Separate SpiritsMiscellanies by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
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264. Spirits Separate. Though we do not certainly know that separate spirits can properly be said to be in any place, seeing that spirit cannot be said to be in place at all, only with respect to the immediate mutual operation there is between that and body. Now we know not whether there be any such mutual operation with regard to separate spirits, whether or no there be any immediate excitation of any corporeal ideas, or any other way than as they see them in minds that are united to bodies, or remember them as formerly excited in themselves. I say, though we do not certainly know this, yet it does not seem probable that their manner of existence and receiving ideas shall be so exceedingly different from what it is here, and from the church on earth, with whom they are of the same family, and so exceedingly alien from what it will be after the resurrection, so exceedingly different from the existence of the man Christ Jesus, their head, and so exceedingly alien from Enoch and Elijah, some of their number and who are now of the same glorified society. Doubtless they are not more so than the angels who never were united to bodies. But it seems to me very improbable that there should be no corporeal world with respect to the angels who have so much to do with the church on earth, and who shall be conversant with the saints after the resurrection, and with whom they shall be conversant. I therefore cannot think that as soon as a spirit leaves a body, the corporeal world is annihilated with regard to it, but that corporeal ideas are excited in them by some law. Why is Christ’s body made glorious now in heaven, if there are none in heaven to behold his glory, or if separate spirits do not perceive the beauty of bodies?
413. Heaven: Separate Spirits. One reason why the apostle so much insisted upon the resurrection of the dead, rather than the blessedness of a separate state, as an encouragement to Christians, was because they in those days looked upon Christ’s coming, and so the resurrection, as just at hand.
499. Hades. Separate Spirits. Heaven. Hell. Our first parents enjoyed great happiness. They dwelt in paradise, and there had a confluence of spiritual and outward blessings and delights, before they had so much as performed the condition of eternal happiness, or had had a trial for it. It need not therefore be wondered at, that the separate spirits of saints should be in a very happy state before they are judged at the last judgment, and that the wicked should be very miserable.
555. Heaven. Separate State. Angels. The saints are spectators of God’s providences relating to his church here below. (Vide Hebrews 6:15. Notes.) One end of the creation of the angels and giving them such great understanding, was that they might be fit witnesses and spectators of God’s works here below, and might behold all parts of the divine scheme, and see how it was accomplished in the divine works and revelations from age to age. Mortal men see but a very little, they have but a very imperfect view of God’s providence in the world while they live, and they do not live long enough to see more than a very small part of the scheme. God saw fit that there should be creatures of very great discerning, and comprehensive understanding, that should be spectators of the whole series for the works of God. And therefore they were created in the beginning of the creation, that they might behold the whole series from the beginning to the consummation of all things. And therefore we read that they sang together, and shouted for joy when they beheld God forming this lower world. Job 38:7; So we are taught that they are spectators of the work of redemption, and the progress of it. 1 Tim. 3:16; Eph. 3:10. And as God has made them to be spectators of the great works of the divine wisdom and power, so that their minds may be the more engaged and entertained, God allows them to have a subordinate hand in them, and he improves them as his messengers and servants in bringing them to pass.
Hence I argue that undoubtedly the souls of departed saints are also spectators of the same things, for they go to be in heaven with the angels. The angels carry them to paradise, and we cannot suppose that they leave them there, and that the only opportunity they have to converse with angels from their death till the end of the world, is while they are on their way from earth to Abraham’s bosom. The saints even on earth have from time to time been admitted to converse with angels, and shall they not do so much more familiarly, when they go to be with Christ in paradise? The spirits of just men made perfect, are reckoned as of the same society with the angels, and as dwelling with them in Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, which the apostle elsewhere calls “Jerusalem which is above,” by which he doubtless means heaven. Why should not the saints go to be with the angels when they go from their bodies, seeing they are of the same family? The angels are their brethren. Why should they be kept separate from the angels, who are their brethren in the same family? As the angel in the Revelation tells John he is of his brethren, Rev. 22:9. And if anyone would understand that, not of a proper angel, but of the departed soul of one of the saints, then will it make much more to our present purpose. If one of them was sent to reveal to John the providences of God relating to the church on earth, then certainly departed saints are acquainted with them. But that the departed saints do dwell in heaven with the angels is most evident, because we learn by Eph. 3:15, that the whole family is in heaven and in earth. Departed saints are doubtless of the family, the angels they also are of the family, and saints and angels are all gathered together in one in Christ, Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:16, 20. But none can doubt but that heaven is the dwelling place of the angels.
