Westminster XXXII: Of the State of Men After Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead

1. The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption (Gen. 3:19; Acts 13:36): but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them (Luke 23:43; Eccl. 12:7): the souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies (Heb. 12:23; 2 Cor. 5:1, 6, 8; Phil. 1:23; Acts 3:21; Eph. 4:10). And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day (Luke 16:23–24; Acts 1:25; Jude 6–7; 1 Pet. 3:19). Beside these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.

Our bodies are corruptible, and when we die, they disintegrate and return to dust. But our souls do not die (and do not literally sleep) because of the nature of the case. This does not mean our souls are essentially immortal, but only that they do not partake of the same corruptions as our bodies. Our souls are immortal in fact (because they do not die), but this does not mean that our souls are not contingent and creaturely. When we die, our souls return to God. The righteous go to be with God immediately, while waiting for the final resurrection of the body. The souls of the unrighteous are cast into hell, according to the Confession, where they undergo torment and utter darkness while they wait for the final judgment. The Confession says that besides heaven and hell, the Scripture does not acknowledge any other place, which I think is overstated. In the interests of combating Roman Catholic merit-mongering, the Westminster fathers fell short of what Scripture actually teaches. Hades or Sheol is not the same as Gehenna, and it is a place for departed spirits. Prior to the resurrection of Christ, Hades also contained Paradise, or the bosom of Abraham. This does not lend any credence to the Romanist views of purgation, but the existence of more than two places should still be acknowledged. The Church should at some time revise the Confession to say that there are no more than two final or ultimate destinations.

2. At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed (1 Thess. 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:51–52): and all the dead shall be raised up, with the self-same bodies, and none other (although with different qualities), which shall be united again to their souls forever (Job 19:26–27; 1 Cor. 15:42–44).

On the day of resurrection, the people who are alive at that time will be transformed. The dead will be raised, and the bodies they will receive will be the same bodies that went into the ground. This does not mean there are no changes; but it does mean that there is a fundamental continuity. Once the reunion of soul and body is accomplished, they will never again be divorced.

3. The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonour: the bodies of the just, by His Spirit, unto honour; and be made conformable to His own glorious body (Acts 24:15; John 5:28–29; 1 Cor. 15:43; Phil. 3:21).

There is a resurrection of the unjust as well. They will be raised to dishonor. The just will be raised to honor, that honor meaning a thorough conformity to the body of Christ.

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