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Man and the Spiritual World

The testimony of the Bible as to differing life and experience beyond.

Can we, in turning to Scripture, find enough in its statements to justify us in making the foregoing conclusion? We think we can. Let us examine some of those statements; bearing in mind that it is rather to the New Testament (as containing writings penned after the advent of the Truth-Revealer) than to the Old Testament we shall look for anything like particulars concerning the Spiritual World.

First, let us notice that the general principle of variety in life and experience as regards spiritual existence is declared by the Bible. That book shows that one great class of spiritual beings, viz., angels, are not on a common level of moral excellence and dignity, and consequently must have different experiences.

David referred to angels 'that excel in strength' (Ps. ciii. 20 v.); St Paul, to 'elect angels' (1 Tim. v. 21 v.); another writer, to 'angels that sinned' (2 Peter ii. 4 v.); St Jude, to 'angels which kept not their first estate' (their own principality), ' but left their own habitation' (their proper habitation) (6 v.).

Our Lord, in pointing out the sin and danger of despising little children, gave, as a reason, their sanctity in having as spiritual guardians those who are closest to God.

'In heaven, their angels do always behold the face of my Father' (Matt, xviii. 10 v.).

When the old man Zacharias was incredulous concerning what the angel told him, and asked, 'Whereby shall I know this?' Gabriel pointed him to the fact of his extraordinary dignity, as a guarantee of his truthfulness—'I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God' (Luke i. 19 v.).

We submit, therefore, that these qualifying clauses imply that some, and not all, angels 'excel'; that not all 'have sinned,' nor have all 'left their proper habitation,' nor do all 'always behold the face of the Father.' In other words, they point to various spiritual conditions, environments, and experiences, in the ranks of angel-hood.

Now, putting aside for a moment all other statements of Scripture, we consider that such passages as the above, not only negative the idea of uniformity in regard to angel-life, but also afford a reason for believing also that men on the plane of spirit, after death, will have widely - differing surroundings and experiences.

Angel-nature, although a higher development of spirit-life than that pertaining to man after he has left this world, is nevertheless the same as the latter in kind. Both they and he are non-physical, and are spiritual beings encased in spirit-bodies, adapted for a Spiritual World. Our Lord's words justify us in presupposing this constitutional likeness between angel and man. Speaking of man's ultimate destiny, He stated that he will be 'equal unto the angels' (Luke xx. 36 v.); which were impossible were these classes of creatures dissimilar in constitution and, consequently, in resources and powers.

Now, we ask if there exists variety in the environment and experience of angels, is it at all likely that it will not exist, in regard to man, when he steps into the Spiritual World? Then he will be on a lower platform of life than the angels. Shall we look for uniformity of thought, character and experience among earth's departed millions, whom we know to be so dissimilar, and not find it even among the angels? Is that quite reasonable—to view it as characterising a lower phase of spirit-life and not the higher one?

Surely that would be a reversal of the proper order of things. The reader may object that it is useless to draw any inferences in regard to man from angels, because the angels are so wholly different from us. Not so different, we think, as is generally imagined. Two rather big assumptions are made by most theologians concerning angels.

The first is that, of course, they are all (except the lost angels) in heaven, in the immediate Presence of the Almighty, and the next that they were all created as angels, without any previous existence and education.

We believe both assumptions to be wrong.

The Bible shows that there are exalted angelic intelligences very near to God; but it also implies that there are others less exalted, and not so near Him.

As to angels having been called into existence as such, it is, to say the least of it, exceedingly improbable. Moral and spiritual excellence in creatures is a quality that is, as far as we know, only produced by education, experience and growth. Even Christ Himself, we read, was made 'perfect through sufferings.' We believe that God's modus operandi in regard to man, in bringing him to the goal of his being, is the principle under which He has worked in respect to angels. Man starts his existence on the plane of the physical; from that he presently rises to a higher plane, the Spiritual; and from the latter he will go on with his education, until he ultimately reaches the destination for which God made him—the plane of the Celestial—the Heaven of the Gospel. So we believe it is in the case of angels. We think that they too started their being on some plane of the physical — upon some of the millions of material worlds dotted in space. From these (not necessarily by death) they rose to the Spiritual, and onward and upward to the Celestial.

