Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Two Resurrections

The teaching of "the two salvations" can also be called "the two resurrections" just the same.  It stems most easily from Revelations 20:6 where it states: "Happy and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection..."  Many people today still worry about their friends and family, and wonder what will happen to them at the end of this life if they do not come to Jesus now.  On the other side of the coin, there are those, so stricken in fear at the thought of eternal punishment following this life, who believe that you can live this whole life as a "non-believer" - but "repent" and name Jesus on your death bed, and then be "saved".  We are discussing this today in order to bring to light what the Bible says about regarding these "two resurrections", and what comfort we can gain from it during the loss of a loved one - and most especially what wonderful hope we can have when thinking about the future of God's Kingdom.

So, first and foremost, let's read a little bit more of the scripture.

Rev. 20:6 "Happy and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: upon these the second death hath no authority; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him for the thousand years."

This scripture opens up a lot of questions.  For the sake of time, we are not going to talk about all of them. :)  But, it does tell us that there are at least two resurrections - because it says clearly "the first resurrection."  Now, if there were only one resurrection then there wouldn't be the need to write the "first" one.  So, we know that there are more than one.  Let's visit another scripture that supports the idea of more than one resurrection.

John 5:28 - "Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice (:29) and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment." 

Is. 26:9 - "My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness."

*We include Is. 26:9 for the simple reason that when you say "resurrection of judgment" it can sound like a very terrifying idea. Is. 26:9 helps give the idea that although God's judgment is no laughing matter, it is purposed in the hope of a very wonderful outcome - all of the inhabitants of the earth knowing and practicing the righteousness of God.

John 5:28-29 says very clearly that ALL who are in the grave will hear his voice - all will be resurrected. There will be different resurrections though - some have proven themselves faithful and, according to Rev 20:6, will be priests of God and of Christ. Now, it also says that they will "reign" with him - only kings reign. So, we can make the argument that they will be both kings and priests.  Why is this important? It is important because the job of a priest is to be the reconciler between God and man - it tells us that they are going to have a job of reconciling mankind back to God after the resurrection. A king's job is to reign over - to govern.  Let's remember Matt 5:5 - "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." (If there is nothing left on the earth, what are they going to inherit exactly?)

The first resurrection seems to be for those who have been faithful in this life. The next resurrection seems to be for those who oppositely were not faithful - for those many people who might have never been preached to at all, who will be resurrected to a life of judgment (John 5:29), who will need to be taught of God's righteousness (Is. 26:9).

There are many other thoughts that give this idea.  One of them is 1 Tim. 4:10.  It says:

 1 Tim. 4:10 - "For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe."

This is such an interesting and wonderful scripture.  God is not only the savior of those who believe now - but He is also the savior of those who will not come to understand Him or His son Jesus until after the resurrection.  When one considers this into the grand scope of God's plan, it makes so much more sense as to why He would allow sin in the magnitude that He has - it's because all along He has had a plan to save all mankind.  Through the sacrifice of His only son Jesus Christ, in order to pay the ransom for sin, so that after the resurrection mankind can be taught the ways of God and Jesus.  At that time, after the resurrection, the truth - the whole truth, will be revealed to mankind without speculation.  All will understand the plan and truth of God.  All will have the love of God in their heart, and all will be his special people, and will have the opportunity to live in perfect harmony for all eternity with Him, and with one another. (Only then, after having received full knowledge of the beautiful wonders of God and existence, that if someone again still chooses sin, there will be no other alternative than to send them into the second death, spoken of in Rev. 20:6.)

This is the "gospel", the "good news", that Jesus came to bring.  When we understand it correctly, what wonderful news it is, that the whole world - that our every loved one: our children, our parents, our friends, our brothers and sisters, will experience not only a resurrection, but also a revealing of God's love in a way that we have never known.

Hallelujah indeed.  To end this, we will simply quote some scriptures that fall in line with this concepts, so that anyone who reads can study and reflect on this for themselves in private study and meditation. 

May God bless and comfort us all until this beautiful day, that is most surely coming.

