Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Will We Recognize Each Other Immediately After Death?

 John Aspinwall Hodge (1831- 1901) was a clergyman and the nephew of the distinguished Princeton theologian Charles Hodge.   He graduated from Princeton Seminary in 1856 during his uncle’s tenure as principle.   Among his publications is a wonderful book entitled Recognition After Death, published by Forgotten Books.   Other books and articles I’ve read on the subject tend to be more devotional, but this book is meatier and takes more of an apologetic approach.  The contents include the subjects of  Immortality  and Recognition, Objections, the Scriptures,  the Image of God, various means of recognition,  and the resurrection.    
After examining  various opinions and objections such as soul sleep,  Hodge begins his defense with a look at examples in Scriptures.    For instance, he explains how the Mount of Transfiguration  
"throws much light on the question now before us.   The three glorified ones are— Christ a man in the flesh; Moses, a disembodied soul,  and Elias, who had been caught up into heaven, whose body had become spiritual and glorified.                
In them we see the three stages of man’s existence.  But in these states they recognize each other and talk ....Their different conditions offer no bar to their intercourse, no explanation is needed of their knowledge of each other nor of their methods of communication.   All is most natural and easy....    
 In this scene they typify and demonstrated the communion of saints of all ages, whether in the flesh, in the spirit or in glorified bodies; on earth, in heaven, and through eternity."
 The following excerpt concerning the rich man and Lazarus is from the chapter “Teaching the Scriptures”.    Though this is a parable, Hodge makes it clear why we can trust the information in it as it relates to how we will recognize one another after death.  
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 14:19-31) we have another revelation.  It seems certain that most, if not all, the parables of Christ were taken from real life, and describe the persons and facts known to His hearers.   This one has special indication of being actual history.
 “There was a certain rich man, which was clothes in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day.  And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores.”     
There can be no doubt, however, that in closing the sermon recorded in Luke 16,  Christ intended in this parable to lift the veil which now hides the unseen world, and permit us to trace the after history of the two great classes of men which He had been describing.
 “And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.” 
 These spirits continue visible to ministration which they, unseen, have long carried on.   However the expression “Abraham’s bosom” may be interpreted, it certainly implies that the newly transported soul knew into whose bosom he was placed, and by whom he was comforted.  He knew Abraham, the patriarch, to whom the rest had been promised, or the gathered seed of Abraham, who were enjoying with him and each other the covenant inheritance.  
It is worthwhile to notice that the highest joy of heaven, seeing God, is not here referred to, except in very dim figure.   The view presented is that of rest from the trials of earth, and the comfort in the society of Abraham and his seed which must therefore form an essential element of bliss.  The restful communion of Lazarus with these most illustrious saints is strongly contrasted with his wretched lowliness as a beggar outside of the gate of the rich man.  This association cannot be interrupted by a call, however importunately made, even for an act of mercy to a suffering soul, nor yet for a testimony to those who will not hear the ordinary means of grace,  “Moses and the prophets.”  
“The rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus.” 

 This is a very vivid picture of the condition of the wicked after death, and contains some details not seen so clearly elsewhere—as the suddenness of severity of the torment, the denial of the least alleviation, the impossibility of passing to or from over the great gulf fixed between heaven and hell.   Our present purpose, however, confines our attention to the fact that the wicked soul is essentially the same as before death.  
He remembers his former life, its associations are still realities, though past. 
Human ties still bind him to his brethren, not merely as intimacies which can not be forgotten, but as associations soon to be renewed. 
He for the first time, perhaps, prays for their conversion, either because of interest in them “lest they also come into this place of torment,” or from fear of increased anguish in witnessing their sufferings or in enduring their revenge.  
His twice repeated prayer and earnest argument are prompted by anticipated recognition.   
He is still the same man.   
He perceives Lazarus. 
He does not doubt his identity.  
He calls him unhesitatingly by name, and not withstanding the new society and surrounding in Abraham’s bosom, he regards him, until informed to the contrary, as one to be ordered about, and to minister to him.     
“Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue." 
How he recognized Abraham, or those represented with him, we need not now inquire.  But it is stated that, however far off, he did see Abraham and Lazarus.   Whether with them there were few or many, he distinguished these two, and at once, without doubt, called them by name—“Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus”. 
The conversation as narrated in eight verses, is most free and emphatic, and demonstrated
the impossibility of post-mortem repentance, 
the inefficacy of prayer from hell, 
the permanency of human affections,     
the sufficiency of the means of grace,  
the undisturbed rest of the righteous and continued misery of the wicked.
But the mere fact of this long conversation proves that souls, immediately after death, do recognize each other and commune, and that this recognition greatly increases the enjoyment of the righteous and the sufferings of the wicked. 
 It may be said that this is an imaginary conversation, introduced to enforce the previous discourse.  But we must remember that the preacher is Christ, that He could not present an imaginary scene contrary to facts; that He could not enforce His doctrine by false suppositions; and misrepresentations, of eternal realities.   He here describes the state of the soul after death.   
Recognition is not an unimportant accident in the scene.  It is an essential fact.   Everything depends upon it 
the happiness of the redeemed,
the increased misery of the lost,
the conversation between Abraham and Dives,
the desired communication with the living,
and the anticipated association in torments. 
All this is emphasized by the fact that this is the only parable which Christ has given concerning the soul immediately after death.   There is nothing to modify the impression which He has here given, that recognition is an essential element of the future condition of the saved and of the lost.  
On the cross Christ said to the dying thief, “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”   It is absurd to imagine that this gracious promise means that when their souls should leave their suffering bodies, they would become unconscious of each other’s presence.   The thief prayed to be “remembered in His kingdom.” And Christ assured him of association on that day with Him in glory”


 1. Recognition After Death; John Aspinwall Hodge © 1889 Robert Carter and Brothers;  Forgotten Books; pg. 46-53
Other resources:  
The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, Rossiter Johnson ... pg 312



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