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Questions About Body and Heaven 2.0

There have been lots of great questions in response to this week’s posts. Unfortunately they are scattered in between my inbox, comment links, and Facebook responses. I will try to gather them and answer them here, concisely in one post. Here are a few of the most notable ones. I will try to answer others a bit later.

  1. Is it O.K. for Christians to choose to be cremated? If one is cremated and ashes scattered will that person’s body be resurrected into a new spiritual body?

    This question is really one of physicality. It could also be stated, “What sort of physical shape does a person have to be in, in order to be resurrected?” The short answer is whether we are ash or dust we will be resurrected. A person can become either whether it be by fire or by burial. Also we must acknowledge that people can die horrible deaths in which the body is all but lost. Some people point to 1 Corinthians 15:35-55 as a reason you should not be cremated because the body must be “planted in the ground.” I am not sure Paul’s teaching here was meant to be taken as a blueprint for burial as much as a theological truth about the resurrection in general. Remember, even though Paul is saying “planted in the ground” in the 1st century a bulk of the population was not actually “planted in the ground” but rather deposited in a tomb. After a year of decay the family would then come in and place the bones in a box, an ossuary.

  2. You mentioned that in my spiritual body, I will be "me", but will my loved ones know me. For example, will my grandmother know me as her grand-daughter, will I know Chris as my husband, etc? Just something I've always wondered and have never gotten an answer.

    This is one of those you have to answer with a sprinkle of “my own personal opinion.” 1 Cor. 7:29-31 says that the “form” of this world is passing away. In short that means the way we do and understand things is going to change. I have a hard time believing that our relational memories will be erased to the point that we cannot recall how we related to people on earth. However, there must be something so wonderful about the way we relate fully to God and to one another that the former ways of relating will seem inferior and we will surely not want to return to them. There are some things the Bible is simply not clear on. What we do know is that the gospel, practiced in this world, should have a profound impact on our relationships. We do know that how we relate to and treat others in this world is of eternal consequence (Matthew 25:31-46).

  3. What Scriptural indication do we have that a baby--born or unborn, or a small child, goes to be with The LORD for eternity if it dies? If we are all descendants of Adam, then is not condemnation the "default" destiny for those who have not accepted Jesus as their Atonement? Corruption cannot enter Heaven. (By the way, great to hear from you Alden and Penny).

    When dealing with eternal concepts and most certainly in dealing with our salvation we want to distinguish between wishful thinking and truth. I think there is a lot of misinformation on the planet that is not truth, but is more based on wishful thinking. No one likes the idea that good, honest, innocent people die and go to Hell, but yet the Bible teaches this is certainly the case.

    However, when it comes to innocent children, I think we can safely remove it from the confines of wishful thinking and relegate what we know of their eternity to truth. With that said, we should also acknowledge there are some rough edges here as to how exactly does all of this work and what ages are included? However, we do know that God saves children who do not comprehend the gospel.

    The most notable case of this is 2 Samuel 12:23. David is a godly man who did a very ungodly thing. Yet David is comforted in the child’s death. He seemed so comforted it was odd to those who surrounded him. He explained his comfort was found in the nature of the child’s afterlife. Some would argue that “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” simply means the afterlife. However we should acknowledge it is very clear that David was a redeemed man and he, as we, know where he will spend eternity.

    We should also acknowledge that there were children “saved” by God in their mother’s womb or soon after birth. The list would include John the Baptist (Luke 1:15), David (Psalm 22:10), and Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5).

    I know I am beating the proverbial horse on this one, but Wayne Grudem has a great discussion of this on pages 498-500 in his Systematic Theology. I am but a waffle ball player (
    see my note on a previous post)!

  4. Judy in Florida asked some great questions about my last post. I want to simply copy our dialogue:

    From Judy - Jesus tells the Sadducees that they don't know the scriptures and the power of God in this same discussion. Are there specific Old Testament verses that Jesus is referring to about marriage and the lack thereof in heaven? Also, I was never bothered by the fact that I would not be married in heaven until my husband of 23 years just passed away. Now I find myself in your first camp, like you hope your sweet wife is in, very disappointed and saddened at this thought. I still want to be married in heaven, at least from my current, earthbound perspective. And as to the male/female issue, is it possible that the reason Jesus and Moses and Samuel are still recognized as male is that they still don't have their new resurrected body, which after we all get them are then "as the angels" neither male nor female.