Jeremiah 31:34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Isaiah 11:9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

Habakkuk 2:14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

Acts 17:31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

John 12:47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Isaiah 35:5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7 the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
8 And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. 9 No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. 10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Who Goes to Heaven?

We have two thoughts discussed in the scriptures, both by the Apostle Paul, that seem do identify two sides of a discussion. Do we do the work to get to heaven, or does God do the work?

God does:
 "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ."
- Philippians 1:6

We do:
"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."
- Philippians 2:12

"Therefore I run in such a way and not without pain; I box in such a way as not beating the air; (:27) but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified." -
I Corinthians 9:26-27

So although God is the one who gets credit for doing the wonderful work in us, our efforts are needed as well. We all know the term: God cannot steer a parked car. Notice how much effort Paul puts out to please God and subject himself to God's work.

HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU KNOW ARE AS DEDICATED TO GOD AS PAUL? If this is the level of commitment that it takes to get to heaven, how close are we to getting there? If it doesn't take that level of commitment to get to heaven, why would he go through what he is going through? I don't need to ask how many people are that devoted, because we know the answer is hardly anyone. Paul is obviously under the impression that getting to heaven is no easy task. How many of us might be taking this subject a little too lightly in our own lives?

Here is another question:
At some point someone has to ask: if Christianity takes up about 42% of the world, what happens to everybody else?  We all believe in a loving God with a loving plan, but we don't hear too many people talk directly to the issue of what happens to everybody who is not a Christian?  Is it as easy to get to heaven as we think?  Are we to believe that, at best, 42% of the world goes to heaven while 58% of the world is punished for not believing in the right religion?  Is this what God would have planned in advance?

I think it might be time to rethink the opinion of "everyone who shows up on Sunday to fill a pew is heading north when they die", and also "if you do not believe in Jesus now, you're doomed."  There must be more than this.

For additional thoughts, please examine our previous posts:
What Happens When You Die, Part 1

What Happens When You Die, Part 2
When Happens When You Die, Part 3: The Kingdom and the Resurrection

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What Happens When You Die, Part 3: The Resurrection & The Kingdom


When asking yourself if your faith makes sense, "What Happens When You Die" would be a great subject to test that on. Many people believe that if you don't believe in Jesus now before you die, you will be condemned to death, or worse, for eternity. Being that recent polls show Christianity occupies about 42% of the population, that would imply that at least 58% "head south" for eternity. Of course, when you factor in that at least half of those people are only "Sunday Christians", now we're down to 21%. If you are of the understanding that not only do you have to be Christian, but your particular beliefs matter, knock off at least another 5%. So, a gracious realistic percentage of the earth's population would be 16% that go to heaven, and the other 84% are in trouble. If that were true, and God were omnipotent, one cannot reason that it is a priority of God's to save all mankind, and I Timothy 2:4 that states God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" would be in serious question.  If God planned this from the beginning, could you still say that God is a loving God?  One thing would be certain:  Whether it be that God is not omnipotent, or whether God would not be loving; your faith would have to budge somewhere.

We believe we have a better explanation.


It has been said that there are four attributes of God:  Wisdom, Love, Justice, and Power.  (I'm not sure where this subject began, but let us just say that we can all agree God would have those attributes.)  Now, let us also say that before anything ever actually happened, God planned a result that He wanted first, and then planned out the way to get there.  This thought is given in Isaiah 46:10 - "Declaring the end from the beginning..."

So, here is the question:

What kind of plan do you think He would put in place?  If God is all-loving, then wouldn't He create a result that ends in happiness for just about everyone?  If He can do whatever He wants, would He not create a result that ends in happiness for, again, just about everyone?  If the Bible alludes to some perishing eternally, would it not make sense that those who do are a very small number?  We believe that not only is the case for this made with good old fashion common sense, we believe that the scriptures teach exactly this concept.

So far, in Parts 1 & 2 of this study, we have shown that the Bible gives strong evidence against the traditionally held view of heaven vs. hell, and we have shown that man simply goes to sleep upon death.  Now what we will discuss is how this all fits together - what is the plan of God?  What is it exactly that He planned out when he "declared the end from the beginning"?


