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Here and Hereafter

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    8. — IN THE BODY AND OUT

    It is confidently asserted that Paul believed a man could exist independently of the body, from certain expressions which he uses in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4:—HHMLD 202.2

    “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell: or whether out of the body, I cannot tell; God knoweth:) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth:) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”HHMLD 203.1

    By the man whom he “knew,” it is generally supposed that the apostle means himself, and the language he uses is a record of his own experience. Paul was taken to the third heaven, to paradise, and heard words which it was not lawful (Greek, possible) for a man to utter; but whether he was in his body, or out, he did not know.HHMLD 203.2

    This instance, then, furnishes no example of a spirit actually existing in a conscious condition outside of the body, even if this is what is meant by the expression, “out of the body;” for Paul assures us that he did not know that he was in that condition. Yet it is claimed that it has all the force of an actual example; for such a condition is recognized as possible. It is very readily admitted that such a condition is recognized, as is expressed by the term, “out of the body;” but that this means an immaterial spirit, an immortal soul, the real, intelligent man, speeding away through the universe even to the third heaven, there to hear unspeakable words, and gather up heavenly information, and return at will to resume its abode in the body, which it had for a time deserted, should not be too hastily inferred from this passage.HHMLD 203.3

    Of what is the apostle speaking? He says in verses 1, 2: “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ, above fourteen years ago,” etc., as previously quoted. His subject, then, is the visions and revelations he had received from the Lord; and the language from verse 2 to verse 4 is the record of one such remarkable revelation, perhaps the most remarkable one he had ever experienced. He was given a view of paradise, and head unspeakable words. And so real and clear and vivid was the view, that he did not know but that he was transported bodily into that place. If not in this manner, the view was given in the ordinary course of vision, that is, by having the scene presented before the mind by the power of the Holy Spirit.HHMLD 203.4

    All must concede that only these two conditions are brought to view, — either his transportation bodily to paradise, or the ordinary condition of being in vision. If he went bodily to paradise, the instance has no bearing of course on the question of consciousness in death. And if it was an ordinary vision, how does this prove consciousness in death? The question is reduced to this one point; and the answer turns on the definition given to the expression, “out of the body.” Did Paul mean by it what modern expositors wish us to understand by it? Paul meant by it, simply being in vision; the expositors aforesaid mean by it, the going out of the immortal spirit from the body, and its existence for a time in a separate, conscious, intelligent condition independent of the body. But let us look a little further and see what this condition is. According to the common view, the separation of the soul from the body is death! This is what death is defined to mean. There can be no such thing as the separation of soul and body, and death not result. And the return of the soul to again inhabit the body, is a resurrection from the dead. This is what is claimed in the case of Rachel, whose soul departed, and she died (Genesis 35:18); and the widow’s son, whom Elijah raised, whose soul came into him again, and he revived. 1 Kings 17:22.HHMLD 204.1

    But does any one suppose that Paul meant to say that he did not know but that he died and had a resurrection? That is what he did say, if the words, “out of the body,” mean what some would have us understand by them. His soul went off to paradise, and his body lay here, we know not how long, a corpse upon the earth! And when his soul returned, he had a resurrection from the dead! A necessary conclusion so preposterous must be sufficient to convince any one that Paul, by the expression, “out of the body,” does not mean a state of death. He simply means that he was in vision, a state in which the mind, controlled for the time by the Holy Ghost, is made to take cognizance of distant or future scenes, and the person seems to himself to be really and bodily present, viewing the scenes, and listening to the words that are spoken, before him. Dreams, which all have experienced, are doubtless good illustrations of how this can be, and the case of John, in the Revelation, furnishes a notable example; for he was carried forward far into the future, and seemed to be present and taking part in the scenes that did not then exist, and at which he could not really have been present, even in his supposed immaterial, immortal soul. We also have an expression in common parlance about parallel to this, when we say of a person that he is “out of his head;” but no one supposes that this expression signifies the separation of any immortal part from the person. No more would the expression, “out of the body,” signify such separation.HHMLD 205.1

    Paul, then, had no reference whatever to a state of death in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. To suppose him to refer to that, according to the immaterialist view, runs us into the great absurdity. Hence his language affords no proof that there is a soul in man which can live on in a conscious, intelligent state, while the mortal body crumbles back to dust.HHMLD 205.2

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