Posts Tagged ‘resurrection’

When someone mentions hell, most think of a fire and brimstone place of everlasting torment and pain. But the Hebrew word often translated as “hell” is sheol—which simply means “pit” or “grave.” It does not mean a place of ever-burning fire.

The New Testament includes three Greek words that are also translated as “hell”—Gehenna, Hades and Tartarus—yet each has a different meaning.

Gehenna describes the fire that will destroy the unjust, (Matthew 10:28) not a place where souls will forever burn. The Greek word Hades, like the Hebrew sheol, simply means “pit” or “grave.”

In the 1600s, people in England and Ireland commonly spoke of putting their potatoes “in hell” through the winter when they planted their crop. They understood that the word “hell” referred to a dark, cold, quiet place that was a hole in the ground—not a place of burning torment.

The fourth biblical word translated as “hell” is the Greek word “Tartarus”. This word denotes a condition of restraint, and the Bible shows that it applies only to fallen angels. (See 2 Peter 2:4)

The word “sheol” and “hades” occurs 54 times in the King James Version of the Bible. Yet it is translated as “hell” 31 times in the Old Testament and 29 times in the New Testament. You can confirm this by simply using a Strong’s Concordance and search various Bible verses for the word “hell” like I did. Or you can use an online Bible search tool to scan various Bible translations for the word “hell.” According to modern Bible scholars, the word “hell” (As some understand its meaning) did not appear a single time in the original Hebrew or Greek—not even once!

What happens when we die?

There are some who believe that when a person dies, they just remain dead and there is nothing beyond that—no heaven, no hell, nothing. Many attribute this belief to only atheists, but there are other religions that hold similar beliefs as well.

Jehovah Witnesses, for example, believe that only the righteous will be resurrected and that the unrighteous dead will remain in their graves. (Reasoning From The Scriptures; pages 338-339)

Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical Christians have their own version of heaven, hell and the resurrection. Many believe that at the point of death the Christian soul will be immediately ushered into heaven to enjoy an eternity with the Lord. They often misquote 2 Corinthians 5:8 as, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” as proof of natural immortality of the soul. What Paul really said is that he would RATHER be absent from the body and be present with the Lord. I too, would RATHER be absent from my body and be present with the Lord. But that will not occur until the resurrection.

So where will Christians go when they die? To begin to answer that question, we should ask: “If the righteous are ushered immediately into heaven when they die, then certainly King David, whom God called a man after His own heart, (Acts 13:22) must be there—but what does the Bible say?

On the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter preached to a large crowd, telling them of the Messiah’s resurrection from the dead. He further explained: “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.” (Acts 2:29) And to make it even more clear he said, “For David did not ascend into the heavens.” (v. 34)

So the Bible makes it clear that when the righteous die they do not immediately go to “a better place”. They go to the same place that King David went when he died—into the grave!

Many Christians also misinterpret Matthew 13:40-42 as proof that the unjust will immediately be cast into a burning hell at the time of their death, because it states, “Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” But the wailing and gnashing of teeth is the result of the unjust knowing of their coming destruction in the lake of fire (Gehenna)—not from any torment they will endure for all eternity.

Resurrection of the just and unjust

Scripture teaches us that:

  1. There will be a resurrection of the dead, of both of the just and unjust.
  2. The unjust, (Those who refuse God’s gift of salvation) must be punished.
  3. Physical death is not the final judgment of the unjust.
  4. The time of their punishment is not now, but at the day of judgment.
  5. This day of judgment, must take place at the same time as the resurrection of the dead, at the end of this age.

Consider the following Scripture verses:

Daniel 12:2—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.

2 Peter 3:7— But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

Joel 3:12-14 —  Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: For there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: Come, get you down; for the press is full, the vats overflow; For their wickedness is great.

Revelation 1:7— Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

Now, none of these verses are yet fulfilled, neither shall they be, until the Lord’s second coming; for though many of the Jews did see him, when he hung upon the execution stake, yet at that time he was not coming in the clouds of heaven, neither then did all kindreds of the earth wail because of him. No, this is reserved until he comes to judge the world. Therefore, this will be brought to pass at the resurrection of both of the just and unjust.

The danger of false doctrine

An opinion of no resurrection of the unjust may lull men into a false security and impiety, yet when the Lord returns he will rouse them, and cause them to awake; out of their graves and into their doom, that they may receive the recompense for their sins.