    My reply - I am not sure Jesus is referring as much to specific verses about post-resurrection marriage (if He is I cannot recall them) as much as he is speaking to their lack of belief in any sort of resurrection. The Sadducees were strict materialists who did not believe in resurrection. Their question was designed only to show how ridiculous the idea of resurrection was in any context. The problem is, their question backfired.

    As far as not being married to your spouse in heaven it is difficult to grasp with our mind. We are only accustomed to certain definitions of things. We cannot conceive of how it may be more fulfilling to relate to our loved ones outside of the current defined relationships, but yet we know this will be true, somehow. What we must be careful of is not to grieve over the state of eternity but rather over the reality of death. Death is the enemy that severs our current relationships.

    As far as the male/female issue and the resurrected bodies, your statement may hold true for the OT saints, but it could not be said of Jesus. His resurrection was the first “full” resurrection and glorification. He was in his glorified body when Mary referred to Him as “sir.” He is the firstborn among many brethren.

    Judy, thanks for your input. I will certainly be praying for you. I am sorry to hear of your husband’s passing. May God be a husband and a father to you during this time.
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Will I Still Be Married in Heaven?

A common question concerning the resurrection and the eternal state has to do with marriage. In eternity will we be married to our current spouse? This question becomes even more cumbersome if a person has experienced multiple marriages (Matthew 22:23-28).

Romans 7:3 and 1 Corinthians 7:39 teach that a person is bound in marriage as long as they are alive. Once a spouse dies the marriage bond is broken. Given the fact that death is the vehicle of choice by which most of us will enter eternity, this means our marriages will effectively be over. When the Sadducees tried to trap Jesus with the cumbersome multiple marriage/resurrection question Jesus answered that in the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage (Matthew 22:29,30).

There will be two responses to this idea. Some will be saddened by this news (like my wife Shannon, right my love!). Others will be secretly relieved (careful)! Wherever you fall on this it is hard for us to conceive of life with relationships being redefined. How can you be married to someone for decades and not understand them to be your husband or wife in heaven? How can you be married to a person and not want them to be your spouse also in heaven? Honestly, I don’t know. We know from Scripture that God will be the perfect fulfillment of our relational needs and that in eternity we will perfectly relate to one another. The church in fact is called the “bride of Christ.” The new Jerusalem descends from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband. There will be lots of marriage language in heaven, and as such it is safe to say that in heaven we will still know what marriage means, but yet somehow and in someway the relationships will be redefined.

Another common question here concerns gender definitions in heaven. Will we be men and women as we are now? Most mistake Jesus’ comment in Mt. 22:30 that we will “be like the angels” to mean we will be eternally androgynous. This is not the case. John McArthur has a good discussion of this on pp. 135 – 138 in his book The Glory of Heaven.[i] He points out that after Jesus resurrection he was recognized as male. In fact when Mary first saw Jesus in the garden, having no conceivable thought that Jesus would possibly be alive, she mistakenly thought Jesus was the gardener. She referred to him as, “Sir (John 20:15).” After they saw Jesus, Jesus was Jesus, the male Jesus. The same could be said for the postmortem appearances of Moses and Samuel. They were recognized as who they were. There is nothing to indicate their gender had been blurred or redefined. They were male.

A post of this nature will arouse a multitude of questions. I welcome them, but I must warn you, I am like you, I probably cannot answer them. However, if you will send them on in, I will give it a shot Thursday or Friday.
[i] I should also add that Hank Hanegraaff has an interesting chapter on “Sex” after the resurrection in his book simply titled “Resurrection.” With that said, Mr. Hanegraaff, you can thank me in heaven for making your book a best seller.
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Do People Die and Go to Heaven Forever? Not Exactly.

