A FOUNTAIN OF DEADLY ERROR
THE doctrine of the natural, inherent immortality of the soul is not only in itself a pernicious error; it is the source and fountain of many of the errors which have made their way into the religious philosophies of many of the various churches of mankind.
This teaching cannot be traced to the Holy Scriptures. They teach the exact opposite. Nevertheless, an astonishing development has taken place. This false and God-dishonoring teaching has become one of the chief pillars of modern “orthodoxy”; and so much so, indeed, that to challenge its validity has come to be very nearly equivalent to denying Christianity itself.
This generation has been brought up to believe that the immortality of the soul is a basic belief and teaching of the Christian faith. Notwithstanding this widespread acceptance it is never once taught in the Bible, the foundation of the Christian belief.
Moreover, its acceptance as a part of Christian doctrine has been productive of a long train of other errors making their way into the body of teaching of many of the churches which profess Christianity.
Stated in simple terms, the belief is that the human soul is immortal, that it cannot die, that it will never cease to exist, and is independent of the body. Consequently when the body dies, the soul continues in a conscious state in some other form of existence.
This false teaching would have us believe that although the soul and body are associated and live together while on earth in the present life, the soul will soar away from the body when the latter arrives at dissolution. The body will disintegrate into dust and oblivion. But not the soul. Its existence is in no wise interfered with, but rather liberated, for it is incapable of death or disintegration. It can, and does, we are told, live on in a disembodied state.
Endless Horde of False Theories
Observe the endless horde of false theories which flow from this one basic error. Disembodied souls which are incapable of death, but which are capable of suffering and punishment; must go somewhere. Hence, a purgatory has been invented to receive them, and is used to extort endless streams of money from the living. It matters not that as a matter of fact there is no purgatory, that no disembodied souls are suffering in it, that the whole monstrous thing is an invention, and that the dead are completely insensible and unconscious. Nevertheless, for centuries a never-ending flow of money has been extorted from myriads of dupes to relieve nonexistent sufferings. How has that gigantic fraud been possible?
By the teaching of the immortality of the soul, If men had been willing to believe the plain teaching of the Bible, they would have been saved, not only the mental distress of sympathetic suffering for their loved ones believed to be in purgatory, but billions of dollars which they have paid in the vain effort to relieve their nonexistent sufferings.
The false teaching of purgatorial fires builds itself up upon the false theory of natural immortality. Purgatory would be impossible were it not for the false teachings about immortality.
But theologians take such passages as, “Went and preached unto the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19) ; or, “For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead” (1 Peter 4:6) ; or, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not” (1 Corinthians 15:29)) which passages will be explained later, and, building on the prevailing belief in immortality, erect the great structure of purgatorial devotion.
After which follows quite logically prayers to the saints.
And masses for the dead.
Then direct gifts to pray the departed out of purgatory and shorten their agonies.
And, of course, the canonization of saints.
And lastly Mariolatry, with all its falsities; its praying to a sinner rather than to God, to a sinner who is dead and cannot hear, and who is sleeping in her grave.
Masses for the dead, and intoned prayers, and billions of dedicated gold have been lavished upon that which is as senseless as a clod of earth, and upon saints whose tutelar watch care has been as worthless as the weather vanes which oscillate above their resting places.
By believing the plain teaching of the Bible that man is mortal, transitory, wholly dependent on God, men would have been safeguarded not alone against the errors of Romanism, but from modern spiritism as well. Undergirding that monstrous error is also the falsehood of the natural immortality of the human soul. No one could possibly be deceived by lying spirits pretending to be disembodied spirits of the dead while he believed the teaching of the Bible that the dead are not conscious and that the soul is not immortal.
Many other errors prevalent at different times among religious people have their origin and their chief support in this error of the indestructible nature of the human soul.
The Rise of Modern Spiritism
The past century has been marked by the rise and development of modern spiritism. This is nothing more and nothing other than a revival, in a modern guise, of the condemned and prohibited necromancy of the old heathen world. This, too, as has been pointed out, is only the natural outgrowth of the falsehood of the natural immortality doctrine. It could not exist for a moment were it not for the widely held belief in the indestructibility of the human soul. Moreover, this pernicious error of spiritism is making such headway among religious people that it is of more than ordinary importance to examine its claims, to recount its development, and to expose its deceptions in the light of the inerrant teaching of the Bible.
The close of the history of the world is to be marked by the ascendancy of Satan. When the arch rebel against the government of God knows that he has but a short time in which to work, he is to work with all power and signs and lying wonders, insomuch that if it be possible he shall deceive the very elect. The cumulative wisdom and knowledge gained from six thousand years of experience in leading the human family into sin is to be brought by Satan to bear upon the last generation of the human race, and especially upon the church of the living God.
Again and again do the Scripture writers sound forth their note of warning against the deceptions of Satan in the last days. Paul seems to have been especially moved by the Spirit to write of this matter, for he declares: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” 1 Timothy 4:1.
