International Standard Bible EncyclopediaESCHATOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
I. DOCTRINAL AND RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE
II. GENERAL STRUCTURE
III. COURSE OF DEVELOPMENT
IV. GENERAL AND INDIVIDUAL ESCHATOLOGY
V. THE PAROUSIA
2. Signs Preceding the Parousia
3. Events Preceding the Parousia
(1) The Conversion of Israel
(2) The Coming of the Antichrist
4. The Manner of the Parousia
VI. THE RESURRECTION
1. Its Universality
2. The Millennium
3. The Resurrection of Believers
4. The Resurrection-Body
VII. THE CHANGE OF THOSE LIVING AT THE PAROUSIA
VIII. THE JUDGMENT
IX. THE CONSUMMATE STATE
X. THE INTERMEDIATE STATE
I. Doctrinal and Religious Significance.
The subject of eschatology plays a prominent part in New Testament teaching and religion. Christianity in its very origin bears an eschatological character. It means the appearance of the Messiah and the inauguration of His work; and from the Old Testament point of view these form part of eschatology. It is true in Jewish theology the days of the Messiah were not always included in the eschatological age proper, but often regarded as introductory to it (compare Weber, Judische Theol. 2, 371). And in the New Testament also this point of view is to some extent represented, inasmuch as, owing to the appearance of the Messiah and the only partial fulfillment of the prophecies for the present, that which the Old Testament depicted as one synchronous movement is now seen to divide into two stages, namely, the present Messianic age and the consummate state of the future. Even so, however, the New Testament draws the Messianic period into much closer connection with the strictly eschatological process than Judaism. The distinction in Judaism rested on a consciousness of difference in quality between the two stages, the content of the Messianic age being far less spiritually and transcendentally conceived than that of the final state. The New Testament, by spiritualizing the entire Messianic circle of ideas, becomes keenly alive to its affinity to the content of the highest eternal hope, and consequently tends to identify the two, to find the age to come anticipated in the present. In some cases this assumes explicit shape in the belief that great eschatological transactions have already begun to take place, and that believers have already attained to at least partial enjoyment of eschatological privileges. Thus the present kingdom in our Lord's teaching is one in essence with the final kingdom; according to the discourses in John eternal life is in principle realized here; with Paul there has been a prelude to the last judgment and resurrection in the death and resurrection of Christ, and the life in the Spirit is the first-fruits of the heavenly state to come. The strong sense of this may even express itself in the paradoxical form that the eschatological state has arrived and the one great incision in history has already been made (Hebrews 2:3, 1; Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 10:1; Hebrews 12:22-24). Still, even where this extreme consciousness is reached, it nowhere supersedes the other more common representation, according to which the present state continues to lie this side of the eschatological crisis, and, while directly leading up to the latter, yet remains to all intents a part of the old age and world-order. Believers live in the "last days," upon them "the ends of the ages are come," but "the last day," "the consummation of the age," still lies in the future (Matthew 13:39, 40, 49; Matthew 24:3; Matthew 28:20 John 6:39, 44, 54; John 12:48; 1 Corinthians 10:11 2 Timothy 3:1 Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 9:26 James 5:3 1 Peter 1:5, 20 2 Peter 3:3 1 John 2:18 Jude 1:18).
The eschatological interest of early believers was no mere fringe to their religious experience, but the very heart of its inspiration. It expressed and embodied the profound supernaturalism and soteriological character of the New Testament faith. The coming world was not to be the product of natural development but of a Divine interposition arresting the process of history. And the deepest motive of the longing for this world was a conviction of the abnormal character of the present world, a strong sense of sin and evil. This explains why the New Testament doctrine of salvation has grown up to a large extent in the closest interaction with its eschatological teaching. The present experience was interpreted. in the light of the future. It is necessary to keep this in mind for a proper appreciation of the generally prevailing hope that the return of the Lord might come in the near future. Apocalyptic calculation had less to do with this than the practical experience that the earnest of the supernatural realities of the life to come was present in the church, and that therefore it seemed unnatural for the full fruition of these to be long delayed. The subsequent receding of this acute eschatological state has something to do with the gradual disappearance of the miraculous phenomena of the apostolic age.
II. General Structure.
New Testament eschatology attaches itself to the Old Testament and to Jewish belief as developed on the basis of ancient revelation. It creates on the whole no new system or new terminology, but incorporates much that was current, yet so as to reveal by selection and distribution of emphasis the essential newness of its spirit. In Judaism there existed at that time two distinct types of eschatological outlook. There was the ancient national hope which revolved around the destiny of Israel. Alongside of it existed a transcendental form of eschatology with cosmical perspective, which had in view the destiny of the universe and of the human race. The former of these represents the original form of Old Testament eschatology, and therefore occupies a legitimate place in the beginnings of the New Testament development, notably in the revelations accompanying the birth of Christ and in the earlier (synoptical) preaching of John the Baptist. There entered, however, into it, as held by the Jews, a considerable element of individual and collective eudaemonism, and it had become identified with a literalistic interpretation of prophecy, which did not sufficiently take into account the typical import and poetical character of the latter. The other scheme, while to some extent the product of subsequent theological development, lies prefigured in certain later prophecies, especially in Dnl, and, far from being an importation from Babylonian, or ultimately Persian, sources, as some at present maintain, represents in reality the true development of the inner principles of Old Testament prophetic revelation. To it the structure of New Testament eschatology closely conforms itself.
