Conscience, Authority, Sexual Immorality, And Judging Inside the Church

My heart is saddened how people seem to think that men having sex with men or women with women or sexual relations with someone else’s boyfriend or girlfriend, or someone else’s wife or husband, is considered normal and a matter of sexual freedom. Sexual immorality is no longer considered sinful behavior, though at one point in their life there was a deep conviction that it was, and instead, have chosen to ignore the warning of their conscience.  God gave us a mind and conscience and therefore all of us will ultimately be held responsible for our behavior.

CONSCIENCE

Though conscience does not have an audible voice that speaks to us, however, it does mean having the knowledge of letting us know whether our actions are good or evil.  It is a power of the mind that affirms and enforces moral obligation.  It lets us know whether we should or should not do or say something.  For instance, my conscience tells me not to drink wine in front of someone who may be struggling with alcohol.  There may have been times when our conscience has said, “Don’t do it,” only to ignore our conscience, do it anyway, and regret later the decision we have made.  How many times have we heard, “I should have known better.”

Conscience should be our guide, but on the other hand, it may not if our conscience has been seared, meaning, conscience or convictions have been desensitized. There are people whose hearts have been so hardened by ignoring their conscience by choosing to indulge in repeated sinful behavior that it can no longer speak to the person.

…that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared (1 Tim. 4:1-2).

I have always wondered if there is still hope for a person whose conscience has been seared.  Is there a time when it is too late, where there is no point of return?

With all the sexual immorality we are faced with in today’s generation (as with past generations), we have a void of conscience and no fear of God.  We can go back to the days of Noah (just as Jesus declared Matt. 24:37-39).  Even though the people were eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, God also saw the wickedness of man and that it was great in the earth and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart were only evil continually (Gen. 6:5).  The earth was so corrupt and filled with violence that God repented that he made man.  It appears these people lost all awareness of their conscience and to do what is right. But also remember this: It grieved God’s heart (Gen. 6:6).  It appears their conscience was seared to the point of no return and God destroyed them with a flood.

WHO HAS THE AUTHORITY?

Whether we are talking about the homosexual or heterosexual union, or monogamy or polyamory, we can boil down human sexuality and marriage to the foundational issue of “authority.”

Authority is 1) “power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience:  2) freedom to decide or a right to act without hindrance.” And as many people may scoff, all such authority begins with God, for there is no authority except from God (Rom. 13:1). God has created us to live under his authority.

devotionHow does God exercise authority over His creatures?  The answer is the testimony of scriptures and the innate ability to know the difference between good and evil.  However, we have the ability to choose whether to obey or disobey His authority and our conscience.

We may choose to redefine what is good or evil, but it will never change God’s mind and His definition of sexual immorality or the definition of marriage.  God created us (Gen. 2:8,19), sex (Gen. 2:24), and marriage (Gen.2:24).  God approves of sexual relations between a husband and wife and a loving sexual relationship is one of the benefits of marriage.

Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge (Heb. 13:4).

Since God has the authority to define both marriage and the right use of our sexuality, the debasement of human sexually expresses a denial of God’s authority and is always to our own detriment.

GOD’S ORDER IS FOR A MALE AND FEMALE RELATIONSHIP WITHIN A SEXUAL UNION

We all know God created Adam and Eve.  God said concerning Adam:

For Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2: 20– 24)

This is the acceptable, established, and the biblical sexual relationship between male and female. Jesus himself affirms:

Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,  and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?  (Matt. 19:4-5; Mark 10:6-8)

The pattern of intimacy should always be between a male and female who have committed to each other.  The intimacy between a man and a woman is also a picture of intimacy between Christ and his followers:

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery— but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5: 22– 33)

In the following passages, Paul gives advice about marriage and the role that spirituality plays in the intimate marriage relationship between a husband and wife.

Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7: 1– 5)

What About Homosexuality?

Those in favor and defend the gay lifestyle will say that the word homosexuality is not in the Bible.  True.  Though we never find the word “homosexuality” in the scriptures, there are passages that refer to homosexual acts.  In the Old Testament God specifically forbids sexual relations between men (and by implication, between women too):

You are not to lie with a man, as with a woman—that is an abomination
(Leviticus 18: 22)

If a man has sexual relations with another male, as he would with a woman, both have committed a repulsive act. They are certainly to be put to death. (Leviticus 20: 13)

In the Old Testament God said that sexual acts between men are such an abomination that it called for the death penalty.

The New Testament specifically reaffirms the position that the same-sex acts, as a whole, are not acceptable:

For this reason God gave them up to shameful passions. Even their women exchanged natural relations for what is against nature.  Likewise the men abandoned natural relations with women and were burning with passion toward one another—men committing shameful acts with other men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26– 27)

The word “natural” does not mean if it’s natural for you to have sex with the same gender, then it’s okay.  God defines what is natural.  The biblical word natural in the above passage means “God’s created order” (see Genesis 2: 24).   Sexual union between a husband and wife, as God intended and established it to be, is to act ‘according to nature’.  On the other hand, to have a sexual relationship with those of the same gender is to act ‘against nature’.  

God does something to those who act against nature.  He gives them over to a depraved mind:

Just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28– 32)

The scriptures are clear that there are grave sins that will keep us from receiving the gift of immortality and entering eternal life in the kingdom of God (note: this kingdom will be on the earth [Ps. 37:11; Ps. 37:29; Matt. 5:5] not in heaven as most think loved ones are floating around waiting for us).  The grave sin includes homosexuality within the list:

You know that wicked people will not inherit the kingdom of God, don’t you? Stop deceiving yourselves! Sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunks, slanderers, and robbers will not inherit the kingdom of God. That is what some of you were! But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus the Messiah and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6: 9– 11)

Of course, we know that the Law is good if a person uses it legitimately, that is, if he understands that the Law is not intended for righteous people but for lawbreakers and rebels, for ungodly people and sinners, for those who are unholy and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers, their mothers, or other people, for those involved in sexual immorality, for homosexuals, for kidnappers, for liars, for false witnesses, and for whatever else goes against the healthy teaching that agrees with the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.   (1 Timothy 1: 8– 11)

JUDGING THOSE INSIDE THE CHURCH?

I know what I have written so far will not be very popular with those who are involved in sexual immorality who are outside the church, nor inside the church for that matter. The word “church” does not refer to a building, but rather to people who profess to be brothers and sisters in Christ.  We have people who claim to be believers in Christ and yet live in sexual immorality and claim, “God loves everyone and that it does not matter if you have sex with the same gender because God is love.” That may be their opinion, but it is not the opinion of God the Father.  Again, it all boils down to authority and whose authority we will listen to and obey.  God gives the boundaries of proper sexual activity and that is between a man and a woman in the confines of marriage.

For believers, we are warned in scriptures:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world.  But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.” (1st Cor 5:9-11).

The warning for believers not to associate with those who are sexually immoral within the church, but also with greedy, idolaters partying, drunkenness, or swindling people as well.  We are not to associate or even to share a meal with such a person who claims to be bear “the name of” a brother or sister in Christ who do these things!  But to them that are without, God will judge.  And since Jesus is head of the church, we have the format for judging and disciplining which starts in the house of God.

For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)

Do not be surprised to find certain levels of persecution from relatives, friends, co-workers, and those who call themselves Christians because you do not want to get drunk with them or live and believe in a chaste and monogamous relationship when cheating and other sinful behavior has become the norm.

For the time that has passed was sufficient for you to do what the non-Christians desire. You lived then in debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, carousing, drinking bouts, and wanton idolatries. So they are astonished when you do not rush with them into the same flood of wickedness, and they vilify you. (1 Peter 4:3-4)

To vilify means to speak ill, slander or say anything to defame you because you will not participate, praise, or condone sinful behavior that could cause us to lose our life (gift of immortality),  in the kingdom to come when Jesus returns.

Remember what Jesus said:

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10–12)

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Have You Resisted Unto Blood, Striving Against Sin?

Those who would defend sin often use Hebrews chapter 12 to prove that if you are under chastisement for your sins, then this confirms you are a child of God. One verse says:

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (v. 4)

The other is:

 For whom the Lord loves, he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives. (v.6)

These passages help support their flawed cliché of, “I sin every day in thought, word, and deed.”

This leads me to wonder, what chastisement is one receiving every day since they claim to sin daily? How does God chastise them? What method does God use? Moreover, if we really think about it, their whole life would only be about sinning and chastisement. Will there ever come a day when the sin will stop so the chastisement will end? If this chastisement from God they receive is supposed to teach them a lesson, what lesson have they learned if they continue to sin? Should I sin every day just to prove I am a child of God?  Does this mean God does not love me if I choose not to sin against Him on a daily basis?

