SALVATION & BAPTISM FOR THE DEAD
These Doctrines Are
BIBLICAL & CHRISTIAN
By Ronnie Bennett Aubrey-Bray
Nota bene: The footnotes did not transfer to the page from Word.
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Few doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints create more agitation among non-Latter-day Saint Christians than the latter-day Saint Christian belief that the dead ‘who died not in Christ’ have the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them after death, in the Spirit World, and that those that accept Jesus Christ are then candidates for salvation, and able to take advantage of vicarious baptism for the unbaptised dead, in which a live person stands as proxy in their place and is baptised on their behalf, that baptism becoming effective when the deceased accepts it, having come unto Christ in faith.
It is a tragedy of immense proportions that some Christians deny the possibility that salvation is available to the dead and dismiss the doctrine as a non-biblical and as a non-Christian belief. This is often done without serious reflection, and without reference to the Bible, except to find a passages that seem to confirm their opposition to the doctrine. Their reluctance to accept this extensive view of God’s promise of salvation to all mankind is such that they do not believe that salvation of and baptism for departed unbelievers were ever part of the teaching and doctrine of Jesus Christ. However, before we rush to accept or reject these golden tokens of God’s universal love for his children, ought we not first ask, “What does the Bible’s say about this?”
There are principles and characteristics of Deity that must be considered before we are capable of determining what we think Almighty God will, or will not, do, and we should exercise caution not to be presumptuous in our determination of what is and what is not God’s will for us. With such prudence foremost in our minds, we will consider scriptural statements and the conclusions of early Christian theologians on the topic of Salvation and Baptism for the Dead.
The Holy Bible provides ample reason to believe that all that come in to this world are favoured to do so because of their faithfulness in the pre-mortal life. From the same source it is likely that the rebellious ones were denied the blessing of becoming human and are followers of Lucifer, dedicated to Lucifer’s aims to thwart God’s purposes for his children in mortality.
But as pre-existence is not our present subject we turn our attention to biblical authority for the belief that God’s plan of salvation does not exclude those that have died without knowing, or not having had opportunity to accept or reject Jesus Christ as God’s Son, their Saviour, and their Redeemer.
All mortals face two serious difficulties that they cannot, in their own behalf, overcome. The first is death, and the second is sin. All must die, and if Christ had not opened the doors of the prison we call Death, we would be condemned to remain in our dead condition forever. But Jesus Christ has not only overcome death by becoming the firstfruits of them that slept, but he also turned the key in our behalf so that all that have lived and died will at some future day be resurrected. Of this eternal verity, the Apostle Paul assures us that:
“ … as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
It is this knowledge that all will be made alive again, whatever their condition, that caused him to ask triumphantly,
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
Albert Barnes says:
“This triumphant exclamation is the commencement of the fourth division of the chapter, the practical consequences of the doctrine. It is such an exclamation as every man with right feelings will be disposed to make, who contemplates the ravages of death; who looks upon a world where in all forms he has reigned, and who then contemplates the glorious truth, that a complete and final triumph has been obtained over this great enemy of the happiness of man, and that man would die no more. It is a triumphant view which bursts upon the soul as it contemplates the fact that the work of the second Adam has repaired the ruins of the first, and that man is redeemed; his body will be raised.”
John Wesley writes:
“O death, where is thy sting? - Which once was full of hellish poison. O Hades, the receptacle of separate souls, where is thy victory - Thou art now robbed of all thy spoils; all thy captives [spirits in prison] are set at liberty. Hades literally means the invisible world, and relates to the soul; death, to the body. The Greek words are found in the Septuagint translation of Hosea 13:14. Isaiah 25:8.”
All mankind are subjected to temporal death, that is, they are mortal and will some day die. We learn from the scriptures that Jesus Christ overcame death rose from the dead after three days during which his body lay in the silent tomb. We also learn that because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, having seized the keys of death and Hell, from where he delivers the prisoners, the released and we together shall live again.
Jesus said: “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”
Jesus unlocked hell to let the captives go free, and he overcame death, so that Paul was able to proclaim: “In Christ shall all be made alive.”
“As the death of all was occasioned by the sin of one, even so, in like manner, the resurrection of all shall be produced by one. His resurrection shall meet and counteract the evils introduced by the other, so far as the subject under discussion is concerned; that is, so far as relates to temporal death.”
The grand obstacle to human progress in eternity, death, is therefore overcome once and for all. The remaining difficulty is the consequence of our own sins, and how they can be overcome? We know that sin separates us from God, and that no unclean thing can enter his presence.
Any change in the condition of sinfulness must be taken care of before Judgement, for at Judgement we will be judged as we are, and once judgement is passed, our disposition to glory or darkness is unchangeable. Wesley comments, ‘The final judgement is at hand; after which the condition of all mankind will admit of no change for ever.”
Wesley suggests, quite properly, that after Judgement, the Unrighteous will be Unjustified, and the Filthy will be Unsanctified, that is, all that do not repent and come to Christ in faith will remain forever in their unholy states.
Here we must consider the opportunity extended to the unbaptised that have lived and died without knowing Christ, or, if they have known of him, did not come to him for whatever reasons prevailed. We take as our starting place the consideration of God as Just.
All Christians should, at the very least, be able to confirm the truth that our God is a just God, and so we are safe in considering that not only does he not punish one man for the sins of another, but also that he does not punish any whose lives have not conformed to his divine will, if the demands of his will, or the name of Jesus did not reach their ears during their lifetimes. Paul confirms this by saying, ‘where no law is, there is no transgression.’
This is a general principle; a maxim of common justice and of common sense. Law is a rule of conduct. If no such rule is given and known, there can be no crime. Law expresses what may be done, and what may not be done. If there is no command to pursue a certain course, no injunction to forbid certain conduct, then all actions will be innocent.
Paul pointedly said in another place, ‘sin is not imputed when there is no law.’
Think, if you will, how many of those that are dead are in the category of never having had opportunity to accept or reject Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Imagine, if you can, how many of these are your own ancestors, and contemplate the fate of those whose image, talents, intellect, and other characteristics you have inherited. What of them? Has God abandoned them? They were just as alive, just as vital, just as pressed down with life’s issues, and probably just as concerned as any now living regarding man’s place in the universe, and our relationship to Deity.
If they had no real opportunity to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, nor ever heard of the Lord Jesus Christ, has Almighty God, who is Loving and Merciful, cast them aside to rot or be forever tormented in Hell as things of no significance?
Would that loving and merciful God we call Father, who loved the world so dearly that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life, cast them aside for something they didn’t do because they didn’t know they had to do it and had no opportunity to do it? Will God punish them for not knowing about Jesus; for not calling on the name of him whose name they did not hear through no delinquency on their part?
Since they were deprived of opportunity to choose Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, how can they be justly condemned? None but a malignant deity would impose a penalty as severe as eternal damnation in the fires of Hell on the innocent and the blameless. However, Almighty God, El Shaddai, our Father in Heaven, will not!
Just as it is irrational to believe God will punish the innocent, it is also absurd to suppose that before the earth was formed, God capriciously appointed some to receive mortal bodies, and of their number chose some by whim or caprice to be sent to heaven, and some to be thrust down into Hell regardless, of the of lives they led, and whether or not they were obedient to his commandments? Such an antic god is characteristic of the Olympian gods that used humanity as their playthings for self-amusement, such as Omar Khayyam had in mind when he wrote complaining of the powerlessness of humanity, that men and women were merely powerless and,
Helpless pieces in the game He plays
Upon this chequer-board of Nights and Days
He hither and thither moves, and checks and slays,
Then one by one, back in the Closet lays.
Such a god is NOT the God of Heaven. Such a god is NOT our Father in Heaven. Such a god is NOT the Father of our spirits. Such a god is NOT the Father of Jesus Christ.
Predestinationists teach that if a person is consigned by God to be saved then no amount of wickedness on his part will bar his entrance into heaven. Conversely, they teach that a person predestined to go to Hell cannot avoid that place even though throughout his life he honours and loves God, knows Jesus as his Lord and Saviour, and loves all men as he loves himself. What a strange teaching this is. Pre-destination – a matter quite divorced from pre-existence - is not a biblical doctrine, and can only be believed to be biblical through egregious error. Pre-destination has no place in Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation. That this is so is confirmed by Jesus when he said:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Dare we ask of Jesus, “Is that a promise, Lord?” Evidently, Predestinarians and Calvinist have no assurance whatsoever that they are saved, not even if they submit and conform to the five points of TULIP-ism, either experientally or by pretence as many have acknowledged to pretend to speaking in ubnknown tongues and other requirements in order to be believed and accepted by the rest of their hard-to-convince Calvinist fellows: a rare condition that must surely mean they are bnot among the elect, although they sorely wish to be. None can know whether they are saved until Judgement by God and not by their fellow Calvinists, yet that does not prevent certain of their number from judging and utterly condemning other Christians as if they were Very God Himself.
