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INTERNATIONAL S.S. LESSONS
SUGGESTIVE THOUGHTS DESIGNED TO ASSIST THOSE OF OUR READERS WHO ATTEND BIBLE CLASSES, WHERE THESE LESSONS ARE USED; THAT THEY MAY BE ENABLED TO LEAD OTHERS INTO THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL. PUBLISHED IN ADVANCE, AT THE REQUEST OF FOREIGN READERS.
LESSON XII., MARCH 20
Golden Text—”The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.”—Rom. 6:23
In our judgment, the best way to review is to review—to re-read and carefully ponder the lessons of the quarter and their presentation in previous issues of the TOWER.
The golden text is worthy of careful consideration. “The wages of sin is death,” not life in torment, nor life in any sense, but total extinction of being. “The dead know not any thing.” “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest.” “Man dieth and wasteth away : yea, man giveth up the ghost [the breath or spirit of life] and where is he? … His sons come to honor, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them. … As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up, so man lieth down [in death] and riseth not till the heavens be no more; [until then] they shall not awake nor be raised out of their sleep.” The present heavens or ruling powers under Satan, the present prince, shall give place to the new heavens, the Kingdom of God under Christ and his Church glorified (the Royal Priesthood), during a great time of trouble just at hand (Dan. 12:1), in which the present rule of evil shall cease and Satan be bound. Under the new spiritual power (the Kingdom), the “new heavens,” there shall also be a new social arrangement, “a new earth,” and then through the Kingdom-power not only those alive, but also “all that are in their graves,” shall come forth—”awake” from the sleep of death.—Eccl. 9:5,10; Job 14:10,21,11,12; John 11:11-14.
Death is an actual extinction of being. Mark, we do not say that death annihilates matter; for matter is indestructible, and merely passes from one form to another—as solid to liquid or to gas. What we do assert is, that being, as a condition, has an opposite in non-existence, and that the same God who gave us our being can cause that being or existence to terminate. “The soul (being) that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4,20), is God’s statement on this subject. Nay, more; the privilege of living is dependent upon God, since it is “in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28), and our Golden Text assures us that God has decreed that the wages of sin shall be death, and that only by his gift or favor can any hope to live forever. In view of the promised resurrection from death, the first death, which now prevails against all, is likened to a sleep. (John 11:11; Dan. 12:2.) It would have been a sleep that would have known no waking, had it not been that
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God in his grace provided redemption from that death which came upon all through father Adam, in the death of Christ our Lord, who became a man and then gave himself our ransom-price—died, the just for the unjust. (Rom. 5:12,18,19,20.) Thus the sentence of Adam’s sin is settled by Christ for all who accept his sacrifice and come into covenant relationship—which sooner or later all must have a chance to do. Thus the general resurrection of all is provided for; and in view of that awakening from death which God had fore-ordained, he and all who trust him call the Adamic death a sleep, from which all will awake in the Millennial morning. But the second death is never designated a sleep: because it will never end, it will be an everlasting extinction of being to all who go into it. The soul that sinneth shall die—an everlasting punishment for wilful sin against full light and opportunity, such as the world will enjoy during the Millennium; but which only consecrated believers may enjoy now.
It was in view of the awakening, the resurrection, that Job, in the midst of his trouble, said, “Oh! that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past [until the time for the curse to be removed by the establishment of God’s Kingdom in the earth], that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me. … All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I [from death] will answer thee [by coming forth]: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thy hands.”—Job 14:13-15.
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The doctrine of a resurrection is entirely incompatible with the teaching of modern theology, that the righteous dead are not really dead, but more alive than ever in heaven; and that the wicked dead are not really dead, but in a place of torment. If such were the case the prophecies of the preceding lesson, and numerous others, could never be fulfilled. Shall faithful Abraham, indeed, return from heaven to claim the promise of a home in the land wherein he was a stranger? And shall the multitudes of his posterity, who were corrupt and idolatrous, return from the sulphurous pit of modern theology to share it with him?
No, but as the Prophet (Ezek. 37:12) declares, they will be brought up out of their graves, which statement is abundantly corroborated by the Lord and all the prophets and apostles. “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man.” (John 3:13; Acts 2:34.) Even the faithful Apostle Paul did not expect to go to heaven at death, but having fought the good fight and kept the faith and finished his course, he exclaimed, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day [the day of his appearing and kingdom]: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:8.) True, Paul’s portion as a member of the body or bride of Christ will not be an earthly, but a heavenly inheritance—to be entered into “at that day.”
While the just and certain wages of sin is death, the gift of God, praise his holy name, is eternal life to all who will accept it on his righteous terms, through Christ Jesus, our Lord and Redeemer. And it will be the privilege of every son and daughter of Adam, if they will have it. To the world in general it will be the restored human life in Edenic bliss; and to the members of the body or bride of Christ, being selected during this Gospel age, it will be a life of participation with him in his glory and divine nature.
— March 1, 1892 —