Sin supporters will also add that if you fail to confess your sins you will certainly be chastised (using Heb. 12:6) over your disobedience and as a result, run the risk of being prematurely killed by God for shaming His holy name. But I have to wonder. Why did God never kill Paul for his supposed willful and defiant behavior since he is considered the chief of sinners even after conversion?

For that matter, if all our future sins are really “paid for in advance” and guarantees us eternal salvation regardless how we live afterward (after all, one cannot go a day without sinning), then is not a confession of ongoing sin really purposeless since God is now morally blind to any sins we commit now and in the future? Furthermore, how could God possibly KILL (chastise) us over sins that are “paid for” by the provision of Calvary, and charge them against us again? It would be absurd that God would kill us for sins He has already forgiven!

Dear reader, do you see the nonsense of all this when we apply a little common sense to unbiblical doctrines?

From Genesis to Revelation, it is clear that we must forsake our wickedness, purge our heart of evil, and seek the mercy of God.[1] Would not living and encouraging holy living as instructed in scripture be a better option? This certainly means the difference between life and death (eternal consequences).

The word Chastisement

When people look at the word “chastisement” they automatically think “punishment.” When Isaiah says, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him” (Isa. 53:5), people automatically read it as, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the punishment of our peace was upon him.”

Punishment has to do with retribution. Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies points out that there are two words in Hebrew that are translated as “chastisement.” One as punishment, chastening; and the other as, to discipline, to correct, to chasten.”[2] Since Jesus is not punished, the latter definition in Isaiah, to me, is more appropriate.

Yes indeed, chastisement is for believers.

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? (Heb. 12:7).

In the NET reads:

Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline?

However, is it over sin? No believer should be living in deliberate rebellion. If one is living in willful, blatant sin, they can no longer be considered a child of God. Sin has a non-negotiable penalty, which is death.

Notice the passage in Heb. 12:4 where it states:

You have not yet resisted to the point of bloodshed in your struggle against sin.

Notice it does not say “In your struggle against YOUR SIN…” Has anyone ever accomplished drawing blood from striving against their own sins? Should striving against our own sin come to the point of shedding our own blood?

Let us look at the context and draw its meaning:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up. You have not yet resisted to the point of bloodshed in your struggle against sin.  (Hebrews 12:1-4)

The verse is not talking about our own sin, for we should not have any in our life. It has to do with persecution, the sin of others.

And who should we think of when we come under such persecution? Think of Jesus:

Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up. Heb. 12:3

This has to do with the “sinners against us;” the sinful acts they commit against us as they did against Christ.

persecution

If we read Hebrews chapter 11, we find the early saints resisted unto the shedding of blood, not because of some besetting sin they had in their own life, but from the sin of others (Heb.11:36-38). Those saints went under much persecution.

We are informed that those who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Hebrews 12 is not telling us that the believers are chastised, as in punishment, for their own sin. This is not about God the Father playing the big bully who beats His children to instill fear in them not to sin. Rather, Hebrews 12 is preparing the believers for persecution. We learn obedience through suffering. The same was true of Jesus:

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered. And by being perfected in this way, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him… (Hebrews 5:8-9)

Jesus also endured the discipline of His Father through suffering under the sin of others. This is intended to encourage us as we undergo persecution as well.

Those who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. For some of us, it may not be to the point of bloodshed at the hands of others. People may simply lie about us, spread rumors, insult us, etc..

Jesus said:

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

It should be expected that people are going to insult us and falsely say all kinds of evil against us because of Jesus.

What about the verse that says, “We must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely?” First note that it does not say, “we must get rid of every weight and the sins we are committing.” The true meaning is, just as we would put aside a weight, we would also put aside persecution and not allow it to hinder our running the race that is set before us.

We have to lay aside every weight. (see also 1 Peter 5:7) We cannot let it distract us. If we allow it, it certainly can hinder us. We may feel like giving up; however, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad,” Jesus said.

The apostles did as Jesus said. I am reminded of the story in Acts 5. The council came together and ordered the apostles to be flogged, and they were told not to speak in the name of Jesus and then released. These men were whipped! They suffered not only from verbal accusations but physically as well. And what did they do?

So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

We are in a time where all the brothers and sisters in Christ will need to edify and encourage one another in times of persecution. For some of us, it will be to the point of our own blood shed by the hands of others. This is happening today in other countries. For others, it will not be so extreme. (Matt. 5:43-45; John 16:1-4; 1 Peter 4:12-13)

Remember what Jesus said:

And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved. (Matt. 10:22)

All men will hate you because of me. (Luke 21:17)

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. (John 15:18)

I end this by also remembering the words of Paul:

Therefore, when we could stand it no longer, we decided to remain alone in Athens and send Timothy, our brother who works with us for God in the gospel of the Messiah, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions, for which you are aware that we were destined. In fact, when we were with you, we told you ahead of time that we were going to suffer persecution. And as you know, that is what happened. (1 Thess. 3:2-4)

[1] Example: Isa. 55:7; Jer. 26:13; Pro. 28:13; Jonah 3:8-10; Matt. 12:41; Lk. 15:11-32; Acts 3:19; 2 Co. 7:10-11; 2 Tim. 2:19; Jas. 3:7-10; 1 Pet. 4:1; Rev. 2:5; 2:16; 2:20-22; 3:3; 3:19

[2] Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, William Wilson, Mac Donald Publishing Co., McLean, VA. No Date. Page74.Have You Resisted Unto Blood, Striving Against Sin?

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Jesus Was Made Sin Because He Had the Same Flesh as Ours?

A person wrote that the original Christadelphians believe that Jesus “was made sin,”  that he was made in the “very same flesh as his brethren termed as “sin” and therefore destroyed sin in his own flesh…”  This is not really a belief only held by the “original Christadelphians,” but a belief that is held in just about all mainstream supposed Christianity that can be traced back to the beliefs of Augustine.

I believe the hidden thought here that it is conveying without actually saying it is the term “sinful nature” as used in just about all denominations who believe that all are “born in sin” and believe that “sin is in the flesh” (or in some cases, “in the blood”). This can be easily found out if we ask the right questions,

  1. What is sin?
  2. And what does it mean by “sin in the flesh?”

virusFirst, never does any part of scripture define sin as a substance or living virus that can be transferred or transmitted from one person to the next whether in or out of the womb.  The scriptures define sin as a transgression, “for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 Jn. 3:4).

Sin is not a substance, it is disobedience to God.  It is a moral issue, not a flesh problem.

Secondly, “sin in the flesh” does not mean the “flesh is sinful,” “sinful by nature,” or “sinful nature.” Nowhere does scripture define our flesh as sin.

We can’t have “Jesus was made sin,” because he had the “same flesh as his brethren,” and then turn around and say, “Of course this does not render Jesus a sinner because he was able to resist temptation.”  The issue is not about temptation, but rather the nature of man and Christ. Either Jesus had sin or he did not if we want to say the flesh itself is sin.  How does one “resist” sin if flesh itself is sin? That’s like saying, I can resist a cold even though I have a cold.  If you have sin, you have not resisted it because you can’t get rid of it.  It is part of your nature, your makeup. So I must ask, How do you resist your flesh if your flesh is sin?  How does that work? How does flesh, supposedly sin itself, try to make you sin? How does something (flesh) that is nothing more than an inanimate conglomerate of biological tissue, that has no moral quality, make you sin?

Many believe that our bodies are made of sin and cause us to sin. However, remember that sin is a violation of God’s law (1 Jn. 3:4), not what type of body or nature we should or not have.

The Greek word “sarx” is translated as flesh, never as “sinful nature.”  In scriptures, it is overwhelmingly described as the flesh of humans and animal life. In the New Testament alone, the word is used approximately 150 times. The fact is that God is the author of our flesh (Exodus 4:11, Isaiah 44:2, Jer. 1:5), who made man from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7, Gen. 3:19).  The word “flesh” is also at times synonymous with men (Gen. 6:12).  It is true that our flesh can be the occasion or the source of temptation (James 1:14), but sinning is a choice because of our own selfish desires and we are told not to sin (John 5:14, John 8:11, Rom. 6:12; Rom. 6:19 Eph. 4:26 etc.).  Our flesh is an instrument that we can use for sin or for righteousness (Rom. 6:13, Rom. 6:19).