Part 3: The Resurrection & The Kingdom

From the beginning, our loving God has had a loving plan.  The scriptures speak of times to come, of prophecies, giving us evidence that our Father in Heaven has planned our future well in advance.  The scriptures we discussed in the previous two studies have shown that there is no place of torture awaiting us right after death, but that instead we fall asleep until a later time, in which God has something else in store.  What the scriptures teach is that God has in store for mankind a time in which all shall be resurrected, that the truth shall no longer be a debate, that all mankind shall be lead to God and taught His ways for the first time in all of existence. God has planned for us a resurrection of all mankind, and a Kingdom that will restore mankind back to God.

From the beginning, God has been describing His plan, and giving promises to some of His faithful followers.  In Genesis 3:15 when God curses Adam, Eve, and the serpent for eating of the tree of good and knowledge, He makes the first promise of an event to come in the future concerning our Lord Jesus Christ.  He says to the serpent, who is the devil, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel."  This is a universally understood concept, that Jesus will be the one to defeat the devil, also spoken of in Hebrews 2:14.  "...that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil."  Can we see a plan in this?  The next promise is in Genesis 8:21, where after the flood God says "...and I will never again destroy every living thing as I have done."  Again, in Genesis 12:3, God says to Abraham "...And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed", and again in 22:18 "And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed..."  Obviously we do not have enough time or space to write out all of the promises of God; but we wish to observe all of the prophetic promises made just within the first few chapters of the first book of the Bible.  Here we learn that God has been discussing His plan from the early stages of recorded existence.  We see His plan to "bless all the families of the earth." Have we seen all of the families of the earth blessed up to this point?  No we have not.  Let us then assume that it is a promise to be fulfilled in the future.

Step 1:  The Resurrection.

In order for God to bless all of the families of the earth, all of the families of the earth would have to be resurrected.  Why is this?  Well, it is clear that God did not deal with everyone previous to the death of Jesus, but instead only had a relationship with the Jewish people.  Amos 3:2 - "You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth."  When Jesus told the disciplines to preach to the nations in Matt. 10:5-6, he said "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."  Why?  Because at this point, God did not deal with the world at large, but only the Israelites.  So, the point is that if God were to bless all of the families of the earth, and He did not deal with anyone except for the Jewish people up until Christ was crucified, then they would have to be resurrected in order for this to happen. Otherwise the scripture would have to read "In thee and thy seed shall all of the families of the earth be blessed, except for everyone who was not Jewish during that minor four-thousand-year period before Jesus was born."  Because that does not seem to make any sense, we will then assume that there is a resurrection coming, and we will now discuss other key scriptures that prove this point.  And let us remember that they are not only to be resurrected, but resurrected to a blessing.

I Cor. 15:21-22 "For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive."

Romans 5:18 - "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men."

This subject is referred to as the "Ransom."  When Adam sinned, he condemned all men also to die through his sinful nature.  Because we are all inherently sinful, we die.  Romans 6:23 states that "the wages of sin is death", meaning that the simple punishment for sin is death.  Because we were born from Adam we naturally sin, and therefore naturally are condemned to die, and there is nothing we can do about it.  (Another scripture we will discuss later in Jeremiah 31:29-30 states that we will die for our own iniquity in the future, which relates to this topic.)  Likewise, on the other side of the coin, because Christ died and paid the price (ransomed) that initial sin from Adam, we are all going to be resurrected, and there is nothing we can do about it.

Also, let us note that there are at least two resurrections.

Revelation 20:6 - "Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years."

1) Why would they mention "first resurrection" if there were not at least a second?
2) This also leads us to believe that some will be resurrected who the second death will have power over.
3) Hold this thought of being priests of God for a thousand years.  We will come back to this later.

John 5:28-29 - "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, (:29) and shall come forth; those who did good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment."
Again, let's note two things:
1) "all who are in the tombs".  This is a resurrection for all mankind.
2) Just like the scripture in Rev. 20:6, hold this thought - we are going to discuss what a "resurrection of judgment" is later.

Step 2: The Kingdom; Informing the World

There will come a day in the Kingdom of the Lord in which the truth, what God's word really means, will no longer be a debated subject.

