Another question is, “Do the dead praise the Lord?” Nowadays it is held, as a matter of course, that if a person be righteous, or even professedly so, when he dies, he has gone to heaven, and has joined the angelic hosts in their holy songs of praise to the Creator of all. But in the Scriptures this question is asked, in connection with certain others, in a manner and in a tone which of themselves admit only of a negative answer.
Do the Dead Praise the Lord?
Says the Psalmist: "Wilt Thou show wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise Thee? Shall Thy loving-kindness be declared in the grave? Or Thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall Thy wonders be known in the dark? And Thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?" (Ps. 88:10-12). Here the grave, the place of the dead, is called "the land of forgetfulness." This is strictly in accord with that which we read under our last question, that "the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten." They are in the land of "forgetfulness." "Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished" (Eccl. 9:5); and "in that very day his thoughts perish" (Ps. 146:4); and "there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou go" (Eccl. 9:10). In this respect, therefore, no single expression could better describe the place of the dead than does this one, "The land of forgetfulness." The Psalmist also speaks of it as "the dark." On this Job says: "I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death; a land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness" (Job 10:21, 22). Those that have been long dead David says, "dwell in darkness" (Ps. 143:3).
Now it is of those who dwell in this place, the place of the dead, that the question is asked, ‘Do they praise the Lord?’ And here is the direct answer: "The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence" (Ps. 115:17). And again: "In death there is no remembrance of Thee; in the grave who shall give Thee thanks?" (Ps. 6:5). These words are the words of God. They are the truth. Therefore the idea that people go to heaven, or anywhere else but this place of the dead, when they die, cannot be the truth. The Lord, who speaks to us in the Bible, made man. He knows what is before us. He knows what will be after us. He knows our thoughts afar off. He it is who says, "The dead know not anything." He it is who says, "The dead praise not the Lord." He it is who says that the place of the dead is "the land of forgetfulness." We implicitly believe this word, for He alone knows. He teaches us to profit, and though we may have to pass through this land of darkness, this valley of the shadow of death, if our trust is in Him, His rod and His staff will comfort us, for He has gone this way before us. He died and lives again. If our hope is in Him, even though we may have to go to the place of the dead, yet we shall come again from it and live by Him.
King Hezekiah was one of the few good kings that Judah had. He fell "sick unto death." The Lord, by the prophet, sent this message to him: "Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live" (Isa. 38:1). Yet, although this word of the Lord says positively, "Thou shalt die, and not live," now it is believed by the great majority of people that when a man dies he does live, and that he lives more fully, more really, than ever before. It is now held that when a person dies he knows vastly more than he ever knew before, or than he ever could have known if he had not died; but from what we have set forth in these articles, there can be nothing more certain than that such is not the teaching of the Bible.
In this theory of the consciousness of the dead is the promise and potency, the whole sum and substance, of Spiritualism, purgatory, prayers for the dead, worship and invocation of saints, etc. But bring Spiritualism, with all these other things, to the test of these scriptures, and where will it appear? It will appear just where it rightly belongs, that is, in the train of "that old serpent which is the devil and Satan," who said to innocent Eve, "Thou shalt not surely die" (Gen. 3:4). People now think it very strange that Eve should have believed the word of Satan. Yet with the example of Eve before them, and its fearful fruits of these thousands of years, and the word of God with its line upon line and precept upon precept—with all this before them, multitudes of these same people, instead of believing the word of God, will yet believe the same story that Satan told Eve.
When the prophet went to King Hezekiah with the message that he should die and not live, Hezekiah was greatly grieved, and turned his face to the wall and prayed, and said, "I shall go to the gates of the grave; I am deprived of the residue of my years. I said, I shall not see the Lord, even the Lord, in the land of the living." This, with much more, he said in his prayer, and the Lord sent Isaiah again to the king, saying, "I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears; behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years." Then Hezekiah praised the Lord and said: "Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption; . . . for the grave cannot praise Thee, death cannot celebrate Thee; they that go down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise Thee, as I do this day; the father to the children shall make known thy Truth" (See Isaiah 38, throughout).
Take this plain, express statement of the Word of God, "They that go down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth," and by it test the New Theology—probation after death—which is just now being discussed throughout the land and its utter worthlessness will be seen at a glance. When a man dies, his opportunity to learn the truth is gone. He is dead. He is gone to the "land of forgetfulness," to the grave, and they that go there cannot hope for the truth of God. If they have not learned it, and loved it, before they go there, they will never learn it at all. "Now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2). "To day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts" (Heb. 4:7). The living, it is, not the dead, who praise the Lord.
Therefore, the Bible answer to this Bible question is, "The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence" (Ps. 115:17).