If the flesh is sinful, then we would have to conclude Jesus had sinful flesh since Jesus had flesh (Luke 24:39, John 1:14, 2 Jn. 1:7). It is the same type of flesh as ours. (Heb. 2:14; Heb. 2:17).  In Romans 8:3 it says Jesus was made in the likeness of “sinful flesh” (i.e., flesh that had sinned).  It does not mean in the likeness of “sinful nature” as falsely taught.

And since our flesh is nothing more than an inanimate conglomerate of biological tissue that has no moral quality, it cannot make us do anything, good or evil. However, when we use our body (flesh) to indulge in sinful behavior, then the flesh is full of sin and the bible calls it “sinful flesh” (again, not “sinful nature”). The flesh is not sinful by nature, it becomes sinful because, as moral agents, we have made choices to sin.

There are also times when the word flesh is used in the figurative sense.  For instance, Paul says:

For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. (Romans 7:18).

And in Romans 7:23 he talks about:

…sin which is in my members.

He is not speaking literally about the physical body made up of sin. Remember, sin is not a substance, it is not a virus with personality. Paul is discussing the matter of a sinful condition, because of the choices made to sin. We never read Paul condemning the physical nature of man.  In fact, Paul states that it is sinful to walk according to the flesh (2 Cor. 10:2), which one involves himself in sinful behavior, but it is not sinful to walk in the flesh (2 Cor. 10:3.).

Also, note the following how walking according to the flesh has to do with deeds of the body:

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Rom. 8:13

And in Galatians 5 Paul talks about the “works of the flesh,” and he goes on to name them (5:19-21):

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

When Paul speaks about those who walk according to the flesh, he is not speaking as though the flesh in itself is doing these things independent of the person. He is referring to the fact that those who live according to the flesh are those who are slaves to their own lusts and ruled by their own selfish passions and desires, which manifest itself in the deeds of the body.

The modern definition of “flesh,” according to mainstream Christianity, has nothing to do with anyone fighting some mysterious “other self” that coexists, striving for supremacy. This is pure philosophy.  We are the ones who can control our body. What manifests in the body is what comes out from the heart (Matt. 12:35). We must choose not to sin. We need to purify our hearts and clean up our lives. As James says:

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

 

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Literal Pre-existence?

The following is taken from Chapter 6 in my book, “Can We Handle The Truth?”

 Literal Pre-existence?

   Most churches argue for the literal pre-existence of Jesus. Pre-existence is defined as: “existence in a former state or previous to something else.” However, where it concerns Christ, it is regularly taught that Jesus literally pre-existed as the second person of the triune God before he became a man in the flesh. However, there is a vast difference when we have the Hebrew understanding of “pre-existence” vs. the influence of Greek culture of a “literal physical pre-existence.” To believe the literal physical pre-existence of Jesus is to abandon the Jewish concept of pre-existence.

You might be thinking at this point, “Well, what is the Jewish concept of pre-existence?” I will give you a few examples. The first example can be taken from John 17:5 where Jesus says:

Now, Father, glorify me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

This is supposed to prove that Jesus literally existed with God before he became a human being here on earth. Unfortunately, the context is ignored. The context shows us where Jesus gives this same glory to future believers who are not yet alive (v. 22):

I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in me through their word…The glory which You have given me I have given [past tense] to them.

If we were to remain consistent with the interpretation that promotes a literal pre-existence, then we would have to conclude we also pre-existed!

The passage does not establish Jesus pre-existed. Jesus was glorified when he was raised from the dead, and he speaks of it as if he already has it. If we go back to John 7:39 we read:

Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

In Luke 24:26 we read:

Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?

But here in John 17:5, Jesus speaks of his glorification as though he already has it. In addition, we saw that Jesus has given (past tense) this same glory to his disciple and future disciples who end up believing through their word. Therefore, the glory Jesus had “before the world was,” has to do with God’s purpose that is assured to be fulfilled.

We can have something, in Jewish ways of thinking, “with God,” meaning that it is planned and promised for the future. John 17:5 means that Jesus desired that God give him the glory which he had stored up in God’s plan for the future.

Another example can be taken from 2 Cor. 5:1:

For we know that if our temporary, earthly dwelling is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands.

None of us would think that we already have an eternal body in heaven. One may talk themselves into believing that they are literally up in the heavens, but it does not make it so. Like Jesus, we have it in God’s promise. One day we will have a glorified body given to us at the resurrection when Jesus returns even though scripture says we have it now. We have it in the sense that we possess it in God’s promise.

The apostle Paul is known as the “Hebrew of Hebrews” and was not void of the Hebraic concept of pre-existence. He states in Romans 4:17:

As it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and CALL INTO EXISTENCE THE THINGS THAT DO NOT EXIST.

What Paul says here provides the strongest evidence that supports the traditional Hebraic concept and meaning of pre-existence in his description as God who calls those things that do not exist as though they did. It is not a literal pre-existence but has everything to do with God’s promises that are assured to come to pass.

For those who promote a literal pre-existence, what do they do with the book of Revelation where it says:

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb [The Messiah] SLAIN FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD. (Rev. 13:8)

For those who uphold a literal pre-existence, this would mean Christ was slain twice! The Messiah did not literally exist until he was born.

Another major proof text to try to prove the literal pre-existence of Jesus is John 1:1. It is also worth noting the blatant bias by capitalizing the W for word:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

How can we have “the word was WITH God, and then say, “the word WAS God?” The word “with” means “accompanied by.”  If the “word” is supposed to be Jesus, it should read like this:

In the beginning was the Son, and the Son was with God and the Son was God.

“The Son was with God and the Son was God?” This is a classic example of eisegesis. Jesus (Son) is read into the text when it does not mention him at all. The word “word” is “logos” in the Greek.

Lexical definitions for the Greek word logos are:

  • utterance
  • statement
  • question
  • proclamation
  • command
  • revelation
  • decree
  • plan
  • expression of the mind
  • creative thought
  • purpose
  • promise
  • reason

This is not an exhaustive list, but you will notice that nowhere is the “word” (“logos”) ever referred to as a person distinct from the Father.

The word has to do with God’s utterance, his plan, his creative power. It was the logos which was in the beginning with God; it does not say it was Christ.

Everyone is thankful to William Tyndale for giving us our first English translation of the bible based upon the Hebrew and Greek text. His New Testament was published in 1526 and revised to its final state in 1534. However, William Tyndale would probably be considered a heretic for translating John 1:3-4 as:

In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. All things came into being through IT, and without IT nothing was made that was made.

When I presented this to my friend she got upset and said, “So God is now an it!

Tyndale used “it” rather than “him” and so does the Matthew’s Bible of 1537, the Great Bible of 1539, the Geneva Bible of 1560, and the Bishop’s Bible of 1568, which she probably did not realize. From what I understand, “it” is a translation of the Greek “autou” meaning “he, she, or it.” Since Tyndale did not read Jesus the Messiah into the “logos,” it shows he was not influenced by the Latin Vulgate of Jerome.

God (Yahweh) spoke creation into existence. If you read Genesis chapter 1, note how many times we read, “God said.”

I recently read where someone argued that the “beginning” in John 1:1 refers to the beginning of Christ’s ministry, and to support this interpretation he used the passage in 1 John 1:1. However, the Gospel of John in chapter 1 is drawing from Genesis 1 as we can see by verse 3, which refers to God and not Christ.

Now, in the last part of the verse we read:

and the word was God.

This is where we see that the “word” belongs to the sphere of God; it is not a separate being from God. We do not separate the word from the person. We can see samples of this In Psalm 33:6:

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. (Ps. 33:6)

For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. (Ps. 33: 9)

…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isa. 55:11; see also Ps. 107:20; 147:15, 18, 19)

We cannot separate the word from God. The word was fully representative of God, “the word was God.” Author Chuck LaMattina has well stated that John 1:1-3 could accurately be paraphrased like this:

In the beginning God had a creative and redemptive plan. And this plan or purpose revealed his heart and was fully representative of all that God is. All things were made through this plan and without this divine plan nothing was made.[1]

As an architect draws his plan for a building on a roll of paper, it is not until he starts construction that the building becomes a reality. So too, it is not until we get to John 1:14 that this plan became a reality. This plan becomes a living-breathing human being revealed in the promise, by God, of the coming Messiah for God’s people. This was done by the holy spirit overshadowing the virgin Mary that resulted in a unique pregnancy.

So though the Jewish concept believes in the pre-existence of the Messiah, they did not believe it as a literal physical pre-existence, but rather it had to do with the plan and mind of God, which always included the coming Messiah.

