Series: Great Doctrines

These last two morning services, we have been talking, reading from the Bible, about the intermediate state.  And somebody said, “You have spoken much of paradise, of the place to which our righteous dead go, but what of the evil and the wicked and the unbelieving?”

So this morning we speak of the intermediate state:Where We Go When We Die, and especially, though not by any means all together, but especially of the wicked dead.  Now we’re going to wade in some deep water, children.  And there’ll be many things when this message is done that will still be unresolved in your minds, but that is according to the wisdom of God that hides from our view many, many of these things of the world that is to come.

Now, I’m going to talk to you out of Luke, and theepistles of Peter, and the Revelation.  Especially, I’d like for you to turn to the epistles of Peter and just keep your hand there.  If you can follow me through all of it as I read, well, that’s all right, but especially, I would like for you to turn to the epistles of Peter:First and Second Peter.

Now,a word of introduction.  For us to be interested in these things is wonderful.  It is a mark of spiritual intelligence and quickening.  For us to be interested in the future life is a mark of intelligenceitself.  It is the glory of man that he has the memory of history, that he’s conscious of his present environment, and that he has presentiments of the future.  A dog in his kennel is utterly oblivious of the firmament above himor of the destiny that awaits him.  It is a mark of the creatorship, the skill of God in the building of a man, in the construction of his soul, that he’s interested in the future.

Now,with regard to that future, there is no word at all in philosophy or in reasoning or in speculation.  There have never been thinkers in any race or at any time like the Greek philosophers.  And after they had thought their best thoughts, they either turned to a final, despairing cynicism, or they turned – as in the case of the Stoics – to an intellectual indifference and superiority, or they fell into sentimental spiritualism as the Platonists.

The only source that you will ever have in any literature in all of this world, or in any story of the human race, is in the Bible itself.  Outside of that, there is no word.  But Simon Peter says that we have a sure word of prophecy [2 Peter 1:19] and that word is written here in the Book – the only Word that we have.

Now, when you look at it in the Book,first, the Bible has a tremendous emphasis upon the fact of the future life.  But for some inscrutable reason known but to God, there are relatively and comparatively very few details revealed concerning it. I do not understand that.  There are a multitude of things that crowd into the mind of even a child that no man can answer.  God hath hid them out of our sight.  As Paul says, “We see through a glass dimly” [1 Corinthians 13:12] – just a shadow, just an outline.  We just know there’s a reality beyond the veil, but no man can fill in the detail.

Now, with that introduction, let us begin the future lifeand, especially, of the wicked.  In the sixteenthchapter of the Gospel of Luke [Luke 16:19-31], there was a certain rich man.  The Latin word for “rich man” isdives.  So let’s call him by his name then.  Dives – call him by what the Latin wordtranslatedmeans – “Dives: clothed in purple, fine linen, faring sumptuously every day.”

There was a certain beggar named Lazarus: laid at his gate, full of sores, so hungryhe wanted to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table[Luke 16:20-21].  Andbecause he was so miserable, he welcomed the dogs when they came and licked his sores.  It came to pass that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom [Luke 16:22-23].The rich man also died and was buried at a sumptuous funeral.  And in Hadēs – you have it translated “hell” – oh, no:

And in Hades he lift up his eyes, being in torment, seeth Abraham a far off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

And he cried and said, “Father, Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus, to cool my tongue with water; I’m tormented in the flame.”

Abraham said, “Son, in your lifetime, you spurned God and the call to repentance.

“And not only thatbut being there between us and you, there’s a great gulf fixed so that they cannot communicate.”

Then he said, “I pray thee then, father, that thou’d sendst Lazarus to my father’s house.

For I’ve five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they come to this place of torment.”

Abraham said, “They have the Bible.”

He said, “No, Abraham.  They don’t listen to the Bible.  They don’t listen to the preacher.  They don’t go to church.  But if one rose from the dead, then they’d turn.”

And he said to [him], “If they won’t hear Moses, and the prophets – the Bible, the preacher, and the message of the church – they wouldn’t listen, though one rose from the dead.”  [fromLuke 16:23-31]

Ah, what a thing that is.

Nowfirst, as we look into that future land, it is divided into two parts.  Nowthis is before the resurrection.  This is before the great judgment of rewards:  for Lazarus, when Jesus comes again [2 Corinthians 5:10]; for Dives, at the Great White Throne when the wicked dead are given their final reward [Revelation 20:11-15].

You see, this thing happened.  Jesus speaks of it as history. Soimmediately, out there in front of usbefore the resurrection, before the final judgments, in this intermediate state – in that land of the spiritof the soul – in that country, there are two parts.  The Hebrews call that countrySheol.