Jeremiah 31:34 - "And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'know the Lord', for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, declares the Lord. 'For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.'"

Is. 11:9 - "They will not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."

Hab. 2:14 - "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."

Do we see this occurring now?  Today we see the Bible being preached all over the world, that is true.  However, how many different messages are being preached?  Also, let's see the comparison:  is the knowledge of the Lord covering the earth "as the waters cover the sea"?  Please understand, "as the waters cover the sea" gives us a picture that the knowledge of the Lord encompasses everything and everyone.  Also, do these following scriptures gives us the picture that right now the Lord is allowing everyone to know the truth?

Ephesians 2:2 - "in which you formerly walked according to the curse of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience."

1 John 5:19 - "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one."

Obviously, we see that this is not the time in which the Lord has said the earth will know His word.  This is still the time for the "chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, and people for God's own possession" (I Pet. 2:9) to understand the knowledge of the Lord.

During the time spoken of in Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Habakkuk, there will be no doubt like there is today, and nothing misunderstood like there is today.  There will no longer be the question of "is there a God?"  Or "what is the right religion?"  We simply wish to show that in the future age, "with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of times" (Eph. 1:10), there will be a major shift moving from what we see today, into a world in which the knowledge of the Lord is no longer a mystery to mankind.

Why do we discuss this?  Again, we are showing the Lord has had a loving plan from the beginning.  When discussing the topic of our eternal opportunity for life, it of course would only be fair for everyone to have the same opportunity for understanding God and His plan.  If everyone is to be judged on their actions, and some peoples action's are based on a loving knowledge of God, and others' actions are based on an upbringing in horribly sinful environments, who would have the advantage for a better sentence after judgment?  We do not believe that God is expecting everyone to figure it out on their own.  We expect that God has a loving plan, and that part of His loving plan is to allow His word to be understood by all at some point, to give everyone the opportunity to know Him, and then choose to live within His loving ways.

I Timothy 2:3 - "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; (:4) who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth... (:6) [Jesus] gave himself as a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."

Isaiah 40:5 - "Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all will see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. "

Step 3: Bringing mankind back into harmony with God

Revelation 21:1 - And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.
:2 - And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
:3 - And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them,
:4 - and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.

Let's recap.

1.  There is a new "heaven" and a new "earth."  We don't believe this means that God has rearranged His literal dwelling place of heaven, nor are we living on a new planet.  The means that the governing systems, the high places, the "heavens", are new.  Instead of living in a world where everyone "is in the power of the evil one", the devil is now bound (Rev. 20:1-2) and cannot deceive the nations, while Christ and his Church are now in power. The current corrupt governing bodies of the world are no longer in power.  Also, there is a "New Earth", a new people dwelling on it; a resurrected mankind now living for the first time with an understanding of God, and an opportunity to have a relationship with Him.

2.  The "New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband."  If you are looking up and seeing this "new Jerusalem" coming down from heaven, where are you?  Most likely on earth.

3. "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people..." When we discuss the "gospel", the "good news", this is it.

4. Just re-read verse 4.  What a beautiful scripture.

So, why then do we have these other scriptures that warn us of a resurrection of judgment and condemnation?  Great question.  Here is how we understand that to be absolutely true, and still fit into the plan of God that results in the wonderful result of man being back in harmony with God, living forever in this wonderful existence that He has created for us.

Let's look at a few verses with the intention of proving that judgment simply refers to the process of bringing mankind back into harmony with God.

Isaiah 26:9 - "For when the earth experiences thy judgments the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness."

Let's compare this to John 5:29 - "...those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment."

Initially, John 5:29 sounds very foreboding.  However, when explained correctly, its fits perfectly into the appropriate understanding of the Kingdom of God. The reasonable explanation is that those who are resurrected to judgment are those who will learn righteousness as explained in Isaiah 26:9.

Let us share some other scriptures that discuss the people either being lead back to God, or God simply ruling over the earth with all mankind in accordance with Him.

Psalms 98:9 - "...He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity."

Isaish 45:23 - "I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back. That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance."

