The State of Man After Death and the Resurrection

by A.A. Hodge


WE come now to the fourth and last department of systematic theology, usually designated by the common term Eschatology, or the science of last things. The great departments of Anthropology and Soteriology relate to events and matters of personal experience which have come to pass. The topics embraced in the department of Eschatology relate to events and experiences yet future to us. This fact, of course, accounts for the comparative vagueness and absence of uniformity which characterize the faith of the great historic Churches upon the several points involved in this department. The whole region lies entirely beyond our experience. We can know anything on these points only as it is definitely revealed in the Word of God. And it must ever be remembered that this revealed Word was not given us to satisfy our curiosity or to afford us the material for speculation, but simply to afford us a practical ground of faith and hope and a guide to the performance of duty. Beyond this information thus afforded the Scriptures will not carry us. One of the wisest reflections ever made on the matter of biblical prophecies was that by the great Sir Isaac Newton—namely, “that prophecy was not given in order to make men prophets.” And it is just as profoundly true that no amount of study, no brilliancy of interpretation, will ever make the future hemisphere of Eschatology as clear to us in this life as we have already found to be the departments of the person and work of Christ, of the Spirit’s application of the same, and of our practical duties on the line, of our earthly pilgrimage.

The main essential points, such as the fact that human probation is closed at death, the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of all men, the general judgment, and the final award of endless happiness or misery, all lire dearly taught in Scripture, and all are firmly held with unvarying consent in all the creeds of the great historical Churches. Dissentient opinions on these points are in the strict, sense of the word heresies, and have been confined to individuals or small and transient Church parties.

On the other hand, as to all other points involved us to the time in which some of the events will occur, or as to the order in which they will come to pass, and as to the intermediate state—Christians, otherwise orthodox, differ from one another and hold various views. Within these limits we must tolerate difference and respect the menial independence of our brethren. In a few matters of detail, not settled in any way in our Confession of Faith, I shall be forced to differ from brethren whom I hold in great, respect and affection. I do so with reluctance and with sincere deference to their opinions, and only because I am convinced that the views I shall present are more consistent with the statements and language of the Bible, and that they offer a far stronger polemic position from which to defend our common faith than that occupied by the brethren who will most emphatically dissent from me.

I. The first point explicitly and emphatically stated in Scripture is, that human probation ends with death—that the relation then established between a man and Cod remains unchanged for all eternity. Everything the Scriptures say on the subject plainly implies this fundamental fact, and there is nothing in the sacred Book which, in its plain interpretation, carries an opposite meaning. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Rev. xiv. 13). It is the earthly life, “the things done in the body,” which are finally to determine character and destiny at the judgment-seat of Christ (2 Cor. v. 10). Our blessed Saviour, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, declares explicitly two capital facts: (1) that immediately upon death the good man goes to a state of holiness and happiness, and the bad man to a place of torment; and (2) that these states and the characters they imply are permanent and irreversible. Abraham evidently voices the divine judgment when he says to the importunate subject of instant perdition, “And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence” (Luke xvi. 19-31). Christ’s commission to his original apostles, which defines the only and the entire ground of authorized hope, reads thus, “Go ye into all the cosmos, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned;” “And, lo, I am with you alway, even to the consummation of the age”—to the end of this world, period, or dispensation (Mark xvi. 15-17; Matt, xxviii. 20). Thus the commission and the offer of the gospel it carries extend only to the present age of the gospel on the earth. They who do not believe here and now in this life shall be damned. Paul beseeches the Corinthians that they “receive not the grace of God in vain,” because “now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. vi. 1, 2). The same lesson is enforced by all our Lord’s various parables of the kingdom of heaven—as, for instance, the parable of the Ten Virgins and of the Talents. The Lord comes to each of us at death. His coming is always sudden, and the person who is found without oil in his lamp is excluded from the marriage supper.

The teaching of Scripture upon the other points included in the immediate destiny of every soul after death is admirably summed up and clearly stated in the answers to the thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth questions of our Shorter Catechism—“The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory, and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection;” “At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.”

The wicked Dives was immediately upon death cast into Hades, and “lifted up his eyes, being in torment,” doubtless in the same prison-house wherein, according to Jude (sixth verse), “the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he [God] hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.”

