Mennonite Articles of Faith (1766) - Article 32
XXXII. Of Death.
Of the state of the soul after this life and the necessity of a godly preparation for a blissful departure.
That it is appointed unto man once to die (Hebrews 9:27; Psalms 89:48) is, we believe, a result of the transgression of our first parents (Romans 5:12-14; Genesis 2:17; 3:19; 1 Corinthians 15:21) and is thus in reality a punishment for sin. Romans 6:23. But we also believe that through the obedience and death of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:19; Hebrews 2:14, 15; Isaiah 25:8) the sting of death has been removed (1 Corinthians 15: 55-57; Hosea 13:14) for all them that truly believe on Him (John 6:40, 50, 51, 58); so that these need not fear death (Hebrews 2:14, 15; Isaiah 25:8), but can thank God through Jesus Christ that it is theirs sometime to die. For though our body -- which, be it remembered, is of the earth (Genesis 2:7; Ecclesiastes 12:7), polluted through sinful lusts (Romans 7:5, 23, 24; 2 Corinthians 7:1), and altogether unfitted for heaven without great change (1 Corinthians 15:36, 50; Philippians 3:21) -- continues under the necessity of a return to its first element (Romans 8:10), and though such a thought is indeed appalling to them that live after the flesh (Romans 8:6, 13; Luke 12:16-21) and are the servants of sin (Romans 6:16; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 10:31), yea, also to the godly in a certain degree after the physical nature; yet to the believer the thought of death brings true comfort (1 Thessalonians 4:17, 18) amid the hardships (James 5:7, 8; 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18; 5:1-9) and imperfections (1 Corinthians 13:8-12; 1 John 3:2) of this earthly life, knowing that to be absent from the body and at home with the Lord, to be set free and be with Christ, is by far better (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:20-23), and finally that the putting of the body in the earth like the grain of wheat (John 12:24) is the divinely ordained way to the reaping of better things. 1 Corinthians 15:35-44.
As to the soul, the immortal nature of which has already been spoken of under Article Five, we believe that the same immediately upon its release from the body, returns to God -- not to the full and final condition of glory or punishment (Matthew 25:46; Jude 6) for this will come only after the resurrection of the body and the reunion of the soul with the same, in the day of the final judgment (Matthew 25:34-46) -- but to a lively anticipation of that state (Luke 16:23, 24; Revelation 6:10, 11) though in greater or less measure (Luke 12:47, 48; 2 Peter 2:9, 10) according to the degree of unrighteousness (Matthew 10:15; 11:22, 24) and estrangement from God (Matthew 25:30; Luke 13:24-30), or of holiness (2 Timothy 2:20-22) and intimate union with Him (John 14:21-23; 15:10; 17:23, 24; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Peter 1:8), as it evidently follows from the justice of God (Galatians 6:7, 8; 2 Corinthians 9:6) and the nature of the case. With many their conscience bears witness to this even while they seek to deafen it, Romans 1:21-25, how much more when it awakes. Luke 16:23; Isaiah 57:21. The ungodly and unconverted sinners pass at death to a condition of imprisonment (2 Peter 2:4, 9, 17), of regret that is too late, of chagrin and pain. Isaiah 66:24; Matthew 18:34; Mark 9:48. Those who die in the Lord (Revelation 14:13) pass to a condition of comfort (Luke 16:25), of peace and happiness. Luke 23:43. In this state of being, kept by the hand of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:18; 3:7), they await either in fear (Matthew 8:29; Hebrews 10:27) or with desire (2 Peter 3:12-14) the last sentence or final judgment. For of a purging of the soul after death (as taught by the Roman church) we confess to know nothing, but rather that the judgment is connected with death (Hebrews 9:27) and that the tree will lie as it falls, Ecclesiastes 11:3; Luke 16:22, 23.
It is therefore of the utmost importance that we seek to prepare for the hour of death in time (John 9:4) while it is yet today (Hebrews 3:15) not only by a solemn contemplation of these things (Deuteronomy 32:29; Psalms 39:4, 5; Psalms 90) but also by a true conversion (Acts 9:1-18; 1 Peter 2:25) and a striving after faith and holiness (1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22; Hebrews 12:14), to be found in Christ (Philippians 3:9-14), to have always a conscience void of offence (Acts 24:16; 1 John 3:20, 21), to do gladly and with our might what our hands find to do (Ecclesiastes 9:10), and whatever there is more of like import. Philippians 4:8. All this because (being repeatedly warned of the Lord, Mark 13:37) we know not at what time or hour He will come (Matthew 24:42; 25:13; Luke 12:35-46), that we may always be ready as those that wait for their Lord that we may not be ashamed at His coming (2 John 2:28) but may be found of Him in peace without spot, and blameless. 2 Peter 3:14.
Seeing, moreover, that for this most necessary and most important preparation very much is required, namely, that we look forward to death in faith as to a messenger of peace (Luke 2:29, 30), regard the putting off of our body as a deliverance (2 Timothy 4:6) and a redemption (Romans 8:23) and commit our spirit with a well-founded calmness of mind unto the hands of God as our heavenly Father of Jesus Christ as our dear Redeemer (Acts 7:58), we need to this end nothing less than saving faith (John 3:14, 15; 6:40), true peace with God (Romans 5:1) a resignation to His will (Matthew 6:10; 26:39; Philippians 1:20-23), a relinquishing of all earthly things (Philippians 3:7-11; Hebrews 11:13), the experience of His love (Romans 5:5), and the comfort of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:5; Romans 8:15, 16. These all being gifts of grace bestowed on us by reason of the obedience and death of our dear Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17; 8:37; 2 Corinthians 5:15; 2 Timothy 1:10), we must seek these gifts in persevering prayer, moved throughout by a lively realization of our dependence, and then receive and acknowledge them in such measure as the Lord may impart to us, in deep humility, as His undeserved mercy. Psalms 103:10-14; 32:6, 7.
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