Isaiah 65:17 - "For behold, I create a new heavens, and a new earth. And the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. (:19)  ...and there will no longer be heard in her the voice of weeping and the sound of crying."

Isaiah 49:22 - "and set up My standards to the peoples... (:26) ...And all flesh will know that I, the Lord, am your savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob."

Isaiah 25:6 - "And the Lord of Hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all people on this mountain... (:7)...and on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations, (:8) He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces... (:9) And it will be said in that day, 'Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.'"

Revelation 22:2 - "...and on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."

This is a perfect scripture concerning the Church of God assisting in the rehabilitation of mankind. First of all, 144,000 is a number that represents the Church of God.  We will not discuss whether this is a literal or figurative number, but simply that the number seems to represent this special class of faithful followers. (Rev. 21:10 discusses the new Jerusalem city, spoken of in Rev. 21:2; (:12) it has 12 gates with 12 angels [12x12=144]; (:14) it has 12 foundation stones which contain the names of the 12 apostles [12x12=144]. This is a definitely a picture of the Church, who had 12 kinds of fruit that yielded its fruit every month [12 months in a year; 12x12=144; There are 144,000 in Revelation 7:4 with the seal of God on their foreheads.]

Note that the leaves on the tree, representing the Church, "were for the healing of the nations."  The Church is there to help heal the nations, as well as be "priests of God" and "reign with Him" (Rev. 20:6)

Now, let us discuss another few scriptures that seem to be either hard to understand, or perhaps on the contrary to what we have been stating.

Revelation 20:12 - "And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. (:13) And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. (:14) And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  This is the second death, the lake of fire. (:15) And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

So, this is what one of the traditional explanations would be: if you do not repent in this life, you will resurrected to stand before the Lord.  If your name is not found in the book of life, you will be thrown into hell eternally to be punished.

Right off the bat we would disagree, being that the scripture describes hell as being destroyed in the lake of fire, but nonetheless, let us discuss the meaning that we would recommend as being more feasible and in tune with a loving God.

Let us note the scriptures in this chapter.
Rev. 20:1 - Angel comes from heaven with a key to the abyss, and a chain in his hand.
20:2 - he binds Satan for 1,000 years.
20:3 - throws Satan into the abyss so that he "should not deceive the nations any longer" (both proving that he has been deceiving the nations, and that a time is coming in which the truth will be known to all mankind) until the 1000 years were completed.
20:4-6 - Judgment was given to those who were beheaded on behalf of Jesus (Church class); they shall "reign" with Jesus and be "priests" for 1,000 years. (Note the duty of a priest: to bring one closer to God)
20:7 - After 1,000 years, Satan is released.
20:12 - Book of life was opened, the dead judged according to their works
20:13 - Hades gives up the dead; then they were judged according to their deeds
20:14 - Death and Hades thrown into lake of fire
20:15 - Those not found in the book of life are thrown into lake of fire.

So, how is this for a better explanation:
The world at large, now, is deceived by the devil.  It is not the time God has chosen to intervene.  At the right time, Satan will be bound for a period in which the world will be a) resurrected, and then b) taught the truth for the first time. After being taught the truth and rehabilitated for what seems to be 1,000 years, Satan is released.  Those who go back to the old ways of sin and evil at the return of the devil, after having seen the wonder and glory and beauty of God, will not be found in the book of life.  Those who are faithful will live forever.

This thought is also presented in the following book, Revelation 21.  We quoted the first four very beautiful scriptures earlier, how God wipes away all tears from our eyes, and makes all things new.  He sets the stage for the beginning of His Kingdom. Now read verse 7: "He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. (:8) But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

Again, here is the idea: after everyone is resurrected back to life, and understands the wonder and the beauty of God and His plan, and then, in full knowledge of what he is doing, decides to go back and live a sinful existence, that person will be simply removed from existence forever. As God's eyes are "too pure to approve evil" (Hab. 1:13), He simply cannot allow someone to exist in His eternal Kingdom who chooses to do evil.  We all know this phrase: you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink it.


