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

Advertisements
Posted in Church, Trinity? | 2 Comments

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

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

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

Posted in General | Leave a comment

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.”

Posted in General | 1 Comment

The Christian Hope is Not Going to Heaven

The HOPE of the righteous is RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD. It is NOT the hope of “going to heaven,” for nowhere in scripture does it say heaven is our destination when we die no matter how this unbiblical teaching is reinforced in hymns, at funerals, in literature, in the pulpits, and Hollywood movies.

God is going to renew this earth and promised that the righteous are going to “inherit the earth.” Jesus repeated this promise: 

“Blessed are the meek, for they are going to inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

This renewed earth is the reward and inheritance of all the saints.

“For evildoers will be cut off, but as for those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the earth. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; and you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there. But the humble will inherit the earth and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity…The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their inheritance will be forever… For those blessed by Him will inherit the earth, but those cursed by Him will be cut off…The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever…Wait for the LORD and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it” (Psalm 37:9-34).

Question:  Just curious….what about when Jesus said, “This day, you shalt be with me in Paradise?”  And, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.”

Good question.  There is so much to cover, but I will try to give it to you in a nut shell. 

One of the scriptures you are talking about is John 14:1-3

Concerning preparing a place, it says, 

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1–3).

Just to make some points.

  1.  Heaven is never referred to as “my Father’s house.” (Allusion to the temple)
  2. Jesus is not talking about taking them to heaven when they die. If this were so, we would have Jesus “coming back” many times after each person dies and individual resurrections.
  3. We know that Jesus is not literally building buildings or mansions (translated “dwelling places”) There is no construction work going on in heaven. 🙂

But Jesus does promise to prepare a place for us. A question to ask is, Where is this place? It will be here on earth when he returns, thus fulfilling a prophecy given by the angels in Acts 1:11. It is also in harmony with Jesus in 1 Thess. 4:13-17 where we will be united with Christ at the “second coming.” The coming of Christ fulfills a multitude of prophecies of the “Kingdom of God” in the Old and New Testaments. 

All the saints will have important position of authority in the coming Kingdom, the Millennium, which will be initiated by Jesus’ Coming (Rev.19:11-20:6; Isa. 9:6-9; Ps. 2; Acts 3:21). The saints will judge the world and angels (1 Cor. 6:2-3). Jesus restores life to conditions seen in the Garden of Eden (Rev. 20:1-6; Is. 2:1-4; 9:6-9; 11:1-16; 51:1-8; 60-62; 65:17-25; Ps. 2:6-12; 110:1-7; Mt. 5:5; 6:10; 17:11; 19:28; Acts 1:6; 3:21).

As far as the thief on the cross, this is really no problem. The thief on the cross said to Jesus, 

“Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). 

Again, there is nothing in there that says anything about going to heaven. It’s about a “Kingdom.” “…come into your kingdom.”

When Christ died, he didn’t go to heaven, but was in the grave and it was on the third day that God raised (resurrected) him from the dead. Christ was raised to a life of immortality, which is promised to all those who believe the gospel about the Kingdom that Christ preached. 

Jesus responded to the thief,

“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

We have a system of punctuation in the English that was not used in the Greek language. There is a big difference when a comma is moved or not in the correct place. The translators give us the impression that Jesus went to heaven the day he died, as well as the thief. To get a correct reading, and which “harmonizes” with other passages of scripture, it should read, 

“Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

Now, if paradise is in heaven, neither the thief or Jesus went to heaven that day. Christ was three days in the grave and after his resurrection Christ said to Mary Magdalene, “I have not yet ascended to My Father.” So I can say with confidence that the comma is in the wrong place. That simple comma where the translators has placed it makes other passages of scripture contradict. 

Paul received a vision of paradise (2 Cor.12:3-4), the garden of Eden. Paradise will be the restored garden of Eden, which contains the tree of life: 

“To him who overcomes, I will give to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise garden of God” (Rev. 2:7; 22:2).

God never promised eternity in heaven as a reward for the saved, but a promise to “enter the Kingdom.” Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of his Father. When Jesus comes again he will reign on earth and we, as coheirs, will reign with him (compare for example – Romans 8:17; 2. Tim. 2:12; Hebrews 1:1-2; 2:5-11; Rev. 5:10; Revelation 21:7). 

So ultimately, we inherit the entire universe, “inherit the earth.”

Posted in General | 2 Comments

Everything  Happens For a Reason?  It’s God’s Will and He is in Control?

accident.jpgI would like to discuss the first part of the title where we commonly hear that if something tragic happens or things are not going just right, that it all “happens for a reason.”

There may be some of you who disagree, but I find it an unfortunate choice of words when people try to console themselves when something disastrous happens in their lives by saying,  “Everything happens for a reason.”   In your heart of hearts, do you really believe this?