When Jesus said ‘whosoever believes in God’s only begotten Son shall have everlasting life,” he was saying, “Anyone and Everyonethat believes in me will be saved.”
By this statement Jesus Christ, spurned the Heresy that some are elected to be saved and other are elected to spend eternity out of the sight of God and Jesus, and are assigned according to a whim of God, not on merit or fault. In whatever place we stand on these issues our own understanding of Holy Scripture must be strictly in accord with what is taught by the Son of God. Paul wrote:
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brethren.
“Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I RETURN THITHER: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
Job's statement can not be made to mean that at death the deceased returns to his mother's womb, but that his eternal soul returns to God who gave it. No one, including Job, could return to the Lord if he had not first been with the Lord. The preacher, Ecclesiastes, talks of what happens to us at death.
‘Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.’
The spirit of man can not return to God at death unless it was with God before a man was born. The mighty Jehovah said to Jeremiah,
“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, [and] I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”
Paul wrote in Romans,
God hath not cast away his people, which he foreknew.
We are bound to ask, whom did God foreknow? Did he foreknow one or two of us, or perhaps a few hundreds of us, or thousands of us, or millions of us, or all the millions of millions of spirits that he sent and will send to earth to be clothed in mortality, and by accepting the atonement of the Saviour Jesus Christ, be saved and exalted? To whom and how many did Paul refer when he said,
God hath not cast away his people, which he foreknew.
It is right and reasonable to believe that Almighty God, the omniscient, the all-knowing, knew each and all of us before we were born as mortals. It is, then, equally proper to believe that our destinies are to be made like unto Jesus Christ, whom God exalted, and who shares the throne of his Father. Paul moves us towards this conclusion by calling God, ‘the Father of Spirits.’ Paul also indicates something that most Christians and commentators pass over in silence.
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?
And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore, God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they – the angels - not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
From these sublime words, it is perfectly clear that the foreknown who were consigned to come to this earth as mortals were predestined to become perfected in the image and likeness of the Son of God. This understanding gives sense to the passage in Hebrews, because it is true.
Mankind is created and clothed with a mortal body as lodging for his eternal spirit that is in the likeness of the Son of God. This was decreed in the very beginning.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
What was not decreed is that a portion of the those created in the image and likeness of God were elected to share the damnation of the sons of perdition, while others were chosen to be saved.
In each case their eternal states are held to have been pre-determined, whether they kept the commandments or not, and whether they pleased Almighty God or not, and this would be effective the moment when death claims them because of nothing they have done, or not done. This belief is un-Godly, un-biblical, and un-thinkable. It makes Jesus seem untrustworthy, for out of his own mouth came the blessed assurance,
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in his should not perish but have everlasting life!
What Biblical or historical support exists for believing that NO provision has been established by God or his Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ that the dead who do not know Jesus Christ, and who therefore have not taken him into their hearts, nor claimed him as their Saviour, to extend to them in God’s Divine and Infinite Love the possibility of full salvation just as surely as he does those who have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who have accepted the invitation to come unto Christ, and that have taken upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ?
If we deny that this blessed gift of love and mercy to the dead as well as to living is a true doctrine of Jesus Christ, then also we deny the mercy of a loving and just God to children who die without baptism, and we deny the possibility of salvation to the dead who had not the good fortune to hear the gospel of Christ and who could not believe Jesus Christ as Saviour through no fault of their own. Some Christians insist that babies that die unbaptised are consigned by God to burn in Hell because they were not baptised. We ask, for which of their sins do they merit such condemnation? Despite there being no support for this position in the Holy Bible, some Christians have failed to understand how far-reaching the love and mercy of God and Jesus Christ truly are. I heard a radio broadcast in which ‘Pastor Jason’ of Mesa, said:
“There can be no salvation for those who die without baptism, and those who believe otherwise are mistaken, because Paul said that “a man dies once and then comes the judgement.”
The pastor assumes from that brief sentence the position that judgement follows immediately on death and that there is no time period between the death of an individual and the assignment of eternal reward or eternal punishment at the Day of Judgement. Yet, the Holy Bible speaks directly against his contention, besides which, the doctrine of Salvation for the dead was known, taught, approved, and not only practised but relied on by the Earliest Christians, as revealed in extensive writings, to which we shall shortly refer. As we have already seen, death is overcome, but the barrier of sinfulness remains, and unless a way is prepared for the consequences of our sins to be washed away, then no one will ever approach God or dwell with him in heaven. Yet, Jesus Christ showed the way in which the consequences of our sins can be made to disappear, so that we can enter the kingdom of heaven, and there dwell with God as his heirs, sharing the heirship with Jesus Christ. in this regard, Jesus said:
“Except a man be born again of the water and of the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Those that heard him understood exactly what he meant, although Nicodemus is made to appear slow, so that John can draw out the meaning of the words of Jesus. By water, here, baptism is signified, as explained in Titus.
“ … according to his mercy [Christ] saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”
John had preached before Jesus’ coming the requirement of baptism of repentance to the people of Israel. John the Baptist, was the forerunner or herald of the coming Christ, and went before his face to prepare his way, give notice of his coming, and bore testimony to him, which testimony the apostle here produces, as something that the Jews could not well reject and deny, because John had too much integrity and honour, and was accounted a great prophet by all the people as he prepared them for the reception of the Messiah who was, even then, close by them.
John taught the baptism of repentance to the people and not only administered the ordinance of baptism by immersion, but preached the doctrine of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, requiring candidates to demonstrate repentance and fruits suitable to signify that their hearts were given to the Christ in faith, before the rite was administered to them, which is the reason if is called the baptism of repentance.
“John did baptise in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”
Baptism was practised by the Jews in ritual purification, and more formally when receiving a Gentile as a proselyte. It was practised by John the Immerser among the Jews and Jesus says that it is an ordinance of his religion, and the sign and seal of the renewing influences of his Spirit. He emphasised baptism again when he said,
"He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved.”
It is clear from these places, and from the example of the apostles, that they considered the ordinance of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins a binding covenant on all that professed to love the Lord Jesus and demonstrated their faith in him as Messiah and Saviour. When Jesus taught Nicodemus that unless a person was regenerated through baptism by immersion and by their receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, they could neither see nor enter the kingdom of heaven, he undoubtedly meant it to be clearly understood as affirming that baptism by immersion for the remission of sins was the regular, uniform, and only way of entering into his Church, and, ultimately, heaven. He meant it also to be understood that it was the appropriate and only mode of making a proper profession of the Christian religion, and that a man who neglected this, once the duty had been made known and explained to him, was willfully neglecting to obey a direct command of God.
There is an unpleasant truth to be faced which is, that those who do not hear the name of Jesus and his call to discipleship during their lifetimes, can not respond as those that do. Therefore they live and die unbaptised. However, it is not their fault and so cannot be laid to their charge. They have done no wrong, have not offended the Saviour, and have not refused to obey Jesus because they lived and died without ever hearing his name. Infants that die are in the same situation, but Jesus Christ confirmed their innocence when he said,
“Suffer the little ones to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
One commentator says of that passage:
“‘Of such is the kingdom of heaven’ - Or, the kingdom of heaven is composed of such. This appears to be the best sense of the passage, and utterly ruins the whole inhuman diabolic system of what is called non-elect infants' damnation; a doctrine which must have sprung from Moloch, and can only be defended by a heart in which he dwells. […] Christ loves little children because he loves simplicity and innocence.”
How can those that die before knowing Jesus Christ be born again of the water and of the spirit? There are untold multitudes that live and die without hearing the name of Jesus, who cannot conform to the baptismal rite of admission into the church of Jesus Christ, which is the vessel of salvation, the ark of our hope for salvation through Jesus Christ? What, if any, provision has our Father in Heaven made for them? Christendom has searched in vain for an answer to this question that personifies and combines the love, mercy, and grace of a just God in its execution. And still they search. But, not all.
For many, the threat of eternal torture in a place of damnation is the reality they preach because they misunderstand the Bible’s teachings, and have led slide away the original teachings that the Early Christian Church embraced for several centuries. Yet, there are Christian ministers who search deep into their souls and long for answers to the question of the eternal torment of the innocent, and having done so continue to search the nature and character of the God they worship in the name of His Son Jesus Christ.