This concludes our three part study.  We hope that we have shared an uncommon view of the scriptures that not only makes sense, but leads one to question traditionally held views of Christianity, and helps others to better understand the scriptures and the plan of God.  We also hope continuously that this leads us all into a closer relationship with God, and helps us to spend more time considering Him and His word as opposed to things of the world.  Please feel free to comment below or email me privately, whichever your preference, if you wish to discuss anything in particular or point out your own interpretation.

Numbers 6:24 - " The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What Happens When You Die, Part 2

In Part 1, we discussed the root word of hell and grave, "Sheol", and how "hell" and "grave" have the exact same meaning.  We also discussed several scriptures that discussed death, and all described death as being asleep.  In the New Testament, the discussion of the root Greek words of hell get a little trickier, as there are three Greek words used to translate into hell, whereas in the Old Testament there was only one.  However, the second half of the part 2 study, where we look for scriptures that again discuss death as being asleep, we shall find the exact same correlation.  Let's begin with the uses of the word hell.

The three Greek words used to translate into the word hell in the New Testament are Gehenna, Hades, and Tartaroo.  Gehenna, as in "The Valley of Gehenna", was a literal place where they burned their trash.  Hades you will recognize from Greek mythology as the underworld, or "the place of departed souls".  Lastly, Tartaroo, used one time, is "The deepest abyss of Hades".  We will examine several of these scriptures.

First off, we must discuss one thing clearly, and that is speaking in "parables".

Matthew 13:10 - "And they disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? (:11) He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given... (:16)  But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. (:17) For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them."

Why do we bring this up?  It must be understood that not everyone understands what Jesus is saying at first glance because he is not speaking literally; he is speaking in parables, or symbolically.  Some of the scriptures that we read at first glance will sound very much like he is referring to an eternal place of torture, when in reality he is simply discussing an undesired and disappointing outcome.  Hopefully, it will be clear upon our conclusion.

Word 1, Hades.
Hades is used nine times in the New Testament to translate into "hell", and one time to translate into "grave".  What is interesting about the one time it is used to translate into "grave" is that it is a quote from the old testament.
I Cor. 15:55 - "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"  This is considered to be a quote from Hosea 13:14, in which the word Sheol is used.  Therefore, according to the Apostle Paul, who wrote the letter to the Corinthians, "Hades" would have to be the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word "Sheol".  Therefore, whatever the word Sheol means, Hades means.  If Sheol is simply referring to the grave, then Hades must be doing the same thing.

Here are all of the verses that have translated the word "Hades" into "hell":
Matt. 11:23, 16:18
Luke 10:15, 16:23
Acts 2:27, 2:31
Rev. 1:18, 6:8, 20:13-14

Again we will point the reader to examine the scriptures on their own as opposed to writing them out.  One will note that none of these particular scriptures describe "Hades" as a torturous place.  One scripture I always find interesting to note is Rev. 20:14, where it states that "...death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire..."  Revelation is a book written completely in symbolic language.  However, we can determine that Hades, whatever it is, is at some point destroyed and will cease to exist.  Therefore, we know that Hades cannot be an eternal place itself.  We will suggest that because of the correlation between Hades and Sheol, that Hades is simply the grave.  If one uses the word grave in place of the word hell for all of the uses of the word Hades, it seems to be fitting in every case.  Therefore, we can confidently say that this is congruent with the idea that when one dies, they simply go to sleep.

Word 2, Gehenna
The word Gehenna is used thirteen times in the New Testament, and is largely where we get the picture of an eternal and fiery hellish place where the wicked are tortured evermore.  However, after a careful review of the meaning of the word, and then a careful examination of its use in symbolism, it is clear that the scriptures are not teaching that such a place exists, but rather that a strict punishment of some kind awaits some.

In the Valley of Gehenna, where they burned their trash and refuse, the idea is that this is where you put things to be destroyed.  As we well know, if you were to take your trash and place it into your fireplace, it would burn up and be gone.  There would be ash left in its place, a smell, etc., but the object itself would be burned up and gone.  Keep this thought in mind when reading these scriptures.

Here are all of the scriptures that translate the word "Gehenna" into "hell":
Matt. 5:22, 5:29, 5:30, 10:28, 18:9, 23:15, 23:33
Mark 9:43, 9:45, 9:47
Luke 12:5
James 3:6

Because of the nature in which this is used, we will examine a few of them.