It is no privilege to be continued in this world, to have opportunity to see here the success of the gospel and glorious things accomplished in the church. If this had been any privilege, the man Christ Jesus should have been allowed it: he saw very little success, while he was here, of all that he did and suffered. The success was chiefly after he went to heaven, and there he can see it better than if he were here. And this is part of his promised glory, that he there sees the success of his redemption, and his own kingdom carried on and flourishing in this world, Isa. 53:10-12. And it is the will of Christ, that departed saints should be with him where he is, that they may behold this glory of Christ, which the Father gives him and be partakers with him in it. John 17:24.
565. Heaven: Separate Spirits. The happiness which the departed souls of the saints being with Christ have before the resurrection, is proleptical, or by way of anticipation. This is not the proper time of their reward. The proper time of the reward and glory of saints is after the end of the world, when an end shall be put to the world’s state of probation: then succeeds the state of retribution. When all the present dispensations of the covenant of grace shall be ended, and Christ shall have brought all enemies under his feet, and shall have fully accomplished the ends and designs of his mediatorial kingdom, and his own glory shall be fully obtained, and he shall have fully finished God’s scheme in the series of revolutions in divine providence: — then will be the time of Christ’s joy and triumph, and then will be the proper time of judgment and retribution, and then will be the proper time of the reward and glory of Christ’s followers. The state that spirits of just men are in now is not the proper state of their reward. It is only a state wherein they are reserved against the time of their reward. It is the time wherein the pure chosen espoused virgin is reserved in the King’s house against the day of marriage, and the joy and blessedness that they now enjoy with Christ in their conversation with him, though it appear to us unspeakably great, is only by way of prelibation of what is future, and therefore vastly short of it. Such is God’s overflowing love to them, that while they are only reserved for their designed glory, they shall be reserved in blessed abodes, as a king would entertain her whom he reserves for marriage, and whom he loves with a strong and ardent love, in no mean manner, but in a way suitable to his love to her and his design concerning her. The state of the blessed souls in heaven is not merely a state of repose, but of a glorious degree of anticipation of their reward, as is evident by Heb. 6:12. See my Notes on it. Thus it is God’s way, from his overflowing goodness to his people, to grant a prelibation of blessings before the proper season. So the church of the Old Testament had an anticipation of gospel benefits before Christ came, and the gospel days commenced. So the saints now are allowed in a measure to anticipate the blessedness that is to succeed the fall of antichrist. Rev. 6:9-11, “I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held, and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, Holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given to every one of them; and it was said unto them that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also, and their brethren also, which should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” Those white robes were the glory and reward which God gave them beforehand, the earnest of what was to be after antichrist’s fall. So the saints here in this world have that light, holiness, and joy, that is an anticipation and earnest of what they are to have in heaven, and what they have now in heaven is but an earnest of what they are to have afterwards at the consummation of all things, and when all things come to be settled in their fixed and eternal state. Therefore the apostle so often speaks of the reward and glory of the saints at Christ’s second coming, and encourages Christians with that, without any mention of the glory which they shall receive before.
666. Separate State. Texts made use of by Dr. Watts in his essay to prove a separate state: Psa. 73:24, 26; Ecc. 12:7; Isa. 57:2; Luke 9:30-31; Acts 7:59; 2 Cor. 5:1-2; 2 Cor. 12:2-3. It shows that St. Paul thought that a soul might exist, think, know, and act, in paradise, in a state of separation. (Vide my Notes on the text.) Phil. 1:21; 1 Thes. 4:14; 1 Pet. 3:18-20. Spirits in prison: Jude 7; Rev. 6:9; Heb. 11:14. The Jews generally supposed separate spirits; and Christ did not correct them. Mat. 14:26; Luke 24:36, etc. Acts 23:8-9. More evident proofs: Mat. 10:28. Luke 16:22, etc. Luke 20:37-38. Luke 23:42-43. 2 Cor. 5:6, 8; Phil. 1:23-24; Heb. 12:23; 2 Pet. 1:13-14. To which may be added, Acts 1:25. See my Note on Heb. 12:1. Blank Bible, p. 766.
