Sanctification After Death -- By: Jerome D. Davis

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 050:199 (Jul 1893)
Article: Sanctification After Death
Author: Jerome D. Davis


Sanctification After Death

J. D. Davis

Kyoto, Japan

Many Christians die while yet imperfect. What is the status of these souls immediately after death, or between death and the general judgment? The common theory among Protestants has been that the soul of the believer is fully sanctified at death, and, so, instantaneously fitted, as it were, for entrance into heaven. Much difficulty has been and is felt with this theory; and, to escape from these difficulties, many among Protestants suppose an intermediate state, something like the Roman Catholic Purgatory, only it is a spiritualized Purgatory, in which imperfect believers and those dying in infancy, and perhaps some other classes, are purged or developed until, at the general judgment or before, they enter the Paradise of God.

Bishop Martensen, on page 457 of his “Dogmatics,” says: “As no soul leaves this present existence in a fully complete and prepared state, we must suppose that there is an intermediate state, a realm of progressive development, in which souls are prepared and matured for the final judgment. Though the Romish doctrine of Purgatory is repudiated because it is mixed up with so many crude and false positions, it nevertheless contains the truth that the intermediate state must in a purely spiritual sense be a Purgatory, designed for the purifying of the soul.” Van Oosterzee, Dorner, and now Professor Briggs, seem to hold a similar view.

Are we shut up to such an hypothesis as this, in order to escape from the difficulties of the theory of instantaneous sanctification at death? Must we construct an extra-biblical intermediate state? Is it not better to reconstruct our ideas of heaven in harmony with the general tenor of what God has revealed to us on this subject?

Is it true that only beings who have reached a state of ideal perfection are fitted to enter heaven? If so, then the theory of an intermediate state, which is advocated by Dorner, Martensen, and Briggs, fails to meet all the difficulties of the case; for, according to this theory, the second advent of Christ, or the general judgment, terminates this intermediate state. How, then, will the great multitude of imperfect Christians, and of infants, who are in the body on the earth at the moment of Christ’s coming, be perfected, since they are deprived of the help of an intermediate state?

May not the requirements for entrance into heaven be of such a nature as to relieve all difficulty with reference to imperfect Christian souls at the time of our Lord’s great appearing and also at his appearings now through all the ages, and when he comes “to receive” every individual believer at death as he has promise...

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