The Working of Satan
In speaking of the coming of Christ the second time, Paul again declares that this great event will take place “after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteous-ness in them that perish.” 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10.
And John the Revelator, in the wonderful vision he was given of the judgment and destruction of spiritual Babylon, which takes place at the second coming of Christ, heard a mighty angel declaring the reason for this destruction in the following words: “For by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.” Revelation 18:23.
In answering the question of His disciples as to the sign by which they were to recognize that His second coming was near, Christ said: “Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ.” Luke 21:8.
And He again declared that these false prophets would “deceive many.” (Mark 13:6.)
It is because, of these warnings that the inspired instruction given in the following passages is especially applicable to the present generation: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8. “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephesians 6:11.
In view of these facts it is apparent at once that if the last generation is to find any escape from the wiles of the devil, it must have some knowledge of his work, of his origin, of his power, and of his personality. Above all other periods in the history of the work of God on earth, it is imperative at this present time that the church should be acquainted with the work of its great adversary.
The Devil a Personal Being
The danger of the present hour is increased by the tendency which has appeared in the church in recent years to discredit the doctrine of the personality of the devil, and by the lightness with which the whole subject is dealt with when it is considered at all. Sermons upon the subject of Satan are very rare, and are received with incredulous smiles as if the subject were one only for children, and scarcely suitable for grown people.
But that this subject is one of most vital importance is evident from the fact that the character and the work of the devil are constantly dwelt on in the Scriptures of Truth, especially in the New Testament. At the very beginning of the gospel of Christ the devil is seen as the personal tempter of our Lord; and through all the gospels, the epistles, and the Revelation, one is struck with the constant references to the personality, origin, power, cruelty, malignity, and final doom of the “god of this world.”
That Satan has a personality will be plain from a study of the numerous titles and names which are applied to him in the Bible. Thus, he is called “Abaddon” (Revelation 9:11), “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10), “your adversary” (1 Peter 5:8), “the angel of the bottomless pit” (Revelation 9:11), “Apollyon” (Revelation 9:11)) “Beelzebub” (Matthew 12:24), “Belial” (2 Corinthians 6:15), “the dragon” (Revelation 20:2), the father of lies (John 8:44), “a liar” (John 8:44), “murderer” (John 8:44), “power of darkness” (Colossians 1:13), “prince of this world” (John 14:30), “prince of the devils” (Matthew 12:24)) “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2)) one of the “rulers of the darkness of this world” (Ephesians 6:12), “the serpent” (2 Corinthians 11:3), the “spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2), the “tempter” (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), “the unclean spirit” (Matthew 12:43), and the “wicked one” (Matthew 13:19, 38).
The personality of Satan is still further made clear by the Bible references which represent the chief of the kingdom of evil as presumptuous (Job 1:6; Matthew 4:5, 6), proud (1 Timothy 3:6), powerful (Ephesians 2:2; 6:12), wicked (1 John 2:13), malignant (Job 1:9; 2:4), subtle (Genesis 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:14; Ephesians 6:11), fierce (Luke 8:28; 9:39, 42), cruel (1 Peter 5:8), always active in doing and promoting evil (Job 1:7; 2:2).
The work of Satan is compared in the Bible to a fowler setting snares for unwary souls (Psalm 91:3), to an enemy who in the darkness of the night sowed tares among the good seed of the field (Matthew 13:25, 39), to a wolf ravaging the flock (John 10:12)) to a lion seeking to catch and devour its prey (1 Peter 5:8). Against his subtlety, his treachery, and his devilish insinuations, we can guard ourselves only by constant watching and prayer. (2 Corinthians 2:11.) Christ has commanded His people to resist uncompromisingly all Satanic approaches and solicitations. (1 Peter 5:9; James 4:7; Ephesians 4:27.)
Through the Enemy’s Country
Thus, from the teaching of the Holy Scriptures it is plain that the way of the Christian pilgrim, who is journeying to reach the kingdom of God, lies through the enemy’s country, through the territory of “the god of this world.” Although the weary pilgrim has a mighty God to defend hi, although he is safe in the keeping of the Good Shepherd, although he will be guided surely by the Spirit of truth, yet his struggle with the enemy of his soul will be real and painful; he will find it necessary to sustain a prolonged and fiery ordeal and a most severe conflict. The pilgrim believer will find his way safe only as he realizes that the sleepless and vigilant eye of a malignant and cruel enemy is following his every step, and that the accumulated subtlety and cunning of six thousand years of experience is constantly at work to draw him away from Christ, and he is thus made to realize his need of constant watching and praying.