There are, says Paul, “in a great house not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth, and some to honor and some to dishonor.“ The body of the unjust must rise again because just as the righteous are vessels of mercy and glory, the unjust are vessels of wrath and destruction. (2 Timothy 2:20,21) They have become vessels of wrath because of their hard and unrepentant heart. (See Romans 2:5)

The Bible teaches that there is not only one death for the unjust, but two: “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.  And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14–15)

Some may ask, “Why would God need to resurrect the unjust only to judge them and destroy them? Why not just leave them in their graves?” Paul explains in Romans 9:22-23, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.”

Although God is all merciful, all powerful and all forgiving, God is also holy, righteous and just. Sin entered the world through one man’s disobedience— Adam, and now all of us are born into this “sin nature.” God’s holiness and justice demand that sin and rebellion be punished. And the only penalty or payment for sin is eternal death. Our physical death is not sufficient to atone for sin because atonement requires a perfect, spotless sacrifice that was accomplished by Jesus’ death on the execution stake. (See Romans 6:23; 1 Peter 1:18-19)

Because the unjust refused God’s free gift of salvation, there remains for them a requirement for payment of their sins. So the unjust will not arise by virtue of any relation they have with the Lord Jesus, as believers do, but because Jesus was made sovereign Lord over them. Therefore by an act of his sovereign power, the ungodly shall arise as vessels of wrath.

Even Jesus, who has sovereignty over all creatures, plainly spoke of a resurrection of the unjust, as well as of the just: Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (See John 5:22-29)

Consider Jesus’ parable of the Sheep & the goats found in Matthew 25:31-46: 

Verse 34: Then the King will say to those on his right, (The just sheep) “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Verse 41: Then he will say to those on his left, (The unjust goats) “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

We must understand that not all who stumble with sin are considered to be unjust, wicked or unsaved: “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15) Paul was addressing the believing church in Corinth here, so this passage is directed at only believers—not the unjust.

Whoever takes away the doctrine of the resurrection of the unjust takes away one of the main arguments that God has provided to convince the sinner of the evil of his ways. For how shall a sinner be convinced of the evil of sin if they are not convinced of the certainty of a final judgment beyond the grave? And how will a wicked person who cares nothing for God or this life be convinced to repent and be saved if they are persuaded that when they die they will not rise, but will just remain dead?

God is not some angry, vengeful judge who takes pleasure in destroying those refuse to love him. In fact he will weep over those he has to destroy; just as we would weep over a loved one who suffers from an incurable painful disease whose life is being prolonged by machines. In those cases we often make the difficult decision to end their life. Not out of vengeance or anger, but out of love for the one who is suffering—to end their pain.

God desires that all would accept his free gift of eternal life, but those who reject God will be raised up with corruptible bodies and will forever will be in a state of continual corruption and pain—unless something is done. So in order to end the pain of corrupted bodies, he makes the difficult decision to destroy them—and weeps over them.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19) 

 

I have been a follower of Jesus for years and have spent a lot of time reading God’s Word, so I was astounded to find that so few Christians know the basic beliefs of Christianity. Take for example this simple question, “Do Christians go directly to heaven and unbelievers go directly to hell the instant they die?”

The Church and Immortality of the Soul

Many Christians are taught the doctrine of immortality of the soul, but the Bible doesn’t teach that. In fact, in Genesis, it proclaims that the first humans were created mortal, with only the POTENTIALITY for immortality if one reads it in context. They were told specifically to “replenish” the earth but then after they had eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they were sent in exile from Gan Eden (Garden of Eden) to PREVENT them from eating also of the tree of life and BECOMING immortal. Thus, the story, if taken literal, indicates human life, like all other life is mortal.

The same word used to describe the life-force, or soul, is used for both human and other animal life in many places. “…and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul.” (Genesis chapter 1: 30) By using Scripture we can explore the concept of the soul, or life-force ( nephesh) ) And note that it does not indicate that the soul is naturally immortal in these passages.

Job describes death as lying down and sleeping, not being awaken.

“But a man dies and is laid low; man breathes his last, and where is he? As waters fail from a lake and a river wastes away and dries up, so a man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep. Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath be past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come” (Job 14: 10-14)

Job is not arguing against the concept of the resurrection. Rather, he pleads with God to hide him in Sheol (The grave) until his wrath is past, and then remember him, causing him to live again! (v.13-14) One cannot ask for a more clear statement of the hope of resurrection. Later, Job asserts that he has a Redeemer who lives, and that he (Job) will see God in a resurrected body, long after his present body has been consumed.