There is nothing like a conservative Christian who takes the Bible literally to use an issue of semantics to construct a catchy, cheap title just so you will read his post. Yet you are here. I win.

People talk about dying now and living in heaven “as it is now” forever. Such a thought or statement isn’t exactly right. It is true that the most prominent use of the word heaven is to describe the place in which the full presence of God is manifested. In that sense, saying, “When saved people die they spend eternity in heaven” is true and will always be true. Yet, we should acknowledge that heaven as it exists right now at 11:00 a.m. on June 30, 2009 is not the heaven that will be for all eternity.

After all chaos and judgment is complete, after the resurrection, after the followers of Christ have received body 2.0, John says in Revelation 21:1-4,

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. . . (v. 4c) for the former things have passed away.”

Heaven and earth as they exist now will pass away, they will cease to be. It seems that the new place generally referred to as heaven will exist in three recognizable parts. There will be a heaven above as there is now. There will be an earth below, as there is now and from which I am writing to you today! There will be a capital city, the new Jerusalem.

So what will life be like in the new heavens and new earth? Revelation 21 and 22 gives us a marvelous picture that at the very least tells us that there is not a sin worth clinging on to, or a persecution to endure, or a trial to suffer worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us. Paul was spot on (Rom. 8:18). There is nothing in this world that even compares to what is to come. If you have yet to repent of your sin and receive the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ the coming glory revealed in Rev. 21 and 22 ought to be reason enough. I could write on and on about this, but it does not fully answer our question. What will life be like in the new heavens and new earth?

  1. That which is in part shall be done away (1 Cor. 13:12). There are a lot of verses in the Bible that we take metaphorically, devotionally, ideally, or spiritually. When we read a verse like Psalm 73:25-26 we may have a moment or two in which we experience what it might be like for God to be our portion, but not fully. In the new heavens and the new earth, God will actually be our portion. The metaphors of the Bible will be actualities. Spiritual truth will be physical, tangible, sensational (in the most literal sense). Psalm 73 will not be an ideal, in heaven and earth 2.0 God will be the energy, the light, the sustenance, the fullness. He will be our everything.

  2. There will be no more tears, death, mourning, or pain.

  3. While the physics of life have changed, there will be physical elements of life that will be familiar. Many scholars, including Wayne Grudem, do not take the description of the New Jerusalem literally. I have read many who say the dimensions alone indicate this cannot be a literal city because it simply would not fit on earth. The new Jerusalem is physically impossible. I would disagree.[i] It is obvious in the new heavens and new earth, physics as we know it will change. The glorified body in and of itself will make physics quite interesting. Jesus said that in His Father’s house were many mansions, dwelling places. Yet in the glorified body, who needs walls? But yet there will be walls, but why? While the physics of the earth and heaven 2.0 raise interesting and pointless debates we do recognize from Rev. 21-22 some things that are familiar to us, like walls, foundations, trees, rivers, streets, music, gates, jewels, and the throne. Jerusalem is the capital city, but will there be states and cities throughout the world as there are now? My guess is, yes. I like what Grudem says about life in 2.0,

“Perhaps people will work at the whole range of investigation and development of the creation by technological, creative, and inventive means, thus exhibiting the full extent of their excellent creation in the image of God.

Moreover, since God is infinite and we can never exhaust his greatness (Ps. 145:3), and since we are finite creatures who will never equal God’s knowledge or be omniscient, we may expect that for all eternity we will be albe to go on learning more about God and about his relationship to his creation. In this way we will continue the process of learning. . .”[ii]

Do people die and go to heaven forever? Absolutely, but not exactly. The marvelous part of it all is that most of us will experience heaven 1.0 and 2.0. The salvation of God in His Son Jesus Christ is marvelous.

[i] You have to love it when I say I disagree with some of the most prominent and respected scholars in the world. It is like the year I hit thirty homeruns in my back yard playing wiffle ball and comparing that summer to anything Major League! Even still, I, Mr. Wiffle Ball of Indian Springs 1986, disagree with Wayne Grudem. Hilarious!