In the thirty-seventh chapter of the Book of Genesis, Jacob is grieving for his son Joseph,and he says – now this is the King James Version:”I will go down to the grave unto my son mourning” [Genesis 37:35].Nowhe thought his son Joseph had been torn by wild beasts [Genesis 37:33], sohis boy Joseph wasn’t in the grave.  Yet you have it translated “in the grave.”  No.  What Jacob said is this: “I will go down into Sheol, unto my son, mourning.”  He was expecting to meet his boy in the other world, a shadowy world to them, and he called it Sheol.

Now, the Greek word for that country beyond death is an exact word for Sheol.  I mean, it refers to the same thing.  And the Greek word is Hadēs.  Now, in Sheol – in Hadēs – there are two separate countries – two parts – and they are divided by a great, impassable gulf.  That country is named – the Greeks sometimes use the word ElysianFields; in the Bibleit is called”paradise” or “Abraham’s bosom.”  That’s that part of Sheol, that part of Hadēs,where the righteous dead go when they die.  Their spirits go there.

Now the other part of Hadēsis calledTartarus.  Thatalso is used in the Bible.  I dare sayyou did not know that.But in the Bible, paradise – Abraham’s bosom – refers to the place where God’s people go when they die. Tartarusis the place where evil people go when they die.

In Second Peter2 and 4, there’s the wordTartarus: “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast themdown to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment. . .” [2 Peter 2:4].  Now we’re going back to this passage in a minute.  That word translated”hell” there – “But cast them down to hell” [from 2 Peter 2:4] – the Greek of that is, “But cast them down to Tartarus.”

You have in Hades two separate countries:  Abraham’s bosom, paradise, and Tartarus.  Abraham’s bosom, paradise, is where the righteous dead go.  Tartarusis a place where the wicked dead go, where the unbelieving go; and both of them are in Hadēs.

Nowlet us look for a moment at the people who are in those two places.  Nowturn to the Revelation if you want to.  In the sixth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, the sixth chapter of the Revelation from the ninth to the eleventh verses,you have a description there of some of the spirits – some of the souls that are in paradise.  They are in Abraham’s bosom.

And when he had opened the fifth seal, 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 unto 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, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.  [Revelation 6:9-11]

This is before the resurrection.  These souls always refer to spirits that have a body.  These spirits, outside the body before the resurrection day, they are in paradise; they are in Abraham’s bosom.  He describes it here.  He saw them under the altar – below the great altar [Revelation 6:9].  And they cry to God, saying,”How long will God let sin,and war, and destruction, and Communism, and all of these things that destroy our world – how long will God allow it?  How long will God suffer it to continue?  How long?  How long?” [from Revelation 6:10]

And the answer is there’s a time [Revelation 6:11].  In the providence of God, in the pre-determined choice of God, that day is setand waits until the time is fulfilled.  Then the triumphant hour arrives when Satan and sin shall be destroyed and cast into the bottomless pit, but our righteous dead are there in paradise in Abraham’s bosom.  He sees some of the souls that were beheaded – the martyrs [Revelation 6:9] – and they’re crying, “How long does God wait?”

All right one other of our righteous dead.  In the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation, you see a glorious scene.  It’s at that time for which these in paradise weep: “I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude. . . the voice of many waters” [Revelation 19:6].  This is the sixth verse of the nineteenth of Revelation.  And they cried,”Hallelujah!” – oras the Greek is,”Alleluia!”  A Greek couldn’t say, “Hallelujah!” – “Allelujah: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.  Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him” [Revelation 19:6-7].  Nowthese are they in paradise who are saying this.  “For the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb” [from Revelation 19:79].

Who is the Bride of Christ?  All of us who belong to His church, we are the bride of Christ [2 Corinthians 11:1-2Ephesians 5:22-23].  What of these who have not yet been saved and added to the bride, added to the church, who are yet to be saved?  Then the end time cannot come until His wife hath made herself ready.  When the last one that God has determined – that God knows, whose name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life – when the last one has come in, when the last soul has been saved that God intends to be saved, then the wife hath made herself ready.

The body is complete.  All of its members are gathered together.  Then comes the end time, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:7-9].  That’ll be the resurrection.  That’ll be the rewards of the righteous.  That’ll be like you’d have a great banquet downtown at this new hotel, and you were going to give awards to the great citizens of Dallas who had made possible her glorious first century.  That’s what it’s going to be up there in heaven.

At the end time, at the end of this intermediate state when all of the souls that are saved are in, the body of Christ is complete – the bride hath made herself ready – there’ll be a resurrection.  There’ll be a great banquet supper,and the Lord is going to give His people their rewards.  “Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give every man as his work shall be” [Revelation 22:12].  Now, that’s the righteous.

Now, what of the evil?  Nowturn to the epistles of Simon Peter.  There are two passages, one in each epistle.  The epistle of the second one, Simon Peter’s second epistle, the fourth verse and the ninth verse – Second Peter, the second chapter, the fourth verse and the ninth verse:

For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus

– where the wicked dead are sent in this other world –

and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.