Dr Torrey, a noted evangelist and pastor, wrote:
"Not merely throughout an age, but throughout all ages. It is a picture not merely of years tumbling upon years, but of ages tumbling upon ages in endless succession. It is not in a single instance used of a limited period. Nothing could more plainly or graphically picture absolute endlessness. The future state of those who reject the redemption offered them in Christ is plainly declared to be a state of conscious, unutterable, endless torment and anguish. This conception is an awful and appalling one. It is however the Scriptural conception and also a reasonable one when we come to see the appalling nature of sin."
That was Doctor Torrey’s conclusion, but note that he restricted it to ‘those who reject the redemption offered them in Christ.’ That such a doom was never intended for those who have not had the redemption in Christ offered to them is evident from the saying of the Prophet Isaiah, who wrote:
The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
This prophecy that all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of Israel’s God has yet to be fulfilled, even as millions live and die without hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ or coming to know Jesus Christ as their Saviour, and so they are not offered the redemption nor catch sight of the salvation of the Living God.
It is a continuing tragedy to know that historic Christianity has almost unanimously consigned innocents to damnation and endless torture in the raging fires of Hell. That is not what God has led us to expect from Him. Through the prophet Isaiah, God said,
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publish peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, “Thy God reigneth!”
This announcement set the tone for the expectations held by the faithful, and, when the time was right, the gospel of Jesus Christ replaced the Mosaic Law, in order to lift, enlighten, and make joyful all who entered into the new covenant under the gospel of Jesus Christ and were made partakers of redemption and salvation through his infinite atonement.
When Jesus began his mortal ministry, the hope of some of his contemporaries was that he would deliver them from the military and civil occupation of the Roman Empire. Israel had long been promised deliverance from enemies, and such victories they considered as salvation. But, Almighty God did not send his Son to liberate his children from the armies that occupied their lands. Jesus taught, “My kingdom is not of this world” He explained at length that he was sent by the Father to free God’s people, beginning with the Jews, from the thrall of Lucifer, the enemy of all mankind, who desires men to turn from God, to serve him, and to ensure their eternal misery. To achieve this Satan panders to and tempts us through our earthly appetites, ungodly ambitions, and encourages us to sin. When we yield to the enticings of Satan we displease God, please Satan, and our sinfulness creates an abyss or gulf between God and us that no human being has the power to bridge.
Knowing that we would stand in need of saving from the consequences of our sins, that is permanent separation from God, our Heavenly Father prepared a Saviour before the foundations of our world were set in place, and, in due time, commissioned and sent his only begotten Son Jesus Christ to save us from the bondage of Satan and tyranny of death, to which twin terrors each mortal is subject.
‘[Christ] was chosen before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,’
By his Infinite Atonement by the shedding of his innocent blood on the cross of Calvary, Jesus paid the price that enables us through repentance to be absolved of our personal sins, cleansed by the washing of baptism, and forgiven. Thus the abyss that separates us from God is bridged, and now cleansed with the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, we are able to approach God, endure his glorious Presence, and the presence and glory of His Only Begotten Son, forever.
This is the means our Father in Heaven has provided through which all his children – whosoever believeth in Jesus Christ – will return to dwell in his presence forever. Unaided, none has the power to overcome sinfulness, or to raise themselves from death by reuniting their mortal body with their eternal spirit in the resurrection, and none has the ability or authority to exalting themselves to the promised positions of being made ‘joint heirs with Christ of all that the Father hath.’
How, then, can they be saved? The Holy Bible teaches the momentous truth that Jesus was chosen in his pre-mortal existence to be the Saviour and Redeemer. Hear the words of Simon Peter:
“ … if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, then pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, from your futile rituals received by tradition from your fathers; But you are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, and who was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”
John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said:
“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."
The remarkable theologian, Origen, said:
“His taking away sin is still going on, He is continually taking it away from all of us, and will do so until sin be altogether taken away from the whole world, and the Saviour deliver the kingdom prepared and completed to the Father, a kingdom in which no sin is left at all, and which, therefore, is ready to accept the Father as its king, and which on the other hand is waiting to receive all God has to bestow, fully, and in every part, at that time when the saying is fulfilled, "That God may be all in all."
Angels proclaimed Jesus as ‘Saviour’ at the hour of his birth:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Samaritan villagers heard Jesus preach, and knew him as their Saviour.
“ … we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”
Peter witnessed to the unconverted in Jerusalem that Jesus had been put to death by crucifixion, and that after his execution had been raised from the dead:
The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
Paul, referring to resurrection, called Jesus ‘the Saviour.’
“ … our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned [made] like unto his glorious body.”
Which adds the promise that Christians will be raised to be even as Jesus Christ is. This leads us directly to our next consideration of the promises of God in the Holy Bible. We remember with gratitude and praise that it was God the Father who chose Jesus to be the Messiah, Redeemer, Saviour, according to the scripture.
John the beloved Apostle wrote:
“ … we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he [dwelleth] in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
We read again the words of Peter to allow the truth to sink into our hearts and souls:
“ … ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”
Having heard these inspired apostles, we ask, ‘Is Jesus a Saviour who saves, or are some beyond the reach of his atonement and, therefore, beyond his salvation?’ I repeat what Jesus said:
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus, not understanding, saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
How could those to whom Jesus preached that were described as ‘spirits in prison’ obtain the benefits that came through the baptism of repentance and regeneration? That such baptism was essential to the souls of men being admitted to the kingdom of heaven is beyond doubt.
Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
This promise of cleansing through the rite of baptism is foretold by the prophet Isaiah:
“Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil.”
"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Paul refers to the regeneration and cleansing that occurs at baptism as becoming a new creature.
‘ … if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature’
This acknowledges that when we are baptised we are re-created, transformed, and we are born again and pronounced as innocent as new born babies by an act of God. All that are born again by the washing of regeneration are declared innocent. The stains of our sins are taken from us, after which God and heaven are not only in sight, but also within our reach, and our place in that kingdom is assured because God and his Christ have so ordered.
By this means, the barrier built between God and us as a result of our disobedience to God is removed. As Jesus Christ has already removed the barrier of Death for us, there is no further hindrance to our salvation in God’s kingdom, if we continue to walk in faith and endure to the end, as Jesus has promised.
‘He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.’
Moreover, Paul affirms the same.
‘if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us’
To return to the question of what does happen to those who live and die on the earth but have not accepted Jesus Christ, either because they were not moved by the messengers of the Good News, or because they lived in times and places where the name of Jesus Christ and the Good News about him did not penetrate, it is a proper question to ask. It is also a vitally important question to which we must know God’s answer, especially for those that have lost loved ones in circumstances that denied them the opportunity of salvation, as many have asked out of sober concern for their kindred dead.
During the second journey of Saint Boniface to Rome, Christian missionary Saint Willibrord tried to convert King Radbod of Friesland also called Frisia. Willibrord did not succeed because Radbod refused initiation into Christianity after inquiring whether he would meet his ancestors in heaven. The saint informed him that none of them would enter Heaven because they had not believed in Christ, had not been baptised, and as a result, they were in the eternal torment of Hell. Radbod’s love of his family would not let him abandon his ancestors, and so he refused baptism on account that the Christian God must be a monster. That was Willibrord’s answer to this vital question. But, what is God’s answer to it?
Unless we are asked to believe the unbelievable, namely, that there were some God-created spirits of humankind in the pre-existence whom God did not foreknow, then we can reach no other conclusion than that it was God’s purpose to have all humanity – those that he foreknew –conformed to the image of his Only Begotten Son, as the scriptures affirm.
The Psalmist asked and answered this significant question:
Q:Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?
A:He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory.
How do we that have sinned, get ‘clean hands, and a pure heart?’ A little while ago we touched on the words of Jesus when he announced the eternal truth that love – ‘for God so loved the world’ – was God the Father’s motivation to send His Only Begotten Son to dwell on earth so that all who believed in him would be saved and be granted Eternal Life. In connection with this, Jesus introduced the Christian rite of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. That is how believers having come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and redeemer responded to his instruction.
‘This is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’
John the Baptist taught that access to his cleansing blood of Christ was available by having faith in Jesus and then submitting to baptism.
‘And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins’
This teaching was continued by Peter on the day of Pentecost.
‘Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins’
As it was after Christ, so it had been prior to the beginning of the mortal ministry of Jesus. We have already seen that,
‘John [the Baptist] did baptise in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.’
