ENDTIME ISSUES NEWSLETTER No. 183
“Life After Death”
Retired Professor of Theology, Andrews University
Chapter 3 of the forthcoming book
POPULAR BELIEFS: ARE THEY BIBLICAL?
INDEX OF TOPICS OF THIS NEWSLETTER
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Are they Biblical?
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Are they Biblical?
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“Life After Death”
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NEW OUTREACH BOOK:
POPULAR BELIEFS: ARE THEY BIBLICAL?
GOOD NEWS! The newsletter you are about to read contains the first draft of CHAPTER 3 of the forthcoming new book POPULAR BELIEFS: ARE THEY BIBLICAL? This chapter builds upon the previous chapter on “The Immortality of the Soul,” by focusing on the biblical view of death and of the state of the dead. This is a crucial chapter that examines the popular but unbiblical belief in conscious life after death.
Over a century ago Ellen White predicted that “Through the two great errors, the immortality of the soul and Sunday sacredness, Satan will bring the people under his deceptions” (Great Controversy, p. 588). Both of these errors are spreading like wildfire today. The vast majority of people have come to believe Satan’s lie that no matter what they do, they “shall not die” (Gen 3:4) but become like gods by living for ever.
This lie has fostered a host of heresies such as spiritualism, communication with the spirits of the dead, praying for the dead, the intercession of the saints, purgatory, eternal hellfire, the worship of Mary, indulgences, etc. All of these heretical beliefs fall automatically like dominos when we expose the fallacies of conscious life between death and resurrection.
In view of its importance, I have devoted much time and efforts in writing this chapter, which is the longest chapter so far. Feel free to comment upon this chapter after you have had the opportunity to read it.
I wish to thank God for helping me to write the first 3 chapters of Popular Beliefs: Are they Biblical?in about 6 weeks, in spite of my speaking engagements. If I can continue at this pace, the book should be out by the end of February or early in March. I expect the book to have 10 chapters (for the 10 commandments), averaging 30 pages each.
I decided against having 15 or 20 short chapters with a brief treatment of each popular heresy. I prefer to have fewer chapters with a fuller analysis of the popular heresies deceiving people today. This means that I may have to write a series of volumes, if the first book is well-received. This is not a problem. Left Behind is a series of 13 volumes. If heretical books are published in series, why shouldn’t sound biblical studies be published also in the same way?
TARGET AUDIENCE AND GOAL OF
POPULAR BELIEFS: ARE THEY BIBLICAL?
Several have asked me: What is the target audience of Popular Beliefs: Are they Biblical? My answer is that that I am aiming to the average person with a high school education but with an inquiring mind. The level of eduation is relative. My father had only a fifth grade education, but had a keen mind and an extensive library with solid biblical studies.
Most of the 30,000 plus subscribers to this newsletter, are people with an average education but a great eagerness to deepen their understanding of Bible truths. I can tell it by the perceptive comments that I receive. These are the people I have in mind in writing this book.
Some have proposed to me to write a short and simple version of this book. Frankly, I do not think it is necessary, because there are plenty of them available at our ABC stores. All our popular preachers have written simple, short booklets that present our beliefs to the general public. These booklets meet a felt need, but the fact remains that an increasing number of people are not satisfied with simple booklets that do not scratch where it itches, that is, do not address critical deeper questions.
The ultimate goal of the book is not merely to expose the flaws of some popular beliefs, but to help people appreciate the biblical validity and timeliness of our Adventist beliefs. My strategy in writing each chapter is threfold:
1) First, I try to give an accurate description of a popular belief like the one examined in this chapter on life after death.
2) Second, I examine the belief from a biblical perspective, showing why it is contrary to the scriptural teachings.
3) Third, I appeal to consider the Seventh-day Adventist understanding the belief examined in the chapter, simply because it is biblical sound.
You will see a sample of this strategy in this chapter. After exposing biblically the deceptive and popular belief conscious life after death, I proceed to help people appreciate the beauty of the biblical view of the resurrection of the body, as taught in Scripture and espoused by our Adventist church.
To my knowledge our Adventist church has never published a substantive book that helps people to understand why some of their popular beliefs are unbiblical, and why the corresponding Adventist beliefs are biblically sound. Many subscribers have confirmed my conviction that such a book is urgently needed for our witnessing outreach. We can hardly expect people to accept our Adventist beliefs, if we do not show them first of all why their beliefs are unbiblical.
The book Seventh-day Adventist Believe . . . was warmly received by our church at large. I was invited to contribute to a chapter. The book makes a significant contribution to the presentation of our Adventist beliefs, but it is too limited in scope. It simply presents the Adventist beliefs, without comparing or contrasting them with the beliefs of other churches. Uninformed readers may feel that Adventists beliefs are not much different from their own beliefs.
The new book Popular Beliefs: Are they Biblical? will leave no room for this uncertainty. It will clearly show the difference between the Adventists beliefs and some popular Catholic and Protestant beliefs. In other words, it will give to people a choice between biblical and unbiblical beliefs. You will see a clear example in this chapter on “Life After Death” that you are about to read.
The sponsors of this project are hoping to raise sufficient money to cover most of the expenses for printing 100,000 copies of Popular Beliefs: Are they Biblical? The idea is to offer the book to churches at a minimum cost of only $2.00 or 3.00 a copy, primarily to cover the mailing expenses. The regular price for this 320 pages book would be $25.00.
What do you think of this project? Do you feel that we badly need such a book for our witnessing outreach? Are you willing to pass out this book to your friends? Would you consider contributing financially to the realization of this project? Your input is greatly appreciated. Let me know what you think.