[ii] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 1162.

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Will You Be Recognizable After the Resurrection?

This week we will be looking at issues surrounding the final state. What will life be like in the end, permanently, eternally? When discussing this topic there are two questions that must be answered:

1) What will be the final state of the body?
2) What will be the final place of existence?

Let’s first talk about the body. For those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit the Bible gives a wonderful promise that one day they will receive a new glorified body (Romans 8:18-25). Even if a person dies and undergoes decay for many years, to the point that all is left is a pile of dust, they will not be exempt from resurrection and glorification. Even if a body is totally destroyed it can be and will be resurrected. At this point the question usually becomes, what will those bodies be like and will we be recognizable?

The popular answer to this question is that we will have bodies much like we did in the prime of our life, between the ages of 25 and 30. Even yesterday at church someone said they heard a man on the radio, or the internet, I cannot remember which, provide this answer to his listeners/readers. I have heard this answer often given from the pulpit, penned in books, and yes, it is all over the internet and radio. My problem with this answer is that I was about 225 at 25. Now at 35 I am about 203 and feel much better. The problem is now I have some minor thickening of my heart. If I have a say in the matter I don’t want my body back, not now, not at 25, not at 20, and surely not when I was a teenager! Who wants eternal acne and that horrible voice break thing? If I could submit a request, I am for something much better than this body at any age. Fortunately, Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 that the resurrection will render us something much better than the current version of the body. Something much better is exactly what we are going to receive.

In 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 Paul calls body 2.0 a spiritual body and offers a list of comparisons between version 1.0 and 2.0. Version 2.0 sounds great, but the question remains. Will 2.0 people be able to recognize their old 1.0 friends? Notice vv. 37 and 38. Paul compares the resurrection to the sowing of a seed and the subsequent birth of a plant. I love what Wayne Grudem says about this (Systematic Theology, 834)[1]. There is a massive difference between a seed and the subsequent plant, but there is also continuity. There is nothing similar between an Oak and an acorn, but yet they are somehow strangely the same.

Though body 2.0 will be incredibly different than 1.0, it will still be “you.” Isaiah prophesied that at His crucifixion the condition of Jesus’ body would render Him unrecognizable (Isa. 53). Yet post resurrection those that knew Him recognized Him. On the isle of Patmos John saw Jesus again, the very glorified, very regal Jesus, and yet John knew exactly who Jesus was. At the transfiguration (Luke 9) the inner circle of apostles recognized Moses and Elijah, though they had never met. Just imagine, in eternity there will be no need for introductions and no chance of forgetting names! In Matthew 27:52 and 53 the Bible records an event that surrounded Jesus’ crucifixion. Many people who were buried were resurrected, went into Jerusalem and appeared to many. These were not partially decayed zombies but recognizable people.

Will you be recognizable after the resurrection? The answer is unequivocally, unquestionably, absolutely, “Yes!” Yet, if Jesus is not your Savior now, what does it matter? Those who have received eternal life in Jesus Christ and follow Him have incredible hope. Would you be saved today?

[1] Once again I must say, you need this book.
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Living on the Edge of Hell

I have been discussing popular ideas concerning the intermediate state. Where do people go between death and resurrection? I have posted on the ideas of purgatory and soul sleep. One more popular scenario remains. Between death and resurrection, people dwell on the edge of Hell.

This is the scenario known as Abraham’s Bosom. I should also qualify that it does not teach that people currently go to the edge of Hell in the intermediate state, but they used to do so. If you read the story from Luke 16 of the rich man and Lazarus you see that a poor man named Lazarus left the agony of poverty in the world of the living only to experience the blessings of paradise postmortem. On the other hand, a rich man left the comforts of his own riches on earth only to experience the excruciating torments of Hades postmortem. The setting of the story is in a location in which those in the place of blessing can converse with those in the place of torments. Though they cannot pass from place to place due to a great gulf, they are close enough to have a conversation. Verse 22 of the story refers to this place as Abraham’s bosom.