Taking their lead from John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles, some Christians believe that water baptism for the remission of sins is essential to salvation, which is what Jesus’ words lead us to conclude. No man can be saved in his sins, but we are all saved from our sins if we submit as Christ directed. Yet, there are some that say Jesus was not referring to water baptism. Nonetheless, it is unambiguously conclusive from the New Testament that baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins is what the early Christian Church believed, taught, and practised.
Jesus told the Apostles as he gave them the Great commission,
He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
Those that do not believe, will not have faith, will not submit to baptism, and will not be saved. However, the Bible makes it clear beyond doubt that true Christian doctrine taught by Christ is that baptism must be preceded by sufficient preparation and by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what was taught in the days of Christ by Christ, and in the apostolic and sub-apostolic periods by the Apostles and their successors. There was no variation in this formula: He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved.
In later years, this scriptural belief based solidly on the words of Jesus Christ was allowed to weaken and decline, and baptism came to be regarded as a non-essential rite, the application of which depended little, if at all, on the candidate's appreciation or conception of its purpose. Concerning the early Christian Church’s belief in the essential nature of water baptism by immersion for salvation, we will look at some outstanding evidence:
Rev Farrar, said:
"In the first ages of Christianity, men and women were baptised on a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."
John Calvin insisted:
"But as Christ enjoins them to teach before baptising, and desires that none but believers shall be admitted to baptism, it would appear that baptism is not properly administered unless it is preceded by faith. […] In the apostolic age no one is found to have been admitted to baptism without a previous profession of faith and repentance."
"You are not first baptised and then begin to receive the faith, and have a desire; but when you are to be baptised you make known your will to the teacher, and make a full confession of your faith with your own mouth. "
"In the primitive church, instruction preceded baptism, agreeable to the order of Jesus Christ—'Go, teach all nations, baptising them,' etc.”
Salmasius agreed wholeheartedly with the others:
“In the first two centuries no one was baptised, except, being instructed in the faith and acquainted with the doctrine of Christ, he was able to profess himself a believer; because of those words, 'He that believeth and is baptised.’”
In October 1840, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote to the Twelve Apostles, introducing them to baptism for the dead:
"I cannot in this letter give you all the information you may desire on the subject; but aside from knowledge independent of the Bible, I would say that it was certainly practised by the ancient churches."
Although the prophet's "knowledge independent of the Bible" was revelatory in nature, Latter-day Saint scholars such as Hugh Nibley and John Tvedtnes have found extra-canonical texts indicating that the early church performed baptisms for the dead.
In recent times, the authors of ‘The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861 – 1986,’ Dr Stephen Neill and Rev Tom Wright, have this to say about the centrality of baptism by immersion to New Testament Christianity:
“[T]hose early believers of a period ‘which recognises no condition other than that of faith, and no means other than the Word’ have no historical existence at all. If there is one thing more certain than another about these early churches, it is that admission to them was by faith and baptism. The New Testament knows nothing of membership in the Church by faith alone, without the accompanying act of obedience and confession. [Emphasis added]
“The Epistle to the Romans was probably written in AD 56, that is less than thirty years after the death of Christ; Paul takes it for granted that all his readers will have been baptised, and that the extraordinarily high and realistic doctrine of baptism which he presents to them is the familiar tradition of the Church and not a strange new doctrine which he has himself thought up under the influence of some Hellenistic tradition or other.
“Whether we like it or not, from the very beginning the Christian Church, which had grown out of the Jewish Church, had its institutional element. We may say, if we wish, that baptism was merely the outward expression of a living faith, and that faith was the all-important thing. This is true, but it does not alter the fact that, until faith had found its expression in baptism, the believer was not a member of the Christian community, the body of Christ.”
“Non sacramental Christianity, as is to be found today in almost all the Protestant churches of the continent of Europe, is an invention of the rationalistic nineteenth-century; it has little to do with the Christianity of the New Testament and cannot be made to square with it.”
As faith and baptism are central to the New Testament Church of Jesus Christ, if we would be true followers or disciples of Jesus Christ we should take his teaching as the correct mode or rite of admission into the Christian Church. And, having done so, we are then again compelled to ask what happens to those that live and die without having had the good fortune to render obedience to Jesus Christ and his requirements, which are, first faith in him, and, second, submission to water baptism for the remission of sins which are obligatory for entrance into the Church of Jesus Christ, and as precursors to our entering the kingdom of heaven?
With that question before our eyes, let us first look at how the fate of unbaptised children has been reviewed recently by the Roman Catholic Church. In 2006, the Catholic News Service of the Vatican, carried this item:
To hope that babies who die without being baptised will go to heaven makes more sense than the idea that they go to limbo, says a group of papally appointed theologians. While no one can be certain of the fate of unbaptised babies who die, Christians can and should trust that God will welcome those babies into heaven, said members of the International Theological Commission.
Father Paul McPartlan, a member of the International Theological Commission and a professor at The Catholic University of America in Washington said,
"We cannot say we know with certainty what will happen to unbaptised babies, but we have good grounds to hope that God in his mercy and love looks after these children and brings them to salvation."
Christianity has had the answer for two thousand years, but has neglected to maintain the doctrine of salvation for the dead contained in the Bible, having, it seems, been led astray by uninspired theologians that lost the vision of the character of God and the extent of his mercy, and the extent to which the atonement of Jesus Christ could reach. One of the earliest extant Christian poems tells of Jesus Christ going to the underworld to preach to the dead, those that Peter calls ‘spirits in prison.’
"And the dead say to him, 'Open the gate to us!'" whereupon the Lord, "heeding their faith," gives them the seal of baptism.”
Baptism for the dead, then, was, to use a mediaeval expression, the key to the gates of hell, which no church claimed to possess until the nineteenth century, so the gates remained shut fast against those souls of whose salvation early Christians had been so certain.
Paul strongly teaches that the inheritance with which the faithful are endowed is just that which God has given to His Son Jesus Christ:
Therefore, I endure all things for the elect's sakes that they may also obtain the salvation, which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him. [Emphasis added]
Today, we are fortunate to have access to many ancient and valuable texts that Christian scholars have traditionally passed over in silence, or else have interpreted autocratically to fit their own views. Although the subject of salvation for the dead has meant little to ecclesiastical historians in the past, in recent years a surprising amount of evidence has been uncovered, so that this central teaching of New testament Christianity can no longer be ignored, and Christian scholars and theologians are returning to the Word of God to find different answers than those they have been accustomed to giving on the subject of salvation for the unshriven dead .
A Coptic papyrus was found in 1895 In Egypt chronicling the post-resurrection teachings of Christ to the Apostles. No less an authority than Adolf von Harnack a German theologian and leading ecclesiastical historian, said that this was not
" … a provincial production of the Egyptian Church" nor a brainchild of the Gnostics, but an authentic statement of certain important doctrines of salvation and resurrection common to the whole Christian church at a very early date.”
Carl Schmidt, then second only to Harnack in his knowledge of early Christian documents, produced a number of ancient fragments, matching the Coptic text word for word in a half dozen languages and showing it to be derived from the Greek original of an apostolic general epistle which had enjoyed universal influence and popularity in the church as early as the second century Christian. The subject of this epistle was salvation for the dead, a doctrine which, as Schmidt demonstrated, was believed in the early church to have been the main theme of Christ's teaching after the resurrection.
As the early texts were compared with each other and with the professions of the oldest Church writers, it was evident that the major emphasis of early Christian doctrine was not on the Blut und Kreuztheologie of later times, but on the work of Jesus as a teacher whose instructions marked the way eternal progress for the living and the dead according to a pattern first followed by Adam, to whom the texts attribute an importance out of all proportion to the teachings of the later Christian Church.
This new light on the earliest Christian teachings was received without enthusiasm or acceptance by those, who for obvious reasons, maintained discreet and telling silences about the discoveries that called for total accommodation of the newly discovered teachings of Christ at the expense of what had become traditional patterns and concepts. For all Christians, the new findings should have been warmly welcomed and thoroughly embraced since they prove the zealous interest of the Saints of the Primitive Christian Church regarding salvation of the dead, just as it fires the enthusiasm of the Saints of these latter days.
The first appearance in any Creed of the article relating to the "descent into hell," was in AD 359. The ‘descent’ was generally believed by the Church before that date. It was put forward at the Council of “Ariminum,” and the following words may be quoted as showing the thoughts then connected with the article. Christ is spoken of thus:
“He (Christ) was crucified and died and descended to the parts below the earth, and there fulfilled His ministry, before whom the keepers of the gates of Hades trembled.”