In order to complete this project by the end of February 2008, I need to re-prioritize my schedule. This will entail cutting down on speaking-engagements, posting the Endtime Issues Newsletters only once a month, and spending less time answering messages and speaking on the phone.
To benefit from the constructive criticism of our subscribers, I plan to post most of the chapters as soon as the first draft is completed. An example, is this chapter which examines the major false views of the nature of the Bible. I look forward to receive your constructive criticism. Do not hesitate to be frank. Rest assured that I will not be offended.
“Life After Death”
Retired Professor of Theology, Andrews University
Chapter 3 of the forthcoming book
POPULAR BELIEFS: ARE THEY BIBLICAL?
Belief in life after death seems to have come back from the grave. News weekly covers it. Talk-show hosts discuss it. Popular books such as Moody and Kübler-Ross’ Life After Life and Maurice Rawlings’ Beyond Death’s Door examine case histories of out-of-body experiences. Even some pastors have begun preaching it again.
Once regarded by the secular community as a relic of a superstitious past and by believers as something too difficult to comprehend, belief in life after death is regaining popularity. According to a poll conducted by the General Social Survey, “A greater fraction of American adults believe in life after death in the 1990s than in the 1970s.”1
While the percentage of Protestants who believe in life after death has remained stable at 85 percent, there has been a noticeable increase among the Catholics and Jews. “The percentage of Catholics believing in an afterlife rose from 67 percent to 85 percent from 1900 to 1970. Among Jews, this percentage increased from 17 percent (1900) to 74 percent (1970).2
A similar recent survey (2003) conducted by the reputable Barna Research Group of Ventura, California, confirms that “the vast majority of Americans continues to believe that there is life after death, that everyone has a soul, and that Heaven and Hell exist.”3 “Belief in life after death . . . is widely embraced: 8 out of 10 Americans (81%) believe in an afterlife of some sort. Another 9% said life after death may exist, but they were not certain. Just one out of every ten adults (10%) contend that there is no form of life after one dies on earth. Moreover, a large majority of Americans (79%) agreed with the statement “every person has a soul that will live forever, either in God’s presence or absence.”4
The conscious or subconscious belief in life after death is reflected in the elaborate funeral arrangements which are intended to preserve the corporeal remains of the deceased. In the ancient world, the dead were provided for the next life with food, liquids, eating utensils, and clothes. Sometimes even servants and animals were buried with the corpse to provide the necessary conveniences in the next life.
Today, the mortuary rituals are different, but they still reveal a conscious or subconscious belief in life after death. The corpse is embalmed and hermetically sealed in a galvanized metal casket to retard decay. It is dressed in the finest clothes and placed on plush satin lining and soft pillows. It is sent on its way accompanied with items cherished in life, such as rings and family pictures. It is sacredly and silently interred in a cemetery, which is expertly manicured, surrounded by flowers, gates, and guards. The dead are surrendered to the “perpetual care” of the Lord in a professionally maintained and landscaped cemetery where no children play and no visitors disturb them.
The concern of people to send their deceased loved ones to the world of the dead with dignity and elegance reveals a desire to ensure their comfort in the afterlife. But, is there life after death? Are the dead conscious or unconscious? If conscious, are they able to communicate with the living? Are they enjoying the bliss of paradise or the torments of hell? This chapter seeks to answer these questions by investigating the biblical view of death and of the state of the dead.
Objectives of This Chapter
This chapter continues our investigation of the biblical view of human nature, by focusing on two major questions: First, What is the biblical view of death? And, second, What is the condition of the dead during the period between death and the resurrection? This period is commonly known as “the intermediate state.”
This chapter is divided in four parts. The first part provides a brief description mainly of the Catholic and Protestant views of the afterlife. We shall see that both hold in common the belief in the transition of the saved souls to Paradise and of the unsaved souls to Hell. Protestants reject the Catholic belief in Purgatory.
The second part examines the Biblical understanding of the nature of death. Does the Bible teach that death is the separation of the immortal soul from the mortal body? Or, does the Bible teach that death is the termination of life for the whole person, body and soul? In other words, is death according to the Bible the cessation of life for the whole person or the transition to a new form of life for the immortal component of our being?
The third and fourth parts examine the Old and New Testaments teachings regarding the state of the dead during the period between death and resurrection. The fundamental question we pursue in the last two parts is: Do the dead sleep in an unconscious state until the resurrection morning? Or, Is the soul of the saved experiencing immediately after death the bliss of paradise, while that of the unsaved writhing in the torment of hell?
BELIEFS ABOUT THE AFTERLIFE
The belief in some forms of life after death is common to most Christian and non-Christian religions. The reason, as noted in the previous chapter, is the common belief in the immortality of the soul, which presupposes the continuation of the conscious life of the soul after the death of the body. We found this belief to be contrary to the Bible which clearly defines death as the cessation of life for the whole person, body and soul.
For the purpose of this chapter, we briefly mention how three major wings of Christianity view life after death: Roman Catholics, Conservative Protestants, and Liberal Christians.
Roman Catholic View of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory
The Catholic Church teaches that when a person dies, the soul leaves the body and is immediately evaluated in a Particular Judgment that determines three possible destinations for the disembodied soul: Heaven, or Hell, or Purgatory.