In doing this, however, it discards the impure motives and elements by which even this relatively higher type of Jewish eschatology was contaminated. In certain of the apocalyptic writings a compromise is attempted between these two schemes after this manner, that the carrying out of the one is merely to follow that of the other, the national hope first receiving its fulfillment in a provisional Messianic kingdom of limited duration (400 or 1,000 years), to be superseded at the end by the eternal state. The New Testament does not follow the Jewish theology along this path. Even though it regards the present work of Christ as preliminary to the consummate order of things, it does not separate the two in essence or quality, it does not exclude the Messiah from a supreme place in the coming world, and does not expect a temporal Messianic kingdom in the future as distinguished from Christ's present spiritual reign, and as preceding the state of eternity. In fact the figure of the Messiah becomes central in the entire eschatological process, far more so than is the case in Judaism. All the stages in this process, the resurrection, the judgment, the life eternal, even the intermediate state, receive the impress of the absolute significance which Christian faith ascribes to Jesus as the Christ. Through this Christocentric character New Testament eschatology acquires also far greater unity and simplicity than can be predicated of the Jewish schemes. Everything is practically reduced to the great ideas of the resurrection and the judgment as consequent upon the Parousia of Christ. Much apocalyptic embroidery to which no spiritual significance attached is eliminated. While the overheated fantasy tends to multiply and elaborate, the religious interest tends toward concentration and simplification.
III. Course of Development.
In New Testament eschatological teaching a general development in a well-defined direction is traceable. The starting-point is the historico-dramatic conception of the two successive ages. These two ages are distinguished as houtos ho aion, ho nun aion, ho enesios aion, "this age," "the present age" (Matthew 12:32; Matthew 13:22 Luke 16:8 Romans 12:2 1 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 2:6, 8; 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4 Galatians 1:4 Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12 1 Timothy 6:17 2 Timothy 4:10 Titus 2:12), and ho aion ekeinos, ho aion mellon, ho aion erchomenos, "that age," "the future age" (Matthew 12:32 Luke 18:30; Luke 20:35 Ephesians 2:7 Hebrews 6:5). In Jewish literature before the New Testament, no instances of the developed antithesis between these two ages seem to be found, but from the way in which it occurs in the teaching of Jesus and Paul it appears to have been current at that time. (The oldest undisputed occurrence is a saying of Johanan ben Zaqqay, about 80 A.D.) The contrast between these two ages is (especially with Paul) that between the evil and transitory, and the perfect and abiding. Thus, to each age belongs its own characteristic order of things, and so the distinction passes over into that of two "worlds" in the sense of two systems (in Hebrew and Aramaic the same word `olam, `olam, does service for both, in Greek aion usually renders the meaning "age," occasionally "world" (Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 11:3), kosmos meaning "world"; the latter, however, is never used of the future world). Compare Dalman, Die Worte Jesu, I, 132-46. Broadly speaking, the development of New Testament eschatology consists in this, that the two ages are increasingly recognized as answering to two spheres of being which coexist from of old, so that the coming of the new age assumes the character of a revelation and extension of the supernal order of things, rather than that of its first entrance into existence. Inasmuch as the coming world stood for the perfect and eternal, and in the realm of heaven such a perfect, eternal order of things already existed, the reflection inevitably arose that these two were in some sense identical. But the new significance which the antithesis assumes does not supersede the older historicodramatic form. The higher world so interposes in the course of the lower as to bring the conflict to a crisis.
The passing over of the one contrast into the other, therefore, does not mark, as has frequently been asserted, a recession of the eschatological wave, as if the interest had been shifted from the future to the present life. Especially in the Fourth Gospel this "de-eschatologizing" process has been found, but without real warrant. The apparent basis for such a conclusion is that the realities of the future life are so vividly and intensely felt to be existent in heaven and from there operative in the believer's life, that the distinction between what is now and what will be hereafter enjoyed becomes less sharp. Instead of the supersedure of the eschatological, this means the very opposite, namely, its most real anticipation. It should further be observed that the development in question is intimately connected and keeps equal pace with the disclosure of the preexistence of Christ, because this fact and the descent of Christ from heaven furnished the clearest witness to the reality of the heavenly order of things. Hence, it is especially observable, not in the earlier epistles of Paul, where the structure of eschatological thought is still in the main historico-dramatic, but in the epistles of the first captivity (Ephesians 1:3, 10-22; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:9, 10; 4:9, 10; 6:12 Philippians 2:5-11; Philippians 3:20 Colossians 1:15, 17; Colossians 3:2; further, in Hebrews 1:2, 3; Hebrews 2:5; Hebrews 3:4; Hebrews 6:5, 11; 7:13, 16; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 11:10, 16; 12:22, 23). The Fourth Gospel marks the culmination of this line of teaching, and it is unnecessary to point out how here the contrast between heaven and earth in its christological consequences determines the entire structure of thought. But here it also appears how the last outcome of the New Testament progress of doctrine had been anticipated in the highest teaching of our Lord. This can be accounted for by the inherent fitness that the supreme disclosures which touch the personal life of the Saviour should come not through any third person, but from His own lips.
