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The Apostolic Fathers, Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Barnabas, Hermas, Polycarp (1st. cent. AD.), consistently affirmed the biblical truth of man's mortality, sleep in death, extinction of the lost, and resurrection of the righteous to immortality at Christ's second coming.

Sir Samuel Morland, Oliver Cromwell's officially appointed historian, addressed the Romanists: "From whence have you received the doctrine of purgatory, if not from a pagan source?.. The Heathens kindled the fire of Purgatory in the world; and... Bellarmine (Roman Catholic theologian) himself confesses so much when he proves the doctrine of Purgatory from the testimony of Plato, Cicero, and Virgil."

John Frith, translator with Tyndale of the Bible into English, noted for his recognition of soul-sleep until the resurrection at Christ's coming, plainly declared, "1 must deny the Pope's purgatory." For this he was burned at the stake in 1533.

Tyndale (1490-1536), greatest of the English reformers, and master translator of the Bible into English, was crystal clear in his understanding that the dead sleep until Christ resurrects them at His return. He wrote to Thomas More: "And ye, putting [the dead} in heaven, hell, and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection... . If the souls be in heaven,. . . then what cause is there of the resurrection?"

Some 17th century British witnesses for the nonimmortality of the soul, and the awakening of the dead at Christ's second coming were: Peter Chamberlain, Independent Baptist and Charles II's personal physician; John Locke, Christian philosopher; John Tillotson, Archbishop of Canterbury; John Milton, England's greatest religious poet; and George Wither, Puritan poet.

Martin Luther clearly taught that death "is a strong, sweet sleep" in which consciousness is "suspended." He rejected purgatory and wrote, "Just as one who falls asleep and reaches morning unexpectedly when he awakes, without knowing what has happened to him, so we shall suddenly rise on the last day without knowing how we have come into death and through death."

In 18th century England many Anglicans, Baptists, Dissenters, Independents and Presbyterians taught the threefold truth that man's soul is mortal, unconscious in death and that only the righteous will be given immortality, while the wicked are eradicated in the cleansing fires of judgment at the end of time. Among these witnesses were Isaac Watts, pastor, hymn writer, theologian; William Warburton, Bishop of Gloucester; and Joseph Priestly, British-American chemist and theologian.

William Whiston, Sabbatarian Baptist theologian who succeeded Isaac Newton as professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, wrote of 2 Thess. 1:8,9, "This text, so far from affirming that the wicked shall at the last day be preserved to endure everlasting torments, rather implies that the flaming fire into which they are then to be cast, will utterly consume them."

Dr. Edward White, Congregationalist and friend of David Livingstone, wrote: "Man is not represented in the divine revelation as immortal since the Fall, but as a being who has lost the hope of everlasting life, which he can regain only by spiritual regeneration and reunion with the immortal SON OF GOD. And, therefore, I protest with all my heart and soul and mind, against those two opposite errors, both springing from the common root of faith in man's natural immortality; first, against the doctrine of endless torments to be inflicted in hell on unsaved men; and second, against the now popular doctrine of the absolute final salvation of all men, good and bad; as directly contrary to both the letter and spirit of the Christian revelation recorded in Holy Scripture" (The Faith Extras, No. 12, 1889, p. 20).

Major 20th century witnesses who agreed with these positions are J. Olof Cullberg, and Dr. Gustav Aulen, Lutheran Bishops of Sweden: Harold E. Guillebaud, translator of the Bible into African languages, and Church of England's archdeacon of Rwanda-Burundi; Martin Heinecken, professor of systematic theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia; William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury; W. R. Matthews, Dean of St. Paul; James Moffatt, Bible translator; James S. Stewart, gifted author and preacher, Church of Scotland; John Baillie, Univ. Prof., Church of Scotland; John F. Taylor, Principal, Wycliffe College; Rienhold Niebuhr, Prof., Union Theological Seminary, Evangelical Reformed; Karl Heim of Tubingen University.

In 1943 the Archbishops of Canterbury and York commissioned 50 Anglican scholars and theologians to draft a joint statement on the progress of the gospel and the present duty of the church.

Their resulting document, states, "Ultimately all that is valueless in God's sight must and will be abolished, that.. . 'God may be all and in all.' Revelation and reason alike point to this ultimate consummation. The idea of the inherent indestructibility of the human soul (or consciousness) owes its origin to Greek, not to Bible, sources. The central theme of the New Testament is eternal life, not for anybody and everybody, but for believers in Christ as risen from the dead. The choice is set before man here and now. [God'] judgment may not at first sight appear to be 'good news,' yet it is integral to the Gospel. It is the full assertion of the final triumph of good and the abolition of evil" (Towards the Conversion of England, Section 53).

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Created: 8/1/01 Updated: 2/5/04