Daniel describes the resurrection as waking from sleep in the dust.

“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. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:2-3)

Is it not clear what Daniel is predicting in chapter 12? He speaks of those who are sleeping in the dust, awakening to everlasting life. Others who awake will not see life, but suffer shame and everlasting contempt. Jesus used the same language to describe the resurrection. He said “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28-29)

Many will argue that Job and Daniel were Old Testament views and that everything changed after Jesus died came. But in John 11 Jesus comes face to face with the reality of death when his friend Lazarus dies. It is in this context that we read the shortest verse in the New Testament – “Jesus wept.” Death is real, and it is a real tragedy. Yet Jesus describes Lazarus’ death with that same metaphor that appears throughout the text of Scripture. He said that Lazarus had fallen asleep. His disciples did not get it. They thought that he was describing the beginning of Lazarus’ recovery.  They assumed that if he were literally sleeping, then the worst of his illness was over, and he would soon be getting better. So Jesus had to spell it out for them and explain that his friend was already dead.

Paul teaches that most will sleep, but some will be changed without it:

“Behold! I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 )

Paul affirms what readers have seen elsewhere in the Bible. Death is a sleep from which believers will be awaken. This awakening will take place “at the last trumpet.” (The resurrection)

When Peter delivered his sermon at Pentecost he said, “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day.” (Act 2:29) He later said, “For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool.” (Acts 2: 34-35)

If David, who was a man after God’s own heart, did not ascend to heaven, where is he? Peter said he is still in his sepulcher! Along with Clement of Rome (who died about100 AD), Ignatius (died about 107), the Didache (about 120), Barnabus (died about 140), The Shepherd of Hermas (about 154), Polycarp (died about 155), Justin Martyr (about165), Tatian (about 172), Iranaeus (about 202), and a host of others. They are all still dead in their graves!

So where did this notion of natural immortality come from?

Almost every ancient culture has some form of notion of either an immortal transcendent being or that the dead live on in some kind of other world or afterlife so it is almost impossible to note exactly when the very first instance of that belief appeared in the human mind. The ancient Egyptians had this notion evident in their elaborate preparations for the afterlife for their dead.

But the Early Church Fathers never questioned the Biblical teaching of the mortality of man, the sleep of the dead, and the resurrection to eternal life or to judgment. They never speak of the natural immortality of the soul, nor of eternal, unending punishment of hell. They present death as the cessation of life, and immortality of the righteous achieved only at the resurrection – therefore, immortality for man is conditional.

The Bible consistently uses a metaphor for death that is viewed as neither socially or theologically appropriate among most Christians. It calls death a sleep. But if a believer slips and refers to the dead as sleeping, judging from the reaction among traditionalists, you would think that they had shot God!

A long standing tradition within Christianity asserts that death is a move to a new higher level of consciousness where the righteous are rewarded for their good deeds on earth or punished for their rejection of God and Jesus. Consequently, anyone who dares to imply that the intermediate state of the dead is one of unconscious sleep runs the risk of being branded a heretic or cult member.

Nevertheless, it would do us all well to return to biblical terminology instead of traditions that keep us from using the Bible as our guide. The biblical authors knew what they were talking about. The Holy Spirit inspired them to write words which expressed the way things really are. It is not their fault that the popular church has chosen to see and say things differently.

I have heard so many Christians refer to the passing of their loved ones as watching over them from heaven. But thinking logically, how could one enjoy their eternity in heaven if they had to witness the murders, rapes, and other crimes being committed against their loved ones on earth? And what sense does it make for God to condemn an unbeliever to the flames of hell only to pull them out at the resurrection to judge them and then throw them back into the flames? Is that the actions of a loving God?

John Wyclif, while Professor of Theology at Oxford University, translated the Bible into English. He taught soul-sleep, and that the Rich Man and Lazarus was a parable and couldn’t be used as a basis of theology. Wycliffe also declared that the fate of the wicked was everlasting punishment, not continuing punishment.

Martin Luther also emphatically rejected belief in the immortality of the soul, and held that death is a sound, sweet sleep. Had it not been for John Calvin, it is possible that Conditional Immortality (soul sleep) would have become the predominant view in the Protestant churches. Whereas Luther rejected the Roman Catholic teaching of the immortality of the soul, John Calvin re-introduced it.