People think everything that happens in their life, down to the minutest details, is all in God’s will.  They are taught such phrases as “It’s God’s will,” or “Everything happens for a reason,” or “God is in control.”  Such phrases are used as a pain killer, a narcotic, if you will, in order to try and ease the pain of human suffering.  

There was an actor whose son was shot and killed and people tried to console him concerning the death of his son.   He said,  “Some have come to me and said it was God’s will.   My answer to them is that I choose not to consider God carrying out his will with a bullet to my son’s head.”

Seriously think about it.   If someone were to harm your child or any of your loved ones, could you honestly say it was “God’s will” and that “everything happens for a reason?”   And please tell me, what  kind of reason  would God have?  Just about everyone knows there is a reason, but no one can tell what that reason is!  It’s always a mystery.  In the mean time there are many who go through years of struggle and guilt. They struggle because they just can’t comprehend why God would allow such a thing to happen in their life, and have guilt because over a period time they have become angry with God.  This has affected many people so extremely that they have walked away from God angry and confused.

The meaning behind  “everything happens for a reason,”  is that  God “intends for everything to happen that happens.”

Is that really true?  If God intends for everything to happen that happens, then why do we see the God of the Bible intervening in people’s lives if everything was planned out to the minutest detail?  What would be the purpose for the times He has changed His mind?  

Furthermore, if God intends for everything to happen that happens, then there is no escaping the fact that this is accusing God of being behind all the evil that takes place in this world.

What we have been taught to believe is Reformed Theology (Calvinism) and not Bible truth.   I will give you a few quotes from Reformed Theology:

God is seen as the great and mighty King who has appointed the course of nature and who directs the course of history even down to its minutest details.”

He also perfectly controls all the depraved and impious affections of the wicked, and turns them as He pleases.”

When we get the larger view we see that even the sinful acts of men have their place in the divine plan.”

So when you say,  “Everything happens for a reason,” or “It’s God’s will,”  you are only repeating Reformed Theology and not Bible truth.

You see, there is one element left out.   Now we know God  created  systems that governs the laws of nature and can intervene at any time (ex. Ex. 14:21-22;  Joshua 10:13;  Haggai 1:11).   When it comes to human beings, the element left out is that God gave us a  free will.    We can choose good or evil.  God does not decide that for us.    But those who hold to Reformed Theology, you are holding to a god that is sadistic. 

Everything happens for a reason?   Then we should not complain when someone does something vicious to us.   We should not be upset when we see cruel and vile crimes committed such as abortions, rape of children, murderers murdering people, women forced at gunpoint and repeatedly and brutally raped  and other such vile crimes, because according to Reformed Theology (Calvinism),  the  criminals had no choice!  Why? Because the god of Reformed Theology “controls all the depraved and impious affections of the wicked, and turns them as He pleases.”  “Everything happens for a reason,” and all is in “God’s will.”

Are you beginning to see the implications of this repeated  rhetoric?   God does not choose evil to befall you, that is man’s choice.

God is not capable of perpetrating evil.   God did not create evil. I know some will immediately point out Isa. 45:7 in the KJB, but look and compare context carefully because it has nothing to do with “moral” evil or sin. but rather with “calamity” or “disaster”. 

There is good news! Though people will make wrong or evil choices that affect our lives, we are told,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Rom. 8:28

This tells me that God can use circumstances for our own good if we allow him.   God can heal physical, emotional, and relational wounds.   A classic example of this is seen in the story of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers. (Gen. 37)  At the end of that story, God brought healing and reconciliation and much more.   What the brothers conceived and imagined to harm Joseph,  God was able to use the circumstances in Joseph’s life for good.  Joseph did not moan, “Oh, well, this is God’s will and everything happens for a reason.”  What Joseph did see was that God was powerful and loving enough to use his circumstance to bring about good. (Gen. 50:20)

Is God really in Control?

The second point of Reformed Theology (Calvinism) claims that God is in control of everything that goes on in this world. It is really no different from “everything happens for a reason” or “it’s God’s will.”  However, this is not the Biblical view.

That ‘God is in control,’ does not exist anywhere in the scriptures.  Throughout scriptures we  can  observe where God intervenes in the world.  ( If God were in control, then He would not have to intervene.)   The Bible shows that God is  selectively  involved in the affairs of the world.

I would say that God is in control, but with the clarification that there is nothing beyond His ability to intervene.   God has all authority and power and can do whatever He pleases.  But it is wrong to say “God is in control” if a person means by that statement that God is controlling every little detail in this world.   In that sense, God is not in control. To cause less confusion, we can say,  “God is in charge.”