Heaven. The new Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that the souls of a few believers “who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified, live for ever with Christ.”5 They are taken immediately to their eternal rewards in Heaven, where they enjoy the communion with the Trinity, the Virgin Mary, the saints, and the angels. “In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God’s will.”6
Hell. Hell is the place where those who have died “with grave and unrepentant sins” which have not been wiped clean by church rituals,7 will be severely punished without any hope of relief, for eternity. As stated in Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin, descend into hell, where they suffer the punishment of hell ‘eternal fire.’”8
The torment of Hell will last forever, without any prospect of relief or mercy, but level of torture depends on the seriousness of the individual’s sin. Like the Catholics, Eastern Orthodox churches believe in Hell, but they teach that the precise form of punishment is not known to us.
The teaching that sinners burn eternally in Hell, makes God appear like an inhumane father who in desperation locks away his rebellious children in a horrible hovel, and then throws away for ever the key. More will be said about more implications of this popular belief in the next chapter.
Purgatory. The Catholic Church teaches that “all those who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, . . . after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”9 The souls in Purgatory are systematically tortured with fire until they have paid the residual temporal punishment for their sins. The more purging is necessary, the longer a soul must suffer in Purgatory. This is a type of time-limited Hell during which they become fully cleansed and acceptable for admission to heaven.
As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church “the Church commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.”11 This means that friends and family members can shorten the stay of their loved ones in Purgatory, by paying for Masses, prayers, buying indulgences, and making pilgrimages to holy shrines.
The beliefs of the Eastern Orthodox Churches very closely parallel those of the Roman Catholic Church about Heaven and Hell. However, they have no formal belief about the existence of purgatory.
Conservative Protestants’ View of Heaven and Hell
We noted in chapter 2 that the Protestant Reformation started largely as a reaction against the medieval superstitious beliefs about the afterlife in Purgatory. The Reformers rejected as unbiblical and unreasonable the practice of buying and selling indulgences to reduce the stay of the souls of departed relatives in Purgatory. However, they continued to believe that the souls of the believers enjoy the bliss of heaven, while those of the unbelievers suffer the torments of hell. At the resurrection, the body is reunited with the soul, thus intensifying the pleasure of paradise or the pain of hell. Since that time, belief in heaven and hell has been accepted by most Protestant churches and is reflected in various Confessions.12
For example, the Westminster Confession (1646), regarded as the definitive statement of (Calvinistic) Presbyterian beliefs in the English-speaking world, states: “The body of men after death return to dust, and see corruption; but their souls (which neither die nor sleep) having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received unto the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies: and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torment and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day.”13 The confession continues declaring as unbiblical the belief in purgatory.
Most conservative Protestant believe that there are only two possible destinations for the soul after death. One either passes immediately into the glories of Heaven and the presence of God, or else one is sent straight to the flames of Hell for eternal punishment, with no possibility of reprieve. Any other destination for the soul, such as the Catholic Purgatory, is merely an “invented” doctrine.
Heaven. Heaven is reserved for those who have been justified by faith in Christ’s saving work. The soul of believers ascend immediately after death to heaven, to live in the presence of Christ, while awaiting the resurrection of their bodies. At the final resurrection, the disembodied soul will receive new incorruptible bodies, and will live in the presence of Jesus Christ in the new earth where there is an absence of pain, disease, sexual activity, and depression.
Hell. Conservative Evangelicals believe that the souls of those who have rejected Christ, at death will be sent to Hell, a place of torment and eternal separation from God. Views vary on what punishments Hell may hold beyond isolation from God.
Liberal Protestants’ View of Heaven and Hell
In general, liberal Protestant believe that at death people go to either Heaven, to live in the presence of God, or to Hell, to experience separation from God. But liberal Protestants hold to a wide range of non-traditional views. For example, some define heaven as the triumph of self-giving, not as a new heaven and a new earth. “Heaven is cordial, honest, loving relationships,” says Gordon’s Kalland.14
Conversely, to most liberal theologians, Hell is alienation from God. “Hell is estrangement, isolation, despair,” says Dean Lloyd Kalland of Gordon Divinity School in Wenham, Mass.15 In his Principles of Christian Theology, Dr. John Macquarrie of Union Theological Seminary describes hell as “not some external or arbitrary punishment that gets assigned for sin, but simply the working out of sin itself, as it destroys the distinctively personal being of the sinner.”16
Afterlife in Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism
Space does not permit to mention the views of afterlife held by Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. It suffices to say that all of them share the belief in the survival of the soul at the death of the body. In Hinduism, for example, the ultimate goal is Moksha, that is, the self-realization and release of the soul from the cycle of death and rebirth. When Moksha is achieved, the soul becomes one with God.
The preceding brief description of the major Catholic and Protestant views of life after death, has served to show that these popular views stem from two assumptions: 1) Death is the separation of the immortal soul from the mortal body, 2) The soul is an independent, immaterial, and immortal component that survives the death of the body.
Are these assumptions biblically correct? Does the Bible teach that death is the separation of the immortal soul from the mortal body? Does the soul survives the death of the body and continues to exist in the bliss of Paradise or torment of Hell? To these questions we must now turn our attention by examining the biblical view of death.
THE BIBLICAL VIEW OF DEATH
To understand the Biblical view of death, we need to go back to the account of creation where death is presented, not as a natural process willed by God, but as something unnatural opposed to God. The Genesis narrative teaches us that death came into the world as a result of sin. God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and added the warning: “In the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gen 2:17). The fact that Adam and Eve did not die on the day of their transgression has led some to conclude that human beings do not actually die because they have a conscious soul that survives the death of the body.