Now we can understand what Jesus was doing in John 11 when Lazarus died. He was explaining to his disciples that death is not the end, because he (the Resurrection and the Life) will not allow it to be. But make no mistake about it – if there were no Jesus, death would be the end. We can call death sleep only because there is a Jesus who intends to raise the dead. So calling death sleep is a statement of faith in Christ.

Refusing to call death sleep is also a statement of faith. It reflects a faith in death itself.  It joins Plato and other pagan philosophers in affirming that God created the human soul indestructible, and therefore it must remain alive after the death of the body. So the real person never sleeps but remains conscious during the intermediate state of death, and indeed for all eternity.

In 2 Timothy 4:3-4 we read, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

That time HAS come. So it is even more important to, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

To teach and perpetuate fables that are not biblically sound is worldly and carnal.

More to come….

“When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19)

Some argue that 1 Samuel 28 is proof that there was an occasion where God allowed a medium to contact the dead for a word from God and thereby contradicting God’s own law.

A wicked King Saul finds that he is no longer hearing from God. So he, who had earlier killed many of the mediums and spiritists, contacts the witch at Endor and asks her to raise the recently deceased prophet Samuel from the dead. But the witch, fearing that this is a trap by Saul, at first refuses. But Saul swears an oath to the Lord that she will not be harmed. She succeeds in raising the dead prophet and shrieks when the spirit of Samuel actually appears and begins speaking to her. Samuel expresses annoyance at being disturbed and reiterates his own prophetic announcements that Saul has been rejected and that the kingdom has been transferred to David, as far as God is concerned.

It is important that to note that the king never saw or heard the prophet Samuel himself, but relied upon the witch to translate to him what she saw and heard:
The king said to her, “What do you see?” The woman said, “I see a ghostly figure coming up out of the earth.” “What does he look like?” he asked. “An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said. Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. (1Sam 28:13-14)

The rest of 1 Samuel 28 is actually the conversation between the witch and Saul as the witch translated; not directly between Samuel and Saul. Similar to how mediums today speak to the dead on behalf of their living loved ones.
It’s true that God allowed the witch of Endor to communicate with Samuel. However, this is not an indication of God’s approval of occultism. Rather, it was permitted by God as part of the process of pronouncing judgment against Saul and stripping him of his rule.Saul receives no words of comfort and no blessing. Within a very short while he will be dead on Mt. Gilboa and David will be king.Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance instead of the Lord. And he paid for his mistake with his life. (1 Chronicles 10:13-14)

Other supporters of spiritism cite Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16, which portrays a conversation between two people in the afterlife-Abraham in glory and the Rich Man in hades, as proof that conversations with the dead are sanctioned by God. But the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man is just that-A PARABLE! When the Rich Man pleads that Abraham allow Lazarus to go back among the living and warn his brothers, Abraham refuses because… ”They have Moses and the prophets…let them listen to them.”

Now, even knowing the truth from the Scriptures warning us not to have anything to do with mediums or speaking to the dead, some may still wonder how something that gives people hope and sets their hearts and minds at peace could be harmful.

Because it gives people a false peace and a false hope: A false peace that their loved one, (who may or may not be saved) is in a better place. Similarly, it will also give false hope that regardless of how they live; they too will end up in a better place when they die.

If our loved ones constantly watch over us from heaven when they die, then can they also see the sins and short-comings of those they love on earth? Will they have to helplessly watch as their relatives are beaten, shot and raped? Will they have to watch them die without Jesus? How can they enjoy their eternity while they witness such things?

I know this may upset some people reading this, but other than Elijah and Enoch, the Bible does not even hint that there is anyone else living in heaven except God, Jesus and the angels. Every description of heaven seems to focus only on God and his throne.

It is only natural that we, with our earthbound self-centered perspective, would prefer to comfort ourselves by believing that we can still communicate with loved ones who have since passed away. My own son was killed in an auto accident nearly 18 years ago. I too would love to be able to talk with him and share with him all that God has done for me since he died; but that is impossible; because my son is dead and I won’t see him again until the Resurrection. You see, as a Bible believing Christian, I have God’s promise that one day I will be reunited with my son again!

“But your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise– let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy– your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.” (Isaiah 26:19)

“Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.” (Ezekiel 37:12)

“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2)

And anyone who has surrendered their lives to Jesus has these same promises from God.

Whether we are alive or dead at the Resurrection, the time we spend waiting for that Day will seem like but a moment compared to eternity!

So if you haven’t already done so, repent of your sins and ask God to forgive you and surrender your life to Him. Please do it now!

While there’s still time:

“It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.” (1Cor. 15:52)