Chapter 31, Of the State of Man After Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead

Please note: The following are only rough notes for this chapter, and are not a complete commentary. But I am posting them in the event they prove useful until the commentary for this chapter is complete.

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  1. The bodies of men after death return to dust, and see corruption; but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous being then made perfect in holiness, are received into paradise[1], where they are with Christ, and[2] behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies; and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell; where they remain in torment and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day; besides these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none. ( Genesis 3:19; Acts 13:36; Ecclesiastes 12:7;Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:1, 6,8; Philippians 1:23; Hebrews 12:23; Jude 6, 7;1 Peter 3:19; Luke 16:23, 24 )

The Confession addresses the state of man between death and the final resurrection of all men. There are commonalities between the souls of all men, and these are first established in this paragraph before going on to distinguish the righteous and wicked soul.

 

The bodies of men after death return to dust, and see corruption;

  • By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Gen 3:19 (ESV)
  • For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption,   Acts 13:36 (ESV)

 

but their souls, which neither die nor sleep,

In contrast to men’s bodies, their souls do not die, return to the dust or see corruption (physical decay).

 

having an immortal subsistence,

Mankind’s soul has an immortal subsistence.

  • Subsistence: the condition of continuing to exist.

Immortal: able to have eternal life or existence.

 

The Confession does not teach universalism (that all men have eternal life) as we see in this very paragraph; the 1689 Confession is stating that the soul is immortal, not in the sense of having eternal life, but in the sense of eternally existing from the point God creates the soul.

There is a distinction between the body and the soul. This understanding is foundational to the remaining paragraphs in this chapter.

 

immediately return to God who gave them.

  • “The second assertion of the Confession about the soul is that, rather than returning to dust at death, it returns to God. The idea intended by the Confession appears to be that the soul returns to God for the purpose of its being assigned its preliminary reward or punishment until the final judgement.”[3] Samuel Waldron
  • and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Eccl 12:7 (ESV)
  • “The sundering of the body and soul in death is a complete contradiction of their created characters. Neither the soul nor the body was intended to exist apart from the other. The increasing decrepitude [the condition of being old] which signals the approach of death (Eccles. 12:1-6) and the repulsive dissolution [separation] which follows it clearly indicate its unnatural character.”[4] Samuel Waldron

 

The souls of the righteous being then made perfect in holiness, are received into paradise, where they are with Christ, and behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies;

  • and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,   Heb 12:23 (ESV)
  • And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43 (ESV)
  • For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Cor 5:1 (ESV)
  • So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.   2 Cor 5:6-8 (ESV)
  • I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.   Phil 1:23 (ESV)
  • And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. Rev 21:3 (ESV)
  • And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.   Rev 21:23 (ESV)
  • And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:23 (ESV)

 

 and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell; where they remain in torment and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day;

This is a stark contrast between the souls of the righteous and the souls of the wicked.

 

And the souls of the wicked are:

  • Cast into hell;
  • Where they remain in torment and utter darkness,
  • Reserved to the judgment of the great day;

And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.   Jude 1:6-7 (ESV)

and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’   Luke 16:23-24 (ESV)

 

besides these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.

This is an explicit statement that there are only two places after death in the Word of God; in saying there are only two places, the 1689 Confession makes an implicit statement that there is no purgatory, nor any of the other places that different classes of the dead go according to the Roman Catholic Church.

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  1. At the last day, such of the saints[5] as are found alive, shall not sleep[6], but be changed; and all the dead shall be raised up with the selfsame bodies, and none other; although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever. ( 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Job 19:26, 27; 1 Corinthians 15:42, 43 )

 At the last day, such of the saints as are found alive, shall not sleep, but be changed;

Saints that are alive at Christ’s second coming will not experience death, but will be changed into their incorruptible bodies, in contrast to those who have already died (fallen asleep).

  • Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.   1 Cor 15:51-52 (ESV)
  • Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.   1 Thess 4:17 (ESV)

 

and all the dead shall be raised up with the selfsame bodies, and none other;

And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,  Job 19:26 (ESV)

  • Selfsame bodies: the same body that they had when alive. It will not be a different body or any other body.

 

although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever.

Though it will be the soul’s same body—the one they had on earth–its qualities will be different. This same body, yet now incorruptible, will now be united again to the soul of the righteous.  This is the resolution of the waiting for the redemption of the body.

  • So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 1 Cor. 15:42-43 (ESV)

Samuel Waldron quotes Hodge in saying, it is “not a new body substituted for the old, but the old changed into the new.”[7]

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  1. The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonour; the bodies of the just, by his Spirit, unto honour, and be made conformable to his own glorious body. ( Acts 24:15;John 5:28, 29;Philippians 3:21

We see here a general resurrection of the bodies of all mankind, the just and the unjust. What we should see carefully here is the unjustified versus the justified by faith.

  • Having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.   Acts 24:15 (ESV)
  • Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.     John 5:28-29 (ESV)

We have seen:

  • The state of the righteous or justified soul after death and pending the final resurrection
  • The state of the unrighteous or unjust soul after death and pending final resurrection
  • The state of the righteous soul after the final resurrection
  • The state of the unrighteous and unjust after the final resurrection
  • The state of the body of the righteous and just body after death and pending the final resurrection
  • The state of the body of the unrighteous and unjust body after death and resurrection

 

Now we see the state of the body of the unjust and the just at the final resurrection contrasted:

  • Unjust: The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonour;
  • Just: the bodies of the just, by his Spirit, unto honour, and be made conformable to his own glorious body.
  • Who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.   Phil 3:21 (ESV)

 

Indeed salvation has reached its full accomplishment in this state of glorification.

Let’s look at some related Baptist Catechism questions:

  • Baptist Catechism
  • Q40: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
  • A40: 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.

 

  • Baptist Catechism
  • Q41. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?
  • A41. At the resurrection believers, being raised up in glory (1 Cor. 15:43), shall be openly acknowledged, and acquitted in the day of judgment (Mt. 25:23; Mt. 10:32), and made perfectly blessed, both in soul and body, in the full enjoyment of God (1 John 3:2; 1 Cor. 13:12) to all eternity (1 Thess. 4:17, 18).

 

  • Baptist Catechism
  • Q42: What shall be done to the wicked at their death?
  • A42: The souls of the wicked are, at their death, cast into the torments of hell, and their bodies lie in their graves until the resurrection and judgment of the great day.

 

  • Baptist Catechism
  • Q43. What shall be done to the wicked, at the day of judgment?
  • A43. At the day of judgment the bodies of the wicked, being raised out of their graves, shall be sentenced, together with their souls, to unspeakable torments with the devil and his angels for ever (John 5:28, 29; Mt. 25:41, 46; 2 Thes. 1:8, 9).

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[1] The 1689 Confession uses ‘paradise’ in lieu of ‘the highest heavens’ in the WCF and the Savoy Declaration.  The source is presumably Collins.

[2] The 1689 adds this to the WCF and the Savoy. The source is presumably Collins.

[3] Samuel Waldron, 1689 Baptist Confession: A Modern Exposition (Evangelical Press, Darlington, England), pg. 379.

[4] Samuel Waldron, 1689 Baptist Confession: A Modern Exposition (Evangelical Press, Darlington, England), pg. 379-380.

[5] The 1689 adds this to the WCF and the Savoy. The source is presumably Collins.

[6] The 1689 uses ‘sleep’ in lieu of ‘die’ in the WCF and Savoy. The source is presumably Collins.

[7] Hodge, Confession of Faith, page 387.

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