 “Sent” Does Not Mean Dropping Out Of The Sky

There is another passage used to try to prove the literal pre-existence of Jesus. When trying to uphold the trinity teaching, we will often muddle the meaning of simple words by redefining them. For instance, take the word “sent.” Scripture states that Jesus was “sent into the world” by God (Jn. 10:36). This is supposed to prove he existed as the divine Son of God before he came into the world.

Now, if we are to stay consistent with the trinity teaching and its interpretation, we must also conclude that John the Baptist also pre-existed prior to his birth for we read:

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. (John 1:6)

Being “sent” or “sent into this world” does not mean a spirit being dropped from outer space into a woman’s womb.

Jesus also said:

For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. (John 6:33)

And:

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51)

Did Jesus come down as literal bread from heaven? Also, if Jesus was a literal person on this earth, then he existed in the flesh up there in heaven prior to his birth!  Yes, it is absurd if we must think this way.

Jesus said in John 8:42:

If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.

Think about it. If Jesus is God, how can he “come from God” and be “sent by God?”

In John 3:13 we read:

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.

Many read these passages and think of literal pre-existence. The Biblicalunitarian Websites states accurately:

The Jews would not have taken John’s words to mean that Christ “incarnated.” It was common for them to say that something “came from heaven” if God were its source. For example, James 1:17 says that every good gift is “from above” and “comes down” from God. What James means is clear. God is the Author and source of the good things in our lives. God works behind the scenes to provide what we need. The verse does not mean that the good things in our lives come directly down from heaven. Most Christians experience the Lord blessing them by way of other people or events, but realize that the ultimate source of the blessings was the Lord. We should apply John’s words the same way we understand James’ words—that God is the source of Jesus Christ, which He was. Christ was God’s plan, and then God directly fathered Jesus.

There are also verses that say Jesus was “sent from God,” a phrase that shows God as the ultimate source of what is sent. John the Baptist was a man “sent from God” (John 1:6), and it was he who said that Jesus “comes from above” and “comes from heaven” (John 3:31). When God wanted to tell the people that He would bless them if they gave their tithes, He told them that He would open the windows of “heaven” and pour out a blessing (Mal. 3:10 – KJV). Of course, everyone understood the idiom being used, and no one believed that God would literally pour things out of heaven. They knew that the phrase meant that God was the origin of the blessings they received. Still another example is when Christ was speaking and said, “John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven or from men?” (Matt. 21:25). Of course, the way that John’s baptism would have been “from heaven” was if God was the source of the revelation. John did not get the idea on his own, it came “from heaven.” The verse makes the idiom clear: things could be “from heaven,” i.e., from God, or they could be “from men.” The idiom is the same when used of Jesus. Jesus is “from God,” “from heaven” or “from above” in the sense that God is his Father and thus his origin.

The idea of coming from God or being sent by God is also clarified by Jesus’ words in John 17. He said, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). We understand perfectly what Christ meant when he said, “I have sent them into the world.” He meant that he commissioned us, or appointed us. No one thinks that we were in heaven with Christ and incarnated into the flesh. Christ said, “As you have sent me, I have sent them.” So, however we take the phrase that Christ sent us, that is how we should understand the phrase that God sent Christ.[2]

Dear reader, as you search these verses[3] in the footnote, you will begin to understand that “sent,” “sent from God,” or “send” does not prove that Jesus the Messiah literally came down from heaven and is God. Jesus “sends” his disciple in the same manner as the Father sent him into the world (John 20:21).

It is unfortunate that most churches abandon and conceal the true Hebraic concept of pre-existence. This leaves the sincere Christians in ignorance of Jewish understanding of the New Testament, especially in the Gospel of John. The New Testament was written by Jews. Could it be that the suppression of the Jewish ways of understanding the scriptures damage the orthodox dogmas that have developed over the centuries?

We have seen that the term “logos” has many definitions that are more understandable and logical than the biased rendering of the “Word” as it is defined and upheld in mainstream orthodox Christianity to this day.

It is crucial that we understand scripture from within its context of what was written because the authors, who were Jews, wrote within a Hebraic framework. Therefore, it is critical to interpreting the bible with this in mind. The prime example is the Gospel of John where most trinitarian teaching is drawn from that abandons the Hebraic mindset of the New Testament authors. When this happens, the outcome has many disastrous interpretations, the use of nonsensical language, and definitions that end up having to be explained by analogies to try to get the listener to understand a doctrine that is said to be incomprehensible by many who embrace the doctrine of the trinity. The Gospel of John ends up grossly misinterpreted and distorted because of the failure to apply the proper context and its interpretation within the Judaic mindset.

Traditional Christian theologians who choose to conceal, whether ignorantly or deliberately, the Hebraic concept of pre-existence, gives birth to students who end up believing in either a “Triune God” or in some cases, a “Biune God.” In either case, it erroneously teaches that Christ is God Almighty.

How unfortunate to have gone down this path that has led to much dissension, controversy, debate, and even believers of the truth being put to torturous death over the centuries. This perversion of the truth began at least one hundred years after the death and resurrection of Christ when false doctrines began to infiltrate and plagued the church. All because church leaders have abandoned the Hebraic understanding of scriptures and have clung to the influences of Greek philosophy (also known as “Hellenism”).

The idea of pre-existence would have us believe that Jesus was really alive and conscious in heaven and active in the affairs of the Old Testament patriarchs before his birth in Bethlehem, is a deception. Jesus is and has always been authentically a human being like us. He was not an angel who became a man or some spirit being who entered Mary’s womb and became a man, nor an eternal Son of God who gave up his heavenly realm to come to earth and become a man, or the third part of a “godhead” that made a conscious decision to come to earth.

I would also like to add a note that some of the brethren would consider it blasphemy to call Jesus a man, and therefore just a mere man. They like to give their spin by asking, “So you think Jesus was just a mere man or only a man?” Well, let me ask, “Was Jesus anything other than a man?” No. He was a human being just as we are a human being. Certainly, he is a unique human being by the fact that he was directly begotten by the Father and not through the normal process of procreating. He is just as human as Adam was human. The scriptures never fail to emphasize how much Jesus is like us in every respect to his being. If Jesus is something else, then he cannot rightly be called a man. Jesus himself said he was a man and referred to himself as the son of man. In 1Tim. 2:5, Jesus is called a man. Everything about him was human. The only reason to mock the brethren who believe Jesus was a human being like the rest of us is that they hold to the belief that God became a man and therefore had two natures that made him fully man and fully God. That is why they have the problem of thinking of Jesus as a man, a human being like the rest of us. Until they can prove from scripture that teaches Jesus was ontologically different from his brethren, then they might have my ear.

[1] APPENDIX 1-John 1:1-3 by Chuck LaMattina

[2] Buzzard, pp. 154-157; Norton, pp. 246-248 as cited on Biblicalunitarian.com

[3] Matthew 10:40;  Mark 9:37; Luke 4:18; Luke 9:48; Luke 10:16; John 1:6; 4:34; 5:24; 5:30 ; 5:36; 5:37; 6:38; 6:39; 7:16; 7:28; 7:29; 7:33; 8:16; 8:18; 8:26; :29; 8:42; 9:4; 11:42; 12:44-45; 12:49; 13:20; 14:24; 15:21; 16:5; 17:18; 17:21; 17:23; 17:25; 20:21

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Can We Handle The Truth?

My book is now available on Amazon for anyone interested.

Book Cover

https://www.amazon.com/dp/154089424X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502457226&sr=8-1&keywords=can+we+handle+the+truth

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Excerpts From Book

I thought I would share a couple of chapters from my book I have been working on.  At the time of my husband’s sudden death, I was refining the chapter “Are the Dead Really Dead?”

Chapter 27
The Myth of An Immortal Soul

Does man have an immortal soul?  No. The idea that we are innately immortal is a belief held by the majority of Christian-professing denominations. In fact, it is a universal belief. It is believed that the soul continues to exist after a person dies. The body may be dead, but the “real you” is still alive and caught up in heaven (or hell) at the moment of death.

The Greek philosopher Socrates studied the Egyptian’s culture and belief about the immortality of the soul. It was Plato (427-347 BC), a student of Socrates, who defined death as a separation of the immortal soul from the body. And this is exactly the way the majority of professing Christians and non-Christians all over the world would define death to this day. It is not from scripture but from a Greek philosopher who believed that we are innately immortal, and subsequently it was about the end of the 2nd century that the Church Fathers began to blend Greek philosophical or theological speculation with the teachings of scripture! So the origin of this teaching does not come from scriptures but from the Egyptians.