Sin and Death
This figurative interpretation can hardly be supported by the text, which, literally translated, reads: “dying you shall die.” What God simply meant is that on the day they disobeyed, the dying process would begin. From a state in which it was possible for them not to die (conditional immortality), they passed into a state in which it was impossible for them not to die (unconditional mortality).
Prior to the Fall the assurance of immortality was vouchsafed by the tree of life. After the Fall, Adam and Eve no longer had access to the tree of life (Gen 3:22-23) and, consequently, began experiencing the reality of the dying process. In the prophetic vision of the New Earth, the tree of life is found on both sides of the river as a symbol of the gift of eternal life bestowed upon the redeemed (Rev 21:2).
The divine pronouncement found in Genesis 2:17 places a clear connection between human death and the transgression of God’s commandment. Thus, life and death in the Bible have religious and ethical significance because they are dependent upon human obedience or disobedience to God. This is a fundamental teaching of the Bible, namely, that death came into this world as a result of human disobedience (Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:21). This does not diminish the responsibility of the individual for his participation in sin (Ez 18:4, 20). The Bible, however, makes a distinction between the first death, which every human being experiences as a result of Adam’s sin (Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:21), and the second death experienced after the resurrection (Rev 20:6) as the wages for sins personally commited (Rom 6:23).
Death as the Separation of the Soul from the Body
A major question we need to address at this point is the Biblical view of the nature of death. To be specific: Is death the separation of the immortal soul from the mortal body, so that when the body dies the soul lives on? Or, is death the cessation of existence of the whole person, body and soul?
Historically, Christians have been taught that death is the separation of the immortal soul from the mortal body, so that the soul survives the body in a disembodied state. For example, the new Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “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.”17 Augustus Strong defines death in similar terms in his well-known Systematic Theology: “Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. We distinguish it from spiritual death, or the separation of the soul from God.”18
Massive Attack by Modern Scholars
The above historical view of the nature of death as the separation of the soul from the body has come under a massive attack by many modern scholars. A few examples suffice to illustrate this point. Lutheran theologian Paul Althaus writes: “Death is more than a departure of the soul from the body. The person, body and soul, is involved in death. . . . The Christian faith knows nothing about an immortality of the personality. . . . It knows only an awakening from real death through the power of God. There is existence after death only by an awakening of the resurrection of the whole person.”19
Althaus argues that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul does not do justice to the seriousness of death, since the soul passes through death unscathed.20 Moreover, the notion that a person can be totally happy and blessed without the body denies the significance of the body and empties the resurrection of its meaning.21 If believers are already blessed in heaven and the wicked are already tormented in hell, why is the final judgment still necessary?22 Althaus concludes that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul rips apart what belongs together: the body and the soul, the destiny of the individual and that of the world.23
Roman Catholic Theologian Peter Riga of California’s St. Mary’s College acknowledges that the old idea of a soul that departs from the body at death “makes no sense at all.” He goes on saying: “There is just man, man in God’s image and likeness. Man in his totality was created and will be saved.”24
This challenge of modern scholarship to the traditional view of death as the separation of the soul from the body has been long overdue. It is hard to believe that for most of its history, Christianity by and large has held to a view of human death and destiny which has been largely influenced by Greek thought, rather than by the teachings of Scripture.
What is even more surprising is that no amount of Biblical scholarship will change the traditional belief held by most churches on the intermediate state. The reason is simple. While individual scholars can and will change their doctrinal views without suffering devastating consequences, the same is not true for well-established churches. A church that introduces radical changes in its historical doctrinal beliefs undermines the faith of its members and thus the stability of the institution.
Death as Cessation of Life
When we search the Bible for a description of the nature of death, we find many clear statements that need little or no interpretation. In the first place, Scripture describes death as a return to the elements from which man originally was made. In pronouncing sentence upon Adam after his disobedience, God said: “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for . . . you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19). This graphic statement tells us that death is not the separation of the soul from the body, but the termination of one’s life, which results in the decay and decomposition of the body. “Since man is created of perishable matter, his natural condition is mortality (Gen 3:19).”53
A study of the words “to die,” “death,” and “dead” in Hebrew and Greek reveals that death is perceived in the Bible as the deprivation or cessation of life. The ordinary Hebrew word meaning “to die” is muth, which occurs in the Old Testament over 800 times. In the vast majority of cases, muth is used in the simple sense of the death of men and animals. There is no hint in its usage of any distinction between the two. A clear example is found in Ecclesiastes 3:19, which says: “For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other.”
Old Testament Descriptions of Death
Hebrew noun maveth which is used in the Old Testament about 150 times and is generally translated “death,” offers us three important insights about the nature of death.
First, there is no remembrance of the Lord in death: “For in death [maveth] there is no remembrance of thee; in Sheol who can give thee praise” (Ps 6:5). The reason for no remembrance in death is simply because the thinking process stops when the body with its brain dies. “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that day his thoughts perish” (Ps 146:4). Since at death the “thoughts perish,” it is evident there is no conscious soul that survives the death of the body. If the thinking process, which is generally associated with the soul, survived the death of the body, then the thoughts of the saints would not perish. They would be able to remember God. But the fact is that “the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing” (Eccl 9:5).
Second, no praise of God is possible in death or in the grave. “What profit is there in my death [maveth], if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise thee? Will it tell of thy faithfulness?” (Ps 30:9). By comparing death with dust, the Psalmist clearly shows that there is no consciousness in death because dust cannot think. The same thought is expressed in Psalm 115:17: “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down into silence.” Here the Psalmist describes death as a state of “silence.” What a contrast with the “noisy” popular vision of the afterlife where the saints praise God in Heaven and the wicked cry in agony in Hell!
