor. 10:16,17.) Only such will be members of His glorious "Body," the world's "Prophet like unto Moses."--Acts 3:19-23.

The disciples neglected to wash each other's feet or even the Master's. Jesus performed the service as a lesson in humility-- not as a ceremonial. The spirit of the lesson is that we render each other any service possible, as "members" of Christ.--Acts 9:5; 1 Corinthians 12:27.

After the Supper, Jesus with the Eleven went to Gethsemane, where Judas betrayed Him to the officials with a kiss. Then followed the memorable closing scenes of our Lord's life.

"Ecco Homo!"--Behold the Man!

Early the next morning Jesus was led to Pilate and charged with Treason against the Emperor in asserting Himself a King. His accusers were the foremost Jews. Pilate realized the malice of the charge, to secure the death of an inoffensive person. Learning that Jesus was from Galilee, he sought to rid himself of the responsibility by sending Him to King Herod. But Herod would have nothing to do with Jesus. He had heard of His miracles, and feared. After Herod's soldiers had mocked Jesus, He was returned to Pilate. His accusers insisted that if Pilate should let Him go, that would prove disloyalty to the Roman Emperor.

Pilate sought to release Jesus, and to satisfy the clamor, ordered Him to be scourged. But this did not satisfy the mob, which cried, "Crucify Him!" Finally, Pilate, placing Jesus prominently, exclaimed, "Ecce Homo!"--Behold the Man! You have no other Jew His equal! Would you crucify Him? The mob cried the more persistently, "Crucify Him!" Nothing is more heart-hardening than religious errors.

Jesus was not the mob's ideal of a king. Had He been coarse, vulgar, a boaster, He would have been more nearly their ideal of a person likely to lift their nation from under the Roman yoke, and to become conqueror, like Alexander the Great. The world looks with a measure of reverence upon Jesus, but still He is far from the human ideal. Neither are the footstep followers of Jesus the world's ideals. They with Jesus are counted peculiar. As St. John wrote, "As He is, so are we, in this world"--despised as respects human ideals.

Humanity fails to realize that God's purpose in Christ and His followers has been to prepare them by meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering and love for the glorious work of Messiah's Kingdom, to bless all mankind. Present experiences are necessary, the Bible declares, that this Royal Priesthood may be, later on, a sympathetic Priesthood in respect to mankind.--Hebrews 2:10;3:1;5:8-10;12:11.

The Dying Thief's Hope

Pilate washed his hands in the sight of the people as expressing his innocence of Jesus' death; then he gave the necessary orders for the execution. The Roman Government expected him to be absolutely just in respect to Roman citizens; dealings with others were to be conciliatory.

Two thieves were crucified at the same time, one on either side of Jesus, over whose head was charged the crime for which He was crucified: "Jesus, the King of the Jews." Few deaths are so painful as crucifixion.--Matthew 27:37.

One thief made sport of Jesus, saying, If you are God's Son, the Messiah and King, prove it by coming down from the cross. If Jesus had saved His life, He could not have become the King and Savior of the world, because only by His death could the Death Sentence against Adam and his race be met. Jesus died willingly a sacrificial death.

The other thief defended Jesus, saying that He had done nothing amiss, whereas they were receiving a just penalty.

After this defense the penitent thief turned to Jesus, saying, Lord, if You are a King and ever come into Your Kingdom, remember this poor thief--do something for me! Jesus replied, Amen! i.e., So be it--as you ask! Although I seem to have not a friend in Heaven or Earth, yet I say unto you this dark day, You shall be with Me in Paradise. My Kingdom will be established. Under its influence Earth will become a Paradise. You shall be rewarded there.

The misplacement of the comma in our common English Version has thrown us all astray. Evidently Jesus did not go to Paradise that day, because Paradise is not yet established. Furthermore, three days after, when He arose from the dead, He said to Mary, "I have not yet ascended unto My Father." St.Peter tells us that He was dead and that His soul was raised from the dead on the third day. (Acts 2:31.) "All people" are to be blessed by Messiah's Kingdom, but penitence prepares for quicker blessings and fewer "stripes."

"Quickened in Spirit"

Because still natural men, the disciples could not comprehend spiritual things--until Pentecost. It was necessary, therefore, that Jesus' resurrection should be humanly demonstrated. Only believers could receive the Pentecostal illumination. They must believe, and know also that He is no longer a man, but again a spirit being.

The third day after Calvary the women who carried embalming spices found the sepulchre empty. Mary met Jesus, but knew Him not, for He appeared as a gardener. Jesus revealed Himself by His voice. He said, "I have not yet ascended to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God." The news spread. St. Peter and St. John were amazed, and both ran to the sepulchre. They saw nothing but the vacant tomb and the folded clothes.

Later the same day, two of them journeyed to Emmaus. They were conversing eagerly when Jesus, in another form, unrecognized by them, joined them. He quietly explained to them the types and prophecies which foretold Jesus' death as man's Redeemer, saying, "Thus it behooved Messiah to suffer and to enter into His glory." Telling the experience afterward they said, "Did not our hearts burn within us as He talked with us by the way and opened unto us the Scriptures?" At their evening meal, He revealed Himself, and vanished.

The same evening many of them were gathered in the upper room discussing the remarkable events of the day, the doors being shut, yea, bolted, for fear of the Jews. Suddenly while the doors were still shut, Jesus appeared in their midst, still differently. This time He appeared like His former self. Even this affrighted them, though He told them that what they saw was flesh and blood, and proved it by eating. He was no longer the fleshly Jesus; in His resurrection He returned to the spirit condition. (1 Corinthians 15:44.) But, He had power to materialize, as the holy angels (and Himself, before made flesh) had done.