Some of them, we think, have reached their goal; others are still rising, and others in the Spirit-World are at an altitude where men and angels meet.

But between a Gabriel and other angels may exist as much a spiritual distinction as between St Paul and St John, who have been spiritually growing in the Intermediate World for centuries, and ourselves, were we now transplanted there.

The New Testament distinctly affirms the fact of there being different phases of life and experience after death,

This is a point that is readily admitted by Christians so far as it concerns the great class distinction between those in the Intermediate Life who are in a condition of saving faith, and those who are not; but it is not so readily admitted in regard to persons considered individually in either one of these classes. It is seen that the experience of Lazarus after death was radically different from that of the selfish rich man, but it is not generally seen that this does not involve that all on Lazarus's side of the gulf of moral separation are similarly circumstanced, nor that all on Dives's side are undergoing the experience that he did. In the World of Spirit there may be dissimilarity in the life and experiences of those belonging to either group of believer or unbeliever, of blessed or unblessed; and we believe the New Testament points to it.

Take our Lord's words, uttered towards the close of His earthly ministry. They are very suggestive. Speaking to His disciples, whom he appointed to teach mankind, He said, 'In my Father's house are many mansions' (Greek: tarrying-places, i.e., many tarrying or abiding-places); 'if it were not so I would have told you' (John xiv. 2 v.). Now the usual interpretation put upon those words is that Christ was only referring to Heaven.

Suppose we admit this (which we do not), what then? His statement most certainly demolishes the 'orthodox' idea of uniform life and experience in Heaven. There are 'many mansions,' He says; and the life and experience of one household is different from that of another. So then we can claim a divine sanction for even more than we asserted, viz., that there is not a uniformity of experience even among the angels and saints in Heaven itself.

But did Christ by this phrase, 'My Father's house,' only refer to Heaven? We do not think he did. We ask where is the Father's house? Can you localise it in any spot of the universe? Are not both the Spiritual and Physical Worlds as much a part of it as Heaven? Did not the Christ Himself speak of the temple of Jerusalem as 'My Father's house'? (John ii. 16 v.). Did not St Paul also call the Christian Church 'the house of God'? (1 Tim. iii. 15 v.). Are we, in the face of this, justified in restricting the term to Heaven? When St Paul departed this life 'to be with Christ,' and entered the Spirit-World to wait for 'the redemption of the body' (Rom. viii. 23 v.), were the Saviour and he outside the Father's house? If not, then the point for which we contend must be conceded; for, on Christ's own showing, it is a house of many tarrying places.

I beg you also to notice the significance of the words, 'If it were not so, I would have told you.' Do they not imply that Christ viewed it as a foregone conclusion that man should picture future spiritual life and experience as multiform?

Look now at some of the statements of the New Testament concerning those who are shown as being, after death, in the Spiritual World—the Intermediate Life. Those statements do not countenance the idea of uniform life and experience. Both classes—blessed and unblessed—are referred to, and in either class the experience of one person is seen to be different from that of another.

We remind the reader that in the cases we shall instance none of the persons were either in Heaven or Hell, but in the Intermediate World. Neither the resurrection nor the final Judgment had taken place.

The New Testament refers to the following as being among the blessed in the Intermediate Life, viz., Moses, Elijah, Lazarus the beggar, and the Souls 'under the altar.'

Were their spheres of life and experience alike? Moses and Elijah, in consequence of their long sojourn in the World of Spirit, had so developed that they were able to figure in a magnificent scene of glory on Mount Hermon, and to converse with the Saviour on the most momentous of all subjects —'His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.'

Lazarus, the poor beggar, was shown to be after death in a state of rest and relief, but no more. He was in 'Abraham's bosom,' but not a hint is given that he was capable of the mental and spiritual experiences of Moses and Elijah.

The souls 'under the altar' show, by their impatience and un-Christ-like demand for vengeance, that, although they were among the blessed, their spiritual education was far from completed. They had neither the restfulness of Lazarus nor the spiritual knowledge of Moses and Elijah.