III. All these points are settled. Concerning these there ought to be no longer any debate. But it is abundantly evident, although constantly overlooked by Christians, that the Scriptures settle nothing as to the place or location in space of either heaven or hell. Unquestionably, these terms must designate place or definite location in space, because all created spirits, good or bad, can exist only under the limitations of space. But the particular places are defined neither absolutely nor relatively. Whether these places are far apart or contiguous in space; whether they each always continue to occupy the same portions of space, or are occasionally or frequently moved from one portion of space to another; whether each of them occupies a fixed region or is carried about on revolving spheres like the suns and their planets; whether relatively to us they are up or down,—all these questions are unanswered in Scripture, and with regard to them all opinion is absurd and speculation vain

It is true that the Scriptures characteristically represent the destination of the good as upward and that of the bad as downward, and in the Old Testament the latter is spoken of as under the surface of the earth. But it is unquestionable that this language is purely metaphorical—that it refers not to relation or direction in space, but to moral differences of honour, happiness, and the reverse. In this sense the language is perfectly natural and consistent with the general manner of thought and language characteristic of Oriental people, and especially of the biblical writers. But it is plain that, when used from the point of view of the inhabitants of a revolving and rotating globe like this earth, the literal interpretation of this language is absurd.

To say, moreover, that heaven is where the infinite and omnipresent God is, is evidently to contribute no definite information with regard to its locality, since essentially he is just as much in hell as in heaven. The New Testament beautifully settles this question to the perfect satisfaction of every Christian heart—“To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. v. 8, Revised Version). Heaven, as a place, is defined to be where the incarnate God-man is.

IV. But this at once demonstrates the fact that the condition of Old Testament saints before Christ’s death was in some essential respects different from that which all the redeemed dead share together since his death and ascension. To us and to all the redeemed the essence of heaven is to be with Christ, to be where he is. The vision of God is the incarnate Word, the intimate fellowship with the risen and glorified God-man, our merciful High Priest, is the very essence of the blessedness we seek. Now, whatever else may have been true of the place, the state, or the blessedness of the redeemed dead in Old Testament times, they could not have enjoyed this crowning grace. As the Old Testament believer, in the use of the ceremonial system of symbolic worship, looked forward trustingly and longingly to a Christ to come hereafter as the goal of his desire, as we New Testament believers look forward with trust and joy and longingly hasten unto the second coming of our Lord, so must the happy, holy redeemed dead in the Old Testament age have looked forward trustingly, longingly to the fulfilment of all their desires, the goal of all their hopes, to the coming and dwelling among them for ever of their incarnate Lord in his sacrificed body, beautified and glorified.

Therefore, it follows that when, on the evening of Friday, the soul of the then dead Christ, personally united for ever to his divinity, entered Paradise, he must have irradiated it with a sudden light never seen there nor in all the; universe of God before. That one moment consummated heaven and revolutionized the condition of the redeemed for ever. How much more then, when some forty days afterward, in his completed person, his risen and glorified body united to his glorious soul and Godhead, he ascended and sat on the right hand of the Majesty on high, must the seats of bliss have been transformed and glorified for ever, and made the central temple and cosmopolitan eye and crown of the universe! “For the Lamb is” now henceforth “the light thereof.”

V. It is also very plainly the teaching of the Word of God in both Testaments that the condition into which the souls of men, either good or bad, depart immediately after death, although fixed and irreversible in its general character, is nevertheless intermediate and not ultimate in the character or degree either of the misery on the one hand or of the blessedness on the other.

1. In the first place, although the souls of believers immediately after death are made perfect in holiness, and pass into a state properly called glorious, nevertheless the intermediate state is a condition of death. The spirits of men, while their bodies remain in the graves, are ghosts or disembodied souls. The condition of even the redeemed dead, although completely delivered from sin and at home with the Lord, is one in which they are not yet completely delivered from all the consequences of sin. They look forward to the resurrection of their bodies and to the consummation of their salvation consequent upon the second advent of Christ on earth and its immediate consequents, just as the Church on earth does. Christ, although his soul was in Paradise, continued “until the third day under the power of death.” The same is true of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of all the dead until the morning of the resurrection. The Bible always speaks of the “resurrection of the dead;” therefore they are called “dead,” although their souls are in heaven before the resurrection. The Scriptures characteristically point the faith and hope of believers forward, not to the hour of death, but to that of the resurrection, as the crisis of our complete redemption. The day of resurrection is called “the day of redemption” (Eph. iv. 30). Paul (Phil. iii. 11) declares it to be his great object of desire and of effort “if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” The hope of the gospel, as Paul and all the apostles preached it, was the hope of the resurrection of the dead. When the hour comes, it is the dead in Christ, still dead, who are to rise first (Acts xxiii. 6; 1 Thess. iv. 16).