IV. General and Individual Eschatology.
In the Old Testament the destiny of the nation of Israel to such an extent overshadows that of the individual, that only the first rudiments of an individual eschatology are found. The individualism of the later prophets, especially Jeremiah and Ezekiel, bore fruit in the thought of the intermediate period. In the apocalyptic writings considerable concern is shown for the ultimate destiny of the individual. But not until the New Testament thoroughly spiritualized the conceptions of the last things could these two aspects be perfectly harmonized. Through the centering of the eschatological hope in the Messiah, and the suspending of the individual's share in it on his personal relation to the Messiah, an individual significance is necessarily imparted to the great final crisis. This also tends to give greater prominence to the intermediate state. Here, also, apocalyptic thought had pointed the way. None the less the Old Testament point of view continues to assert itself in that even in the New Testament the main interest still attaches to the collective, historical development of events. Many questions in regard to the intermediate period are passed by in silence. The Old Testament prophetic foreshortening of the perspective, immediately connecting each present crisis with the ultimate goal, is reproduced in New Testament eschatology on an individual scale in so far as the believer's life here is linked, not so much with his state after death, but rather with the consummate state after the final judgment. The present life in the body and the future life in the body are the two outstanding illumined heights between which the disembodied state remains largely in the shadow. But the same foreshortening of the perspective is also carried over from the Old Testament into the New Testament delineation of general eschatology. The New Testament method of depicting the future is not chronological. Things lying widely apart to our chronologically informed experience are by it drawn closely together. This law is adhered to doubtless not from mere limitation of subjective human knowledge, but by reason of adjustment to the general method of prophetic revelation in Old Testament and New Testament alike.
V. The Parousia.
The word denotes "coming," "arrival." It is never applied to the incarnation of Christ, and could be applied to His second coming only, partly because it had already become a fixed Messianic term, partly because there was a point of view from which the future appearance of Jesus appeared the sole adequate expression of His Messianic dignity and glory. The explicit distinction between "first advent" and "second advent" is not found in the New Testament. It occurs in Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Testament of Abraham 92:16. In the New Testament it is approached in Hebrews 9:28 and in the use of epiphaneia for both the past appearance of Christ and His future manifestation (2 Thessalonians 2:8 1 Timothy 6:14 2 Timothy 1:10; 2 Timothy 4:1 Titus 2:11, 13). The Christian use of the word parousia is more or less colored by the consciousness of the present bodily absence of Jesus from His own, and consequently suggests the thought of His future abiding presence, without, however, formally coming to mean the state of the Saviour's presence with believers (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Parousia occurs in Matthew 24:3, 17, 39 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:23 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8; James 5:7, 8 2 Peter 1:16; 2 Peter 3:4, 12; 1 1 John 2:28. A synonymous term is apokalupsis, "revelation," probably also of pre-Christian origin, presupposing the pre-existence of the Messiah in hidden form previous to His manifestation, either in heaven or on earth (compare Apocrypha Baruch 3:29; 1:20; Ezra 4; APC 2Esdras 7:28; Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Testament of Levi 18; John 7:27 1 Peter 1:20). It could be adopted by Christians because Christ had been withdrawn into heaven and would be publicly demonstrated the Christ on His return, hence used with special reference to enemies and unbelievers (Luke 17:30 Acts 3:21 1 Corinthians 16 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8 1 Peter 1:13, 10; 1 Peter 5:4). Another synonymous term is "the day of the (Our) Lord," "the day," "that day," "the day of Jesus Christ." This is the rendering of the well-known Old Testament phrase. Though there is no reason in any particular passage why "the Lord" should not be Christ, the possibility exists that in some cases it may refer to God (compare "day of God" in 2 Peter 3:12). On the other hand, what the Old Testament with the use of this phrase predicates of God is sometimes in the New Testament purposely transferred to Christ. "Day," while employed of the parousia generally, is, as in the Old Testament, mostly associated with the judgment, so as to become a synonym for judgment (compare Acts 19:38 1 Corinthians 4:3). The phrase is found in Matthew 7:22; Matthew 24:36 Mark 13:32 Luke 10:12; Luke 17:24; Luke 21:34 Acts 2:20 Romans 13:12 1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14 Philippians 1:6; Philippians 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4 (compare 5:5, 8); 2 Thessalonians 2:2 2 Timothy 1:12, 18; 2 Timothy 4:8; Hebrews 10:25 2 Peter 3:10.
2. Signs Preceding the Parousia:
The parousia is preceded by certain signs heralding its approach. Judaism, on the basis of the Old Testament, had worked out the doctrine of "the woes of the Messiah," chebhele ha-mashiach, the calamities and afflictions attendant upon the close of the present and the beginning of the coming age being interpreted as birth pains of the latter. This is transferred in the New Testament to the parousia of Christ. The phrase occurs only in Matthew 24:8 Mark 13:8, the idea, in Romans 8:22, and allusions to it occur probably in 1 Corinthians 7:26 1 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Thessalonians 5 Besides these general "woes," and also in accord with Jewish doctrine, the appearance of the Antichrist is made to precede the final crisis. Without Jewish precedent, the New Testament links with the parousia as preparatory to it, the pouring out of the Spirit, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the conversion of Israel and the preaching of the gospel to all the nations. The problem of the sequence and interrelation of these several precursors of the end is a most difficult and complicated one and, as would seem, at the present not ripe for solution. The "woes" which in our Lord's eschatological discourse (Matthew 24 Mark 13 Luke 21) are mentioned in more or less close accord with Jewish teaching are:
(1) wars, earthquakes and famines, "the beginning of travail";
(2) the great tribulation;
(3) commotions among the heavenly bodies; compare Revelation 6:2-17.