There are some odd passages of Scripture in which it seems Jesus, while dead, went into a postmortem location and preached (Ephesians 4:8-10, 1 Peter 3:19, 1 Peter 4:5-6). When I say these passages are odd I mean they are hard to interpret even in their context. In 2 Peter 3:16 Peter says that some things Paul writes are hard to understand. In a sense it is like the pot calling the kettle black. Fisherman Peter is no simpleton either. In short, those who hold to an Abraham’s Bosom intermediate location would say that before Jesus’ resurrection there was a place, often referred to as Hades, that had two compartments. One compartment was a place of blessing, the other a place of torments. When Jesus died and rose again He not only saved the future saints from their sins but He also accomplished a mission in which He was able to rescue the Old Testament saints from Hades and take them to the place we now call Heaven, or at the very least the place Jesus called “The Father’s House” (John 14:2). When Jesus did this Hades became only a place of torments. Hell expanded and now resides as a single compartment in the center of the earth.

Those who argue against this position do so by pointing out that the passages used to contrive it are few and obscure. The plain teaching of Scripture indicates that the Old Testament saints plainly went to Heaven while the lost plainly went to Hell. They would say that the Abraham’s bosom story (which John MacArthur argues in his The Glory of Heaven) refers only to Lazarus leaning affectionately on Abraham just as John did on Jesus’ bosom at the last supper (John 13:25). Those who would hold this position would also say that the Luke 16 story is not to be taken literally in the sense of deriving an intermediate setting for the saved and the lost. It is a parable to explain the condition of the saved verses the lost.

My response to this is threefold:

  1. If the Luke 16 story is not intended to be taken literally, at least in its setting, then how is it to be taken? Jesus was a great story teller, but all of His stories were based in truth. Why in this one parable did He conjure some fantasy land to explain the difference in the fate of the saved and the lost? In the end the parable is a warning to those who would stand in the place of the rich man’s brothers. In this case it is true that the conversation that takes place is paramount to the implied moral. But again, why this one time does Jesus go fantasyland, ethereal when all of His other parables are based in settings that are close to home, rooted in traditional doctrine and reality?
  2. We cannot deny, as obscure as they are, that there are obscure verses in the Bible. True, we should derive our doctrines from the plain teachings of Scripture. Yet, at the same time, something odd happened, something obscure, and it is documented in Holy writ. As odd as it is, I would sure like to know what all the fuss is about!
  3. Whether the place of blessing is somewhere in Georgia and the place of torments is in a remote African desert, Hades, or Abraham’s Bosom, who cares? What we should pay attention to is that there is a massive difference in the experience of the saved and the lost postmortem. Plainly, those who have received eternal life in Jesus Christ will receive just that, life eternal, which begins second number one after death. Those who reject Jesus Christ will, postmortem moment one, begin to experience torments. Whether that place is the center of the earth or the center of Oklahoma, all I know is that I don’t want to go there. My advice, avoid the trip yourself. Receive Jesus as Savior, experience eternal life (Read John 3).
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Soul Sleep

I am already late for the next session of teaching so I will make this short (though it did not turn out to be so). In fact, I have chosen to give you a brief synopsis of what Wayne Grudem shares in rebuttal to the idea of soul sleep on pages 819-821 of his Systematic Theology (which you should purchase, if for no other reason than the fact that we all need at least one huge book in our home that raises the perceptions of our intelligence, and we all need that!).

Soul sleep is the idea that when people die their soul (the “you”) enters into some sort of ethereal unconscious or barely conscious existence as it awaits resurrection. Support for this idea comes from the many references to the dead as those who sleep (Mt. 9:24, John 11:11, I Cor. 15:6, 1 Thess. 4:13) as well as the passages of Scripture that seem to teach the dead do not have a conscious existence (Psalm 6:5, 115:17, Eccl 9:10).

