LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 249

Reflections on the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689

23 Aug 14 began a perhaps unbroken, orderly, and personal journey through my favorite written confession of faith. These are my personal reflections on this beloved historic Particular Baptist confession of the Christian Faith.


Chapter 31. Of the State of Man after Death and of the Resurrection of the Dead. Paragraph 1a: “The bodies of men after death return to dust, and see corruption; but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them…”

Part of God’s curse on Adam was, “By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19. This is where the famous eulogy line “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” comes from. It is most true. Man has been made noble, the highest of God’s creation, but only from the dirt beneath our feet. All of the carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur found in us is found in the dirt of creation beneath. This should be no surprise to us. God made it all and we from it. What’s not from creation is the Creator’s life that was breathed into our first father.

There is no soul sleep. There is no purgatory. Both are inventions of men and have no place in the Faith. Paul’s dilemma alone proves soul sleep unreasonable. He writes, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith.” Philippians 1:21-25. He would have no battle to stay or go if he at all had in his mind some sort of spiritual cryostasis. His only option would be fruit and more fruit Godward here with the Philippians. He has no limbo in mind. No, he writes elsewhere, “For we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:7-9. Paul knew of Jesus’ words to that predestined-to-be-saved thief at his side when he said, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43. Jesus was not headed to purgation. He was headed back to paradise. He would even lead captivity captive with him when he went, and this un-named thief among them.

The papist (like any other false religionist) does not trust in Christ, and so he sees justification as something he must serve up to God. God is not his Savior. He does not recognize his sin nor his Savior’s Cross because he hasn’t the conviction of the Spirit. He feels that his own cross must be equal to the task therefore. That God will only do “his part.” Dear friend, go back to the dust from which you came right now. You have no ability to partner with him in your salvation. You’re dirt. Offensive dirt. Trust yourself to the one from above. John 3:31. To the one who died and rose again to grant you eternal life. It’s all about him. The righteous abandon themselves to the Lord and know that his deliverance is their whole song. Martin Luther said something to the effect of, “God creates from nothing. And so, until man becomes nothing God will make nothing of him.” Become nothing, my friend. It’s not hard. It’s just an accurate assessment of yourself before God’s Ten Commandments and his Cross. This is humility and love and freedom. There is no final justification to come. Romans 5:1-2 stands as a present reality in every believer’s life. To die is to behold God. Purgatory is the idea that a sinner not perfected goes to it to pay for his or her own sin with pain and then gets to be justified after it’s all purged. This is vanity. If I lean to my left, I by necessity remove pressure from my right. No one who trusts in Christ leans left. We rest in the righteous right hand of God. We lean on him totally. And he is able to bear our frame.
If I die today and it isn’t the Day the Lord is to return, in short order I’ll see decay. I’ll disappear. This body, as dust, will wait to be somehow remade. Resurrected. 1 Corinthians 15. What’ll it exactly look like I don’t know, but it’ll be that same type of glorified flesh, different than this present type, that Jesus himself Ascended with. The eternal, immutable, triune God’s Second Person has added glorified flesh to his Deity. It’s to some similar image all believers will be made. Romans 8:29-30. More on this next time.

God bless!

Joseph Pittano

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