For Jewish parallels to these, compare Charles, Eschatology, 326, 327. Because of this element which the discourse has in common with Jewish apocalypses, it has been assumed by Colani, Weiffenbach, Weizsacker, Wendt, et al., that here two sources have been welded together, an actual prophecy of Jesus, and a Jewish or Jewish-Christian apocalypse from the time of the Jewish War 68-70 (Historia Ecclesiastica, III, 5, 3). In the text of Mark this so-called "small apocalypse" is believed to consist of 13:7, 8, 14-20, 24-27, 30, 31. But this hypothesis mainly springs from the disinclination to ascribe to Jesus realistic eschatological expectations, and the entirely unwarranted assumption that He must have spoken of the end in purely ethical and religious terms only. That the typically Jewish "woes" bear no direct relation to the disciples and their faith is not a sufficient reason for declaring the prediction of them unworthy of Jesus. A contradiction is pointed out between the two representations, that the parousia will come suddenly, unexpectedly, and that it will come heralded by these signs. Especially in Mark 13:30, 32 the contradiction is said to be pointed. To this it may be replied that even after the removal of the assumed apocalypse the same twofold representation remains present in what is recognized as genuine discourse of Jesus, namely, in Mark 13:28, 29 as compared with 13:32, 33-37 and other similar admonitions to watchfulness. A real contradiction between 13:30 and 13:32 does not exist. Our Lord could consistently affirm both: "This generation shall not pass away, until all these things be accomplished," and "of that day or that hour knoweth no one." To be sure, the solution should not be sought by understanding "this generation" of the Jewish race or of the human race. It must mean, according to ordinary usage, then living generation. Nor does it help matters to distinguish between the prediction of the parousia within certain wide limits and the denial of knowledge as to the precise day and hour. In point of fact the two statements do not refer to the same matter at all. "That day or that hour" in 13:32 does not have "these things" of 13:30 for its antecedent. Both by the demonstrative pronoun "that" and by "but" it is marked as an absolute self-explanatory conception. It simply signifies as elsewhere the day of the Lord, the day of judgment. Of "these things," the exact meaning of which phrase must be determined from the foregoing, Jesus declares that they will come to pass within that generation; but concerning the parousia, "that (great) day," He declares that no one but God knows the time of its occurrence. The correctness of this view is confirmed by the preceding parable, Mark 13:28, 29, where in precisely the same way "these things" and the parousia are distinguished. The question remains how much "these things" (verse 29; Luke 21:31), "all these things" (Matthew 24:33, 14, Mark 13:30), "all things" (Luke 21:32) is intended to cover of what is described in the preceding discourse. The answer will depend on what is there represented as belonging to the precursors of the end, and what as strictly constituting part of the end itself; and on the other question whether Jesus predicts one end with its premonitory signs, or refers to two crises each of which will be heralded by its own series of signs. Here two views deserve consideration. According to the one (advocated by Zahn in his Commentary on Matthew, 652-66) the signs cover only Matthew 24:4-14.
What is related afterward, namely, "the abomination of desolation," great tribulation, false prophets and Christs, commotions in the heavens, the sign of the Son of Man, all this belongs to "the end" itself, in the absolute sense, and is therefore comprehended in the parousia and excepted from the prediction that it will happen in that generation, while included in the declaration that only God knows the time of its coming. The destruction of the temple and the holy city, though not explicitly mentioned in Matthew 24:4-14, would be included in what is there said of wars and tribulation. The prediction thus interpreted would have been literally fulfilled. The objections to this view are:
(1) It is unnatural thus to subsume what is related in 24:15-29 under "the end." From a formal point of view it does not differ from the phenomena of 24:4-14 which are "signs."
(2) It creates the difficulty, that the existence of the temple and the temple-worship in Jerusalem are presupposed in the last days immediately before the parousia.
The "abomination of desolation" taken from Daniel 8:13; Daniel 9:27; Daniel 11:31; Daniel 12:11; compare Sirach 49:2-according to some, the destruction of the city and temple, better a desecration of the temple-site by the setting up of something idolatrous, as a result of which it becomes desolate-and the flight from Judea, are put among events which, together with the parousia, constitute the end of the world. This would seem to involve chiliasm of a very pronounced sort. The difficulty recurs in the strictly eschatological interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 1, where "the man of sin" (see SIN, MAN OF) is represented as sitting in "the temple of God" and in Revelation 11:1, 2, where "the temple of God" and "the altar," and "the court which is without the temple" and "the holy city" figure in an episode inserted between the sounding of the trumpet of the sixth angel and that of the seventh. On the other hand it ought to be remembered that eschatological prophecy makes use of ancient traditional imagery and stereotyped formulas, which, precisely because they are fixed and applied to all situations, cannot always bear a literal sense, but must be subject to a certain degree of symbolical and spiritualizing interpretation. In the present case the profanation of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes may have furnished the imagery in which, by Jesus, Paul and John, anti-Christian developments are described of a nature which has nothing to do with Israel, Jerusalem or the temple, literally understood.
(3) It is not easy to conceive of the preaching of the gospel to all the nations as falling within the lifetime of that generation.
Read Complete Article...
ESCHATOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
Contents (A) Scope of Article (B) Dr. Charles' Work (C) Individual Religion in Israel
I. FUNDAMENTAL IDEAS
1. Idea of God 2. Idea of Man Body, Soul and Spirit 3. Sin and Death
II. CONCEPTIONS OF THE FUTURE LIFE-SHEOL
Had Israel No Belief in a Future Life? 1. Reserve on This Subject: Hopes and Promises Largely Temporal 2. A Future State not Therefore Denied Belief Non-Mythological 3. Survival of Soul, or Conscious Part 4. The Hebrew Sheol
III. THE RELIGIOUS HOPE-LIFE AND RESURRECTION
(a) Nature and Grace-Moral Distinctions (b) Religious Hope of Immortality 1. Sheol, Like Death, Connected with Sin 2. Religious Root of Hope of Immortality Not Necessarily Late 3. Hope of Resurrection (1) Not a Late or Foreign Doctrine (2) The Psalms (3) The Book of Job (4) The Prophets (5) Daniel-Resurrection of Wicked
IV. THE IDEA OF JUDGMENT-THE DAY OF YAHWEH
Judgment a Present Reality 1. Day of Yahweh (1) Relation to Israel (2) To the Nations 2. Judgment beyond Death (1) Incompleteness of Moral Administration (2) Prosperity of Wicked (3) Suffering of Righteous with Wicked 3. Retribution beyond Death
V. LATER JEWISH CONCEPTIONS-APOCRYPHAL, APOCALYPTIC, RABBINICAL
1. Sources (1) Apocrypha (2) Apocalyptic Literature (3) Rabbinical Writings 2. Description of Views (1) Less Definite Conceptions (2) Ideas of Sheol (3) The Fallen Angels (4) Resurrection (5) Judgment The Messiah (6) The Messianic Age and the Gentiles (7) Rabbinical Ideas LITERATURE
Eschatology of the Old Testament (with Apocryphal and Apocalyptic Writings).
