FUTURE REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTS.
In the ancient Astrolatry, two different systems of future rewards and punishments were inculcated; the Oriental or East Indian, and the Occidental or Egyptian; the former, ignoring the resurrection of the body, taught but one judgment immediately after death, and the latter inculcated an individual judgment immediately after death, the resurrection of the body, and a general judgment at the end of the world, or conclusion of the 12,000 year cycle.
The Oriental System.
Considering perfect happiness to consist in absolute rest, the Oriental astrologers conceived a state of eternal and unconscious repose, equivalent to soul absorption, to which they gave the name of Nirvana, into which they taught that, by the awards of the gods, the souls of the righteous, or those who had lived what they called "the contemplative life," would be permitted to enter immediately after death. But, for the souls of sinners, they invented a system of expiatory punishments which, known as the Metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls, taught that they would be compelled to successively animate the bodies of beasts, birds, fishes, etc., for a thousand years before being permitted to enter the Nirvana.
The Occidental System.
In concocting the doctrine of the first judgment the Egyptian astrologers, ignoring the Nirvana, inculcated the future sentient existence of the soul; and, while retaining the Metempsychotial expiations of the Oriental system, taught that its rewards, and principal punishments, would be enjoyed or suffered in the under or nether world, the existence of which they had conceived in constructing their system of nature. This imaginary region, known to the Egyptians as the Amenti, to the Greeks as Hades, and to the Hebrews as Sheol, was divided by an impassable gulf into the two states of happiness and misery which were designated in the Grecian mythology as the Elysium, or Elysian Fields, and the Tartarus. In the lower part of the latter was located the Phlegethon, or lake of fire and brimstone, the smoke from which ascended into an upper apartment. In this system it was taught that the souls of the two extremes of society, constituted of the righteous and the great sinners, would be consigned immediately after the first judgment, the one to the Elysium, and the other to the Phlegethon, where they were to remain until the second or general judgment; while the souls of less venial sinners, constituting the greater mass of mankind, before being permitted to enter the Elysium would be compelled to suffer the expiatory punishments of the Metempsychosis, or in the upper region, or "smoky row" of the Tartarus. Such was the Egyptian purgatory, and its denizens constituted "the spirits in prison" referred to in I. Peter iii. 19, from which the astrologers claimed to have the power to release, provided their surviving friends paid liberally for their propitiatory offices; and, from this assumption, the clergy of the Catholic church derived the idea of saying masses for the repose of the soul. These doctrines were carried by Pythagoras from Egypt to Greece about 550 years before the beginning of our era; and passing from thence to Rome, the Greek and Latin poets vied with each other in portraying Hades and the joys and terrors of its two states.
The Second or General Judgment.
The Egyptian Astrologers, recognizing the soul as a material entity, and conceiving the idea that in the future life it would require a material organization for its perfect action, taught that at the general judgment it would be re-united to its resurrected body. In conformity to this belief, Job is made to say in chapter xix. 25, 26, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." The higher class Egyptians, however, fearing that their existence would continue to be of the same shadowy and intangible character after the second judgment, as they believed it would be in the Amenti, if worms were allowed to destroy their bodies, hoped to preserve them until that time by the process of embalming.
The imaginary events to occur in connection with the second judgment, which, constituting the finale of the plan of redemption, and inculcated in what are known as the doctrines of Second Adventism, were to be inaugurated by an archangel sounding a trumpet summoning the quick and the dead to appear before the bar of the gods to receive their final awards. At the second judgment, designated in the allegories as "the last day," "day of judgment," "great and terrible day of the Lord," etc., it was taught that the tenth and last saviour would make his second advent by descending upon the clouds, and after the final awards, the elect being caught up "to meet the Lord in the air" (I. Thes. iv. 17), the heaven and the earth would be reduced to chaos through the agency of fire. In reference to that grand catastrophe we find it recorded in II. Peter iii. 10, that "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."
After the organization of a new heaven and a new earth it was taught that upon the latter would descend a beautiful city, with pearly gates and golden streets, called the City of God, the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven or New Jerusalem, in which the host of the redeemed would, with their Lord and Saviour, enjoy the Millennium, or thousand years of happiness unalloyed with evil; and such was the Kingdom for the speedy coming of which the votaries of Astral worship were taught to pray in what is known as the Lord's Prayer.
According to the teachings of the Allegories, there were to be no sun, moon or stars during the Millennium, their authors having arranged it so that the light of those luminaries would not be needed, as we find recorded in Rev. xxi. 23, and xxii. 5: "The city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it," and "there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither the light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light." It must be remembered, when reading the fanciful ideas relative to the City of God, that they were composed by men who, living in a very ignorant age, gave free rein to fervid imaginations.