If God were in control, Jesus’ prayer would be meaningless.  Jesus taught the prayer,  “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”   Can we honestly say that God’s will is being done today?   God’s will is that “none should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), but has everyone come to repentance so they will not perish?   There are things happening this very moment that grieves God’s heart.  Why would God want to control to a point that it grieves His own heart?  If God is in control of everything then we cannot be blamed for His sorrows.   If He controls everything, we are simply victims, and without reservations, can blame God for making His life and ours miserable.   Full responsibility is placed on God alone, and why not, since we are told God is in control?

Have you ever heard the question,   ‘If God is in control, why is there so much suffering in the world?”    The world scoffs at the answers given by those who hold to Reformed Theology (Calvinism), because they have the sense to know it is nonsense.   Their answers tend to turn people away from God, not closer to Him. No matter what the answer, there is still human suffering and it shows that God favors one over the other if God were in total control.  It also leaves them with only two options:

1.   Either God is in control
2.   Or He is completely uninvolved

Since it is hard to accept the first option because of all the suffering at the hand of God, they will apt for the second.

If one leans to the first option, he must conclude that God is responsible for all the pain, all the rapes, all the murders, the cause of wars, the cause of all diseases, and so on.   This makes God fully responsible because He is said to be “in control.”   There is no way around this no matter how one tries to squirm out of the issue. It’s not enough to say, “God knows what is best for us and we must accept it by faith.”   This same person will find himself asking the same question when it strikes home.

Since the first option does not satisfy, one must choose the second, which most people have concluded.

Is there a third Option?

Yes. The Biblical view  –  That God is not in control.  Why?  Because man has a free will.  And that is one of the reasons why there is so much pain and suffering in this world.

If one were to read the Bible carefully, he will find that from the time of  Adam, and throughout the whole scriptures, of things that happened that God did not intend to happen, but yet they happened because God has given us a free will.  He gives us the ability to make choices which can have a positive or adverse effects on ourselves and our fellow human beings.  

God does not have total control, not because He doesn’t have the ability or power, but because He chooses not to exert that power in all situations.  God can intervene and does influence this world through responses to our prayers, our relationships, and spiritual laws.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, among other Biblical characters, understood God was not in control, but they did know God was  “in charge”  and therefore had no problems approaching God with prayers, tears, requests, and praise.

Living for God and following Christ’s example by living righteously will not come easy in this world filled with wickedness.  As long as we stay strong through the many trials that life brings us, we can join Paul who said,

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, northings present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 8:38-39

Posted in General | 3 Comments

What is the Gospel?

Many professing Christians cannot fully tell you what the Gospel is. It seems the only answer they can give is to quote 1 Cor. 15:1-4.

“Now I make known to you brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . . ”

They say THAT is the whole Gospel. Well, not really. Notice what Paul says,

“For I delivered to you AS OF FIRST IMPORTANCE…”

Now why would Paul start off like that? Because there is much more to the story than Christ dying and raised from the dead, but since this chapter has to do with the resurrection, this is his main focus for the rest of the chapter. If the dead are not raised, then our preaching is useless and so is our faith. If Christ is not raised, our faith is simply foolish.

I’ll tell you why.

Because the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is about God’s immortality plan for human beings in the Kingdom to come which all will “inherit the earth.” (Psa_37:9; Psa_37:11; Psa_37:22; Mat_5:5)

The one major element of the Gospel that most people leave out is the Kingdom of God. Jesus came preaching the Gospel (Good News) about this kingdom and was the main purpose for which he was sent.

“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” Luke 4:43

Jesus sent his disciples (seventy others – Luke 10:1-12) to preach this gospel before any of them knew about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (which of course, later became part of the gospel…good news!). The disciples preached this gospel. (See Matt. 4:17; 4:23; 9:35; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:11, and also read how Jesus always spoke about the Kingdom of God before and after the cross (Acts 1:3).

Heb. 2:3, along with many other verses, attest that Jesus is the first preacher of immortality. Even Paul tells us that Jesus,

brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” (2 Tim. 1:10)

Jesus is our preacher who showed us by his example and told us how we can eventually live forever. People must repent and believe this gospel about the kingdom of God.

Paul spent two years in his own hired house and,

welcomed all who came in to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God, and teaching those things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, with all freedom, and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:30-31)

So to sum it up, the mission statement of Jesus reveals his whole purpose, i.e., to preach the GOOD NEWS about the Kingdom of God and how to gain immortality in that Kingdom.

The devil wants to blind the eyes and promote lies that being disobedient to God will not lead to death (Gen. 3:4) But for those who believe the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and do as Jesus instructs us, though they die physically, will one day be resurrected to a life of immortality, just as Christ was.

The Kingdom of God will be inaugurated by the return of Jesus to resurrect the faithful of all ages (who are still dead in their graves) to a life of immortality.

resurrection hope

Jesus said,

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

Posted in General | Leave a comment