710. Heaven. Separate State. Resurrection. Dispensations. How the happiness of the resurrection state will exceed the present happiness in heaven. It looks to me probable that the glory of the state of the church after the resurrection will as much exceed the present glory of the spirits of just men made perfect, as the glory of the gospel dispensation exceeds the Mosaic dispensation, or as much as the glory of the state of the church in its first or purest state of it, or rather in its state in the Millennium (wherein alone the glory of the gospel dispensation will be fully manifested), exceeds the state of the church under the law, and as much as the state, the company, of glorified souls exceed this. Of old, under the Mosaic dispensation, the church saw things very darkly. They saw as it were by a reflex light, as we see the light of the sun by that of the moon. They saw gospel things in dark types and shadows, and in dark sayings, that were, as it were, riddles, or enigmas. The glory of that dispensation was no glory in comparison of the glory of the evangelical dispensation it so much excels, but under the gospel dispensation those dark shadows are ceased, and instead of enigmas or dark sayings, the apostle uses great plainness of speech. 2 Cor. 3:12. The night, in which we saw by a reflex light only, is ceased, and Christ is actually come, we enjoy daylight. John the Baptist was the day star to usher in the day, and when he was born, the day spring from on high visited us, as Zachariah his father sang. Luke 1:78-79. And when Christ himself came, the sun rose, especially when he rose from the dead and shed forth his light and heat on the day of Pentecost. And now we see the sun by his own direct light, we see him immediately, the veil is taken away, and we all see with open face. 2 Cor. 3:18. But still, even under the gospel dispensation, we see by a reflex light, we see only the image in a looking-glass in comparison of what we shall in the future state. 1 Cor. 13:12. We understand not by plain speeches and declarations, but as in an enigma, or dark saying, as it is said in the same place, for the things of heaven cannot be expressed as they be in our language. The apostle, when he went there, said of them, that it was not lawful or possible to utter them. But when the souls of the saints are separated from their bodies, they shall no longer see heavenly things as in an enigma, or dark saying, for they shall go themselves to heaven to dwell there, and shall immediately see and hear those things that it is not possible or lawful to utter plainly, or know immediately in this world. They shall then no longer see Christ by reflection as in a looking-glass, because they shall be where Christ himself shall be immediately present. For they that are departed are with Christ, and they that are absent from the body are present with the Lord. When that which is perfect is come, then we shall no more see by a looking-glass or enigma, but shall see face to face, as the apostle shows, 1 Cor. 13:10, 12, “But when that which is perfect is come,” is said with respect to the separate souls of the saints, as is evident by Heb. 12:23, for they are there called the spirits of just men made perfect. And therefore when the soul of the saint leaves the body and goes to heaven, it will be like coming out of the dim light of the night into daylight. The present state is a dark benighted state, but when the soul enters into heaven, it is like the rising of the sun, for they shall then see the Sun of righteousness, by his own direct light, because they shall be with him. They will be spirits made perfect in that respect, that is, it will be perfect day with them. Pro. 4:18. We cannot in the present state see clearly, because we have a veil before us, even the veil of the flesh. The church is Christ mystical: the church in the Old-Testament state was represented by Christ in his fleshly state, such as he was in before his death. For Christ was the head of that church in that state, and was subject to the same ordinances with them, was under the same dispensation with his church till his death.
His flesh was as it were a veil that hindered our access to heavenly things, or seeing them immediately. When Christ died, this veil was rent from the top to the bottom, and the holy of holies, with the ark of the testament, were opened to view. And especially will this be fulfilled in the glorious period of this evangelical dispensation, when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, Rev. 11:15, 19. But still the church of Christ has a veil before it, to hinder it from seeing immediately things in the holy of holies, and this veil is their flesh, which is mystically the flesh of Christ. Christ in this members is still in his fleshly state, but when the saints die this veil is rent from the top to the bottom, and a glorious prospect will be opened through this veil.
The day is a time of glory in comparison of the night, because of the sun that is then seen, which is the glory of the visible universe, and by his light fills the world with glory. So the gospel state of the church is spoken of as a state of glory, in comparison of its Old Testament state. 1 Pet. 1:11, “Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” 2 Cor. 3:10, “For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excellent;” and this state was prophesied of, of old, as a state of glory, but the state of the holy separate souls is a state of glory in comparison of the present state. Psa. 73:24, 26, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory — my flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.” So it is said of Moses and Elijah, who were in the state that the saints are now in heaven, that at Christ’s transfiguration they appeared in glory. Luke 9:30-31.