– Now the ninth verse –

The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.  [2 Peter 2:49]

Down there in the depths of Hadēs is a land, is a country, is a place, called Tartarus.  And into that place, the wicked angels who sinned with Satan and were cast out of heaven, they are reserved down there in chains of darkness against that final day of judgment.  And into that same place, that prison house – into that darkness called Tartarus – they who have spurned the overtures of grace and of mercy – the ninth verse, there – they are in that prison house, reserved unto the day of judgment to be punished [2 Peter 2:9].

And that day of judgment for them is the great white throne judgment in the twentieth chapter of the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 20:11-15].  All of the wicked dead, all of those whose names are not in the Lamb’s book of life, they shall appear resurrected before the great white throne of God, and they will be judged according to their works.  Right now, they’re in that intermediate state.  They’re in Tartarus.  They’re in prison.  They’re in chains of darkness.  But at the end time, after the first thousand years – after the millennium [Revelation 20:1-4] – these wicked dead are raised [Revelation 20:5].  And before the great white throne of God, they are judged according to their evil works [Revelation 20:11-15].

Now, why it has to be at the end time, I’ve already told you.  A man doesn’t die when he dies, but his works go on.  And the Lord unravels through the years all of the influence of a man’s life, all of the evil of his life, and at the end time when time is no more, then he’s given the reward of all of the evil of his life.

These men – some of them of the wicked who lived thousands of years ago – by their writings, by reading today their blasphemies, they sow seeds in the heads of these students that fruit ininfidelity, and blasphemy, and unbelief.  All of that’s still going on.  Evil continues just like good continues, and at the end time, God sums it up.  He adds the column, and this is the final reward, and these are reserved in judgment until that great day to be punished – their final reward.

Now, I want to take the most difficult passage in the Bible and explain it.  In the first epistle and the third chapter is the most difficult passage in the Bible.  And the reason I turn to it is because this passage is used greatly by those who discuss this intermediate state, but it has no reference to it whatsoever – none at all.First Peter, the third chapter, now the eighteenth and the nineteenth and twentieth verses.  Nowlook at it, the most difficult passage in the Bible:

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in this flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

By which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eightsouls were saved by water.

The like figure . . .

– And so on – [1 Peter 3:18-20]

Now, whenever you have any discussion – and to my amazement, to my amazement, Dr. Fowler.  I said, “Dr. Fowler, I understand that J. R. Graves has written a book on the intermediate state, a little book.  When I preached on it, I had never seen anything that anybody had ever preached on it, or written about it, or even referred to it.  The only people that I knew were those who believe in a purgatory which is not spoken of in the Bible at all.”

Sohe brought me the little book – published in about 1870 or back there somewhere – just a little, bitty book by J. R. Graves who’s one of our greatest Baptist theologians and authors.  Andto my amazement, to my amazement, J. R. Graves reads this passage.  This is the pivotal passage in his little book.  And he says, like so many have said, that Jesus Christ – put to death in the flesh, quickened by the Spirit – went down into Hadēs and preached unto the spiritswho were some time disobedientback there in the days when Noah preached unto the longsuffering patience of God.

Well, when you read a thing like that from a great theologian like that, I am amazed at him.  Look at this passage!  You can look at it in this English hereto see this.  Jesus Christ was “put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:  By which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison” [1 Peter 3:18-19].

Do you mean to tell me that Jesus Christ was killed?  That His body was killed?  Yes.  And that His Spirit was killed also, and His Spirit was quickened by the Holy Spirit?  Then He went down into Hadēs and preached the gospel to those who had died in the days of Noah?  Why, it’s a preposterous idea!  The Spirit of Jesus never died.  “Father, into Thy hands I commit My Spirit” [Luke 23:46].To that thief: “Today, shalt thou be with Me in paradise” [Luke 23:43].

The Lord Jesus lived when His body died.  He wasn’t ever quickened by the Spirit in his Spirit for His Spirit never died.  His soul never died.  When Jesus dismissed His Spirit, He went to paradise.  There’s no such thing as that herein the Bible.

Well, what does this refer to?  What is he talking about?  This is the simple thing.  You turn back here to First Peter.  These men, these apostles, had a great belief that Jesus was pre-existent – that He lived back there in the Old Testament and that His Spirit was the great moving power of prophecy.  Now, in the first chapter of First Peter and the tenth and the eleventh verses, look how Peter will say a thing.  Look how he’ll say it:

You’re going to reachthe end of your faith, which is the salvation of your souls.