2. Spiritual death is not here in question. As far as unbelievers are concerned, they continue spiritually dead from their birth through all eternity. As far as the believer is concerned, he is spiritually alive from the moment of his regeneration (John vi. 54). But death, in its common sense, is precisely defined as the suspension of the personal union of soul and body. It continues precisely as long as this union is suspended. It ends the instant this union is re-established by the resurrection. The human soul is essentially constituted for this personal union with a material body. This union conditions all its sensibilities and all its activities. When absent from the body the personality is incomplete; the ghost-life, however happy, must be intermediate and provisional. It is only in the reconstructed personality consequent upon the resurrection of the body, and its glorification in the likeness of Christ, that the person is ready for final judgment or for the consummation of salvation.

This view certainly does not depreciate, the state of the disembodied dead with Christ in heaven during the present age. It is perfectly true that the believer at death “is made perfect in holiness, and does immediately pass into glory.” But that is not final. There is something incomparably higher and more complete to look forward to—when all the redeemed shall pass for ever from under the power of death, and each entire person, instinct with life and glorified, shall be completely conformed to the likeness of his Lord and adjusted to his environment in the new heavens and the new earth.

VI. In connection with this we are brought to the question as to the true meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words Sheol and Hades, in the Old and New Testaments. This question is rather of exegesis and of biblical theology than of positive doctrine. We hold, as has been shown, precisely what our Catechism and Confession of Faith teach as to what becomes of the souls and bodies of men immediately after death. Nevertheless, the revelation of truth, communicated by God to the fathers, and recorded in the Scriptures, has been a gradual one, and it is of importance for us to know, not only what the truth finally revealed is, but also to trace the history of its gradual communication through past dispensations. It is only in this way that we can rightly interpret the Scriptures in their true historic sense. And, above all, it is only in this way that we can maintain the true historic ground of our faith in controversy against all who deny its truth.

It is true that the Scriptures must be interpreted according to the analogy of the faith, and that the general design and fixed principles of the whole must guide us in the interpretation of the parts. Nevertheless, the dogmatic method of interpretation, whereby it is insisted that the fullest development of doctrine gathered in the apostolic writings shall be found in the earliest writings of the Old Testament, may be carried very much too far, and be a great occasion of weakness when assaulted by the enemies of truth. The question is not how we do now conceive of heaven , and hell, but what did the sacred writers mean by Sheol and Hades.

The English word “hell” is of Saxon origin, and originally meant “a concealed place,” and hence either the “grave,” where the body goes at death, or the “invisible world,” “the spirit world,” where the soul goes. But it has come now to have the fixed sense of “the place of perdition,” where the devil, his angels, and the lost souls of men are in torment. This last sense is so general and so firmly established that no attempt should be made to alter or confuse it. We use, therefore, the term “hell” for the place of the punishment of lost souls. Many scholars have held that the words Sheol and Hades, in the original Scriptures, sometimes mean “hell” and sometimes “the grave.” I believe that modern Hebrew and Greek scholars, free from mere traditional trammels, unite with almost absolute unanimity in maintaining that these words never on a single occasion in the Bible mean either “hell” or “the grave,” but always and only the invisible spirit world, in which the disembodied souls of men, whether good or bad, abide after death and before the resurrection, while they remain under the power of death for a season. This view is certainly consistent and uniform. It, permits a. simple and natural exegesis of all the passages in which the words in question occur, and it does not in the least, modify or weaken the dogmatic positions assumed in our Confession.

The word “heaven” often occurs in the Old Testament, but is never used to express the place or the condition into which believers are introduced at death. The single exception (2 Kings ii. 1) proves the rule, because Elijah, of whom alone it was said that he went to heaven, was translated in his body, and did not die at all. The word “heaven” always designates in the Old Testament, the dwelling-place of God. Heaven is his throne, while the earth is his footstool. He is always represented as reigning, looking, hearing, answering, acting, coming from heaven. But, on the contrary, all men, good and bad alike, go when they die to Sheol (Dr. C. Hodge’s Systematic Theology, Part 4, ch. i., sect. 1).