Third, death is described as a “sleep.” “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death” (Ps 13:3). This characterization of death as “sleep” occurs frequently in the Old and New Testaments because it fittingly represents the state of unconsciousness in death. Shortly we examine the significance of the “sleep” metaphor for understanding the nature of death.
In several places, maveth [death] is used with reference to the second death. “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ez 33:11; cf. 18:23, 32). Here “the death of the wicked” is evidently not the natural death that every person experiences, but the death inflicted by God at the End on impenitent sinners. None of the literal descriptions or figurative references to death in the Old Testament suggests the conscious survival of the soul or spirit apart from the body. Death is the cessation of life for the total person.
New Testament References to Death
The New Testament references to “death,” a term rendered by the Greek thanatos, are not as informative regarding the nature of death as those found in the Old Testament. The reason is partly due to the fact that in the Old Testament many of the references to death are found in the poetic or wisdom books like Psalms, Job, and Ecclesiastes. This kind of literature is absent in the New Testament. More important is the fact that death is seen in the New Testament from the perspective of Christ’s victory over death. This is a dominant theme in the New Testament which conditions the Christian view of death.
Through His victory over death, Christ has neutralized the sting of death (1 Cor 15:55); He has abolished death (2 Tim 1:10); He has overcome the devil who had power over death (Heb 2:14); He has in His hand the keys of the kingdom of death (Rev 1:18); He is the head of a new humanity as the first-born from the dead (Col 1:18); He causes believers to be born anew to a living hope through His resurrection from the dead (1 Pet 1:3).
Christ’s victory over death affects the believer’s understanding of physical, spiritual, and eternal death. The believer can face physical death with the confidence that Christ has swallowed up death in victory and will awaken the sleeping saints at His coming (1 Cor 15:51-56).
Believers who were spiritually “dead through trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1; cf. 4:17-19; Matt 8:22) have been regenerated into a new life in Christ (Eph 4:24). Unbelievers who remain spiritually dead throughout their lives and do not accept Christ’s provision for their salvation (John 8:21, 24), on the Day of Judgment will experience the second death (Rev 20:6; 21:8). This is the final, eternal death from which there is no return.
The figurative meanings of the word thanatos–death depend entirely on the literal meaning as cessation of life. To argue for the conscious existence of the soul on the basis of figurative meaning of death is to attribute to the word a meaning which is foreign to it. This runs contrary to literary and grammatical rules and destroys the connections among physical, spiritual, and eternal death.
Death as Sleep in the Old Testament
In both the Old and New Testaments, death is often described as “sleep.” Before attempting to explain the reason for the Biblical use of the metaphor of “sleep” for death, let us look at a few examples. In the Old Testament, three Hebrew words meaning “sleep” are used to describe death.
The most common word, shachav, is used in the frequently occuring expression so-and-so “slept with his fathers” (Gen 28:11; Deut 31:16; 2 Sam 7:12; 1 Kings 2:10). Beginning with its initial application to Moses (“Behold, you are about to sleep with your fathers” – Deut 31:16), and then to David (“Thou shall sleep with thy fathers” – 2 Sam 7:12, KJV), and Job (“Now I shall sleep in the dust” – Job 7:21, KJV), we find this beautiful euphemism for death running like an unbroken thread all through the Old and New Testaments, ending with Peter’s statement that “the fathers fell asleep” (2 Pet 3:4). It is evident that if the souls of the “fathers” were alive in Paradise, Bible writers could not have regularly spoken of them as being “asleep.”
Another Hebrew word for “sleep” is yashen. This word occurs both as a verb, “to sleep” (Jer 51:39, 57; Ps 13:3) and as a noun, “sleep.” The latter is found in the well-known verse of Daniel 12:2: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Notice that in this passage both the godly and ungodly are sleeping in the dust of the earth and both will be resurrected at the End.
A third Hebrew word used for the sleep of death is shenah. Job asks this rhetorical question: “But man dies and is laid low; man breathes his last, and where is he?” (Job 14:10). His answer is: “As waters fail from a lake, and a river wastes away and dries up, so man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake, or be roused out of his sleep [shenah]” (Job 14:11-12; cf. Ps 76:5; 90:5). Here is a graphic description of death. When a person takes the last breath, “where is he?” that is, “what is left of him?” Nothing. He does not exist any more. He becomes like a lake or river whose water has dried up. He sleeps in the grave and “will not awake” till the end of the world.
One wonders, would Job have given us such a negative description of death if he believed that his soul would survive death? If death introduced Job’s soul into the immediate presence of God in heaven, why does he speak of waiting “till the heavens are no more” (John 14:11) and “till my release should come” (Job 14:14)? It is evident that neither Job nor any other Old Testament believer knew of a conscious existence after death.
Death as Sleep in the New Testament
Death is described as sleep in the New Testament more frequently than in the Old. The reason may be that the hope of the resurrection, which is clarified and strengthened by Christ’s resurrection, gives new meaning to the sleep of death from which believers will awaken at Christ’s coming. As Christ slept in the tomb prior to His resurrection, so believers sleep in the grave while awaiting their resurrection.
There are two Greek words meaning “sleep” which are used in the New Testament. The first is koimao which is used fourteen times for the sleep of death. A derivative of this Greek noun is koimeeteerion , from which comes our word cemetery. Incidentally, the root of this word is also the root of the word “home–oikos.” So the home and the cemetery are connected because both are a sleeping-place. The second Greek word is katheudein, which is generally used for ordinary sleep. In the New Testament it is used four times for the sleep of death (Matt 9:24; Mark 5:39; Luke 8:52; Eph 5:14; 1 Thess 4:14).