Of which salvationthe prophets having enquired and searcheddiligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:

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 so on –

[1 Peter 1:9-11]

Now, look how he says that.  The prophets spoke by the Spirit of Christ which was in them [1 Peter 9:11].  Back yonder in the Old Testament, Simon Peter says when Noah got up to preach, it was the Spirit of Christ in Noah that made him preach.  Back yonder in the Old Testament when Jonah went to preach to Nineveh, it was the Spirit of Christ in Jonah that sent him to Nineveh.  When Isaiah stood up, when Amos, when Hosea, when any man of God stood up in the Old Testament, Peter is saying that it’s the Spirit of Christ in the man that is pleading with the Ninevites, or the Jerusalemites, or any other of the people to turn to God.  Do you see that?

In First Peter 1:10-11, the prophets, the Spirit of Christ which was in them, did probe into these things signifying beforehand the sufferings of Christ.  It was the Spirit of Christ in the prophets that did the pleading.  Now that’s all he’s talking about here in this third chapter of Simon Peter [1 Peter 3:18-20].He just doesn’t say it like we do today.  But what Simon Peter says is this: that it was the Spirit of Christ in Noah who was pleading with those people there that they repent and be saved.  He doesn’t mean that Jesus, when He was dead, that He went down into Hadēs to plead with those people there who were disobedient in the days of Noah.  No.  He says that it was that Spirit that in the days of Noah pled with those people to turn to God.

Well, why should he say that?  Why should he mention that like this?  Well, this is it.  A little simple thing, and that’s all.  In the days of Simon Peter, the Christian people were suffering [1 Peter 1:65:10].  Their property had been confiscated.  They were placed in prison, and there were very few that were being saved.  And so Simon Peter is writing a word of encouragement to those little Christian bands.  They’re scattered there in Cappadocia.  They’re the diaspora.  The Jewish people in Cappadocia, and Mishia?  and Bithynia, and Pontus, and he names them there in that first verse [1 Peter 1:1].

And he says to them:”Don’t you be discouraged.  You’resuffering, and very, very, very few are being saved.  Even though you’re preaching the gospel of Christ with the power of the Spirit, very few are being saved” [from 1 Peter 3:11-17].  He says, “Don’t you be discouraged. That’s the way it was in the days of Noah.  Noah preached, and it was the Spirit of Christ in Noah that was preaching.  And in Noah’s day, very few were saved – just eight, just eight.  Very few were saved.  Don’t you be discouraged.  The Spirit of Christ back there pled [from 1 Peter 3:20].The Spirit of Christ today pleads.  Just a few were saved then.  Don’t you be discouraged that just a few are being saved today” [from 1 Peter 3:18-22].  And that’s all that he means by that.

And to read into that passage that by the Spirit, Jesus, quickened by the Spirit, went down into Hades to plead with the spirits in prison there, who some time were disobedient, in the days when God’s longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, is folly wide the mark – – doesn’t refer to it all.  The only thing in that passage is this:He refers to those spirits in prison that when they died in Noah’s day, they went down into that part of Hadēs where they are reserved unto the day of judgment.  That’s all, and that’s the truth of God.

Now, I’ve got to quit.  Some of these things that I saw and wanted to tell you – and we can pick it up next timeif we have opportunity – how it is over there, how it is over there.  This man can’t communicate with the living.  He’s tormented, but he says, “My torment is not only my tongue and this flame, but my torment is my five brethren.  They’re in my father’s house.  Oh, that somebody would plead with them!” [Luke 16:23-2427-28]

Well, why didn’t he plead with them?  Because out of the body, out of the body, there’s no communication with this world – not from the wicked dead, not from the wicked, not from the wicked.  Then he pleads for a resurrection:”Send back Lazarus” [Luke 23:27-2830].

We sing our hymn; and while we sing the hymn, somebody here today prepare to give his heart to the Lord and his life to Jesus.  While we sing this hymn, you come and stand by me.  Anybody here, somebody you, trust in the Lord.  Put your life in His hands or put your life with us in the church.  While we sing this stanza of a song, would you come?  Would you come on the first note while we stand and while we sing?

For more sermons by W.A Criswell, please visit www.wacriswell.com


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About The Author

W. A. Criswell was born December 19, 1909 in Eldorado, Oklahoma. He received his B.A. from Baylor University, and his Th.M. and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served for fifty years as senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, for many years the largest church in the Southern Baptist Convention. As founder and chancellor of the Criswell College, Dr. Criswell gave his later years to preparing young preachers to preach the Word of God. Dr. Criswell went to be with the Lord January 10, 2002. His ministry continues through the messages he preached and the lives he touched during his seventy-five years of pastoral service. Over 4000 of these messages with notes, outlines, audio and video are available through the Criswell Sermon Library at www.wacriswell.com. The Sermon Library is a ministry of the W.A. Criswell Foundation, Inc. to assist pastors and lay people in sermon preparation.

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