(A) Scope of Article:
By "eschatology," or doctrine of the last things, is meant the ideas entertained at any period on the future life, the end of the world (resurrection, judgment; in the New Testament, the Parousia), and the eternal destinies of mankind. In this article it is attempted to exhibit the beliefs on these matters contained in the Old Testament, with those in the Jewish apocryphal and apocalyptic writings that fill up the interval between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
(B) Dr. Charles' Work:
The subject here treated has been dealt with by many writers (see "Literature" below); by none more learnedly or ably than by Dr. R. H. Charles in his work on Hebrew, Jewish and Christian eschatology (A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life in Israel, in Judaism, and in Christianity). The present writer is, however, unable to follow Dr. Charles in many of his very radical critical positions, which affect so seriously the view taken of the literary evidence, and of the development of Israel's religion; is unable, therefore, to follow him in his interpretation of the religion itself. The subject, accordingly, is discussed in these pages from a different point of view from his.
(C) Individual Religion in Israel.
One special point in which the writer is unable to follow Dr. Charles in his treatment, which may be noticed at the outset, is in his idea-now so generally favored-that till near the time of the Exile religion was not individual-that Yahweh was thought of as concerned with the well-being of the people as a whole, and not with that of its individual members. "The individual was not the religious unit, but the family or tribe" (op. cit., 58). How anyone can entertain this idea in face of the plain indications of the Old Testament itself to the contrary is to the present writer a mystery. There is, indeed, throughout the Old Testament, a solidarity of the individual with his family and tribe, but not at any period to the exclusion of a personal relation to Yahweh, or of individual moral and religious responsibility. The pictures of piety in the Book of Genesis are nearly all individual, and the narratives containing them are, even on the critical view, older than the 9th century. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, are all of them, to the writers of the history, individuals; Moses, Joshua, Caleb, are individuals; the deeds of individuals are counted to them for righteousness; the sins of others slay them. If there had been ten righteous persons in Sodom, it would have been spared (Genesis 18:32). It was as an individual that David sinned; as an individual he repented and was forgiven. Kings are judged or condemned according to their individual character. It is necessary to lay stress on this at the beginning; otherwise the whole series of the Old Testament conceptions is distorted.
I. Fundamental Ideas.
The eschatology of the Old Testament, as Dr. Charles also recognizes, is dependent on, and molded by, certain fundamental ideas in regard to God, man, the soul and the state after death, in which lies the peculiarity of Israel's religion. Only, these ideas are differently apprehended here from what they are in this writer's learned work.
1. Idea of God:
In the view of Dr. Charles, Yahweh (Yahweh), who under Moses became the God of the Hebrew tribes, was, till the time of the prophets, simply a national God, bound up with the land and with this single people; therefore, "possessing neither interest nor jurisdiction in the life of the individual beyond the grave.. Hence, since early Yahwism possessed no eschatology of its own, the individual Israelite was left to his hereditary heathen beliefs. These beliefs we found were elements of Ancestor Worship" (op. cit., 52; compare 35). The view taken here, on the contrary, is, that there is no period known to the Old Testament in which Yahweh-whether the name was older than Moses or not need not be discussed-was not recognized as the God of the whole earth, the Creator of the world and man, and Judge of all, nations. He is, in both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, the Creator of the first pair from whom the whole race springs; He judged the whole world in the Flood; He chose Abraham to be a blessing to the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3); His universal rule is acknowledged (Genesis 18:25); in infinite grace, displaying His power over Egypt, He chose Israel to be a people to Himself (Exodus 19:3-6). The ground for denying jurisdiction over the world of the dead thus falls. The word of Jesus to the Sadducees is applicable here: "Have ye not read. I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matthew 22:31, 32). The Old Testament instances of resurrection in answer to prayer point in the same direction (1 Kings 17:21 2 Kings 4:34; compare Psalm 16:10; Psalm 49:15, etc.; see further, below).
2. Idea of Man:
According to Dr. Charles, the Old Testament has two contradictory representations of the constitution of man, and of the effects of death. The older or pre-prophetic view distinguishes between soul and body in man (pp. 37, 45), and regards the soul as surviving death (this is not easily reconcilable with the other proposition (p. 37) that the "soul or nephesh is identical with the blood"), and as retaining a certain self-consciousness, and the power of speech and movement in Sheol (pp. 39). This view is in many respects identical with that of ancestor worship, which is held to be the primitive belief in Israel (p. 41). The other and later view, which is thought to follow logically from the account in Genesis 2:7, supposes the soul to perish at death (pp. 41). We read there that "Yahweh God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." The "breath of life" (nishmath chayyim) is identified with the "spirit of life" (ruach chayyim) of Genesis 6:17, and is taken to mean that the soul has no independent existence, but is "really a function of the material body when quickened by the (impersonal) spirit" (p. 42). "According to this view the annihilation of the soul ensues inevitably at death, that is, when the spirit is withdrawn" (p. 43). This view is held to be the parent of Sadduceeism, and is actually affirmed to be the view of Paul (pp. 43-44, 409)-the apostle who repudiated Sadduceeism in this very article (Acts 23:6-9). Body, Soul and Spirit.