Satan’s Mightiest Working in This Age
The mightiest working of Satan is to be witnessed in the last years of the history of this present evil world. The Bible most clearly reveals the fact that the time is very near at hand when the history of this world will be closed and the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. (Revelation 11:15.) Ere long Satan is to be bound for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:1-4.) Soon this whole world will come into the possession of the people of God. (Daniel 7:27.) The whole government of this earth, as now controlled and managed by sinful men, is soon to pass away; and the history of Satan’s rebellion and his usurped dominion on earth will before long be ended. The unfolding of the prophecies of the Bible and the rapidly fulfilling signs of the times very plainly reveal that the end of this age is very near.
From his knowledge of the Scriptures, and from what he sees of the maturing of the plans of God, Satan plainly perceives that the time of his overthrow cannot be long delayed. But a short time remains to him, and he will make special efforts to keep the world still under his power. He knows that Christ will not come without some signal display of power and glory. Hence, Satan is determined that he also will manifest his power to the world with the design of having his false miracles attributed by the people to the miracle-working power of God.
The Devilism of the Dark Ages
In order to accomplish this deception he will not appear in his true character. Nor will he appear in that character which has been attributed to him by the false theology of the past and the present. There is nothing more utterly absurd and baseless than the conception in the popular mind of the appearance of the devil. From medieval tradition and superstition there has come down to us a picture of Satan as a monster of horrid form and hideous expression, with an accompaniment of hoofs, horns, pitchfork, forked tail, and breath of flames. This hobgoblin of the ignorant and superstitious has no reality in fact, no basis in the Scriptures, and is the source of derision on the part of the intelligent and the cultured.
In fact, this very grotesque and absurd impression regarding Satan very clearly shows the craft and guile of the deceiver, for such a caricature serves only to excite the mockery of the intelligent; and thus it disarms suspicion, prevents vigilance, and leads the people to disbelieve and deny the existence of the devil. When the world was at last aroused from the nightmare of papal superstition, and emerged from the Dark Ages, a trumpery devil with horns and hoofs, smelling of sulphur and spitting fire, was no longer calculated to frighten the people; and having discarded this absurdity, men and women were then ready to go to the other extreme and deny the existence of all unseen powers of evil. Thus, they were prepared to become Satan’s dupes and prey.
It can be plainly discerned that the entire devilism of the Dark Ages, with all its trumpery of horns, hoofs, pitchforks, gridirons, and imps who act as stokers of the furnaces of hell, is merely a device of the archdeceiver himself, designed to deceive and delude people into a denial of his own existence in order that they may thus be thrown off their guard and be the more easily ensnared and deceived. This medieval devilism is utterly unknown to the Bible and to Christianity.
Discarding, then, these absurd views of a superstitious age, we are ready to listen to the explicit statements of the Bible. Here it is taught that Satan is able to appear to men in a character which is the exact opposite of his true character.
“Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14.
Warned by this instruction, those who wish to guard themselves from the deception of the adversary of their souls in this age will be on the lookout for manifestations of his power, not frightful, hideous, ludicrous, or grotesque, but manifestations in which truth will be so insidiously woven with error; and grace, courtesy, purity, and wisdom so mixed with impurity, immorality, and the antics of demons, as to lull suspicion, quiet apprehension, and prepare souls to be deceived. In these things should be discerned the subtlety of the serpent and the skill and cunning of the deceiver, for it is certain that Satan will carefully guard himself in these manifestations from revealing anything that will shock the senses or awaken prejudice.
The perfect imitation of that which is true and genuine is the most dangerous counterfeit. There is nothing deceptive in the leer of a demon or the mocking laughter of a fiend. Should Satan manifest himself openly to the world, he would but give evidence that he had taken leave of his cunning and shrewdness. It. is “by good words and fair speeches” that the hearts of the simple are deceived. It is to be expected that a false apostle or prophet will seem more religious and holy than a true one; and when a real pattern of piety and propriety is desired, an impostor and hypocrite should be observed. These things are the stock in trade of the deceiver. Hence, the soul today who desires to guard against deception must look beyond the outward appearance, must penetrate deeper than the outward profession in order to recognize the secret forces which are at work and the hidden motives which are covered and hidden by a fair exterior.
Spiritism Is Disguised Devilism
Spiritism today masquerades as Christianity. But this is mere pretense. It is not Christianity. It is just the opposite. It is disguised devilism. This the chapters immediately following will make plain. They are written that those who are toying and dallying with spirit manifestations, and drifting in the outer circles of this fearful whirlpool, who stand inquiring and investigating and experimenting on the darkened borderland of this terrible delusion, unconscious of the serpent-spell which has enthralled them or of the dangerous coil which has encircled them, may have their attention directed to the fact that they are dealing with foes which are older, craftier, more subtle, and more mighty than all the children of men. They are written in order that those who stand thus in such fearful danger may learn that their truest wisdom is to cry to heaven for deliverance from Satan’s snares, and to urge them to accept for their own the whole armor of God that they may be able thus to withstand all the wiles of the devil.
Read Chapter Thirteen