At the time of Christ’s crucifixion, “many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep [kekoimemenon] were raised” (Matt 27:52). In the original, the text reads: “Many bodies of the sleeping saints were raised.” It is evident that what was resurrected was the whole person and not just the bodies. There is no reference to their souls being reunited with their bodies, obviously because this concept is foreign to the Bible.
Speaking figuratively of Lazarus’ death, Jesus said: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep [kekoimetai], but I go to awake him out of sleep” (John 11:11). When Jesus perceived that He was misunderstood, He “told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead” (John 11:14). Then Jesus hastened to reassure Martha: “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23).
This episode is significant, first of all, because Jesus plainly describes death as “sleep” from which the dead will awaken at the sound of His voice. Lazarus’ condition in death was similar to a sleep from which one awakens. Christ said: “ I go to awake him out of sleep” (John 11:11). The Lord carried out His promise by going to the tomb to awaken Lazarus by calling: “‘Lazarus, come out.’ And the dead man came out’” (John 11:43-44).
The awakening of Lazarus out of the sleep of death by the sound of Christ’s voice parallels the awakening of the sleeping saints on the day of His glorious coming. They, too, shall hear the voice of Christ and come forth to life again. “The hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth” (John 5:28; cf. John 5:25). “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, . . . And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess 4:16).
There is harmony and symmetry in the expressions “sleeping” and “awakening” as used in the Bible for going into and coming out of a death state. The two expressions corroborate the notion that death is an unconscious state like sleeping, from which believers will awake on the day of Christ’s coming.
Lazarus Had No Afterlife Experience
Lazarus’ experience is also significant because he spent four days in the grave. This was not a near-death experience, but a real death experience. If, as popularly believed, the soul at death leaves the body and goes to heaven, then Lazarus would have had an amazing experience to share about the four days he would have spent in paradise. The religious leaders and the people would have done all in their power to elicit from Lazarus as much information as possible about the unseen world. Such information would have provided valuable answers to the question of life after death which was so hotly debated among the Sadducees and Pharisees (Matt 22:23, 28; Mark 12:18, 23; Luke 20:27, 33).
But Lazarus had nothing to share about life after death, because during the four days he spent in the tomb he slept the unconscious sleep of death. What is true of Lazarus is also true of six other persons who were raised from the dead: The widow’s son (1 Kings 17:17-24); the Shunammite’s son (2 Kings 4:18-37); the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:11-15); the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:41, 42, 49-56); Tabitha (Acts 9:36-41); and Eutychus (Acts 20:9-12). Each of these persons came out of death as if it were out of a profound sleep, with the same feeling and individuality, but with no afterlife experience to share.
There are no indications that the soul of Lazarus, or of the other six persons raised from the dead, had gone to heaven. None of them had a “heavenly experience” to share. The reason being that none of them had ascended to heaven. This is confirmed by Peter’s reference to David in his speech on the day of Pentecost: “Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is still with us to this day” (Acts 2:29). Some could argue that what was in the grave was David’s body, not his soul which had gone to heaven. But this interpretation is negated by Peter’s explicit words: “For David did not ascend into the heavens” (Acts 2:34). The Knox translation renders it, “David never went up to heaven.” The Cambridge Bible has the following note: “For David is not ascended. Better ascended not. He went down to the grave and ‘slept with his fathers.’” What sleeps in the grave, according to the Bible, is not merely the body but the whole person who awaits the resurrection awakening.
Paul and the Sleeping Saints
In the two great chapters on the resurrection in 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15, Paul repeatedly speaks of those who have fallen “asleep” in Christ (1 Thess 4:13, 14, 15; 1 Cor 15:6, 18, 20). A look at some of Paul’s statements sheds light on what Paul meant by characterizing death as sleep.
In writing to the Thessalonians, who were grieving over their loved ones who had fallen asleep before experiencing the coming of Christ, Paul reassures them that as God raised Jesus from the dead, so He will through Christ “bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thess 4:14). Some maintain that Paul is here speaking of disembodied souls, which allegedly ascended to heaven at death and which will return with Christ when He descends to this earth at His return.
This interpretation ignores three major things. First, our study has shown that the Bible nowhere teaches that the soul at death ascends to heaven. Second, in the context, Paul is not speaking of immortal souls but of “those who are asleep” (1 Thess 4:13; cf. v. 14) and of “the dead in Christ” (1 Thess 4:16). “The dead in Christ will rise first” from their graves (1 Thess 4:16) and will not descend from heaven. There is no hint that the bodies rise from the graves and the souls descend from heaven to be reunited with the bodies. Such a dualistic notion is foreign to the Bible.
Third, if Paul really believed that “the dead in Christ” were not really dead in the grave but alive in heaven as disembodied souls, he would have capitalized on their blissful condition in heaven to explain to the Thessalonians that their grieving was senseless. Why should they grieve for their loved ones if they were already enjoying the bliss of heaven? The reason Paul did not give such an encouragement is obviously because he knew that sleeping saints were not in heaven but in their graves.
This conclusion is supported by the assurance Paul gave to his readers that living Christians would not meet Christ at His coming before those who had fallen asleep. “We who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thess 4:15). The reason is that “the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess 4:16-17).