Let us turn to writings of early Christians dealing with beliefs and practices associated with salvation and baptism for the dead in the early Christian Church, so that we can know how New Testament Saints would have answered the question, “What is to become of the righteous dead who have never been baptised?”
Justin Martyr, born in AD 89, or perhaps a few years later, being a believer in the salvation of the dead, took occasion to accuse the Jews of mutilating a prophecy of Jeremiah, about Christ preaching salvation to the dead.
Similarly, they [the Jews] have they removed the following words from the writings of the same Jeremiah: “The Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, remembered His dead who slept in their graves, and He descended to preach to them His salvation”
Yet, we note a Jewish text describing the Messiah’s visit to hell to liberate the sinners in prison:
R[abbi]. Joshua, son of Levi, tells further: "I asked the Messiah to allow me to look into Hell, but he did not allow me, as the righteous should never behold Hell." So I sent to the angel called Komm that he might describe Hell for me. But it was impossible, for at that moment R. Ishmael, the high priest, and R. Simeon, son of Gamaliel, and ten just men were killed, and the news reached us, so I could not go with the angel. I went afterwards with the angel Kipod and the light went with me up to the gates of Hell, and the Messiah came with me, and they [the gates] were open. The sinners who were there saw the light of the Messiah, and rejoiced, and said to one another: This will bring us out from here."
It is ironic that a Jewish text expresses belief in the Messiah's visit to the spirit prison to save the dead that are in it that modern Christians deny.
Irenaeus, who was a bishop in AD 177, says that the Lord
“descended into the regions beneath the earth, preaching His advent there also, and the remission of sins, ready for those who believe in Him,” and enumerates “all who had hopes towards Him, who proclaimed His advent and submitted it to His dispensations,” as so receiving it.
Irenaeus also wrote:
“Christ did not come for the sole benefit of those who believed in him at the time of Tiberius Caesar, nor has the Father a plan for those only who happen to be living today; but it is for all the human family (propter omnes omnino homines) who from the beginning by righteousness pleased God and feared him in their generations, and dealt justly and religiously with their neighbours, and yearned to see Christ and hear his voice.”
Origen, born in AD 185, had occasion to reply to one Celsus who opposed the declared "descent into hell" of the Saviour, by asking:
"You will not surely say that Christ, when he failed to persuade the living, went down to Hades to persuade those who dwell there?"
Origen meets the question without hesitation:
“We say, whether it pleases (Celsus) or no, that (Christ's) soul, stript of the body, did there hold converse with other souls that were in like manner stript, that He might there convert those that were capable of instruction or were otherwise, in ways known to Him, fit for it.”
Said Clement of Alexandria:
“It is not right to condemn some without trial, and only give credit for righteousness to others who lived after the coming of the Lord.”
“Certainly one righteous man is not different from another as far as righteousness goes. . . . For God is not the God of the Jew alone but of all men. . . . Those who live righteously before the law are to be counted as faithful and reckoned among the just. . . . God is good and Christ is mighty to save, according to principles of justice and equality, those who turn to him, whether here or in the next world.”
But inasmuch as “some are also baptised for the dead,” we will see whether there be a good reason for this. Now it is certain that they adopted this [baptising for the dead] with such a presumption as made them suppose that the vicarious baptism would be beneficial to the flesh of another in anticipation of the resurrection.
St. Bruno noted the fervour of primitive Christians “to secure the salvation of a father or mother” who had died without hearing the gospel.
Ignatius said of the ancient prophets:
“They too have proclaimed the gospel, and hoped for him [Christ] and waited for him. Believing in him they were saved, through union with Jesus Christ, being worthy of love and admiration, holy men [saints], borne witness to by Jesus Christ and counted among those who share our common hope in the gospel.”
Other Fathers of the early Christian Church supported the doctrine of salvation for the dead. However, the testimony we have cited will convince all Christians that are not willing to remain ignorant of the truth that God so loved His children that he sent Christ to save them, both in this world and in the next.
Therefore, we are forced to the conclusion that the inspired word of God teaches, and the early Church Fathers, taught that God and Christ continue to care for the souls of humanity after they have died, and expend missionary efforts such as that in which the Saviour busied himself in his all-encompassing ministry, in which he taught the dead, secured the keys of death, and accomplished the deliverance of those who were bound, and that the judgement on this subject that prevailed among the apostles and their successors confirms the truth of the Scriptures in regard to the early Christian doctrine of salvation for the dead. The fact of Jesus Christ's going to what Peter called spirit prison, and the redemptive purpose of that visit is taught by them with the greatest confidence.
Sadly, as the Christian years rolled on into centuries, doctrinal wars claimed the attention of the rulers of the Church, and the question of salvation for the dead and the concomitant baptism for the dead began to confuse the doctors of mediæval Christianity who, apparently lacking our knowledge of earlier times, were forced to choose between a weak law that allowed the unbaptised to enter heaven, and a cruel God who condemned the innocent. Surprisingly, they chose to believe in a cruel God.
How fortunate that in this final dispensation of the Gospel it was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that,
‘The Lord ordained and prepared before the foundation of the world, for the salvation of the dead who should die without a knowledge of the gospel’
Since Joseph Smith’s time, more and more Christian ministers have come to terms with the need for understanding and restoring, the original Christian doctrine of salvation for the dead, so that they can more ably satisfy their belief in God’s divine justice.
John Frederick Denison Maurice, professor of theology at King's College, London, was dismissed from his professorship because of his alleged unsound theology in regard to eternal punishment published in 1853 in his Theological Essays. Maurice taught that the revelations of God's love to us in the gospel are incompatible with his permitting any of the creatures he has loved to be consigned to never-ending torment. On his deathbed in 1872, one of his comrades in the ministry broke the sad news that he would no longer preach the gospel. It is said that he mustered all the energy at his command and, rising in his bed, avowed, “If I can no longer preach the gospel here, I will preach it in other worlds.”
Henry Ward Beecher, the most influential American clergyman of his time (1813-87), delivered a lecture in Nashville, Tennessee, titled, “What Christianity Has Done to Civilise the World,” in which he asked:
“What has Africa done for the world? She has never produced a sage, a philosopher, a poet nor a prophet, and why not? Because the name of Christ and the influence of Christianity are scarcely known in her dark regions. Millions of her children have lived and passed away without hearing the truth. What will become of them? Will they be forever damned? No, not if my God reigns, for they will hear the gospel in the spirit world!”
A Latter-day Saint elder was present, and, at the conclusion of the lecture, stepped up to the platform and said:
"Mr. Beecher, I have been much interested in your lecture and would like to ask you a question. Jesus said to Nicodemus, 'Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.' Now, how is it possible for a man to be baptised in water when his body has already crumbled in the earth?"
The great preacher looked at the interrogator for a moment and then said:
"Young man, where do you hail from?"
"From the West."
"From what part of the West?"
"From Salt Lake City," answered the Elder.
"Oh," said Mr. Beecher, “then you may answer your own question. Good evening,” and walked away.
Mr. Beecher probably had read enough on the subject of baptism for the dead to know that such a doctrine must be coupled with preaching to the spirits of the dead.
Prof. A. Hinderkoper, a German writer, says:
"In the second and third centuries every branch and division of the Christian church, so far as their record enables us to judge, believed that Christ preached to the departed spirits."
Dr. S. Parkes Cadman, discussed the following question over the radio for millions of listeners:
Question—What, in your opinion, becomes of those souls who in this life had no opportunity of accepting or rejecting the truth as it is found in the Gospels?
Answer—Those who never heard the name of Jesus since human beings first appeared on the earth constitute the vast majority who have lived and died here. Moreover, hundreds of millions now living are in the same condition. Imagination cannot conceive their endless array.
Even today, multitudes exist in Christian lands that because of the circumstances of their location, birth, and upbringing are in many cases as ignorant of the New Testament faith as were ancient Greek pagans who never heard of Christ.
Think also of the host of innocent children who die before attaining reasonable responsibility for their own lives.
Even when dimly understood, your question would be unbearably oppressive if none except those who have intelligently and voluntarily believed in Christ are hereafter admitted to the Divine Presence.
If, as we are taught to believe, the incalculable myriads of human beings who have occupied or, now occupy this life, exist for eternity, and must spend it somewhere, how can we limit the redemptive efficacy of divine love to the brief span of man's mortal existence here?
Consider the issue as it affects the fate of those near and dear to you. Then apply its significance to all mankind. It is our consolation and hope that since God is the Father of us all, not one soul is lost to His sight, and none because of less importance to Him.
"His mercy endureth forever."
The creeds which confine the operations of that mercy to the life that now is, do injustice to its saving virtue, and injure the cause in behalf of which they were set up.”