The consequence of this belief in an immortal soul led to the false teaching of an everlasting place of punishment for the wicked. It has also lead to other false teachings about God, about heaven, about eternal salvation, etc. All becomes confused because of this false teaching of the immortal soul. As mentioned earlier, heresy begets another out of necessity.

Again, the idea that the soul, as a separate entity, that leaves the body at death is not taught in scripture. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia gives its view concerning the soul:

We are influenced always more or less by the Greek, Platonic idea that the body dies, yet the soul is immortal. Such an idea is utterly contrary to the Israelite consciousness and is nowhere found in the Old Testament.

If we are born with an immortal soul that never dies, what is the purpose of God offering eternal life if no one really dies? In Romans 2:7 we read:

To those who by perseverance in doing good are seeking glory, honor, and immortality—eternal life

Why seek immortality if we already have it?

MAN BECAME A LIVING SOUL 

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Gen 2:7).

The Hebrew word for “soul” in that verse is “nephesh.” The word nephesh (sometimes spelled nefesh) does not mean “soul” that is a separate entity separate from his body that man obtains or possesses. Adam became a living, breathing creature as a result of God breathing into a lifeless body that came to life. The ISV translates it as:

 So the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground, breathed life into his lungs, and the man became a living being.

By translating the word nephesh as soul, it encounters its first problem in the book of Leviticus. If you take your bible, you will see in 7:18 that nephesh (soul) does the eating (“the soul that eateth”). In verse 27 it warns about any nephesh (soul) that eats blood. We know that no one is eating a soul (supposedly an immaterial part of a person) but rather it is about the body. In addition, in Lev. 17:11 we read, “the nephesh of the flesh is in the blood. “Soul” in the English, as translators and people interpret it (a separate entity of a person), would not say our soul is in the blood, yet this is where nephesh lies in the Hebrew. There is a close relation here between flesh and blood.

If we continue to read the book of Leviticus, we will find more information in 24:17-18. We find that anyone who kills any man (nephesh) will be put to death, and anyone who kills a beast (nephesh) shall pay for it. This unmistakably has to do with physical bodies and not about what we call “souls” in the English language.

If we need further clarification, we will find where nephesh is parallel with basar, “flesh.” The parallelism is found in Psalm 63:1 (“my nephesh thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,”). So we have something that has to do with blood and how nephesh is related to flesh.

And the last thing to notice is that nephesh is related to “breath.” In 1 Kings 17:19-22, Elijah revives a dead child (17:21) by stretching himself over the young boy. We can say that Elijah knows about mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Elisha, a disciple of Elijah, used the same method in 2 Kings 4:8:

Then he went up and lay on the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. And as he stretched himself upon him, the flesh of the child became warm. (2Ki 4:34)

So what have we learned so far? We certainly did not learn that a “nephesh” (translated as “soul”) is a separate entity of the body. We have learned that nephesh is related to:

  • Flesh
  • Blood
  • Breath

When God breathed life into Adam, he did not become a man with two natures. Many read this passage through the traditional lenses of body-soul dualism. In other words, God implanted an immaterial, immortal soul into the physical body. Thus, when physical life ends, this supposedly immaterial immortal part of the self (soul) departs from the body and is still conscious. Therefore, the prevailing traditional teaching has people understanding the interpretation of Genesis 2:7 in light of Platonic dualism rather than Biblical wholism.

When God breathed into Adam, he became a living being or living soul (as translated in some bibles).  It is not that he was given a soul, but he is a soul. All people are referred to as souls, i.e., a living being. In Gen. 46:26, the people who accompanied Jacob to Egypt are referred to as souls, “All souls (nephesh) that came with Jacob to Egypt.” Joshua captured the city of Makkedah and destroyed “all the souls (nephesh) who were in it” (Jos. 10:28). In the New Testament we have the “eight souls (psuche)” in Noah’s ark who were saved (1 Pet. 3:20).

Here is another interesting fact. If a man has a separate entity that is immortal, then a separate entity that is immortal exists in all the animals, flying creatures, crawling things, and sea creatures, for they too are referred to as souls (nephesh). The word nephesh was first applied to them before it was ever applied to Adam:

Then God said, “Let the oceans swarm with living creatures [nephesh], and let birds fly above the earth throughout the sky! (Gen. 1:20)

So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature [nephesh] that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Gen. 1:21)

Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth each kind of living creature [nephesh], each kind of livestock and crawling thing, and each kind of earth’s animals! Gen. 1:24)

To every animal of the earth, and to every bird of the sky, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life [nephesh], I have given every green herb for food; and it was so.  (Gen. 1:30)

In the New Testament we have the equivalent of “nephesh” as “psuche” in reference to the sea creatures:

And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life [psuche – breath], died; (Rev. 8:9)

The average person reading through the bible might not notice all this because of the slight hand of the translators who render the Hebrew word nephesh as soul when it refers to people and living “creature” when referring to animals. Why the cover-up? Because man has been influenced by Plato’s philosophy rather than biblical truth. They believe that man has an immaterial, immortal soul and animals do not. The fact is, in the bible the expression living soul is never associated with an immortal soul.

Also, notice the word “neshamah” in the following verses. It has to do with breath. Life-giving power is associated with the “spirit of God” and the “breath of God.” Job says:

The spirit [ruach] of God has made me, and the breath [neshamah] of the Almighty gives me life. (Job 33:4)

Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath [neshamah] to the people upon it and spirit [ruach] to those who walk in it: (Isa. 43:5)

…as long as my breath [neshamah] is in me and the spirit [ruach] of God is in my nostrils; my lips will not speak falsehood. (Job 27:3)

Note in the above passages the parallelism between the “spirit [ruach] of God” and “the breath [neshamah] of God.” It is used interchangeably. They are one and the same. The parallelism denotes the same animating principle of life that God gives to man and creatures. The breathing of man and animal life is the sustaining power of God’s spirit. It has nothing to do with a separate entity within a person and creature. At the time of death, the “breath of life” or “spirit” that is sustained by God, returns to God.

If he [God] should take back his spirit [ruach] to himself, and gather to himself his breath [neshamah], all flesh would perish together, and man would return to the dust. (Job 34:14-15).

The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit [ruach] returns to God who gave it. Ecc.12:7

And all flesh died that moved upon the earth . . . everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath [neshamah] of life died. (Gen 7:21-22).

Take away their breath [ruach], and they die and return to dust. (Ps. 104:29)

As long as the breath of life or spirit remains, human beings as well as all creatures, are living souls or living beings. When that breath departs from humans and animals, we become dead souls. That breath of life is temporary, not eternal.

So, the common view is that when a person dies, his soul/spirit goes back to God as though this ‘spirit/soul’ is a separate entity that is still conscious and the actual person themselves continues to live outside the body in eternal bliss with Jesus in heaven. One of the verses used to try to support this idea is taken from Ecc. 12:7:

 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

One commentary (JFB) says: “spirit — surviving the body; implying its immortality.”

Barnes says: “The Spirit – The doctrine of life after death is implied here…”

The only reason it is implied is because they have been influenced by Greek Platonic concepts. It is simply human philosophy that Paul warned us about (Col. 2:8). Remember, it was Plato who taught his philosophical belief that man is innately immortal, not the scriptures.

Spirit Of Man

I would like to refer to Job 32:8:

But there is a spirit [ruach] in man, and the breath [neshamah] of the Almighty gives him understanding.

In Zechariah 12:1 we read:

 The burden of the word of the LORD against Israel. Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.

God forms the spirit of man within him that gives him the ability to speak a language, communicate with Him, have intelligence, talents, emotions, reasoning, thoughts, passions, memory, make choices, etc., whereas, animals only have instinct. We are free moral agents where our own personality and character is developed from the time of our birth. The bible says, “that God made man upright,” (Ecc.7:29) and the law is written upon our hearts (Rom. 2:14-15). As a result, deep within each individual, there is a natural consciousness of God and the sense of absolute moral standards. Though there are different characteristics of a person, we are not made up of different parts. The bible speaks of the whole person. Everything about a person includes:

  1. Physical Body
  2. Soul: – meaning a “living being.” The body plus the breath of life is a soul, a living being.
  3. Spirit: The body of dust plus the breath of life from God (spirit–ruach) = a living being–soul.
  4. Mind: The intellectual part of a person is his mind.
  5. Heart: It is not the simple muscle that pumps blood through the body that has its own consciousness and intellect, but rather refers to the characteristic of a person.[1] The heart is used in the place of mind. It is the seat of our moral awareness, the seat of intellect, affection, consciousness, understanding, freedom of will, etc..[2]

All of the above has nothing to do with an immaterial thing that is called an immortal soul that consciously exists after it leaves the body. Furthermore, the bible says a soul can die.[3] If the soul is immortal, how can it die?  When a person dies, it is the whole person who dies and is buried and it is the whole person who is resurrected. The Holman Bible Dictionary states:

A human being is a totality of being, not a combination of various parts and impulses. According to the Old Testament understanding, a person is not a body, which happens to possess a soul. Instead, a person is a living soul…Because of God’s breath of life; the man became ‘a living being’ (Gen. 2:7). A person thus is a complete totality, made up of human flesh, spirit (best understood as “the life-force’), and nephesh (best understood as “the total self’ but often translated as ‘soul’).

