Things and Persons

2 Pet. 3:11.---' Seeing that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be?'

Hello Loraine, Jay, Jan and everybody. I have been contemplating what happens to the living when our Lord returns. Very good questions you all have. I am afraid that instead of getting any closer to the answers, I have only created more questions. Bare with me in this line of thinking; and you will see what I mean. But I think that this direction does somehow get closer to the answers. Help me find them will you, I pray. Any ideas on our Lords resurrected body?

Notice how 'things' and 'persons' are placed in juxtaposition in this verse. Things, however solid, have to go, but persons remain. The indestructible entity that we call personality will survive when 'all that seems shall suffer shock.' Nothing can obliterate or submerge it. Though all things go into liquidation and vanish in the void, the ego will pass unhurt through all the fires of death and through all the processes of change and decay, to endure through all the years of God.

THINGS.---We call the visible universe the great system of things. We need sometimes to remember that they are things only. The uplifted mountains which awe us with their sublimity; the great sea, stretching into the sky all around, and bringing infinitude almost to sight; the tokens of eternal power and majesty, gleaming throughout the dim immensities above us, are simply things. The animal and vegetable creations belong to the same category. There are endless varieties of life, instinct, structure, and form; but all are things. Youthful bloom, the singing birds among the branches, the summer glory of the landscape, the autumnal pomp of setting suns, gigantic and lustrous constellations are merely things. Worlds of startling beauty, invisible to the naked eye around us, and worlds of overpowering grandeur in viewless spaces above and beyond us, are things. Objects of intense loveliness, nigh at hand, revealing the great Creator's might and goodness to sense; and objects of brightness and wonder far away, portraying to reason and imagination His boundless energies and His everlasting years, are only things.

The possessions on which men so much pride themselves, and which attract such consideration from their fellows, are things, and nothing more. Wealth, mansions, equipages, and lands find their place in this list. Yet what sweat and toil are given to these objects! What vanity they occasion, how much homage they constrain, what numerous cares they engender, how many disappointments come in their train!

Our very bodies, so closely related to ourselves, inseparably united with us for this life, are yet not ourselves. They are but things. Youthfulness, elasticity, and bloom; age, debility, and decay, are not ourselves; they are things only---frail and changing things.

The other division of existence is PERSONS.---Persons are endowed with intelligence and will; they discern both right and wrong; they love and loathe. I an conscious that I am myself, the same responsible individuality, from year to year. I think, I resolve, and I know myself to be accountable for my deed. My personality, my abiding self---THAT remains firm, whatever fluctuates. There is always light here. Here no shadow falls.

In the Divine intention things are subordinate to persons. The universe existed myriads of ages before man; yet even then the whole course of things anticipated the needs of persons. The infinitesimal animalcules which swarmed in preadamite seas, and vast reptiles that crushed their ponderous bulk through the colossal vegetables, and glared from the reeking swamps of that unknown time, existed for the intelligence of our passing hour. The gigantic forests embedded in our seams of coal were not for themselves, but for men. For us the slow process of untold ages composed the rocks; for us protracted convulsions opened the treasures of the hills, and flung the ancient mountains high in air. Millions of years ago the stars were enkindled, and the sun was robed in volatile flame, that our spectroscopes might analyze their beams, and that chemical science might explore their mysterious fires.

Business, riches, competence, poverty are tests of men. They are instruments of education and discipline. None of these things are for themselves; they are ordained for persons---for development of the mind and conscience and heart of man. The lowest end that occupation can reach is affluence or poverty. Intelligence, industry, uprightness, nobleness, humility, unselfishness, benevolence---these are the growths which a human soul may mature in the midst of the temptations and perils of secular employment. The solemn question about everyone is not, What has the man made by business? but, What has business made the man? The world's creed is---Man exists for business, not business for man.

The same perversion is visible in the misuse of the human body. One needs sometimes to ask, Which is the man, the body or the soul? Which is the subservient, and which the supreme? Some seem to think the mind fulfils its vocation when its ingenuity is taxed to the highest to clothe with finery the body; and others lavish all the rich endowments of the spirit to indulge and pamper the flesh. The outer man is designed to be the hourly test of the inner man. The end of the THING is answered when the intellectual, moral, and spiritual habits of the PERSON inhabiting and using it are expanded and perfected. The husk is shed when stem and leaf appear; and when the bloom stands forth in its beauty the shell which enclosed the seed is forgotten.

There is a house which man inhabits, from the day of his birth to the day of his death: he does not like the house, and he would be glad to exchange it for a perfect dwelling. Man would destroy his house, and build one he might like better, if only he could discover how to build a different one: Yet man has great consolations; for, though he cannot change the outside, he may make the inside of his house as beautiful and as clean as he chooses; He may hang his walls, and line his shelves, with the work of the Masters of all the ages; and he may use his house as a work-place for his peculiar genius to develop its individual gift in; And he is free to use his house as a divine temple of creation, as a holy sanctuary of birth, and as a resting-place.