Doctor Cadman knew what the Bible taught, but could not find that teaching in the Churches of his time, because it was found in none except in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they have been bitterly persecuted for teaching what is in the Bible.
“All interpretations [of 1 Corinthians 15:29] which seek to evade vicarious baptism for the dead ... are misleading”
Jeffrey A Trumbower, not a Latter-day Saint, has expanded the body of work by identifying the belief and practice of salvation for the dead in the early Christian Church, including proxy baptism and prayers for the dead.
We must not suppose that salvation for the dead was a novel teaching of the Christian Church of Christ in the meridian of time. It was considered a given in the Old Testament. Centuries before Christ came in the flesh, prophets rejoiced in the knowledge that through Him would salvation be effected for the dead as well as to the living. Speaking of the fate of the proud and haughty, Isaiah declares:
"And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited."
The same prophet testifies concerning the work of the coming Redeemer, that he will,
" … open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house."
David, singing to the music of inspiration concerning the redemption from the grave, exclaims:
"Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life; in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
Why should anyone knowing God doubt that his provision for the redemption of the dead was brought about in strict harmony with the Law of God, whose Law is written in justice, framed in mercy, and administered with love? According to God’s word it is impossible for any spirit, whether in the flesh or disembodied, to obtain promise of eternal glory except under the condition of obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. Accordingly, as baptism is essential to the salvation of the living, it is likewise indispensable to the dead. This was known by the Saints of old, and the Christian doctrine of baptism for the dead was taught, believed, and practised by them.
In a letter addressed to the church at Corinth, Paul expounded the principles of the resurrection, and the order or precedence whereby the bodies of the dead are to come forth from the graves,
“Christ the firstfruits, and afterward they that are Christ's,” and as proof that this doctrine of the resurrection was included in the Gospel as they had received it, the apostle then asks them: "Else what shall they do which are baptised for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptised for the dead?"
These words are unambiguous, and the fact that they are presented without explanation or comment manifests unequivocally that the principle of baptism for the dead was understood by the Christian people to whom the letter was addressed. Here Saint Paul discloses the imperative vicarious work where the living minister in behalf of those that are dead, with descendants doing for their forbears what is beyond the power of their ancestors to do for themselves. Many different interpretations have been presented in attempts to answer this simple question asked by Paul, yet, the simple and earnest student of scripture have no difficulty grasping the meaning.
In the closing sentences of the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi predicted the great work to be carried on in behalf of the dead during the latter days:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
It is believed by some Bible students that this prophecy referred to the birth and ministry of John the Baptist, upon whom rested the spirit and power of Elias, as the angel had foretold. However, there is no record that Elijah ministered to John, and the results of the Baptist’s ministry do not allow the conclusions that in John the prophecy was fully realised.
One of the great principles underlying the doctrine of salvation for the dead is that of the dependence of the fathers on their children, of ancestors and posterity, so that when the hearts of the children are turned to their unbaptised fathers and forefathers, they can set in train the vents that will ultimately lead to their salvation. As had Malachi, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that unless attachments were established between the departed fathers and the living children, the earth would be smitten with a curse. That curse would be the withholding of salvation to the unbaptised dead. What greater curse could be visited on the human race?
In the unlimited mercy of God, those of his mortal children that have taken upon themselves the name of Christ and that bear the responsibilities imposed thereby, become saviours to the house of their fathers through vicarious sacred acts performed by proxy baptisms on behalf of their kindred dead, as typical of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of all that come to have faith in him, whether they are living or have lived and are now departed. In this way, they fulfil the prophecy of Obadiah, that “saviours shall come up on mount Zion”
Obadiah prophesies that deliverance and holiness will stand on Zion’s Mount, and through their intervening ministry, following the example set by Jesus Christ, the house of Israel shall receive its divine inheritance.
The salvation and holiness of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to be spread throughout the world, the conversion of Gentiles, and the restoration of God’s People are to be brought to pass, and, therefore, The God of Israel calls Latter-day Israel to overthrow evil, and to establish of the Church of Jesus Christ, to which all the prophets have borne witness.
When Christ shall come in glory, then the kingdom and the earth shall be the Lord's, but none that exalt themselves against the Lord shall prosper, but shall be brought down, so none that wait upon the Lord, and put their trust in him, shall ever be dismayed. Just as the word of God saves us, so those that teach the Gospel of Christ to others are called Saviours on Mount Zion, in which role, much of their work as saviours will be for their own kindred dead.
Isaiah uses inspired poesy when, speaking of those that honour the Lord by honouring the Sabbath Day, he employs a beautiful illustration showing that the observance of the law of God leads to happiness.
“Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”
As we read these words, we must remember that the heritage of Jacob is to be exalted. Some have written that the heritage of Jacob is to inhabit the land of their inheritance, Canaan. The author of the Book of Hebrews, speaking of the righteous patriarchs, opens a wider vista, saying:
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”
That better country in which we seek inheritance is the kingdom of God, and the city is the heavenly Jerusalem, the City of our God. Those that are admitted will be joint heirs with Christ of all that the Father has, and will share the glory that Jesus Christ shares with his Father. That glorious exaltation that we share as heirs with Christ is truly the heritage of Jacob.
Christian Ministers of different sects have read the remarks of Paul upon the resurrection of the dead. Too often their words leave us wondering why they are content to accept the notion that the dead are left in the bizarre position and seem satisfied to leave them in it, and why they believe that millions of millions who have not heard the Gospel in the flesh should be shut off forever from hearing it. A convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke to a serious problem that had concerned his family:
“We asked our ministers regarding the turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, and were surprised because they could not explain this matter. But when the humble Latter-day Saint Elder sat by our fireside teaching the Gospel to us, we learned that in heaven we had a father and a mother. This principle had been revealed to the world through an unlearned youth, but the wise and learned did not understand it.
It was revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith that God would not condemn the dead without according to them the same opportunities and rights which the living enjoyed.
This principle won our hearts to an extent that no other doctrine had done. The primary principles of the Gospel were not so entirely new to us, but when we learned the doctrine of salvation for the dead our hearts were gladdened, and we said in joy, "God is indeed just."
Those not familiar with the religion of the Latter-day Saints often ask,
"Where do you find evidence of the truth of the doctrine that the dead have the Gospel and the opportunity of being saved by it extended to them?"
The answer is, ‘In the Scriptures!’ The Scriptures teach, and all Christians believe, that the Gospel embraces the principle that one person may do for another that which will give the latter an opportunity to be saved. That is the nature of vicarious work for another, and is precisely how the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, though which we are saved is applied to us. His Atonement is a work of vicarious salvation that is not limited in its application but serves both the living and the dead. Were it not so applicable, we would have no answer to the question, ‘What is to be done for the millions of dead who never had such a privilege as this in the flesh?’ Because of the love, grace, mercy, and justice of God we do have an answer. It is that God has provided a means and a plan for their redemption that is not different than that he applies to the living. The servants of God who were ministers of the truth while in the flesh in this and in former dispensations, have been sent to preach to them that are dead, and then the living are baptised in their behalf and they are cleansed and can enter the kingdom of God, and so
“ … that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”
The dead are judged just as we are, upon the plan of justice, equity, and truth, and according to the manner in which they exercise their moral agency. The apostle has said distinctly that the dead are to be judged as those in the flesh are judged. They are to have the same privilege of the Gospel and of the redemption wrought out by Christ that we are to have.
The living are redeemed through obedience to God’s laws, and in connection with the unbaptised dead the Lord laid it on Saint Paul to ask,
"If the dead rise not at all, why then are they baptised for the dead?"
My object is to present the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ, with such care, clarity, and testimony as to show salvation for the dead as a central doctrine of Christianity, and to do so beyond reasonable doubt. The scriptures show that it was, and still should be. Were it not for the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the essential knowledge of this Christian doctrine and ordinance would have remained hidden, still lost, and our dead would continue to languish without hope of redemption.
In the Book of Hebrews, we learn that Jesus Christ is the heir of all that the Father has:
“God who, at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in times past unto the fathers by the Prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things; by whom, also, He made the world”
We need to keep in mind that Jesus Christ has been appointed by his Father as heir of all things. We shall connect that a little later. We are blessed that God’s instructions “spoken to us by His Son” are contained in the New Testament and, as a whole, are referred to as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The intent of Christ and his apostles and other ministers’ preaching the Gospel was to accomplish the salvation of the people. Jesus instructed His Apostles, as follows:
Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved.
This Gospel was to be taken to every creature because, according to Paul, “the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation, unto every one who believeth,” and acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and, knowing both God the Father and the Son Jesus Christ is essential for eternal life and exaltation, according to Jesus himself.
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
Since Paul called the gospel of Jesus Christ, "The power of God unto salvation to all who believe," his words incline us to believe that God's love and mercy were not intended to be limited to any special portion of His offspring, for that we are all His children is confirmed by Peter:
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
“in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”
In the Gospel according to St. Matthew, we are told that God will judge every man according to his works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.
“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”
We also know that God is just, and that he will not condemn anyone for something they didn’t do because they had no opportunity to do it.
“Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”
The Scriptures, as well as our sense of justice, and our comprehension of the love and justice of God towards His children, lead us to the conclusion that the salvation offered through the gospel was intended to reach all the sons and daughters of God, not only those who are living, but those who are dead, also; and, therefore, we rejoice with the Prophet, and say, "O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endureth forever."
Now, how long is forever? It reaches beyond this life and comprehends a period of time beyond our imagining. It signifies a period of time inconceivable to the finite mind, but for whatever length it extends we are confidant that the mercy of Almighty God endures forever, and we must keep that fact fixed in the forefronts of our minds as we consider our subject.
The traditional form of Christianity as taught in historical denominations affirms that whether a man is condemned for what he does, or for what he does not do in this life, then he is bound to remain in Hell forever. That is, if a man commits sin in this life and dies unrepentant, it is absolutely impossible for him to be redeemed, and, according to The Particular Baptist Confession of Faith, he suffers ‘everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hell fire forever.’
However, Jesus tells us that when such a man is redeemed and forgiven for his wrongdoing, he is then at liberty. Moreover, this is a just law, and I do not presume that even we, as little as we know and as humanly frail as we are disposed to deal differently with one another. If a man pays his debts, he should be justified. If a man suffers in prison for an offence, he should be liberated when he has completed his sentence. It therefore does not agree with the doctrine of true Christianity, that there is no repentance after death, and that the punishment must continue incessantly, without hope of relief, through countless ages of despair.
David the Psalmist, says:
Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord, there is mercy; and with His is plenteous redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities
There is no limit here to the application of the promise in regard to Israel, because with the Lord there is “mercy and plenteous redemption,” we are fully justified in believing that the Lord will reach out to all His sons and daughters, and save all who accept His word except such as commit the unpardonable sin, of whom he has elsewhere made this exception.
‘And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.’
David, speaking about himself, said:
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell.’
This prophecy was fulfilled in regard to the Holy One. His body was laid in the tomb, but the Lord did not suffer His Holy One to see corruption.
David committed a very serious sin, and he expected to be punished, and he expected to go to hell: but, he said, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell," that is, David knew that God, in His own time, would only leave him there until he had paid the penalty of his sin. If there was an opportunity for David to obtain forgiveness for committing as grievous a sin as he did, then certainly God, who "is no respecter of persons," will not act differently with us.
There is no limit to the power of God, neither to His mercy when justice is satisfied, and the Lord is not willing that any shall perish. That is the substance of all that we read in the sacred words of our Holy God, for to this end Christ died, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. Matthew records:
‘For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.’
There is a remarkable passage in Josephus' account, which proves that the best informed Jews believed that the souls of righteous men were in the presence of God in a state of happiness.
“They who lose their lives for the sake of God, Live unto God, as do Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the rest of the patriarchs.”
There is another reference, no less remarkable, in Shemoth Rabba.
“Rabbi Abbin saith, The Lord said unto Moses, Find me out ten righteous persons among the people, and I will not destroy thy people. Then said Moses, Behold, here am I, Aaron, Eleazar, Ithamar, Phineas, Caleb, and Joshua; but God said, Here are but seven, where are the other three? When Moses knew not what to do, he said, O Eternal God, do those live that are dead! Yes, saith God. Then said Moses, If those that are dead do live, remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
So the immortality and materiality of the soul were not strange or unknown doctrines among the Jews, and were taught also by Jesus Christ and his disciples.
We note that there are objections raised to this doctrine by non-LDS Christian, usually in the form of, “There is no repentance in the grave.” However, this objection is deceptive. What is it that goes into the grave? It is the body, but not the spirit. Therefore, the corpse is incapable of intelligent action, but the spirit is very much alive in the eternal world. This is illustrated in the story Jesus told about the rich man and a poor man called Lazarus.
‘There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.’
Jesus’ story tells us with startling clarity that the spirits of those we call dead are alive, active, and sensible, having powers of observation and speech. Although it is apparently forbidden for the dead to preach to the living, it is a biblical beyond doubt fact that Jesus Christ himself went in the spirit while his dead body lay in the sepulchre and preached to the spirits of the dead that languished in spirit prison, or paradise. There is nothing here showing that there is no salvation beyond the grave. In fact, the Scriptures show pointedly that the mission of Jesus Christ included a visit and ministry to the dead, as well as to the living, and we establish this fact, by quoting Peter.
For Christ also hast once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the spirit; by which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which some time were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight, souls were saved by water.
When did Christ go to preach to the spirits in prison? He went when he was put to death in the flesh, but he was quickened, that is, alive in spirit.
What was the object of His going? What object could he have had, if there was no hope through his preaching for the sinner, no repentance after death, and no possibility of vicarious baptism after the spirits that he preached to had come to faith in him? Again, the apostle Peter instructs us with an inspired and explicit answer to those questions.
For for this cause was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
The Bible Truth is that Christ preached the Gospel to the dead just as he had preached the Gospel to the living for the specific reason that they might be judged as men in the flesh were, and that they should live according to God in their spirit condition.
These disobedient ones, mentioned in connection with the visit of Jesus, had rejected the teachings of Noah, and they were suffering punishment; but, according to the law regulating divine punishment, taught by the Saviour in His sermon on the Mount, these antediluvian sinners had paid the penalty and the time of their liberation had come.
The critic of this Bible doctrine says in effect,
“If we admit that Christ did preach redemption to the dead of Noah's day, why do you imply that all dead sinners will have the same advantages?”
The answer must be self-evident to any theological student.
- First—David, who was not an antediluvian, declares by inspiration that the Lord would redeem him from hell.
- Secondly—the Lord, through his servant, David, declares that He will save Israel from all his iniquities; they were not antediluvian, and millions of them have lived and died without the Gospel's saving power, and,
- Thirdly, although many other reasons might be given, Peter said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” Moreover, because he is not, he gives no special advantages. What he extends to one, he extends to all. That is why he is praised in heaven by the song, “Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways.”
In this celestial paean, the attributes of justice and truth are brought prominently into view in God’s redemptive work for humanity. God is just, fair, impartial, equitable, and in all his work, he has maintained Divine Justice.
‘To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.”
God is true to himself, true to creation, and true to the fulfilment of every promises he has made to mankind. God’s justice is spoken of by Jesus and is evident in all he has done. Therefore, it is proper that these attributes are celebrated in songs of praise around his throne in heaven. All the acts or ways of God toward the redemption of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve had been characterised by Divine justice and truth. We would be unjust to God if we were to say that these attributes of Deity were confined to the narrow isthmus of time between the eternal worlds of our pre-existence and our eternity to come, and were not available in all the realms where God is King and Judge. That there are other worlds than our own is confirmed in Hebrews.
‘Through faith we understand that the worlds – plural - were framed by the word of God’
Are we foolish to believe that God’s justice and love extend wherever there is a world created by our him? Shall we limit the extent of his lovingkindness, his care for his creatures, and his Mercy? We would be wrong to do so.
Although Christ and others preached to the understanding and acceptance of the dead, there are certain commandments given of God, which the dead can not, in their spirit condition, personally submit to, such as baptism, because water baptism can only be administered to men and women in the flesh during mortality.
The ancient Saints understood this, and were being “baptised for the dead,” in the year 57, as we learn from the Apostle Paul who wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians at that time. And doubtless were engaged in other work for the dead, which Paul had no occasion to notice. Paul says:
Else what shall they do which are baptised for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why, then, are they baptised for the dead?
The fact that the Saints who were taught by the Apostles, and many that had been taught by the Saviour himself, were being baptised for the dead and apparently approved such vicarious work for their loved ones that had not come to a knowledge of the Son of God during their lifetimes, is positive proof that the primitive Christian Church believed in the preaching to, the conversion of, vicarious baptism for, and the redemption of dead sinners.
Paul was not preaching on baptism when he wrote this reference to baptism for the dead or we would have learned more about it. But he solemnly declares the fact of its practice and does not raise the slightest suggestion that it is an evil doctrine or a pagan practise. He drops in the reference as if it is a normal part of the Christian Church, and it is obvious that it was.