Matt. 10:28 - "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
Two things: one, we could just insert "The Valley of Gehenna" in the place of hell, and it would work just fine.  Two, notice the word "destroy"; this is not a picture of an eternal, fiery sentence of being tormented. The sentence seems to be destruction, not torture.  The same thought can be said with sleep. For example: "...fear Him who is able to destroy both the soul and body in the grave, and take away your opportunity to exist."  It's a punishment, but its not torture, and it does not mention the punishment being eternal.
(*we should note that there is in fact an eternal punishment at some point, but one must understand the subject thoroughly to see when that punishment is handed out.  Initially, man dies until the resurrection, and the rest shall be discussed in part 3.)

Mark 9:43 - "And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than have your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire."
This is much like the Matt. 10:28 scripture in which someone could easily, at first glance, use this as an evidence for a fiery place or torture.  However, note again that there is no mention of anything stating "if you sin, you shall be burned forever."  Nope. What it does say is there is an "unquenchable fire", as it well should; the Valley of Gehenna, from our understanding, burned 24 hours a day.  This scripture is simply stating once again, clean yourself of all impurities so that you avoid permanent destruction.

James 3:6 - "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell."
The idea is that the tongue can pollute the whole body. In fact, it is so powerful, that the one little body part can send the whole body into the destruction of the fire of Gehenna.  So, we see that with Gehenna there is definitely a punishment.  Does a literal fire seem to be the actual punishment?  No.  Can the punishment itself be sleep?  Yes. A state of non-existence is indeed a punishment, as spoken of simply in Romans 6:23 - "The wages of sin is death."  Life is the gift, death is the punishment.

Word 3, Tartaroo
2 Peter 2:4 - "For if God did not spare Angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment..."
This scripture is no different.  It does not prove in any way that there is a place of eternal torment. Also, it should be added that the Lord does not discuss in depth how he deals with angels, and therefore there is no problem with leaving some of the interpretation up for debate as to what exactly occurs in the heavenly realm.

Now that we have tackled some of the scriptures associated with hell in the New Testament, and have explained that they do not discuss a fiery place of torture, let us continue on, as we did in part 1 of the study, to discuss scriptures in the New Testament that again prove man simply "falls asleep" upon death.

Both the Old and New Testament discuss the falling asleep of man upon death, and that man does not ascend up or down.  (Ecc. 3:19-21)

John 3:13 - "No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man."
If nobody has ascended to heaven, then it really defeats the belief of heaven vs. hell up to this point. It would not make much sense to say that God, for four thousand years, sent the bad people to hell, and the good people to... who knows.  It is much more reasonable to suggest that nobody has yet ascended to heaven because upon death, man simply returns to his former state of non-existence until the resurrection.

John 11:11 - "...Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep."

Now these were before the death of Jesus.  We know that Jesus opened up the way for us to go into heaven, but when?  After the death of Jesus, do things change immediately?  The following scriptures discuss death after the sacrifice and resurrection of our Lord.

Acts 7:60 - "And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them!' and having said this, he fell asleep."
(Stephen, the first martyr of Christ, also fell asleep.)

I Cor. 15:6 - "After that he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep."

I Cor. 15:18 - "Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished."

I Cor. 15:20 - "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep."

2 Pet. 3:4 - "And saying, 'where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.'"

I Thes. 4:13 - But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. (:14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. (:15) For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep."

It is absolutely clear, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that mankind falls asleep upon death.  The idea that we go straight to heaven or hell is more of a folk-lore than a reality.  I Thes. 4:15 clearly states that those who are asleep, those who died, will remain dead and asleep until Christ returns.  They clearly do not ascend up into heaven right upon death, as some have lead us to believe.

Both objectives, to show that the use of hell does not mean a fiery place of torture, and to show that death is most closely described as sleeping until the resurrection, have been met.  It is up to the reader to continue their own personal study of the scriptures that we have pointed out to understand it further.  Following this will be Part 3, in which we shall discuss how this all ties together, and how it ties into the plan of God at large.