2 Timothy 1:10
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death…
Death, as a physical fact, is inevitable and universal. The history of our race is a succession of generations; which march, with unceasing tramp, across life's narrow stage, each treading on the heels of its hurrying predecessor. Like the leaves of the forest in spring, they come; only to be soon swept away again, like the leaves of the forest in autumn. They chase one another to destruction, like snowstorms scudding across the insatiate ocean's breast. No man can hope that he will be one solitary leaf, which the autumn's blast will spare; or one solitary snowflake, which will not melt among the billows. Therefore are all men, "through fear of death, all their lifetime subject to bondage." But Jesus has "abolished death" — has robbed him of his terrors, and broken the horn of his power. He has illumed the dark recesses of the tomb; and by a most Divine camera, pictured on the disc of faith the distant future to our gaze. He has connected that future with our present life; and has thus restored to the latter its true dignity and significance, while He has for ever dissipated the notion that man's doom is annihilation.
I. BEFORE THE APPEARANCE OF CHRIST LIFE AND IMMORTALITY WERE CONCEALED IN DEEPEST DARKNESS. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, Persians, and Chaldeans, seem to have had no idea of a future life whatever. Their wise men were merely students of nature. The materialism of the Chinese was, if possible, still more blank and absolute. In India the loftiest reach of speculation produced only the doctrine of Divine absorption. In Greece, philosophy, which means the study of religion, began about six centuries before Christ. was born at Miletus, in Asia Minor. He ranked among the seven wise men. He lived to a good old age, and enjoyed a high reputation for virtue. He first uttered that magnificent aphorism "Know thyself." This reveals to us a man of solitary meditation. He was wont to wander along the pebbly beach of the muttering sea; and it seemed to him that water, by which all things are nourished and kept alive, was the prime source of creation. The gods were made of this element. So was every human being, and at death the soul is soaked up by the parent earth. How mournful the reflection, that our race had gone so far astray from wisdom and from God, as to invent only so poor and crude an hypothesis through the most intense thinking of its noblest sage! Next came one to say that the soul was air; another, that it was fire. Neither of these conjectures allowed a future life. , a mathematician, conceived that numbers were the beginning Of creation. This mystical dogma was soon rendered more intelligible by one of his followers, an enthusiastic musician, who imagined that the human body was an instrument of music, and the soul but the symphony of its playing. When the chords of the lyre were snapped by death, then of course the melody departed, the soul became extinct. We now come to the prince of all Pagan religionists, . He was born in Ionia some five hundred years before Christ. He renounced all worldly grandeur, and applied himself, with most zealous devotion, to studies about God and man. He apprehended the Infinite One as a self-existent and eternal Spirit. But when he sought to know the truth about his own soul and its destiny, he was completely baffled. He bitterly complained that "error is spread over all things," and declared, in declining age, that he was yet, "hoary of years, exposed to doubt and distraction of all kinds." Time would utterly fail to tell of others, who sought with similar non-success to solve this great problem, "If a man die shall he live again?" None ever advanced one step beyond Xenophanes. He may fairly be taken as the type of man at his best state, with regard to religious knowledge, so far as the gospel is unknown. As to our own country, let me remind you of an anecdote about our druidical ancestors, which most beautifully and pathetically exhibits their utter ignorance of futurity. Their chieftains sat together in their council-hall, consulting about peace and war. It was the darkest hour of night. Resinous torches, rudely fastened against the walls, shed a few ghastly rays upon the grim countenances of the perplexed warriors. As they sat thus in deliberation, a poor bird, scared by some alarm and attracted by the light, suddenly fluttered into their midst through a small side window. More frightened than before, it hastily flew across to the opposite side, and escaped again, through another opening, into the darkness from which it had so transiently emerged. "Ah!" said the orator then speaking, "how like is our miserable life to that poor bird's passage! We come out of darkness, and know not why we are here: and then we are hurried into darkness again, not knowing whither we go." I have now established our position that, save for Christ and His gospel, men have ever been ignorant of life and immortality. It is so still. Without ranging over the heathen world, we may just state, that precisely the same questions are being agitated in Germany at this moment as were discussed in ancient Greece; and, apart from the Bible, with no better means of solving them, with no better hopes of success. "The united force of thousands of intellects, some of them among the greatest that have made the past illustrious, has been steadily concentrated on these problems without the least result. Centuries of labour have not produced any perceptible progress." But let us now turn to Christ and His gospel: and —
II. CONSIDER HOW HE HAS BROUGHT LIFE AND IMMORTALITY TO LIGHT, THEREBY ABOLISHING DEATH. In explication of this delightful topic, we must declare, first, what Christ has taught, and, secondly, what He has done, in relation to our immortal life.
1. He has taught us the truth concerning the future. The Saviour's doctrine of immortality comprises four particulars:(1) That men are spiritual and immortal creatures.
(2) That their future state will be one either of perfect happiness or of unmitigated woe.
(3) That the decision of this alternative, in every case, will depend upon personal moral character; and(4) That the acquisition and formation of this character is confined to the term of our earthly life.
2. We are to state what He has done to secure for us individually an immortality of blessedness. It would not have been enough merely to inform us about the future. We need to be guided into it with safety. If others could have demonstrated to us a final world of blessedness, they could not have made it ours; but Jesus has procured for us a title to the felicities, whose existence He has proved. He has undertaken to be to us "the Way, the Truth, the Life." We were guilty — He takes away our sin, having "died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God." We were polluted — He is our sanctification, purifying our souls "with the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost." We were undeserving, but He achieves for us a title to heaven. "The gift of God is eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ." That He may actually lift us up to the mansions above, is the reason why He has enlightened us concerning them.
(T. G. Horton.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: