Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Glen, the "Soul Sleeper"

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:2

There was one customer in the Oak Street Bible Shop and he was about to leave. Gary had completed engraving a name on a Bible for him. The man, an older, rather severe looking gentleman, looked at the embossed letters, in shining gold, with approval.

“Looks real nice” he said. Then, his glance fell upon a package with a note rubber banded to it, “for Glen”. “Say,” he said,”that’s not Glen Brock is it?”

Gary looked at the man, trying to gauge his intention. “Yes, that’s for him. Do you know Glen?”

“I used to go to his Bible studies” he said rather heavily, “ but not any more. Not since I found out he was a soul sleeper!”

Joy, perched on her stool, took a deep breath, but said nothing. Here we go again”, she thought. People either love the man or despise him. Can’t there ever be a middle ground with Glen?”

Sue, in the back room had just finished wiping off the table where the coffee urn sat. She looked up at the man as he was leaving. She felt resentment against this stern man because she agreed with Glen and disliked anyone who spoke against him.

The shop was silent as each of the three went about their tasks, alone in their thoughts. It was about an hour later when they heard Glen’s footsteps on the porch and the bell jingle as he swept open the door. It was chilly and windy, the kind of weather he liked, and he was smiling.

“Howdy” was all he said as he glanced from one to the other.

“Your Bloomfields are here” said Gary, touching the package with the note on it.

Sue poured a cup of coffee for him and started to walk into the front room. “We had a visitor today” she smiled as she said it. “”A former fan of yours.” Glen reached for the coffee, with a nod of gratitude.

“Former?” he asked. “What have I done now?”

Joy spoke with just a touch of irritation in her voice. “Oh you must have offended him by saying you don’t believe in immortality.”

“Hold on,” Glen replied. I believe in immortality as much as anyone. Can’t figure why anyone would say I don’t. But I agree with Paul on the subject, that’s all. Why would agreeing with Paul offend anyone?”

Sue looked on with obvious enjoyment. She never tired of the way Glen stated his case in such situations. He would turn things around, put his attackers on the defensive. He once told her he learned about how Jesus did that. Dr George Washington Crane called it the “reversible why” technique, he said Jesus spoke in this way to his attackers.

Joy sat up straight. “Why must you always offend people, Glen? You’re not going to change anyone’s mind and you just make them mad, you lose people that way when you could be popular.”

Gary and Sue looked back and forth at the two, as if at a tennis match. Glen took a drink of his coffee, looking out the front window at the tree limbs bending in the wind.

“Isn’t it curious that I am accused of offending people? Have you ever considered that maybe I am offended by people promoting this devilish Babylonian doctrine of intrinsic immortality?” He said this without anger, just raising the question. He paused, drinking the last of his coffee. Sue reached out to take his empty cup.

“Oh, it isn’t true I won’t change anyone’s mind. I read them the scriptures and a number of people see it the Bible way, instead of the devil’s way. Somebody changed my mind with the scriptures, so it can happen.”

Joy took on her persecuted martyr look, wondering to herself why she got into these arguments with Glen.

He continued, “As for being popular, how popular was John the Baptist and the other great prophets? I just want people to think and not just follow what everybody says.”

There was silence for a bit as they all reflected. Then Sue spoke up, “What do you mean you agree with Paul”.

“Yes,”, said Joy, “Do you think people who believe we are immortal disagree with Paul?” She emphasized the “dis”.

“On the subject of immortality, yes, they do.” Glen walked to the counter and turned one of Gary’s Bibles around. He found his place and began to read,

Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruption must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So, when this corruption shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:51-55.

Joy was about to speak but saw Glen silently mouthing the words “But that’s just the body” and closed her mouth. Glen continued.

"When I say I agree with Paul, I am saying in this manner, this mortality must put on immortality. If we presently have immortality, why must we put it on at the last trump. Joy, you and I both believe in immortality. You believe we are immortal now, that all people, even the unsaved are. Paul says our immortality is something we put on at the last trump, it is future. I agree with Paul. If we are immortal now, why must we put on immortality at the last trump?”

Again there was silence, if not agreement. Gary spoke, “Do you get mad when people call you a soul sleeper, Glen?”

Glen shrugged. “Oh, I don’t like it. Name calling is not an argument, just act of aggressive ignorance. But I feel I am in good company with the “soul sleepers” of the scriptures. Job would be called a soul sleeper today, so would David. Guess I am in good company in this regard.

Joy’s expression softened. “I think I know where you are going with Job, not that I totally agree, but I have heard you quote from chapter fourteen, am I right?”

Before Glen could answer, Gary began to leaf through his Bible. He read silently for a time. “You know, all of chapter fourteen is a powerful statement of your belief. My Bibles’s note says “Job continues; he awaits resurrection. Of course that’s just a note, but it does state it well.”

Joy looked at Gary intently. Sometimes she felt she was alone against the three others in her belief.

Gary looked at Glen. “I’ve heard you read these words more than once. Shall I read them out loud?” Glen smiled and nodded.

But man dieth, and wasteth away; yea man expireth and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up; So man lieth down, and riseth not. Till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. Oh, that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest conceal me until thy wrath be past; that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, , till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee; thou wilt have a desire to the work of my hands. (Job14:10-15)

“Thank you, Gary”, He stepped to the counter and turned the Bible’s pages to Job chapter nineteen. “For those who say our souls are with God as soon as we die, and we see Him in our soulish state, Job has this to say:

For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me. (Job 19:25-27)

“In my flesh” said Glen, “not in my soul”.

Joy was conflicted, Glen’s scriptures were so convicting. But at church, so were the arguments of her preacher and the teachers. She said nothing.

Sue asked, quietly, “But it must upset you to be called a name like soul sleeper, doesn’t it Glen?”

He smiled a little as he conceded, Oh, sure, I would prefer scriptures to slurs. But you get used to it. After all, some people call me a Bible thumper too. That’s real intelligent.”

“But what about David? You said he was a, quote, soul sleeper too.”

“Last verse of Psalm seventeen” Glen said, “But, look, I have to be going, I have a class tonight. He counted out the money for his books and turned towards the door. “See you.” and he was gone.

Joy turned with resignation on her high perch. “Well, lets’s hear it.” was all she would say.

Gary found the place and read, "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness. Psalm 17:15."

Sue repeated the words “when I awake” with quiet wonder. “I’ve read all the Psalms. I wonder why I didn’t see that.”

“Mental set, is what Glen would say”, Gary replied. “You see what you expect to see.”

“Or want to see” Sue added.

Gary closed his Bible. “It’s like going to Bible college every time Glen gets going.”

“Yes,” Joy spoke wearily, “and I always feel like I just flunked my exam.”

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