The above view of man's nature is here rejected, and the consistency of the Old Testament doctrine affirmed. The Biblical view has nothing to do with ancestor worship (compare the writer's Orr, The Problem of the Old Testament, 135-36). In Genesis 1:26, 27 man is created in God's image, and in the more anthropomorphic narrative of Genesis 2:7, he becomes "a living soul" through a unique act of Divine inbreathing. The soul (nephesh) in man originates in a Divine inspiration (compare Job 32:8; Job 33:4 Isaiah 42:5), and is at once the animating principle of the body (the blood being its vehicle, Leviticus 17:11), with its appetites and desires, and the seat of the self-conscious personality, and source of rational and spiritual activities. It is these higher activities of the soul which, in the Old Testament, are specially called "spirit" (ruach). Dr. Charles expresses this correctly in what he says of the supposed earlier view ("the ruach had become the seat of the highest spiritual functions in man,"p. 46; see more fully the writer's God's Image in Man, 47). There is no ground for deducing "annihilation" from Genesis 2:7. Everywhere in Genesis man is regarded as formed for living fellowship with God, and capable of knowing, worshipping and serving Him.
3. Sin and Death:
It follows from the above account that man is regarded in the Old Testament as a compound being, a union of body and soul (embracing spirit), both being elements in his one personality. His destiny was not to death, but to life-not life, however, in separation of the soul from the body (disembodied existence), but continued embodied life, with, perhaps, as its sequel, change and translation to higher existence (thus Enoch, Elijah; the saints at the Parousia). This is the true original idea of immortality for man (see IMMORTALITY). Death, accordingly, is not, as it appears in Dr. Charles, a natural event, but an abnormal event-a mutilation, separation of two sides of man's being never intended to be separated-due, as the Scripture represents it, to the entrance of sin (Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:19, 22 Romans 5:12 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22). It is objected that nothing further is said in the Old Testament of a "Fall," and a subjection of man to death as the result of sin. In truth, however, the whole picture of mankind in the Old Testament, as in the New Testament, is that of a world turned aside from God, and under His displeasure, and death and all natural evils are ever to be considered in relation to that fact (compare Dillmann, Alttest. Theol., 368, 376; God's Image in Man, 198, 249). This alone explains the light in which death is regarded by holy men; their longing for deliverance from it (see below); the hope of resurrection; the place which resurrection-"the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23)-after the pattern of Christ's resurrection (Philippians 3:21), has in the Christian conception of immortality.
II. Conceptions of the Future Life-Sheol.
Had Israel No Belief in a Future Life?:
It is usual to find it contended that the Israelites, in contrast with other peoples, had not the conception of a future life till near the time of the Exile; that then, through the teaching of the prophets and the discipline of experience, ideas of individual immortality and of judgment to come first arose. There is, however, a good deal of ambiguity of language, if not confusion of thought, in such statements. It is true there is development in the teaching on a future life; true also that in the Old Testament "life" and "immortality" are words of pregnant meaning, to which bare survival of the soul, and gloomy existence in Sheol, do not apply. But in the ordinary sense of the expression "future life," it is certain that the Israelites were no more without that notion than any of their neighbors, or than most of the peoples and races of the world to whom the belief is credited.
1. Reserve on This Subject: Hopes and Promises Largely Temporal:
Israel, certainly, had not a developed mythology of the future life such as was found in Egypt. There, life in the other world almost over-shadowed the life that now is; in contrast with this, perhaps because of it, Israel was trained to a severer reserve in regard to the future, and the hopes and promises to the nation-the rewards of righteousness and penalties of transgression-were chiefly temporal. The sense of individual responsibility, as was shown at the commencement, there certainly was-an individual relation to God. But the feeling of corporate existence-the sense of connection between the individual and his descendants-was strong, and the hopes held out to the faithful had respect rather to multiplication of seed, to outward prosperity, and to a happy state of existence (never without piety as its basis) on earth, than to a life beyond death. The reason of this and the qualifications needing to be made to the statement will afterward appear; but that the broad facts are as stated every reader of the Old Testament will perceive for himself. Abraham is promised that his seed shall be multiplied as the stars of heaven, and that the land of Canaan shall be given them to dwell in (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 15); Israel is encouraged by abundant promises of temporal blessing (Deuteronomy 11:8; Deuteronomy 28:1-14), and warned by the most terrible temporal curses (Deuteronomy 28:15); David has pledged to him the sure succession of his house as the reward of obedience (2 Samuel 7:11). So in the Book of Job, the patriarch's fidelity is rewarded with return of his prosperity (chapter 42). Temporal promises abound in the Prophets (Hosea 2:14; Hosea 14 Isaiah 1:19, 26, etc.); the Book of Proverbs likewise is full of such promises (3:13, etc.).
2. A Future State not Therefore Denied:
All this, however, in no way implies that the Israelites had no conceptions of, or beliefs in, a state of being beyond death, or believed the death of the body to be the extinction of existence. This was very far from being the case. A hope of a future life it would be wrong to call it; for there was nothing to suggest hope, joy or life in the good sense, in the ideas they entertained of death or the hereafter. In this they resembled most peoples whose ideas are still primitive, but to whom it is not customary to deny belief in a future state. They stand as yet, though with differences to be afterward pointed out, on the general level of Semitic peoples in their conceptions of what the future state was. This is also the view taken by Dr. Charles. He recognizes that early Israelite thought attributed a "comparatively large measure of life, movement, knowledge and likewise power (?) to the departed in Sheol" (op. cit., 41). A people that does this is hardly destitute of all notions of a future state. This question of Sheol now demands more careful consideration. Here again our differences from Dr. Charles will reveal themselves.