'THINGS' shall be 'DISSOLVED.' 'The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. . . . All these things shall be dissolved. . . . The heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.' The Bible is not an oracle of science. Religious truths and prophecies in Holy Scripture are conveyed in the phraseology of the day in which they were uttered. Physical events are always depicted from the visual point of view. We could not tell certainly, from these words, whether the stellar systems are to be included in the ruin predicted for our earth or not. Our world and atmosphere might be involved in conflagration without even disturbing our own solar economy. But we cannot dogmatize. We know too little. The present order of the universe is evidently not eternal; and the science which assures us of this fact will hardly contend that the system must be to everlasting which is plainly not from everlasting.

About the physical overthrow of our own planet, as at present arranged and inhabited, there can be no doubt. 'All these things shall be dissolved.' 'The earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.' The 'works' of the Creator and the 'works' of the creature shall consume together. The globe is but our larger habitation, and, like the body which we occupy, it will not survive its uses. It is not 'shall be dissolved.' It is, 'are being dissolved.' Future events are close to the vision of the seer. He is transported to the very midst of the uproar, confusion, and fire which he depicts. But there may be fact here as well as futurity. 'All these things are being dissolved.' There is something of the remotest future in every immediate present. 'We all do fade as a leaf.' The elements of death, to which we must succumb at the last, work in us through childhood, youth, and maturity. So, too, the seeds of the final ruin are sown in the world now, and grow from hour to hour. 'All these things are being dissolved.' What know we of the origin, the progress, and the final history of a body like our world? It is impossible to conjecture what is concealed in the stupendous orb to which we are chained by stronger than iron bands. The slow and silent process of change within and without, we may be sure, are forecasting the day. Perhaps there are created minds that need only to look on a scene like ours in order to be able to predict the moment when the dread catastrophe shall break forth.

'PERSONS' continue to be. 'PERSONS' cannot 'dissolve.' The consciousness of existence and the sense or responsibility are indestructible. They may be darkened, but not extinguished. The intellectual and moral energies of the soul are a fire which may be buried, and, for a while, be constrained to smolder; but, uncovered to the air, it will break forth once more into dazzling flame.

How unlike are things and persons from what they seem! 'Things' appear to survive 'persons' and the works of man to outlive man himself. While the sharp lines of the pyramids have risen against the Egyptian sky, generations on generations, of all countries, colors, and climes, have vanished from the face of the globe. The titles and the fortunes of nearly all these millions are forgotten, and will never be recalled upon the earth. Here and there one out of the past has a name in our thought, and a shadowy place in our imagination. What a Babel of tongues has murmured around the base of these mighty piles! Yet where are the upturned faces which from age to age have scanned these vast monuments of human sweat and toil?

Stand beneath the shadow of the Coliseum at Rome. It seated eighty-seven thousand people. The population of a vast city flowed to this place. Here they gazed on exciting spectacles, clapped their hands, and rent the air with acclamations. Wealth, beauty, fashion, nobility, and imperial pomp gathered here. Where now are these human physiognomies, where the hum of many tongues? Silence reigns at this moment throughout that vast area, and around is crumbling ruin.

That is as things seem; but all those PERSONS live on. When not an atom of these relics of extinct civilizations survives, every soul will continue in all its unimpaired integrity, and in all its inextinguishable life. Ah! what changes persons can pass through, and still remain the same! What differences there are between childhood and age, and yet the individual continues as before! A man may so alter his earthly condition that the past may become a dream, and will no more be realized in the present. He may modify and even cancel all the judgments which he ever held, and may reverse all his moral principles and religious hopes. But not even a suspicion will ever cross his mind to confuse the unquestioned conviction that, as a person, he is unaltered and the same. A man may stand in the midst of scenes from which he has been long estranged, and bring with him nothing but the impressions of the life through which he has been passing during latter years. Surrounded by objects once familiar, he will find forgotten memories crowd upon him, but the immediate will be the reality, the remote but a dream. Yet no doubt will come near him that his stable personality can be any other than the same individual consciousness which it was at the beginning. How, too, a man's inward life may move upwards, and his individuality remain the same unimpaired inheritance! When half a century has fled, a man's external conduct may seem to all to be the repetition of just what he did half a century before. In strength of principle, in loftiness of motive, in fineness of feeling, whole moral worlds may lie between the contrasted periods of his career; yet he himself is the one, conscious, responsible individual all the way through. So will it be with good and evil, through whatever scenes of existence our human being is prolonged. Life and death, the grave and judgment, heaven and hell, immortal activity and endless years will never dim the individuality of a single soul. Personality in every deathless spirit will stretch in a line of unwavering light to all eternity.

There are some who are willing to admit that death does not mean annihilation, but who hesitate to accept the possibility of the mind and soul surviving as a definite personality. They are prepared to go so far as to allow that, at death, a spiritual something may leave the body, and merge at once into some great central source of soul, losing its identity in the infinite. This, however, would not mean the survival of the soul as an ego, and I do not accept the theory. I am persuaded that the soul persists as personality, and does not change into some lower form of 'energy' blown upon by every vagrant wind that frolics between the stars. It persists as personality with this essential difference, that it is freed from the hampers and limitations of the physical body.

It does not lose its identity, like the water of a bottle opened in the depths of the sea, or like air that escapes into the surrounding atmosphere from a deflated tire. It remains a separate entity; It persists as an ego.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha