New York American, April 16, 1911


The London Tabernacle was crowded to hear Pastor Russell's Easter sermon on "The Resurrection Hope the Only One." His text was from 1 Cor. 15:12-18 - "How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain and your faith is also vain. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." He said:

For years God's people have had excellent Bibles, and thus have been blessed far in advance of our brethren who lived during the Dark Ages. But we have read our Bibles too carelessly and often have most of us wondered at the great stress St. Paul laid upon the resurrection. Rarely is the subject preached upon now, and rarely is it ever thought of except as an absurdity. The reason for this is not far to seek. From childhood we have been taught that nobody is dead that in dying everybody, good and bad, becomes more alive than ever before: that this aliveness, to the saintly few, means spiritual powers and an immediate entrance into heaven, death being swallowed up in life. The unsaintly masses also, we are told, have quickened sensibilities after dying they become more alive, more able to appreciate and suffer pain.

Our Catholic neighbors tell us that the majority immediately go to Purgatory, there to be tried by various sufferings and tortures, and later, enter heaven. Our Protestant teachings have been to the effect that the unsaintly masses, unfit for the presence of God and the holy, will be consigned to an eternity of awful torture and made very much more alive to suffering than before. Thus we have been taught to believe that death is a portal or door into an intenser life that nobody is dead. Many of us perplexed ourselves, and were perplexed by others, with questions respecting how there could be a "resurrection of the dead" if nobody is dead. We avoided the question, or gave the answer, "Mystery; go run and play."

Some, indeed, attempted a patchwork of the matter and told us that those in heaven were happy, but not so happy as though they had bodies and that after thousands of years of craving for a body (which they had used for only a few years) they would get it back again for all eternity. Others said, "No, our bodies have been only a clog and a hindrance, and from the moment of death we will be better off without them; and we do not know why the Bible should teach a resurrection of the dead, to get back bodies that we would be glad to be rid of." Respecting the wicked, we said that after roasting for centuries without a body, then, to intensify their pain, the body would be resurrected and they would have double suffering. What bosh! what foolishness! Is it any wonder that many of the bright minds of the world learned to doubt everything connected with religion and the Bible? Rather the wonder is that, seeing things so obscurely, we did not all repudiate everything.


With the clearing of the mists of ignorance and superstition, with a better light reflected from one page to another of the Bible, the resurrection subject clarifies and the statements of Jesus and the Apostles and Prophets, which we thought so strange, become luminous and soul-satisfying.

When once we see that "the wages of sin is death" and not eternal torment; and that the Bible hell is the tomb and not a fiery furnace; and that all mankind go to sheol, to hades, just as did our Savior; then we begin to see that what we all need is to be saved from sheol, from hades, as was the Savior. A resurrection-salvation is thus the salvation hope of the Church and of the world.

What a relief this gives us as respects parents, children, neighbors, friends and the heathen, who have died out of Christ, unsaintly! What comfort it brings to know that they are sleeping in the great prison-house of death, unconscious of the lapse of time, waiting for the Redeemer, Who will as King set up His Kingdom in glory, associating His Bride with Himself for the blessing of all the families of the earth. The bringing forth of the prisoners out of the prison-house of death will be to set before them under the glorious provisions of the New Dispensation an opportunity for life everlasting, by obedience to the laws of [HGL537] the Kingdom under the assistance of the Heavenly One the alternative being, not eternal torment but death Second Death.


Some one may say, "Pastor Russell, what about the soul? If the body goes to sheol, hades, the tomb, where goes the soul?" I reply that it is the soul that goes to sheol, to hades, the grave, the tomb, the state of death. Although the words sheol and hades are translated grave more times than translated hell, nevertheless they refer, not to the mound of earth, which is in the nature of a monument, but to the secret, hidden condition, preferably styled the tomb, the abyss.

The Prophet David wrote, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in sheol (the tomb, the state of death), nor suffer Thine Only One to see corruption." (Psa. 16:10) St. Peter quoted this on the day of Pentecost and explained that it is a prophecy in respect to Christ Jesus. David's soul was not delivered from sheol, and he did see corruption, and his sepulchre the Apostle could refer to. But he, being a Prophet, spoke those words respecting Jesus; that His soul would not be left in sheol; that His soul would not see corruption. St. Peter says that this prophecy was fulfilled in our Lord in that He was raised from the dead on the third day. He tells us (1 Pet. 3:18) that Jesus was put to death in the flesh, but quickened in spirit a Spirit Being far above angels and principalities and powers and every name that is named. Our common version Bible declares that our Lord's soul was saved from hell hades. (Acts 2:27-31)

David, in the Old Testament, used the word sheol. St. Peter, in the New Testament, used the word hades. There is no dispute amongst scholars as to what is signified. The words sheol and hades are well known to refer, not to a place of suffering or torture or animation of any kind, but to the unconsciousness of the death state. Jesus arose from the dead, from hades, the grave, and not from a place of torment. The so-called Apostles' Creed declares that Jesus descended into hell, but arose from the dead on the third day. All scholars know that nothing in the words sheol and hades has any relationship to fire or pain or suffering or consciousness, and thus this phrase of the Apostles' Creed is universally explained.

As Jesus descended into hades, so do all mankind. As the Father raised Him from the dead on the third day, so it is promised that He will raise us, the Church, from the dead. More than this, the unjust also, those who have not been approved of God, in the present life, shall all be awakened from the sleep of death. They will come to be informed respecting sin, having lived under the reign of Sin and Death. They will come forth that they may learn the ways of righteousness, the reward of which is life everlasting. The glorified Jesus and His glorified Church, the Bride, will be the Royal Priesthood, whose special work for a thousand years will be the uplifting of mankind, not only from the tomb, but also to perfection of life, "every man in his own order" or rank. The uplifting will bless as many as are willing lifting them from the degradation and meanness and imperfection into which all have fallen by one man's disobedience, under the laws of heredity.


In the poetic language of the hymn, Christ Jesus "burst the bars of death" in His resurrection. It was not possible for Him to be holden of death, writes the Apostle. (Acts 2:24) The Divine verdict went forth that He had been faithful and that to Him should come the reward of life upon the highest plane the divine nature. (Eph. 1:20, 21)

Our fancies may legitimately picture that the holy angels marveled at the Redeemer's experiences from the time that He left the heavenly glory and was made flesh and dwelt amongst us until, by His resurrection change, He returned again from the earthly nature to the heavenly plane, "far above angels." As they sang at His nativity a rapturous song of glad tidings of great joy to all people, so they were filled with amazement, surely, at how the Father permitted Him to be tempted and tried and poured for Him His cup of suffering, which He drained to the dregs. They marveled when "He died, the Just for the unjust." They looked and wondered, as hour after hour He remained in the tomb dead. Their loyalty to the Heavenly Father was tested during that period, but was rewarded when they beheld that Divine power raised Him up even to a more excellent glory than that which He had before.

With what alacrity the angels must have acknowledged the risen One, in harmony with the Father's declaration, "Let all the angels of God worship Him." "Worthy is the Lamb to receive glory and honor, dominion, might and power." The point to be specially noticed is the change of nature which our Redeemer experienced in His resurrection. That change did not take place during the three and a half years of His ministry, which ended with His resurrection. When 30 years of age He gave Himself He surrendered His earthly privileges and rights and hopes into the Father's hands, to be obedient to everything which Divine providence might permit. At that moment His sacrifice of His flesh was accepted. The evidence of its acceptance was the impartation of the Holy Spirit, which as a dove rested upon Him and exercised a quickening and illuminating influence upon His mind, enabling Him to understand more than human things and to perform more than human acts.

It was Jesus, a New Creature, begotten of the Spirit at Jordan, that did the mighty works of the Father. His flesh, His humanity, was gradually laid down sacrificially, in harmony with the Divine providences. He drank "the cup" which the Father poured for Him.