The fact that the living saints will meet with Christ at the same time as the sleeping saints indicates that the latter have not yet been united with Christ in heaven. If the souls of the sleeping saints were already enjoying fellowship with Christ in heaven and were to descend with Christ to earth at His second Advent, then obviously they would have an unmistakable priority over the living saints. But the truth is that both sleeping and living believers are awaiting their longed-for union with the Savior; a union which both will experience at the same time on the day of Christ’s coming.
Paul’s discussion of the sleeping saints in 1 Corinthians 15 confirms much of what we have already found in 1 Thessalonians 4. After affirming the fundamental importance of Christ’s resurrection for the Christian faith and hope, Paul explains that “if Christ had not been raised . . . Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (1 Cor 15:18-19). Paul could hardly have said that the sleeping saints would have perished without the guarantee of Christ’s resurrection, if he believed that their souls were immortal and were already enjoying the bliss of Paradise. If Paul believed the latter, he probably would have said that without Christ’s resurrection the soul of the sleeping saints would remain disembodied for all eternity. But Paul makes no allusion to such a possibility, because he believed that the whole person, body and soul, would have “perished” without the guarantee of Christ’s resurrection.
It is significant that in the whole chapter which is devoted to the importance and dynamics of the resurrection, Paul never hints at the alleged reunification of the body with the soul at the resurrection. If Paul had held such a belief, he hardly could have avoided making some allusions to the reattachment of the body to the soul, especially in his discussions of the transformation of the believers from a mortal to an immortal state at Christ’s coming. But the only “mystery” that Paul reveals is that “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (1 Cor 15:51). This change from a perishable to an imperishable nature occurs for all, living and dead, at the same time, namely, at the sounding of “the last trumpet” (1 Cor 15:52). The change has nothing to do with disembodied souls regaining possession of their resurrected bodies. Rather, it is a change from mortal to immortal life for both the living and the dead in Christ: “The mortal puts on immortality” (1 Cor 15:54).
The Significance of the “Sleep” Metaphor
The popular use of the “sleep” metaphor to describe the state of the dead in Christ raises the question of its implications for the nature of death. Specifically, why is this metaphor used and what insights can we legitimately derive from it about the nature of death? There are three major reasons for the use of the “sleep” metaphor in the Bible.
First, there is a similarity between the “sleep” of the dead and the “sleep” of the living. Both are characterized by a condition of unconsciousness and inactivity which is interrupted by an awakening. Thus, the “sleep” metaphor fittingly represents the unconscious state of the dead and their awakening on the day of Christ’s return.
A second reason for the use of the “sleep” metaphor is suggested by the fact that it is a hope-inspiring figure of speech to represent death. It implies the assurance of a later awakening. As a person goes to sleep at night in the hope of awakening in the morning, so the believer falls asleep in the Lord in the assurance of being awakened by Christ on resurrection morning.
When we hear or say that a person is dead, we automatically think that there is no more hope of bringing him/her back to life. But when we say that a person is sleeping in the Lord, we express the hope for his or her restoration to life on the day of the resurrection. The “sleep” metaphor does not describe the sleeping condition of the dead, but the possibility of being awaken to live again on Resurrection morning.
The Sleep of Death as Unconsciousness
A third reason for the use of the “sleep” metaphor is suggested by the fact that there is no consciousness of the elapse of time in sleep. Thus, the metaphor provides a fitting representation of the unconscious state of the deceased between death and resurrection. They have no awareness of the passing of time. In his early writings, Luther expressed this thought in a most graphic way: “Just as one who falls asleep and reaches morning unexpected when he awakes, without knowing what has happened to him, so shall we suddenly rise on the last day without knowing how we have come into death and through death.”25 Again Luther wrote: “We shall sleep until He comes and knocks on the little grave and says, Doctor Martin, get up! Then I shall rise in a moment and be happy with Him forever.”26
For the sake of accuracy, it must be pointed out that later in life Luther largely rejected the notion of the unconscious sleep of the dead, apparently because of Calvin’s strong attack against this doctrine. In his Commentary on Genesis, which he wrote in 1537, Luther remarks: “The departed soul does not sleep in this manner [regular sleep]; it is, more properly speaking, awake and has vision and conversation with the angels and God.”27 The change in Luther’s position from the unconscious to the conscious state of the dead only serves to show that even influential reformers were not exempted from the theological pressures of their time.
Our study of the “sleep” metaphor in the Old and New Testaments has shown that the Bible uses the “sleep” metaphor frequently because it enshrines a vital truth, namely, the dead who sleep in Christ are unconscious of any lapse of time until their resurrection. The believer who dies in Christ falls asleep and rests unconscious, until he awakes when Christ calls him back to life at His coming.
The Meaning and Ground of Immortality
Immortality in the Bible is not an innate human possession but a divine attribute. The term “immortality” comes from the Greek athanasia, which means “deathlessness,” and hence unending existence. This terms occurs only twice; first in connection with God “who alone has immortality” (1 Tim 6:16) and second in relation to human mortality which must put on immortality (1 Cor 15:53) at the time of the resurrection. The latter reference negates the notion of a natural immortality of the soul, because it says that immortality is something that the resurrected saints will “put on.” It is not something that they already possess.
Nowhere the Bible suggests that immortality is a natural quality or right of human beings. The presence of the “tree of life” in the garden of Eden indicates indicates that immortality was conditional to the partaking of the fruit of such tree. Scripture teaches that “immortality is to be sought (Rom 2:7) and “put on” (1 Cor 15:53). It is, as ‘eternal life,” the gift of God (Rom 6:23) to be inherited (Matt 19:29) by knowing God (John 17:3) through Christ (John 14:19; 17:2; Rom 6:23). In Paul’s view immortality is tied solely to the resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 15) as the ground and pledge of the believer’s hope. Those who insist in finding the philosophical idea of the immortality of the soul in the Bible, ignore God’s revelation and insert dualistic Greek ideas into the Biblical faith.