Sheol occurs sixty-five times in the Old Testament, and, with two or three exceptions, is represented in the Septuagint by the Greek equivalent Hades. Hades occurs also eleven times in the New Testament, and throughout both Testaments the two words have one single, plain, uniform meaning. They mean the spirit or ghost world, in which the disembodied spirits of all men are gathered before the resurrection while they remain under the power of death. It is part of the realm of death. Residence in it, like death, is part of the consequences of sin. Irrespective of the atonement of Christ, its condition would be purely penal and hopeless. But in view of that atonement Sheol or Hades was to all true believers the vestibule of heaven. The fact that all men, good and bad, were represented as going to Hades or Sheol of course did not imply that they all went to the same place, or to the same or to a like condition, any more than it does now when it is said that all men go down to the grave or to death, or than it is when it is affirmed of different emigrants from Europe that they are going to America. All went to Sheol or Hades—that is, all, good and bad alike, went out as disembodied spirits into the ghost world, precisely as all, good and bad alike, died, though death is the penalty of sin. And all alike continued under the power of death in the disembodied state until the resurrection. But the good were rendered perfect in holiness, and taken to seats of bliss called “paradise” or “Abraham’s bosom;” while the wicked, abandoned by the spirit of grace and sealed until the day of perdition, went to Gehenna, a place of torment. And between these two there was a great and utterly impassable gulf fixed.

It naturally follows that Sheol, Hades, and death are generally spoken of in the Old Testament as dark and dread-inspiring, as the consequence of sin. The fulness and completion of salvation had not then been brought fully to light. Even believers, while anticipating salvation with calm faith, yet shrank from death and their continuance in Sheol or Hades, and looked forward with longing to the completion of salvation in the resurrection, which was the ultimate goal of their hope. The Psalmist exultantly affirms, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades” (Ps. xvi. 10). Thus Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, declares that the patriarch David spoke of the resurrection of Christ, God having promised that he would “not leave his soul in Hades.” Thus Martha, the weeping sister of Lazarus, confessed at his grave the common faith and hope of a believing Jew: “I know that he shall rise again at the resurrection of the last day.” And thus, in the resurrection, when the salvation of the redeemed and the condemnation of the lost are finally consummated, it is foretold in Rev. xx. 13-15, “The sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and Hades delivered up the dead which were in them.......And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.” Then the lost will suffer the second death. Then the redeemed, complete in soul and body, and in both bearing the glorious image of Christ, shall be delivered from all the power and influence of death for evermore.

VII. This explains perfectly the much-disputed phrase in the most ancient and universal creed of the Christian Church, wherein it is asserted of Christ, “He was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell.” In the original it stands, “He descended into Hades;” and since the changed sense acquired by the English word “hell,” the original and accurately-correct and biblical word “hades” should be restored. This creed, as it stands, is a part of the binding standards of our Church, to which every minister and elder solemnly subscribes, and it is, after the Scriptures, the most ancient, venerable, and generally recognized of all the historic literary monuments of the Christian Church. It seems to me a dreadful violation of the bonds which connect us with the history of Christian faith and life, and of the common ties which still connect the divided segments of “the body of Christ,” for any one branch of that Church to agitate for the mutilation of the venerable creed which belongs to the whole brotherhood, and to all the sacred past as well. This is rendered the more clear and forcible by the obvious fact that the natural and most generally accredited meaning of the clause objected to is perfectly true, and that it can have no objectionable doctrinal implications. The true meaning is that given it in our Confession of Faith—that is, “continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death, until the third day.” That is precisely what going into Hades, the world of the disembodied spirits of dead men awaiting their resurrection, means. The soul of Christ, personally united to his divinity, went, the moment he gave up the ghost, to the very same place and condition as that to which the souls of all redeemed men from the beginning had gone. But on the first day of the week Christ arose, and thus became the first-fruits of them that slept; and afterward ascended, carrying captivity captive (1 Cor. xv. 20; Eph. iv. 8).

VIII. Man consists of soul and body. The entire person, reintegrated by resurrection after death, is the only possible subject of complete and final judgment—the only possible subject upon which complete and final punishment can be inflicted, or to which complete and final rewards can be granted. Unless man is judged, acquitted, and acknowledged in the body, and in the body made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of Christ to all eternity, the whole and complete historical person is not justified or saved. Unless the sinful man is judged, condemned, and damned in the body, the whole and complete historical person of the sinner is not dealt with according to law and justice, and the supreme holiness, truth, and justice of God are not fully shown forth. Resurrection is equally necessary in the case of the finally saved and of the finally lost, and for the same reason—that is, in order to complete the full personality, as a subject of judgment, and hence of reward or of punishment.