It would, indeed, have been amazing had the Israelites, who dwelt so long in Egypt, where everything reminded of a future life, been wholly destitute of ideas on that subject. What is clear is that, as already observed, they did not adopt any of the Egyptian notions into their religion. The simplicity of their belief in the God of their fathers kept them then and ever after from the importation of mythological elements into their faith. The Egyptian Amenti may be said, indeed, to answer broadly to the Hebrew Sheol; but there is nothing in Israelite thought to correspond to Osiris and his assessors, the trial in the hall of judgment, and the adventures and perils of the soul thereafter. What, then, was the Hebrew idea of Sheol, and how did it stand related to beliefs elsewhere?
3. Survival of Soul, or Conscious Part:
That the soul, or some conscious part of man for which the name may be allowed to stand, does not perish at death, but passes into another state of existence, commonly conceived of as shadowy and inert, is a belief found, not only among the lower, so-called nature-peoples, but in all ancient religions, even the most highly developed. The Egyptian belief in Amenti, or abode of the dead, ruled over by Osiris, is alluded to above; the Babylonian Arallu (some find the word "Sualu" = she'ol), the land of death, from which there is no return; the Greek Hades, gloomy abode of the shades of the departed, are outstanding witnesses to this conception (the various ideas may be seen, among other works, in Salmond, Christian Doctrine of Immortality, I (ideas of lower races, Indian, Egyptian Babylonian, Persian and Greek beliefs); in Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, Religion of Ancient Babylonians, and Gifford Lectures, Religions of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia; Dr. Charles, Eschatology, chapter iii, on Greek conceptions). The Hebrew conception of Sheol, the gathering-place of the dead, is not in essentials dissimilar. "The resemblance," says Dr. Salmond, "between the Hebrew Sheol, the Homeric Hades, and Babylonian Arallu is unmistakable" (op. cit., 3rd edition, 173). As to its origin, Dr. Charles would derive the belief from ancestor worship. He supposes that "in all probability Sheol was originally conceived as a combination of the graves of the clan or nation, and as thus its final abode" (op. cit., 33). It is far from proved, however, that ancestor worship had the role he assigns to it in early religion; and, in any case, the explanation inverts cause and effect. The survival of the soul or shade is already assumed before there can be worship of ancestors. Far simpler is the explanation that man is conscious from the first of a thinking, active principle within him which disappears when death ensues, and he naturally thinks of this as surviving somewhere else, if only in a ghost-like and weakened condition (compare Max Muller, Anthropological Religion, 195, 281, 337-38). Whatever the explanation, it is the case that, by a sure instinct, peoples of low and high culture alike all but universally think of the conscious part of their dead as surviving. On natural grounds, the Hebrews did the same. Only, in the Scriptural point of view, this form of survival is too poor to be dignified with the high name of "immortality."
4. The Hebrew Sheol:
It is not necessary to do more than sketch the main features of the Hebrew sheol (see SHEOL). The word, the etymology of which is doubtful (the commonest derivations are from roots meaning "to ask" or "to be hollow," sha'al), is frequently, but erroneously, translated in the Revised Version (British and American) "grave" or "hell." It denotes really, as already said, the place or abode of the dead, and is conceived of as situated in the depths of the earth (Psalm 63:9; Psalm 86:13 Ezekiel 26:20; Ezekiel 31:14; Ezekiel 32:18, 24; compare Numbers 16:30 Deuteronomy 32:22). The dead are there gathered in companies; hence, the frequently recurring expression, "gathered unto his people" (Genesis 25:8; Genesis 35:29; Genesis 49:33 Numbers 20:24, etc.), the phrase denoting, as the context shows, something quite distinct from burial. Jacob, e.g. was "gathered unto his people"; afterward his body was embalmed, and, much later, buried (Genesis 50:2). Poetical descriptions of Sheol are not intended to be taken with literalness; hence, it is a mistake, with Dr. Charles, to press such details as "bars" and "gates" (Job 17:16; Job 38:17 Psalm 9:14 Isaiah 38:10, etc.). In the general conception, Sheol is a place of darkness (Job 10:21, 22 Psalm 143:3), of silence (Psalm 94:17; Psalm 115:17), of forgetfulness (Psalm 88:12 Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10). It is without remembrance or praise of God (Psalm 6:5), or knowledge of what transpires on earth (Job 14:21). Even this language is not to be pressed too literally. Part of it is the expression of a depressed or despairing (compare Isaiah 38:10) or temporarily skeptical (thus in Ecclesiastes; compare 12:7, 13, 14) mood; all of it is relative, emphasizing the contrast with the brightness, joy and activity of the earthly life (compare Job 10:22, "where the light is as midnight"-comparative). Elsewhere it is recognized that consciousness remains; in Isaiah 14:9 the shades (repha'im) of once mighty kings are stirred up to meet the descending king of Babylon (compare Ezekiel 32:21). If Sheol is sometimes described as "destruction" (Job 26:6 margin; Job 28:22 Proverbs 15:11 margin) and "the pit" (Psalm 30:9; Psalm 55:23), at other times, in contrast with the weariness and trouble of life, it is figured and longed for as a place of "rest" and "sleep" (Job 3:17; Job 14:12, 13). Always, however, as with other peoples, existence in Sheol is represented as feeble, inert, shadowy, devoid of living interests and aims, a true state of the dead (on Egyptian Babylonian and Greek analogies, compare Salmond, op. cit., 54-55, 73-74, 99, 173-74). The idea of Dr. Charles, already commented on, that Sheol is outside the jurisdiction of Yahweh, is contradicted by many passages (Deuteronomy 32:22 Job 26:6 Proverbs 15:11 Psalm 139:8 Amos 9:2, etc.; compare above).