Mankind is not a tripart being although some would insist we are by referring to the words of Paul:

…and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess. 5:23

Paul is not trying to convince us that man is a tripart being. The Greek word for soul is psychē and it means life (or breath of life). Paul is simply praying for the preservation of these believers in all aspects of their life. He is not speaking about three different entities within a person. Body, soul, and spirit are all components or characteristics of the whole person. When God breathed life into Adam, he became a living being. All vital signs were activated, i.e., his heart began pumping blood that circulated throughout his whole body, his brain and all organs began to function. He became a living being that included his own feelings, passions, freedom of will, personality, etc. All is a synonym for man himself.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 tells us what happens when we die:

Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit [ruach] will return to God who gave it.

The spirit (ruach-life) is given by God with all the characteristics of each person, and upon death, returns to God who gave it. It has nothing to do with a righteous person going to heaven or the wicked person going to hell when they die and still conscious. ALL who die, whether righteous or wicked, the spirit (ruach–life), not “an immortal soul,” returns to God and the body returns to dust until the resurrection when life comes back from God.  One might ask, “How can God resurrect a body that had returned to dust? If one has returned to dust, there is no body. And what about those buried at sea or those who were tortured and burned alive until nothing was left but ashes?” The same God who created Adam from the soil of the ground is able to reconstruct a person at the time of the resurrection. When the resurrection takes place, God will reform the physical body and the spirit of man (that was preserved by God) placed back into that body to bring it to life again.

So when the spirit (“ruach”) of man returns to God upon death, He preserves it until the resurrection. The best analogy I have read is that the human spirit of man is like any digital device that cannot function apart from a power source. A computer, for example, has a storage device that records everything we put into it. When that computer is turned off or it should die, all the information is still stored in its memory. Likewise, when we die, God has a record of our character, memories, emotions, experiences, passions, our thoughts, will, our personality, and what we have done. In other words, everything we are, and about us, our entire life, is all stored in God’s memory bank. Somehow, God, “the Father of spirits” (Heb. 12:9), stores the spirit of each individual that returns to Him at death. He has a permanent record of everything about us when we die. And believing that God has a good memory, at the resurrection, He plugs it back into us, so to speak, whether righteous or wicked, and we are once again who we are and alive. Those who believed the gospel Jesus preached will have the gift of immortality in a new glorified body, whereas, the wicked are judged and shall perish (second death).

None of us are innately immortal inhabiting a body of flesh where this part of self floats off into space at the time of death and continues to live a conscious life; however, this teaching persists to this day in many churches and in Hollywood (the movie “Ghost” for example and other numerous movies).

The following is the ancient Hebrew concept of nephesh, spirit, and mankind in general:

Deleted for brevity.

What a sad case indeed that mainstream Christianity and the world at large has far removed itself from the biblical view of human nature as monistic or wholistic and have eaten at the table of Greek philosophy of Platonic dualism. Because of this cherished belief that their disembodied souls go to heaven at death, to find out otherwise can be very devastating because of their emotional, philosophical, and psychological attachment to the traditional teaching.

For most, rather than taking the time to reexamine their belief based on an exegetical study of the scriptures, they will attack (ad hominem) the person rather than the argument. One of the tactics is to use “guilt by association.” That is why I said in the beginning of my book, “While the author may refer to other authors and online references, it does not mean there is total agreement with the views expressed by those authors in other areas of doctrine.” The truth is not decided by association. In other words, I may happen to agree with some Catholics, Adventists or even Jehovah’s Witnesses in some areas, but that does not mean I believe everything they teach. We cannot discard what is biblically true just because a certain denomination or scholar happens to believe the same thing on certain issues. And for a person to use this kind of tactic (ad hominem), it simply shows that if he can get his opponent on the defensive, he will not have to answer the argument.

As I have said before, heresy begets another out of necessity. If a person, through reexamining the scriptures on certain topics, arrives at a full knowledge of the truth, he may see “the domino effect” take place of a false doctrine. If one heresy falls, the others will have to follow resulting from it.

God Alone Has Immortality

The bible says God alone has immortality (1 Tim. 6:16), which means He is never subject to death. On the other hand, we seek immortality (Rom. 2:7), and like Jesus, one day we will put on immortality (1Cor. 15:54). Like all of us, Jesus was born into this world as a mortal human being. If Jesus were immortal, then Jesus never really died. The claim is that his flesh died but his spirit kept on living. So the reality of this teaching is Jesus never really died and never was actually resurrected from the dead since the real him was never dead.

In 1 Cor. 15:53, 65 it states:

 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible 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.

A word of caution should be noted at this point. Some translators demonstrate their theological bias in the passage by supplying the word body into the text when there is no Greek equivalent. Some translations might say:

 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

Therefore, by supplying the word body into the text, it helps support the commonly held view that upon death there is a separation of the immortal soul from the mortal body. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. Just as Christ is risen and lives forever, so all of us will rise at the last day.[4]

If we do a little investigation, we will not find one phrase in scripture that says the resurrection of the body that has to be inhabited again, but the person as a whole. We have such phrases as:

  • the resurrection
  • the resurrection of Jesus Christ
  • the resurrection of the dead
  • the resurrection of the just

In the New Testament, we have the word “Aathanasia,” which is found in 1 Cor. 15:53; 15:54; and 1 Tim. 6:5. It means “immortality.” Since God alone is immortal, something will have to change in order for human beings, who are perishable and mortal, to become immortal. That change will take place at the resurrection. There is no indication in the text itself that human mortality pertains only to our bodies. That is a concept that is assumed by the proponents of natural or inherent immortality and denied by conditionalists, who propose that immortality is only potential. 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Tim. 6:16 both serve as evidence for the potential immortality position. While 1Cor.15 shows that immortality (athanasia) is not currently a present possession (even for the saved), 1 Tim. 6:16 identifies the one being who is the exception to that rule, and presently has athanasia.[5]

Though there is a bodily resurrection, it has to do with the whole person, not just the body. 

Chapter 28
Are The Dead Really Dead?

The idea that we never really die is the first lie told by Satan. We could say that Satan is the first to introduce immortality whereas, with God, mortality is conditional. Satan led Eve to believe that if she disobeyed the direct command of God not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that she would “not surely die” (here is the lie of immortality). Adam was expressly warned by God (which Adam related to Eve), “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (mortality conditional). But the serpent says to Eve, “You will not surely die.” (Gen. 2:17; 3:4). The lie of Satan is universally accepted that no one really dies.

As I sit here and type this, a famous actress died, Carrie Fisher. She is the daughter of well-known actress and performer Debbie Reynolds. The following day Debbie Reynolds died. Upon their deaths, I read comments like, “Well, her daughter needed her,” or “She is in a better place and at peace now.” “She and her daughter have reunited and happy once again.” “…tap dancing and singing her way through those pearly gates.” “Carrie can start her journey. She was waiting for her mother and the both of them are now heading to heaven together.”

The world and professing Christianity at large do not believe anyone really dies, they have simply moved on or passed on to a better place. The truth is, they are both asleep now and must wait for the resurrection of the dead.

I want to share with my readers that in the midst of reviewing and refining this chapter, my husband died of a massive heart attack while at work. At the hospital I saw him for the last time with immediate and extended family. At times like this I know we would like to ease the burden for the loved ones who remain that the person we lost to death is not really dead but with the Lord now and at peace. When we lose someone we love, we try to convince ourselves of this because the pain and grief are too much to bear as the reality of the death of our loved one immerses so deep within our being that the world just seems to stop. I do not fault them for their kindness by trying to reach out to help try to ease the pain.  It is just something we have all learned from childhood and accept as true.

 Soul Sleep?

Therefore, as we begin to examine the issue of death, I think we must first probe to the term of “soul sleep.” Those who teach and believe in the immortality of the soul try to warn others to stay away from those who do not. Those who do not believe in the immortality of the soul are accused of teaching doctrines of demons and will use guilt by association, i.e., one must be a Jehovah’s Witness or Seventh Day Adventist.