The problem with this interpretation of these passages and its resultant idea of soul sleep is that such interpretation denies the obvious. Referring to believers as those who have fallen asleep is a metaphor. It is a hopeful way of referring to the believer who has died. Death is not final, permanent, nor the end of existence. For the believer it is an awakening into something new. Notice the Bible never refers to the lost as sleeping. Furthermore Jesus had to clarify the metaphor when using it of Lazarus, ironically enough, because his apostles took it too literally on this side of the grave. “Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead’” (John 11:12-13).

As for the Old Testament references that seem to indicate an unconscious existence for the dead the only way to derive this interpretation is to take them in isolation from the rest of Scripture. Grudem points out that Psalm 115:17 is often used in support of soul sleep:

The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence.

But why stop there? Why not read the following verse as well?

But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD! (Psalm 117:18)

These passages do not point to unconsciousness in the grave but rather to a ceasing of activity on earth. The dead do not praise the Lord as they did on earth, but yet “we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore”, on the other side of the grave.

If we take these passages to mean the soul sleeps we must also be able to reconcile some glaring contradictions with passages that plainly teach there is consciousness beyond the grave (2 Cor. 5:8, Phil. 1:23, Luke 23:43, Heb. 12:23). Furthermore the Bible says in 2 Kings 2:11 that God took Elijah in a whirlwind into heaven. The Bible does not say that God took Elijah and put him to bed.

The plain teaching of Scripture is that there will be a conscious, physical existence between death and the resurrection. People will be people in a place. For the saved there will be the experience of blessing. For the lost there will be the experience of torments. Today is the day of salvation. Receive the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:8 and 6:23). Sleep no more.
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The Roman Catholic church teaches that upon death the souls of believers enter a place called purgatory. According to www.catholic.com,

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a "purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven," which is experienced by those "who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified" (CCC 1030). It notes that "this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned" (CCC 1031).” The purification is necessary because, as Scripture teaches, nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (Rev. 21:27) and, while we may die with our mortal sins forgiven, there can still be many impurities in us, specifically venial sins and the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.”

As an outsider looking in it seems that the Catholic church supports their doctrine from two primary sources. The first is an Apocryphal passage found in 2 Maccabees 12:42-45. In this passage Judas Maccabeus takes a collection to ransom the souls of his dead soldiers from their sins. The second source of support for the doctrine of purgatory is church tradition. In the Catholic faith church tradition is as authoritative as Scripture.

The most serious problem with the doctrine of purgatory is that it stands in stark conflict with Scriptural teaching concerning the doctrine of atonement. The plain teaching of Scripture is that Jesus Christ has done all that is necessary to atone for a person’s sin and present them justified before God. The Catholic doctrine of justification assumes that a person only finds atonement and justification for sin through Christ AND the progressive graces of the church. Purgatory is necessary because most people will not be able to complete the process of justification in their lifetime. This contradicts countless Scriptures which teach that Jesus work to redeem the lost soul is a finished work and salvation in its entirety can be found in Him (John 3:16, 1 John 4:10, Eph. 1:7, 2 Cor. 5:18, and should we mention the entire books of Romans and Galatians).

Purgatory is also in conflict with the plain teaching of Scripture that the departed soul of a dead believer enters immediately into the presence of God (Phil. 1:23, Luk 23:43, 2 Cor. 5:8). Purgatory is an in-between. In Canonical Scripture there is no such place.

For a great discussion on this subject consult Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, pp. 817 - 819 or John F. MacAruthur’s The Glory of Heaven, pp. 72 - 75. Being away from my office this week I packed only these two books but have found them thorough, logical, Biblical, and adequate on the subject.
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Unbodily Conscious

Death presents an immediate problem, the body is here but “you” are gone. There is no denying that in death the body remains very much on the earth. We have abundant empirical evidence this is true. If you do not believe me one afternoon touring your local funeral home or cemetery should do the trick. Yet while the body is very much here, where does the rest of “you” go? When I say the rest of “you”, I mean the conscious you, the “you, you.”