It hence follows that the resurrection of the redeemed is (1) the consummation of their personal salvation; (2) therefore, in their case, gracious, for Christ’s sake, a consequence of Christ’s resurrection. On the other hand, the resurrection of the reprobate is (1) the necessary antecedent to their final judgment and endless perdition; (2) and hence, in their case, judicial and punitive. It seems very clear that it is not logical to reason from the fact that Christ’s true people are everywhere encouraged to look forward to the “resurrection of life” as the crowning of their redemption, that therefore the “resurrection of damnation” must be redemptive also (John v. 29). The latter is to lead “to everlasting punishment,” but the other “to life eternal” (Matt. xxv. 46).

IX. The ground of the resurrection of the reprobate will be judgment—the demands of the perfect Jew which they have broken. As to the nature of their resurrection bodies we have no revelation.

The ground of the resurrection of the saints is the already accomplished resurrection of Christ, the “first- fruits of them that slept.” We are to rise because he rose. We are to rise as certainly as he rose. And we are to be like him when we awake, because “he will change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. iii. 21).

1. The same bodies are to rise again which are deposited in the grave. This is expressly asserted in every way: “It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption.” We are to rise in the same sense that Christ rose. But his identical body rose again and was identified. Our “vile bodies are to be made like unto Christ’s glorious body.” We know not what the essential principles of bodily identity are, but we know, certainly, that we have identically the same bodies from the cradle to the grave, although the material constituents of these bodies are continually changing. It is enough for us to be absolutely sure that the bodies we shall rise with at the resurrection will be in the same sense identical with the bodies we lay aside at death, as the bodies we lay aside at death are identical with the bodies with which we were born.

2. But our bodies, although identical, will be changed, modified (not exchanged), so that they will then be perfectly adapted (a) to the instincts and faculties of our glorified souls, and (b) to the physical conditions of the new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.

The body of Christ is now material, as Thomas proved when he thrust his fingers into the print of the nails, and as Christ asserted when he said, after his resurrection, “A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke xxiv. 36-40). If so, it must have a material home to live in. Hence the material universe, in some form, will be as everlasting as the spiritual world. Therefore our bodies will be material like his.

The essential definition of a body is “a material organism personally united to a soul, to be the organ of that soul in perception, in volition, and in expression.” Every body, as an organism, therefore, must be constructed of matter, and must be adjusted in every case to the appetites, instincts, and passions of the soul to which it is united, and to the physical conditions of the environment in which it exists. It is plain that the soul of a sheep never could exist in the body of a lion, nor the soul of a lion in the body of a sheep. It is just as plain that if a body is to inhabit any element, it must be physically adjusted to its conditions. Thus, if it is to inhabit the water, it must have the body of a fish; or if it is to inhabit the air, the body of a bird. So our new body must be transformed into complete adjustment to the glorified spirit and to the glorified world it is to inhabit, and in which it is to act.

In this life our body is called “animal,” psuchikon (1 Cor. xv. 44). In the new life it will be what the New Testament calls “spiritual,” pneumatikon. The established meaning of that phrase in the New Testament is, that which has been made the temple of the Holy Ghost, and which consequently has been transformed by his indwelling (1 Cor. ii. 12-15). The “spiritual body” will therefore be our very same material body, modified by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost so as to be no longer “animal,” but rather so as to be a fit temple for the divine Guest, and a fit organ for the perfectly sanctified and spiritualized soul.

3. Our bodies will be rendered perfect as the organs of our souls in perception. Here we possess but five bodily senses, and hence come into contact with the material world only on five sides. We can take knowledge only of its tangible, visible, audible, and odoriferous properties. Beyond doubt, the world, even as at present constituted, possesses far different properties and presents other aspects, perhaps far deeper, grander, larger, than any now open to us. At present our existing senses are feeble and of narrow range, and we need to increase their powers by the use of instruments, such as the microscope, the telescope, and the spectroscope, whereby new spheres are opened to us.

For illustration, imagine the case of Laura Bridgman, born without the sense either of sight or of hearing, and of course utterly unable to conceive the use or the essence of either experience. Suppose that her teacher, endowed with supernatural power, should have placed her some day of the year, in the spring days of her life, on some central tower in the harbour of Boston. At first she would stand in absolute isolation, teeming with force and life and mind, touching the world only through the soles of her feet and the zephyr which fanned her cheek, yet enveloped in darkness and silence infinite, alone and apart as really as if sunk in the abysses of night beyond the orbit of the nethermost sun. Suppose then her teacher should touch her and say, “Daughter, hear!” and at once there should flow into her open soul all the myriad voices of the globe. Suppose, again, the teacher should touch her and say, “Daughter, see!” and suddenly that hitherto isolated soul should pass out in one instant into the infinite world, and take into her irradiated consciousness all the visions of the sea and earth under the stupendous sky. Without moving herself, or any change of environment, the mere opening of ear and eye would widen her horizon infinitely and bring her face to face with a thousand worlds, all new.