Now we must face the question: Can the living be baptised for the dead? By virtue of the principle of representation, which enters into our spiritual and temporal affairs, but is best exemplified in the death of the Saviour, who offered himself up as a ransom for all of us:
“ … the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."
Peter says that Christ, when put to death, went to preach ‘to the spirits in prison,’ and the Saviour Himself said on the cross, to one of the thieves, that they both would be in paradise that same day; so that ‘paradise’ and ‘spirit prison’ signify the same place, although in it there may be ‘many mansions,’ and the repentant thief was taken in spirit to be benefited by the ministry of Jesus, in common with those already there.
Is there encouragement to sin in teaching this doctrine, that by believing in future forgiveness the sinner may be encouraged to continue in his evil ways? No, for his punishment is sure, and his happiness as remote as his repentance. Encouragement to sin is found in the teaching of the Calvinists who believe that all men, independent of their actions, are either headed to salvation or damnation, without the possibility of change, whether their lives be good or evil. If their future is already determined, what inducement is there for repentance? None whatever.
It is Calvin's doctrine of predestination that is likely to discourage reformation in the lives of both the wicked and the righteous, because Calvin assumed that nothing a man or woman could do was capable of affecting his or her ultimate pre-determined fate.
Despite Calvin’s egregious error of biblical doctrine, the post-death salvation part of the mission of Jesus was predicted by the ancient Prophets, and was understood by the Saints of His time. In relation to the mission of Jesus Christ it is written by the hand of Isaiah:
I, the Lord, have called Thee in righteousness, and will hold Thine hand, and will keep Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people, for a light to the Gentiles, to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house
We are impressed with the exactness in which this part of Christ's mission is foretold. Again, in the same book, we read, referring to Christ:
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted and proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound
All this is clear and convincing, and is further established by the Apostle Paul:
For to this end Christ both died and rose and revived, that He might be Lord, both of the dead and living
It is strange that Calvinists contend against the visitation of Christ to the prison house, or Hades or hell, as the place of punishment is known, but in the Baptist Confession of Faith, they teach that Christ did indeed descend into hell, in these words:
"[Christ] suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He arose again."
This quotation is the truth, and is more fully explained by teachings of some of the early Fathers of the primitive Christian Church that are of more value in establishing the doctrine and practice of the Church in its infancy, than any other testimony, except divine revelation itself, and so far as the former agree with the latter, it is certain to be right.
The information derived from the immediate followers of the ancient apostles is called tradition, which is the understanding transmitted from one person to another, since written records were comparatively rare. Tradition may be true, or false, or it can be doubtful or only partly true. Nevertheless, whichever it is, it provides us with an awareness of what the ancients believed to be the truth.
The late Doctor of Divinity, EH Plumtre, in expectation of the general final restoration of mankind, referring to the doctrine of probation after death, says:
“That larger hope—call it, if you will, that glorious dream—has never been without its witnesses. The noblest, loftiest, most loving of the teachers of the ancient church (I am not afraid to speak thus of Origen) embraced it almost as the anchor of his soul. It was cherished by the theologian, to whom we owe the fullest defence of the Nicene confession of our faith, and was at least widely spread among the churches of the east.”
The Roman Catholic Church has retained the doctrine of salvation for the dead from the beginning, and without doubt the dread arising from a remembrance of the pretensions and abuses practised by many in that Church, in connection with it, has in great part led to its utter rejection by Protestant Churches. That rejection is a grievous mistake, which has deprived numberless contrite souls of comforts, and overshadowed the glorious promises of the Almighty. Furthermore, that rejection by Protestants has, in the understanding of His children, limited the ever-enduring mercy of the Creator. It is nevertheless, true that the bands of death were broken and the redemption of the dead accomplished according to the words of the Saviour to John
"I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of death and of Hell."
If, as Non-Latter-day Saint Christians are taught to believe, the immeasurable number of human beings who have lived and now live continue to exist for eternity, they must spend it somewhere. So how can we limit the redemptive power of divine love to the brief span of man's mortal existence?
Consider this issue as it affects those near and dear to you, and then apply its significance to all mankind. It is our consolation and hope that because God is the Father of us all, not one single soul is lost to His sight, and none so because of being of less importance to Him.
The word of God confirms that "His mercy endureth forever." The creeds, which confine the operations of that mercy to this mortal life, do great injustice to the saving virtue of God’s infinite mercy and love, and injure the cause in behalf of which they were set up.
"Come let us reason together," saith the Lord. Is it reasonable to conclude that the Gospel, in other words, "the power of God unto salvation," intended for "every creature," should be offered only to a small portion of God's children? Surely not. Only a comparatively few have at any, or all times, had an opportunity of receiving it, and the greater number cannot in justice be called transgressors, as they never heard it. Is their opportunity of obtaining salvation forever lost? No, for "the mercy of God endureth forever."
From considering with due gravity that God wills to save all mankind, and finding that this is so from within the sacred writings of the Holy Bible, we come to the conclusion that not only is the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ preached by Christ himself to those that have passed from the world without knowing or accepting him, but it is also plainly evident that provision has been made for living Christians to stand as proxies for them so that if their having the Gospel preached to them draws them to Christ, even that knew him not in the days of their flesh, then vicarious baptism by immersion, in the same manner as practised and taught in the Early Christian Church, becomes effective so that by faith and baptism they not only see, but also enter into the kingdom of heaven, there to enjoy full salvation as joint heirs with Christ of all that the Father has, and be made partakers of his glory, according to the scriptures.
Therefore, we answer the propositional question, are Salvation for the Dead, and Baptism for the Dead Biblical and Christian doctrines? With a resounding yes, and we praise God, our Father in Heaven, for his love and his mercy, knowing that they do extend to all his children and that they do indeed endure forever and ever, amen.
Jesus Christ himself presaged his ministry of saving the dead when he announced:
‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is,
when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God:
and they that hear shall live.’
The dead, either the dead in sins, or those that are in their graves will hear the voice of the Saviour, and they shall live. They shall hear, and the Son will bestow upon them eternal life. For the Son hath, by the will of the Father, life in himself and can bestow it. May we believe His testimony. Thus our faith and hope will rest in God, and we shall not come into condemnation. And may His voice reach the hearts of those dead in sin and those dead in sin that are in the graves, whose spirits sit in the prison house, that they through hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ they may exercise faith in their Redeemer, do the works Christ has set forth as meet for repentance, accept their proxy baptism, have their sins remitted, and prepare for the solemn day when they, together with us, shall enter the kingdom of heaven.
Finally, there is an understanding of 1 Corinthians 15:29 that6 is avoided by many commentators that are afraid of its implications since Christianity in general abandoned their earlier Christian teaching that full salvation referred to Exaltation, Theosis, and Deification.
The following abstract is from Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible:
Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead,.... The apostle here returns to his subject, and makes use of new arguments to prove the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and reasons for it from the baptism of some persons; but what is his sense, is not easy to be understood, or what rite and custom, or thing, or action he refers to; which must, be either Jewish baptism, or Christian baptism literally taken, or baptism in a figurative and metaphorical sense. Some think that he refers to some one or other of the divers baptisms of the Jews; see Hebrews 9:10 and particularly to the purification of such who had touched a dead body, which was done both by the ashes of the red heifer burnt, and by bathing himself in water; and which, the Jews say (l), intimated , "the resurrection of the dead": wherefore such a right was needless, if there is no resurrection; to strengthen this sense, a passage in Ecclesiasticus 34:25 is produced, , "he that washeth himself after the touching of a dead body, if he touch it again, what availeth his washing?" but the phrase there used is different; it is not said, he that baptizeth or washeth himself for the dead, but from the dead, to cleanse himself from pollution received by the touch of a dead body: it is also observed, that the Jews, as well as other nations, have used various rites and ceremonies about their dead, and among the rest, the washing of dead bodies before interment; see Acts 9:37 and this by some is thought to be what is here referred to; and the reasoning is, if there is no resurrection of the dead, why all this care of a dead body? why this washing of it? it may as well be put into the earth as it is, since it will rise no more; but how this can be called a baptism for the dead, I see not: rather therefore Christian baptism, or the ordinance of water baptism is here respected; and with regard to this, interpreters go different ways: some think the apostle has in view a custom of some, who when their friends died without baptism, used to be baptized in their room; this is said to be practised by the Marcionites in Tertullian's time, and by the Corinthians in the times of the Apostle John; but it does not appear to have been in use in the times of the Apostle Paul;