III. The Religious Hope-Life and Resurrection.
(a) Nature and Grace-Moral Distinctions:
Such is Sheol, regarded from the standpoint of nature; a somewhat different aspect is presented when it is looked at from the point of view of grace. As yet no trace is discernible between righteous and wicked in Sheol; the element of retribution seems absent. Reward and punishment are in this world; not in the state beyond. Yet one must beware of drawing too sweeping conclusions even here. The state, indeed, of weakened consciousness and slumbrous inaction of Sheol does not admit of much distinction, and the thought of exchanging the joys of life for drear existence in that gloomy underworld may well have appalled the stoutest hearts, and provoked sore and bitter complainings. Even the Christian can bewail a life brought to a sudden and untimely close. But even on natural grounds it is hardly credible that the pious Israelite thought of the state of the godly gathered in peace to their people as quite the same as those who perished under the ban of God's anger, and went down to Sheol bearing their iniquity. There is a pregnancy not to be overlooked in such expressions as, "The wicked shall be turned back unto Sheol" (Psalm 9:17), a "lowest Sheol" unto which God's anger burns (Deuteronomy 32:22), "uttermost parts of the pit" (Isaiah 14:15 Ezekiel 32:23) to which the proud and haughty in this life are consigned. Dr. Charles goes so far as to find a "penal character of Sheol" in Psalms 49 and 73 (op. cit., 74). Consolation breathes in such utterances as, "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for there is a happy end to the man of peace" (Psalm 37:37), or (with reference to the being taken from the evil to come), "He entereth into peace; they rest in their beds, each one that walketh in his uprightness" (Isaiah 57:2; compare Isaiah 57:21 "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked"). Even Balaam's fervent wish, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his" (Numbers 23:10), seems weakened when interpreted only of the desire for a green and blessed old age. It is possible to read too much into Old Testament expressions; the tendency at the present time would seem to be to read a great deal too little
(P. Fairbairn, Typology of Scripture, I, 173, 422, may profitably be consulted).
(b) Religious Hope of Immortality:
To get at the true source and nature of the hope of immortality in the Old Testament, however, it is necessary to go much farther than the idea of any happier condition in Sheol. This dismal region is never there connected with ideas of "life" or "immortality" in any form. Writers who suppose that the hopes which find utterance in passages of Psalms and Prophets have any connection with existence in Sheol are on an altogether wrong track. It is not the expectation of a happier condition in Sheol, but the hope of deliverance from Sheol, and of restored life and fellowship with God, which occupies the mind. How much this implies deserves careful consideration.
1. Sheol, Like Death, Connected with Sin:
It has already been seen that, in the Old Testament, Sheol, like death, is not the natural fate of man. A connection with sin and judgment is implied in it. Whatever Sheol might be to the popular, unthinking mind, to the reflecting spirit, that really grasped the fundamental ideas of the religion of Yahweh, it was a state wholly contrary to man's true destiny. It was, as seen, man's dignity in distinction from the animal, that he was not created under the law of death. Disembodied existence, which is of necessity enfeebled, partial, imperfect existence, was no part of the Divine plan for man. His immortality was to be in the body, not out of it. Separation of soul and body, an after-existence of the soul in Sheol, belong to the doom of sin. Dr. Salmond fully recognizes this in his discussion of the subject. "The penal sense of death colors all that the Old Testament says of man's end. It is in its thoughts where it is not in its words" (op. cit., 159; see the whole passage; compare also Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament, I, 242, English translation; A. B. Davidson, Theology of the Old Testament, 432, 439). The true type of immortality is therefore to be seen in cases like those of Enoch (Genesis 5:24; compare Hebrews 11:5) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11); of a bare "immortality of the soul," Scripture has nothing to say.
It is on all hands conceded that, so far as the hope of immortality, in any full or real sense, is found in the Old Testament, it is connected with religious faith and hope. It has not a natural, but a religious, root. It springs from the believer's trust and confidence in the living God; from his conviction that God-his God-who has bound him to Himself in the bonds of an unchanging covenant, whose everlasting arms are underneath him (Deuteronomy 33:27; compare Psalm 90:1), will not desert him even in Sheol-will be with him there, and will give him victory over its terrors (compare A. B. Davidson, Commentary on Job, 293-95; Salmond, op. cit., 175).
2. Religious Root of Hope of Immortality:
Life is not bare existence; it consists in God's favor and fellowship (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 30:5; Psalm 63:3). The relevant passages in Psalms and Prophets will be considered after. Only, it is contended by the newer school, this hope of immortality belongs to a late stage of Israel's religion-to a period when, through the development of the monotheistic idea, the growth of the sense of individuality, the acute feeling of the contradictions of life, this great "venture" of faith first became possible. One asks, however, Was it so? Was this hope so entirely a matter of "intuitous ventures, and forecasts of devout souls in moments of deepest experience or keenest conflict," as this way of considering the matter represents? Not Necessarily Late.
That the hope of immortality could only exist for strong faith is self-evident. But did strong faith come into existence only in the days of the prophets or the Exile? Exception has already been taken to the assumption that monotheism was a late growth, and that individual faith in God was not found in early times. It is not to be granted without demur that, as now commonly alleged, the Psalms and the Book of Job, which express this hope, are post-exilian products.
Read Complete Article...
see ESCHATOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT; ESCHATOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
) The doctrine of the last or final things, as death, judgment, and the events therewith connected.