Some such experience will be yours and mine when we are clothed upon with our glorified bodies on the morning of the resurrection. Coming up from rural or urban graveyards, rising before the awful whiteness of the throne and the intolerable glory of Him that sits thereon, and passing through the interminable ranks of flaming seraphs and diademed archangels, the perfect senses of our new bodies will bring us at once into the presence of the whole universe, of the music of all its spheres, and of the effulgence of all its suns—of the most secret working of all its forces, and of the recorded history of all its past.

4. Our new bodies will be no less perfect as the organs of our souls in volition. At present our volitions have direct control only of a few voluntary muscles and of the course of our thoughts. Besides this, our physical energies need constant reinforcement from nutrition and sleep, and are rapidly exhausted by fatigue, and in a few years entirely decay. Man in this world could not stand the competition of any but the weakest of the lower animals if it were not for his superiority of intellect, and for the characteristic fact that he alone is a tool-making and tool-using animal. It is by machinery, to which he harnesses all the forces of material nature, that man maintains his lordship of the world.

But completely redeemed humanity is symbolically represented in the ancient ritual by the cherubim which surrounded the ark of the covenant, the throne of Jehovah over the mercy-seat, and which were inwrought in all the walls and curtains of the tabernacle and the temple. This composite symbol consisted of the ox, the lion, the eagle, and the man. Here were symbolically gathered into one focus, and set forth as the attributes of every redeemed man, all the energies now distributed through all the provinces of the animal world. The ox represents brute strength, the power that cultivates and renders fruitful the earth, and that bears the burdens of mankind. The lion is the king of beasts, at whose voice and tread all the denizens of the forest tremble. The eagle is the king of birds, who soars upward to the seats of the sun, and who sleeps in perfect equilibrium upon his inexhaustible wing. Man is the sovereign intelligence, who gathers all the energies of the physical world and sways them to his use.

Taken together, they constitute the type or prophetic symbol of our resurrection bodies. There will be there no need of grosser nutriment and no need of sleep. Our energies will not flag with fatigue, nor will they be exhausted with age. Our wills will not be confined to indirect and difficult action through cumbrous machinery, but the whole soul will act directly upon every subservient force. Without inertia or friction our purposes will be spontaneously executed by inexhaustible energies, to which all exercise will be pleasure, and continuous activity the unshadowed rapture of an immortal life.

5. Our new bodies, finally, will be perfect as the organs of our souls in expression. The expression of mental characteristics and states is a great mystery. Yet we are absolutely dependent upon it for all our knowledge of and for all our communion with each other. In some exceptional cases the power of expression acquired by some souls through their bodies opens to us a grand conception of what in the resurrection may become the common property of all saints. We have all of us experienced something of the magic power wielded by the great masters of the art of expression—the poets, painters, singers, and orators of all time. Yet even in these the present body of flesh is only a coarse and opaque medium for the spirit’s light. I have no doubt that the resurrection bodies of the saints will be of more than crystal translucency, through which each glorified soul will dart his rays through myriad facets. The recognition of friends, then, will not be the recognition of souls through the remembered features of the body, but rather the recognition of persons through irradiating characteristics of their souls. When we rise on that great Easter morning, and our new senses sweep the historic generations of the redeemed, we will know the great masters of thought and song and the great leaders of the sacramental hosts in instant glances, from our long knowledge of their thoughts and deeds. And when, in the centre of the hosts, we meet the Object to which all thoughts and hearts converge, there will be no need of introduction between the glorified Lord and his glorified servant, however humble he may be. The instant rapturous recognition will be mutual and spontaneous: “Rabboni!” “Mary!”


A.A. Hodge (1823-1886), Professor in Systematic Theology at Princeton Seminary from 1877 until his death in 1886, urged that the aim of every Christian teacher should be to produce a vitalizing impression — giving students ‘theology, exposition, demonstration, orthodoxy, learning, but giving all this to them warm.’ ‘He taught the knowledge of God,’ said one of his hearers, ‘with the learning of a scholar and the enthusiasm of a loving Christian’. These qualities not only crowded his classrooms, they also led to frequent appeals for the delivery of popular lectures.

This article is Chapter 18 in Hodge’s Evangelical Theology: Lectures on Doctrine, pp. 364-383.

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