Those that hold to strictly materialist positions would say that the body in the casket is “you.” Because you are simply a material body death reduces you to little more than decomposing matter. Death means you no longer exist, you are no longer conscious. The Bible presents a much different picture of man and death. The Bible teaches that man is more than just a body. In creation he became something far different from simply a creature. Not only does the fact that God breathed into him the breath of life suggest this, but also the implications of his sin bear this out as well (Gen. 1 - 3). Man is not a something, he is someone. Because he is someone and not simply something this makes man’s death different from any other creature.

The Bible does not deny that the body left behind in the casket was yours, but at the same time the Scriptures teach us that “you” go somewhere else, away from this world, in death. The Bible teaches that those who are redeemed by Jesus Christ enter into the presence of the Lord in death (2 Cor. 5:8, Phil 1:23). The Bible also teaches that those who are not redeemed by Jesus Christ enter into punishment upon death (Luke 16 story of the Rich Man and Lazarus; Rev. 20:13 where death and hades give up the dead who are already in them). Every person, whether saved or lost, enters consciously into a place upon death. The redeemed experience blessing after death. The lost experience punishment after death. For both parties, fully conscious after death, the body remains very much in the funeral home or in the grave.

This problem of the body separated from the “you”, the spirit, will be resolved in the resurrection. The Bible teaches that the bodies of the saved and the lost will be resurrected and every living spirit will be reunited with his or her body. I will write more fully on this topic next week. For now, we ask, what are the implications of being “unbodily” conscious after death? It simply means that the canonical Scriptures do not allow for the teachings of purgatory or soul sleep. Purgatory is the idea that upon death a person enters into a time of temporal punishment as a means to fully atone for their sin. Soul sleep is the teaching that upon death people enter into unconsciousness until the time of the resurrection. If time allows (as I am speaking at a youth conference this week), I will write on these topics tomorrow.
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Death Dos

In one of its most awful passages the Bible refers three times to a second death (Rev. 20:6, 14; 21:8). As horrific as physical death is the second death is even more heinous. When our bodies quit working, we die. This is death number one. Death number two is of a different sort.

Death is not extinction. After our physical deaths we will remain conscious. In short, the second death will be experienced by those who are not born again in Jesus Christ. They will be brought before a great white throne and judged according to what they have done (Rev. 20:12). They will also be judged according to whether or not their name is found written in the book of life (Rev. 20:15). As a consequence of their names not being found written in the book of life they are thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15).

Death is awful in any context. To die twice is hard to imagine. What makes the second death more heinous than physical death or the first death is the consciousness of it. The second death is final separation from God forever. Death is basically the loss of life. The first death is the loss of physical life. The second death is the loss of eternal life. God is the source of life. To be separated from Him forever; nothing could be more horrible.

No one should have to suffer the second death. God has made provision for our salvation through His Son. In Him we have eternal life. Read Romans 5. There you will find that Jesus has become the life giver through His death. How ironic.

This Sunday I will be preaching on this topic and many others that surround the issue of death. I invite you to worship with us at Ridgecrest http://www.rbconline.net/ this Sunday either at 9:30 or 11 a.m., or tune into our podcast for the audio.
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Was Man Created Immortal?

Many people believe that man was created immortal with no possibility of death. This is not the case. Death has always been the penalty for sin and so we can say that death was always a possibility for man, and as such he was created mortal (Gen. 2:17). Although man was created mortal, with the possibility of dying, it was also possible for him to live forever in his sinful condition. In the Garden of Eden there was not one tree, but two. There was a tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). This is the tree from which Adam and the woman were forbidden to eat. Upon eating its fruit they became sinful. In the garden there was also a tree of life that made it possible for humans to live forever (Gen. 3:22). God banished Adam and the woman, now named Eve (Gen. 3:20), from the tree of life as penalty for their sin, thus making it impossible for them to live forever in their sinful condition.

“Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever – .’” (Gen. 3:22)

We have a desire to return to the tree of life. We have made great advances in nutrition, learning that fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants have healing powers in our bodies. Most people assume the fruit of the tree of knowledge was an apple, at least in church dramas this is true. If the fruit of the tree of knowledge was an apple then the fruit of the tree of life was a blueberry. Maybe it was acai, which seems to be the current rage. Give me a prophet star on this one, but at some point people will realize the nutritional quality of dirt. At some point in the future people will start popping dirt pills and eating dirt cakes, write it down. We have an insatiable appetite to live forever. We want the tree of life. Although at some point we may find the nutritional benefit of plaster, we will never regain the tree. God has banished man from the tree. We will die.

The truth is that since God will not allow us to return to the tree of life people full of blueberries and acai will die and return to dirt. Although God will not allow us to return to the tree of life He has given us a new hope of eternal life in His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus can do for humans what the tree of life could not do. The tree could keep us alive but it could not erase the stain of sin nor its impact on our psyche. The tree of life could not reverse the effect of the tree of knowledge. The Bible tells us that in Jesus Christ man not only gains eternal life, but he is regenerate (2 Cor. 5:17, . In Jesus Christ man becomes truly alive, spiritually, in communion with God. Through God’s Holy Spirit indwelling humans we begin to see things differently than we did before (Romans 8). Our behavior begins to change. Our values begin to change. We grow in Christ likeness. We do not need a tree, we need a Savior.

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Can You Change Your Appointment with Death?

On Sunday I will begin a three week series of sermons entitled “The Afterdeath.” What does the Bible teach about death? What does a person experience after they die? What will eternity be like? In preparation for this series I will be submitting a some posts to help us all begin thinking about the upcoming sermons.

One thing is certain, no one survives life. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:26 - 27, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

Most people interpret this verse to mean that all of us have an appointed moment for our death; like 3:00 on a Thursday afternoon. The Greek word interpreted “appointment” does carry the idea of destiny. But can our appointment with death be changed like an appointment with your dentist? Can you procrastinate death? Can you actually be late for your own funeral? When it is your time to go, do you really have to go?

The Bible seems to indicate in wisdom literature and law that there is a longevity of life that can be enjoyed by those who obey God (Deut. 6:2, Proverbs 4:10). On the flip side, the life of the fool can be short. Does this mean we can lengthen or shorten our lives depending on our actions, or do we have an appointment with death that no matter the circumstance must be kept?

Johanna Ganthaler was late for Air France 447 on May 31, 2009. The flight crashed into the Atlantic four hours after takeoff killing all 228 people on board. The week following the crash Ms. Ganthaler died in a car accident in Austria. There is no doubt; life and death are strange and inescapable.

The gospels indicate that with Jesus there was a sense of His impending death but also a sense of time (John 7:6). There were several times in which angry crowds tried to kill Jesus, but because it was not His time, they could not (Luke 4:20-30). Only when His time had fully come did He lay down His life. You and I do not have that much control over the length of our life, but we know that God will not allow death to overcome someone before their time. There are many examples in the Bible, namely Acts, when the servants of God should have been killed but their lives were miraculously preserved.

If you jump off of a 100 story building today at 3:00 p.m. you will die. If you put it off until tomorrow at 3:30 p.m., then you will die tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. Suicide is the taking of one’s own life, it is foolish, and it is the ultimate act of hubris. At the same time we know that people can hasten death by smoking after their diagnosis of lung cancer, refusing to take a prescribed medication, or refusing chemo-therapy after the doctor has said with treatment, they may be able to live three more months. At the same time a person can miss a crashing plane and next week be the driver of a crashing car.

There are many ethical dilemmas with death and its timing. The focus of Hebrews 9:26-27 is not so much on the timing of death, but upon its certainty. Death is inescapable. Everyone dies once. Jesus died His one death as an offering for the sins of many. The focus of life should not be so much on changing our appointment, but on being faithful unto death. Many of us are doing great on exercise and lowering cholesterol, but are failing in faithfulness. Unfaithful people with low cholesterol will die; after this the judgment.

No one survives life. We cannot change death. However, in Christ we have hope in judgment, eternal life. Would you receive God’s gift of eternal life in His Son Jesus Christ today? Repent of your sin, receive salvation in Jesus Christ. Spend the rest of your days eagerly waiting for Him.

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