But yet the glorified souls of saints in their present state in heaven, though they cannot be said properly to see as in an enigma, is but darkly, in comparison of what they will see after the resurrection. Therefore, though we are said now to see with open face, in comparison of what they did under the Old Testament. And though separate souls in heaven see face to face, in comparison of what we do now, yet the sight that the saints shall have at the resurrection, is spoken of as it were the first sight wherein they should see him as he is. 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as his is.” The glory of Christ is what will as it were then first appear to all the church, to all that shall then lift up their heads out of their graves to behold it, as well as to those that will then be alive. It is called the blessed hope, and glorious appearing of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ, with respect to both those companies of which the church consists. The apostle speaks of it as what would be a glorious appearing to them, to the Christians that were then living, Tit. 2:13, which implies something that will be seen anew, as though he had been till then unseen. That appearing of Christ will be like the appearing of the sun when it rises to all, both those that shall then be found alive, and those that will then rise. It will be to them both as the morning succeeding the dim light of the night. Psa. 49:14, “The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning.” Though in the state the saints are now in heaven, there is no proper darkness, because there is no evil, yet the light they have is dim, like the light of the night, in comparison of the glorious light that shall appear in that morning. The happiness that separate souls have now in heaven is like the quiet rest that a person has in bed before a wedding day, or some other joyful and glorious day, in comparison of the light and joy after the resurrection. Isa. 57:1-2, “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart, and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous are taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace. They shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.” 1 Thes. 4:14-15, “Them which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep.” The morning of the natural day when the sun rises, and persons awake out of sleep, and the face of the whole world is revived, seems to be a type of the resurrection, when the saints shall awake out of sweet repose to glory.
The saints now in heaven see God or the divine nature by a reflex light, comparatively with the manner in which they will see it after the resurrection, seeing now through the glass of the glorified human nature of Christ, and in that glass of his works especially relating to redemption, as was observed No. 702.
Of old under the Old Testament, the church of Christ was as a child, Gal. 4:1, so still under the gospel dispensation the church on earth is as a child, in comparison of what the church of glorified souls in heaven is, where what is perfect is come. 1 Cor. 13:10-11, “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was child, I spake as a child, I understood as child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” But yet the church remains a child, and does not come to the stature of a man until the resurrection. Eph. 4:10-13, “he that descended is the same also that ascended far above all heavens, that he might fill all things; and he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” But this will not be till that time comes, when the work of those offices ceases, which will not be till the end of the world, and there be no further use of them. Mat. 28:20. It will not be till the time comes when he that is ascended shall descend again. It will not be till the church has all its members; and all its members are delivered from all remaining corruption, and all are brought to their consummate glory.
Of old the church was in a preparatory state, as a woman preparing for her marriage. The coming of Christ, his destroying the Jewish state and church, and setting up the gospel dispensation, is compared to the coming of the bridegroom and his marriage with the church; the gospel day, to the wedding day; and the provision of God’s house under the gospel, to the wedding feast; and gospel ministers, to servants sent out to invite persons to the wedding: Mat. 22 at the beginning, and Isa. 56:10. And especially is the most glorious time of the Christian church on earth, when the glories of the gospel dispensation shall be most fully manifested, called the marriage of the Lamb. Rev. 19:7, “Let us be glad, and rejoice, and give honour to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready,” etc. But yet the translation of the soul from the earthly to the heavenly state at death, is represented as its marriage to Christ, and therefore, Christ’s coming by death, is called the coming of the bridegroom, in the beginning of the 25th chap. of Matthew. One thing that Christ has there respect to, is his coming by death. This is the application Christ makes of it in the 13th verse, Christ speaks of the coming of the bridegroom as what would be sudden and unexpected, and as it were at midnight, to them that then were his hearers, and what they therefore should continually watch and wait for, that they might not be found slumbering and sleeping as the foolish virgins were. “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” But this manner of speaking is not applicable to those that were then living with respect to Christ’s last coming at the end of the world, but with regard to his coming by death. But yet the glorification of the church after the last judgment is represented as the proper marriage of the Lamb. Rev. 21:2, “I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband;” and Rev. 21:9, “Come hither, I will show thee the bride the Lamb’s wife.” See Luke 14:14-16, etc. compared with Mat. 22, at the beginning. See No. 774, Corollary 5.
Consider the following two works by Edwards that have been updated and republished for easy reading:
Ripe for Damnation: Sermons on the Book of Revelation – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). Are you hungry for more of Edwards’ sermons? On the book of Revelation? These new works are not found anywhere on A Puritan’s Mind, and there are new ones not found in his large 2 volume works. 4 deal with the plight of the wicked, and 2 deal with the bliss of saints in heaven. These sermons are powerful, practical, and biblical, glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, and contain 2 never before published sermons.
Justification by Faith Alone – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). In this classic work, Edwards covers the intricacies of how believers are made righteous only through Christ’s merits, and that this justifying righteousness is equally imputed to all elect believers. This is accomplished by the condition of faith as an instrument.