This Easter Sunday celebrates the momentous event of our Lord's resurrection from the dead. His resurrection is either a truth or a falsehood. In our text St. Paul assures us that if it is untrue, our faith, our hopes, our preaching and teachings are of no avail useless. If the resurrection of the dead is impossible, then the resurrection of Jesus was impossible. If the resurrection of Jesus did not take place, then we have no proof, and no ground for believing, that Divine power could resurrect [HGL538] the Church. If Divine Power "brought again from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep," it is Jehovah also who will bring us from the dead by Jesus, in God's due time.

Let none avoid the question! Let all decide at once! Either we believe in a resurrection from the dead, or we do not believe in it. If the resurrection be a myth then, says the Apostle, all those who fell asleep with faith in Christ are perished they are not in heaven, Purgatory nor eternal torment. If we believe in the resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust, then, logically, we must believe that they are dead, except in the Divine promise, purpose, arrangement. The decision of this resurrection question is a most momentous one, as it affects practically every doctrine of the Christian Church. If we get straight the doctrine of the Ransom effected through the Redeemer, and the doctrine of the Resurrection of the dead, all of our doctrines will fall into line, and all of our absurdities, which have troubled us so long, will fall out of the way, and all of the Scriptures will be found harmonious in teaching Divine Justice, Wisdom, Love and Power.


"But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first-fruits of them that slept." (1 Cor. 15:20) Ah, thank God, the Apostle did not mean to insinuate the possibility of our Lord's not having risen. Merely, he would put the question that we might see how weighty is the subject how much depends on the answer. He exultantly answers, "Christ is risen!" We rejoice in this for several reasons. First, how sad it would be if He who laid aside His glory and was made flesh and tasted death on our behalf should have lost by His loyal endeavor to serve us and to do the Father's will! How glad we are that He is risen, and that He was not raised again in the flesh, with the loss of His heavenly glory, but raised as the King of all, far above all others, and partaker of the divine nature!

Secondly we are glad on our own account, and on account of all mankind; for if our Lord Jesus had not been raised from the dead it would have proved one of two things either that He had not been faithful up to the Divine standard, and therefore that His life could not be a satisfaction for the human life lost in Adam, or else it would have proved that God, who had promised to raise Him from the dead if He would be obedient unto death, had been unable to do so; and, if unable to raise Him from the dead, we, likewise, would be without hope, even if our sins were cancelled by virtue of His sacrifice.

The Apostle's words give a further suggestion: Our Lord in His resurrection became "the first-fruits of them that slept." This signifies that none was ever raised from the dead before Him. As another Scripture declares, "He was the first that should arise from the dead." There were indeed others awakened from the tomb, by Jesus Himself and also previous to His Advent. But they were merely awakened, not lifted fully up out of death conditions to perfect life. The Redeemer was the first to have such an experience. But the Apostle's words mean more. If Jesus was the first-fruits of them that slept, there must of necessity be after-fruits. And this the Apostle proceeds to prove, declaring that "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (1 Cor. 15:22) Glorious resurrection hope! Precious Bible! The one Book alone which teaches a resurrection of the dead, or that the dead are dead.

The Apostle proceeds to tell us that the dead will not be resurrected together at once- "but every man in his own order." (1 Cor. 15:23) The first order or rank will be the Church. Blessed and holy are all they that have part in the First Resurrection; . . . they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Rev. 20:6)

This work of raising the dead will be the work of the entire reign of Messiah, as explained in our context: Christ must reign until He shall have put all enemies under His feet the last enemy will be death. As during the Mediatorial reign mankind shall rise up out of their ignorance, weakness, sin, depravity, they will be coming out of death conditions into life conditions; they will be in process of raising up resurrection.

This does not prove, however, that all of Adam's race will receive the gift of God, eternal life, but it does prove that all will be blessed with the opportunity of attaining that glorious reward. Whoever, after having the release from death put within his grasp, shall decline eternal life on the Divine terms will die again, but not because of Adam's sin it will not be the Adamic death. That Second Death will be complete destruction. Those sinners will die the Second Death without hope of further redemption or resurrection.

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