I would have to say that the ones who believe and teach innate immortality are misguided. The following is a common explanation against soul sleep and what happens to the dead:

“Soul sleep” is a belief that after a person dies, his/her soul “sleeps” until the resurrection and final judgment. The concept of “soul sleep” is not biblical. When the Bible describes a person “sleeping” in relation to death (Luke 8:52; 1 Corinthians 15:6), it does not mean literal sleep. Sleeping is just a way to describe death because a dead body appears to be asleep. The moment we die, we face the judgment of God (Hebrews 9:27). For believers, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). For unbelievers, death means everlasting punishment in hell (Luke 16:22-23).[6]

The people who speak against soul sleep are misguided because of their confusion over the word “soul.” They are constantly taught that “bodies” sleep but “souls” do not. Because of the acceptance of Plato’s definition of death – as a separation of the immortal soul from the body, by necessity, cannot have it sleeping, it must stay awake. So no one is really sleeping, only the body. The bible is clear that in the sleep of death it is the whole person who is asleep. All of the dead are referred to as persons, not dead bodies. They fail to understand the true meaning of a “living being” (nephesh). The bible teaches nothing about mankind possessing anything that is immortal.  It seems the Old Testament is entirely ignored when it gives us specific information about the state of the dead that can be easily understood. Both Testaments speaks of the dead as falling asleep and they remain asleep until the resurrection.

What this website owner states about the dead when they die is false according to scripture. In addition, did you notice how he misquoted the verse “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord?” (I cover this further in the chapter in case you do not see it.) Additionally, when a person dies, he does not immediately face judgment. Hebrews 9:27 does not tell us this. It simply says, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,” When a person dies, there is nothing in scripture that states they immediately face judgment and either go to heaven or hell. Lazarus died and there is no record of him going to heaven (or hell). He was simply asleep (dead) and Christ awakened him out of his sleep.  In fact, Jesus resurrected at least three people from the dead. The other two were Jairus’ daughter and the widow’s son at Nain. Then, of course, we have the many saints who were resurrected at the time of Christ’s crucifixion. Had those saints who were sleeping already judged and living in eternal bliss?

These people came to life once more and we can only assume they died again. Why? Because when they were resurrected, they were not resurrected with the gift of immortal life, in a new glorified body.

Hebrews 9:27 is simply about the final death and after that comes the judgment. All this does not take place immediately after the person dies, but when Christ returns. If what this website states is true, then Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, the widow’s son, and the many saints who were resurrected have already been judged and have the gift of immortality.

“Sleep” Used As a Metaphor For “Death”

We can have less confusion at the cemetery once we realize how the bible describes death. When a person dies, the bible will often use the metaphor “sleep” for death. The following is just a tiny example from the Old and New Testament, but I also want you to notice the personal pronouns. It has to do with the whole person. It has nothing to do with something that separates from the body at the time of death:

Job 14:12 – 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. (It is talking about the person. It does not say, “rouse his body out of sleep.)

Ps.13:3 – Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death. (Does not say, “lest my body sleep.”)

Dan. 12:2 – And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake. (It does not say, “And many of the bodies shall awake…”)

Job 7:21- for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be (Not, “Now shall my body sleep…”)

Luke 8:52, 53 – Everyone was crying and weeping for the girl. But Jesus said, “The child isn’t dead. She is just asleep.” The people laughed at him because they knew she was dead. (Not, “Her body is just asleep.”)

John 11:11, 13 – Then he told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, and I am going there to wake him up.” Jesus really meant that Lazarus was dead, but they thought he was talking only about sleep. (Jesus does not say, “I am going to wake the body of Lazarus up.”)

We see that it is the whole person who sleeps, not just the body. When a person dies, the whole person is dead. The bible uses the word “sleep” as a metaphor for “death.” A metaphor or analogy is simply a comparison between two things for the purpose of explanation or clarification. Since we all understand the word “sleep” because it is universal and we all have experienced it, we can compare it with death and therefore understand the concept of death. When we go to sleep, we drift into unconsciousness and have no indication of the time passing.

Some people will say that in sleeping there really is no death because a person can dream while sleeping. This is to try to prove people are still alive after they are dead and either in heaven or in hell. People will grab whatever argument they can to try to prove someone is still awake while sleeping. So the dead are not dead because a person can dream while sleeping? The fact is, the person whose heart has stopped pumping, whose blood is no longer circulating, whose brain has stopped functioning, and has stopped breathing is a dead person! Here is what the bible says about the dead:

For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? (Ps. 6:5).

The dead do not praise the Lord (Ps. 115:17)

Return, O LORD, rescue my soul; Save me because of Your lovingkindness. For there is no mention of You in death; In Sheol who will give You thanks? (Psalm 6:4-5)

The dead do not praise the LORD, Nor do any who go down into silence; (Psalm 115:17)

His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. (Psalm 146:4)

For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun… Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going. (Ecc. 9:5-6,10)

These few examples of scripture speak nothing about a consciousness after death. Once a person dies, it means the utter end of being alive. The bible says they are asleep.

Christ told his disciples that Lazarus was asleep. The disciples did not understand so Jesus had to tell them plainly, “Lazarus is dead” (John 11:14). Lazarus was not still alive in a disembodied state, judged, and enjoying eternal bliss with God in heaven. Rather, he was inside a grave decomposing. As Martha said to Jesus, “by this time he stinks” (John 11:39). When Jesus came to the grave he cried out, “Lazarus come forth!” Jesus did not cry out, “Lazarus, you get back down here!”

Another thing to consider is that Lazarus never mentions what activity he experienced while dead those four days. For that matter, why would anyone want to leave heaven? Shouldn’t Lazarus have been extremely disappointed when Jesus forced him from his “eternal reward in heaven” back to earth?

Question: What about where the bible says, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living?”

Answer: In context, Jesus is addressing the Sadducees who rejected the resurrection of the dead (Matt 22:23, Mark 12:18, Luke 20:27). Jesus answered them and said:

You are in error, through ignorance of the Scriptures and of the power of God. (Matt. 22:29)

In Mat 22:31-32 he says:

But as touching the RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

The quotation is from Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush (Ex. 3:6; cf. Mk. 12:26). In Mark 12:25, on the same topic, we read concerning the dead:

For when they SHALL RISE FROM THE DEAD, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.

Jesus is dealing with the Sadducees and their rejection of the power of God to raise the dead from the grave and their lack of knowledge of scripture on this issue. It is not proof that the dead never really die and continue to live after death. The Sadducees assumed death to be final and permanent.

If Jesus is teaching that the patriarchs are presently living and conscious, then he is teaching that they have already been resurrected and the argument is a waste of time. Why? Because Jesus would be arguing merely for the continued existence of the dead rather than “Resurrection” from the dead, which resurrection is the context! If Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not dead, Christ could not have used them to prove the dead will be raised. One must be dead to be resurrected from the dead.

Therefore, if people insist that the passage supports that the dead are still living, then they take away Christ’s argument of proving the resurrection – that all the saints SHALL RISE from the dead.

To support the state of the dead are still living is doing so out of context. All the dead will return to dust while awaiting the resurrection. Some will rise and be given the life of immortality, which is a “gift,” and the others will “perish,” to be destroyed by fire. “Fire,” according to scripture, is used for utter destruction, not for preservation in torment for billions and billions and billions of years with no end in sight.

The Rich Man And Lazarus

Question: What about Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16?

Answer: There are two things we must remember when reading the bible:

  1. We must Look at the immediate context
  2. We must look at the broader context of the entire bible where it contains the same topic

We cannot dismiss numerous passages of scripture to one difficult passage that might seem to contradict the broader context. I have seen many people do this, and I plead guilty as well but there is always the opportunity to change our minds once we reexamine the scriptures.

On the issue of death, we know that the bible summarizes the state of the dead in Ecc. 9:5: “The dead know nothing.” The story of the rich man and Lazarus seem to contradict the broader context of the entire bible when it comes to death and sleep. However, there is no contradiction when we realize that Jesus is telling a parable when it comes to this story. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines a parable as “a short story that teaches a moral or spiritual lesson.”

Just prior to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, we have the parables of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15), and then the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

The traditional teaching about the rich man and Lazarus is taken literally to try to prove the dead are conscious and are either in heaven or hell the moment they die while the body decays in the grave, that they continue on in a disembodied state. This is not a parable about the state of the dead or about heaven and hell, or about tormented in hell fire for billions of years.