Again, the New Testament has statements as to what was to be the experience of two persons who were going into the Intermediate Life — the penitent robber and St Paul. The penitent robber, whose character and spiritual nature was as yet unformed, was told by the loving Saviour that he should be with him in Paradise on the day of crucifixion, and there, doubtless, he listened to Christ's preaching of the Gospel to the Antediluvians, whose physical bodies perished in the Flood. But we cannot suppose that that robber was on the same platform of moral and spiritual thought and experience as either Moses or Elijah, or the martyred Christians, or the beggar Lazarus.

St Paul was convinced that his departure from the physical world into the Spiritual would enable him to be more nearly 'with Christ,' but surely we must imagine that his communion and intercourse with Jesus was of a far higher character than that of the robber. The Presence of Christ to St Paul, the man of noble self-sacrifice and spiritual insight, must have meant infinitely more than It did at first to the man who had never loved nor served Him, and had cursed Him to His face within a few minutes of dying.

There are other persons referred to in the New Testament as being at the time in an unblessed condition, viz., the rich man of the parable, the Antediluvians, and those whom Christ said should go into 'outer darkness.'

The condition and experience of these were wholly dissimilar. Dives, through the ordeal of painful discipline, was beginning to learn the lesson of unselfishness.

The Antediluvians, whatever may have been their past experiences in the Intermediate Life, at all events were not, at the time our Lord preached His Gospel to them, any longer in a state of rebellion against God. St Peter describes them as those 'which sometime were disobedient' (1 Peter iii. 20 v.), implying that the judgment of God and the discipline of Spirit-life had brought them to repentance, and made it possible for them to accept the Gospel message and 'live according to God in the spirit' (r Peter iv. 6 v.).

Their condition, then, was clearly different from that of the rich man in Hades. The gulf of moral and spiritual dissimilarity that separated him from Lazarus in Abraham's bosom did not exist in the case of the Antediluvians and the Christ in Paradise. Schooled by their long stay in the Spiritual World, these old-time sinners had learned better things. No longer disobedient and insensible to God and goodness, the gulf between the blessed and unblessed was no longer impassable; Jesus from Paradise could go to them and win them for Himself.

Again the condition and experience of those described by Christ as going into 'outer darkness' (Matt, viii. 12 v.), is plainly wholly unlike that of either the Antediluvians or Dives. These 'children of the kingdom,' in the earth-life, had had the light and the opportunities which the Antediluvians had not had, and had wilfully closed their eyes to the one, and not used the other.

In the Life Beyond, they were worse off than the wretched beings drowned by the Flood, and the rich man in his 'testings' in Hades. God-given faculties, neglected and disused, had atrophied in them. They had lost their power of perceiving the light of goodness and truth, and for a while, at least, their sphere in spirit-life was the 'outer darkness.' Testimony has been borne by persons who have departed this life, and been seen by survivors, that their experience on first entering the Spirit-World was a very terrible one.

The Saviour's words were true; they could see nothing. An awful, impenetrable darkness surrounded them.

There remains still another statement of the New Testament, at which we must briefly glance, in connection with this phase of our subject.

It relates to St Paul's unique experience in having entered Paradise before the axe of cruel Nero had finally severed his connection with his physical body.

The Apostle recounts the experience in 2 Cor. xii. 2-4 v., and tells us that he, the real man—so real, indeed, that for all he knew to the contrary he might have been in his earthly body—'was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words' (4 v.).

But note the point. St Paul states that he went to 'the third heaven' or sphere.

What is the logical conclusion? Surely that there are at least three distinct spheres of life and experience in the Paradise of the Spiritual World. And if so, then this one statement, to say nothing of the others adduced, justifies our assertion that God's Book teaches that the World Beyond is one of differing life and experience. Again, therefore, are the Bible and common sense seen to be hand in hand.

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Other Books by Rev. Chambers:

"Thoughts of the Spiritual" (1905 American Edition)
"Problems of the Spiritual" (1907 UK Edition)

Rev. Arthur Chambers Returns From "Death" To Speak Through The Zodiac Circle
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