Death and Judgment
John W. Hedge
The author of the epistle addressed to the Hebrew Christians said: "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." (Heb. 9:27.) This statement finds its place in God's revelation to man that he might be moved to action in preparing himself to meet these two divine appointments. However, not many people care to think and talk about death and the judgment. But there is no way of escaping death and the judgment to follow, These things are as certain to happen to all men as that darkness follows light.
The word of God -- both the Old and New Testaments -- reveals the brevity of life and the certainty of death. What happens when man dies? We read the answer as follows: "The livings know that they shall die, but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more reward, for the memory of them -is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy is now perished, neither have they any more a portion forever in any thing that is done under the sun." (Eccl. 9:5-6.)
This statement affirms that man becomes completely separated from time and earthly environments in death. He, therefore, ceases to be a creature of time and becomes a creature in eternity which is not invaded by earthly time and environments. He ceases to be conscious in this world and 'becomes conscious in the world unto which death removes him.
Man's appearance before God in judgment is said to be after his death. But beyond and after death is eternity -- hence the judgment of God is a thing of eternity. The idea of some is that man dies and his soul goes into some place or state where it awaits the resurrection of the body and the judgment which will occur at the end of time and the world. I would not want to appear "all-wise" or dogmatic in saying that such idea seems to be in conflict with what will actually happen. While the Bible plainly states that we "wait for the redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:23), which will take place at the resurrection of the dead, is it reasonable to suppose that such statement conveys the idea that man after death will have to wait a long period of time -- when he is not even in time -- for his body to be redeemed from corruption? If the world and time continue for millions of years, then man who has passed into eternity will not be aware of it. I understand that God uses earthly terms in expressing ideas of what will be in eternity -- and if we do not watch, we will find ourselves confused as we study the uses made of such terms. God's teaching concerning what we will be and how we will fare in eternity is put in terms which we use constantly in speaking of earthly relationships. The apostle John tells us, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appeareth we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (I Jno. 3:2.) The mysteries of the resurrection of the dead and the judgment of God, plus eternity, must forever remain such to man as long as he is a creature of time. And even when man enters the door of eternity, only God can fully know the true meaning thereof for He is a being who fills all eternity. It has been said that 44outer space" has no bounds or limitations, and if man lives one billion years upon the earth he will never be able to explore all of it. Let us labor while it is called "today" that we may appear righteous before God in' judgment and dwell forever with him in eternity. As we live here in time we have no continuing city -- but should seek for that city whose builder and maker is God.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 20, p. 11