For those who believe in eternal conscious torment (ECT) end up contradicting what they claim to believe. For instance, if this is a literal story then it means the saved would be watching their loved ones burning and tormented in flames of fire forever and ever but never burning up. Thus, the people in hell and the people in heaven can see each other! Do they really believe this? In addition, do they believe that one drop of water could relieve the agony and pain of those suffering in the blazing fire? (“…and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.”) Also, where does it say the beggar went to heaven? It says he was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. Abraham’s bosom is not heaven. The word “bosom” means chest, but not literally all the time. It also represents a special closeness or intimacy. To have in one’s bosom indicates kindness, secrecy, or intimacy (Genesis 16:5; 2 Samuel 12:8). Christ is said to have been in “the bosom of the Father,” i.e., he had a perfect knowledge of the Father and had the closest intimacy with Him (John 1:18). John was leaning on Jesus’ bosom at the last supper (John 13:23). Our Lord carries his lambs in his bosom, i.e., has a tender, watchful care over them (Isaiah 40:11).[7]

Furthermore, if the body is in the grave and the beggar is believed to be in heaven, what is he doing with a body? What we have is that when the rich man and the beggar died, they went bodily to their rewards. Scripture does not teach this. When a person dies, he goes to the grave and awaits the resurrection. King David is still in the grave. After Christ’s resurrection, it is said, “David did not ascend into the heavens” (Acts 2:34). Men are rewarded at Christ’s second coming, not at death (Revelation 22:11, 12)

Jesus knows about the state of the dead. He knows that Abraham as well as all the other faithful saints are dead in their graves and will be raised in the resurrection:

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth —those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:28-29)

The Prophet Daniel says:

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

Therefore, we see there are problems if we take the parable of Lazarus and the rich man literally. The topic has nothing to do with the state of the dead or heaven and hell. Taken at face value, the story is about greed, judgment, and repentance. Jesus condemns the Pharisees for their love of money (greed) while neglecting to show compassion for the poor (Luke 16:19:31). In other words, having great wealth emptied of active mercy is considered wicked. After death it is too late for repentance, to change our character and behavior (Rev. 22:7-12).

What about when Paul said he would rather be with Christ (Phil. 1:23)? Or where he says, “that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8)?

I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.  (Phil. 1:23)

Many have understood this to mean that when Paul dies, he will immediately be with Christ. A few things to notice:

  • Paul never said he would immediately be with Christ when he dies.
  • Paul never said anything about going to heaven when he dies.
  • Paul never says anything about him or anyone being in a disembodied state when they die and immediately home with Christ.

But here is what Paul did understand:

  • He knew that death is a sleep and taught about believers who sleep waiting for the resurrection at Christ’s return. (1 Thes. 4:13-17)
  • Paul knew the dead have no consciousness or awareness, “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything” (Ecc. 9:5).
  • Paul knows that from the moment of death until his resurrection that he will have no experience of time passing. Just as when we sleep, we wake up not knowing how many hours we have actually slept. Likewise, upon resurrection it would seem like an instant of time had passed since the moment of death. This will be the experience for all those who have been dead for thousands of years.
  • Paul understood that the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give him on that Day (of Christ’s appearing at the second coming) and to all who love his appearing (2 Tim. 4:6-8) The reward is not received immediately at death but is stored in heaven until the time of the resurrection.
  • Therefore, Paul knew that the faithful who have died will remain asleep in the grave until Jesus returns and raises them to immortal life (1 Corinthians 15:50-57).

As far as 2 Cor. 5:8:

We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

This verse is often misquoted. Note it does not say, “…to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Because the verse is so often misquoted, people think that once a person dies he is instantaneously present with the Lord in a disembodied state.

If we read the context, Paul says;

For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life” (vs. 2–4).

Paul declares that “life” (immortal life) comes when we are “clothed upon” with this “house…from heaven” at the resurrection (v. 4), not in the “naked” or “unclothed” state of death. No one is “clothed” with immortality at the time of death, but rather simultaneously at the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:51–54; 1 Thess. 4:15–17; 2 Tim. 4:6–8; etc.).

Paul knows the faithful in Christ are asleep (dead) and will be awakened from this sleep at the first resurrection (John 11:11–14, 25, 26; 1 Cor. 15:20, 51–54; 1 Thess. 4:14–17; 5:10).

As stated above, when a person dies, they have no awareness of time passing. As a person who goes to bed and falls asleep in the blackness of the night, he is not aware of the hours that pass. His next conscious thought is when he awakes with the sun filled sky of the morning. Likewise, when a person dies he has no awareness of time that has passed. His next conscious thought is the resurrection and being present with the Lord.

As we can understand, Paul does not teach anything about going to heaven in a disembodied state immediately after death. The whole person is in the grave and it is the whole person who will be resurrected from the dead.

I want to end this chapter with the words of Paul who I am sure  experienced the death of family and Christian brothers and sisters through natural sleep or from persecution, who says, “comfort one another with these words,” because though we have deep sorrow and many tears, we do not weep as those who have no hope. Our hope is in the resurrection when Christ returns:

   I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 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 will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

[1] Genesis 6:5; Judges; 16:15, 17, 18, 20; Matthew 5:8; Luke 12:34; Romans 10:10; Hebrews 3:10

[2] Matthew 13:15; 15:19; Mark 7:19; Luke 6:45; 9:47; Acts 8:21; 8:37; 28:27; Romans 10:9; 10:10; 1 Corinthians 2:9; 7:37; Hebrews 3:10; 4:12; 1 John 3:20-21

[3] From the King James Bible: Lev. 23:30; Josh.11:11; Josh.10:28,30,32,35,37,39; Judges 16:16; Ps.78:50; Eze.13:19; Eze.18:4; Eze.22:25, etc.

[4] Catechism of the Catholic Church 1016

[5] http://www.afterlife.co.nz/2011/theology/articles-c-i/god-alone-is-immortal/

[6] https://www.gotquestions.org/soul-sleep.html

[7] Easton’s Bible Dictionary

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But For the Grace of God Go I

Is this saying another way to blame God? One day I was reading the newspaper about a tragic accident that happened on I-95 where a six-year-old child was killed. The driver was the father who had a car load of children on their way to a church function. All came out fine except for the death of the father’s child. One of the children said to another, “God was with us,” which those around were in agreement and with much thankfulness. But I can’t help but think, was God not there for the six-year-old who was killed? And what about the grieving family?

Grace go IHow many times have we heard, “There but for the grace of God go I?” Often we hear that phrase when it has to do with escaping some horrible accident, escaping death, various addictions, or some type of disaster. We may hear something similar, “By God’s grace” He helped me find a job, find a spouse, pay my bills, that my house didn’t get flooded during the storm, etc., etc..

I used to have a co-worker who used that phrase quite often. I couldn’t help but cringe every time she said it. Finally one day I asked her, “What about those who were not as fortunate to experience all of this supposed grace? What about those who end up with flooded homes, no job, or loss of a child in some horrible accident, etc. etc.? ” I could see I caught her off guard and she stumbled for an answer.

I have never noticed anyone using the phrase directly at the person experiencing the horrible tragedies in their life.  Could using the phrase be an unintentional smug remark when others are faced with disaster, disgrace, or other misfortunes, as a result of their choices or no fault of their own? Does it not imply that the person making the remark could have been in the same position but was fortunate enough to escape such disasters because God favored them more than the other? Is such an expression Biblical or implied? I have yet to find it.

I have a friend from Germany who needed help with the grammar of this expression. He could guess from the context but didn’t get the exact meaning. He said the sentence would not work in his native tongue.  My reply to him is that one could explain it as a person who experiences bad things in life, but to the other person, it could have happened to them, but it didn’t because God was watching over the “favored one.” For example, one year my neighbors around the corner from us were flooded out of their homes from a week long rainfall. I could easily have said, “There but for the grace of God go I.” It’s another way of saying, “Too bad God wasn’t watching over and protecting you, but God protected me instead from such disaster.”

I think it is such a terrible saying for those who face a string of personal catastrophes and to think we come out unscathed because God favored us over them. It is one of the dangers of attributing an event to God’s direct involvement when it could have been natural causes.

Another danger of this kind of thinking is concluding that disastrous events did not happen to you because of your good relationship with God, or by those who think they have a relationship with God. There is one thing I do know. Jesus said,

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45.

It is not a matter of who is getting blessed and who isn’t. Or who is enjoying life and who is not. As someone has aptly said,

“God is not rewarding the unjust with his rain, nor is he trying to frustrate the just by raining on the unjust. It is simply a testimony to God’s impartiality.”

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