Our study of the biblical view of the nature of death, has shown that both the Old and New Testaments clearly teach that death is the extinction of life for the whole person. There is no remembrance or consciousness in death (Ps 8:5; 146:4; 30:9; 115:17; Ecc 9:5). There is no independent existence of the spirit or soul apart from the body. Death is the loss of the total being and not merely the loss of well-being. The whole person rests in the grave in a state of unconsciousness characterized in the Bible as “sleep.” The “awakening” will take place at Christ’s coming when He will call back to life the sleeping saints. The “sleep” metaphor is truly a beautiful and tender expression which intimates that death is not the final human destiny because there will be an awakening out of the sleep of death on resurrection morning.
THE STATE OF THE DEAD
IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
A major challenge to the conclusion that death in the Bible is the cessation of life for the whole person, comes from unwarranted interpretations given to two words used in the Bible to describe the dwelling place of the dead. The two words are sheol in the Old Testament and hades in the New Testament. They often are interpreted to represent the place where disembodied souls continue to exist after the death and the place of punishment of the ungodly (hell). Thus, it is imperative for us to study the Biblical meaning and usage of these two terms .
Translations and Interpretations of Sheol
The Hebrew word sheol occurs 65 times in the Old Testament and is translated variously as “grave,” “hell,” “pit,” or “death.” These variant translations make it difficult for the English reader to understand the basic meaning of sheol. For example, The King James Version (KJV) renders sheol “grave” 31 times, “hell” 31 times, and “pit” 3 times. This means that readers of the KJV are often led to believe that the Old Testament teaches the existence of hell where the wicked are tormented for their sins.
For example, in the KJV, Psalm 16:10 reads: “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell.” An uninformed reader will assume that the text means, “For thou wilt not leave my soul to be tormented in hell.” Such a reading is an obvious misinterpretation of the text which simply says, as rendered in the RSV, “For thou does not give me up to Sheol,” that is, the grave. The Psalmist here expresses confidence that God would not abandon him in the grave. In fact, this is the way the text is applied in Acts 2:27 to Christ, who was not left in the grave by the Father. The text has nothing to say about hell.
To avoid such misleading interpretations, the Revised Standard Version and The New American Standard Bible simply transliterate the Hebrew word into English letters as sheol. The New International Version usually translates it as “grave” (occasionally as “death”), with a footnote “sheol.” This translation accurately reflects the basic meaning of sheol as the grave or, even better, the collective realm of the dead.
Different translations often reflect the different theological convictions of the translators. For example, the translators of the KJV believed that at death the righteous go to Heaven and the wicked to hell. Consequently, they translated sheol “grave” when referring to the righteous, whose bodies rested in the grave, and “hell” when referring to the wicked whose souls are supposedly tormented in hell. A similar approach has been adopted by Old Testament scholar Alexander Heidel,28 who has been criticized for arbitrarily handling the Biblical data.29
These interpretations of sheol as the dwelling place of souls (rather than the resting place of the body in the grave) or the place of punishment for the wicked, known as hell, do not stand up under the light of the Biblical usage of sheol. This fact is recognized even by John W. Cooper who has produced what is perhaps the most scholarly attempt to salvage the traditional dualistic view of human nature from the massive attacks of modern scholarship against it. In his book Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting, Cooper states: “Perhaps most interesting for traditional Christians to note is the fact that it [sheol] is the resting place of the dead irrespective of their religion during life. Sheol is not the ‘hell’ to which the wicked are condemned and from which the Lord’s faithful are spared in glory. . . . There is no doubt that believers and unbelievers all were thought to go to sheol when they die.”30
The liberal The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible states even more emphatically that “Nowhere in the Old Testament is the abode of the dead [sheol] regarded as a place of punishment or torment. The concept of an infernal ‘hell’ developed in Israel only during the Hellenistic period.”31
In his classic study on Israel: Its Life and Culture, Johannes Pedersen flatly states: “Sheol is the entirety into which all graves are merged; . . . Where there is grave, there is sheol, and where there is sheol, there is grave.”32 Pedersen explains at great length that sheol is the collective realm of the dead where all the deceased go, whether buried or unburied. This conclusion becomes self-evident when we look at some usages of sheol.
Etymology and Location of Sheol
The etymology of sheol is uncertain. The derivations most frequently mentioned are from such root meanings as “to ask,” “to inquire,” and “to bury one’s self.”33 In his dissertation on “Sheol in the Old Testament,” Ralph Doermann proposes a derivation from the stem shilah, which has the primary meaning “to be quiet,” “at ease.” He concludes that “if a connection between sheol and shilah is feasible, it would appear that the name is not connected with the location of the realm of the dead, but rather with the character of its occupants, who are primarily ‘at rest.’”34 The difference between the two words is relative. More important is the fact that sheol denotes a place where the dead are at rest.
Sheol is located deep beneath the surface of the earth, because it is often mentioned in connection with heaven to denote the uttermost limits of the universe. Sheol is the deepest place in the universe, just as the heaven is the highest. Amos describes the inescapable wrath of God in these terms: “Though they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down” (Amos 9:2-3). Similarly, the Psalmist exclaims: “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou are there!” (Ps 139:7-8; cf. Job 11:7-9).
Being situated beneath the earth, the dead reach sheol by “going down,” a euphemism for being buried in the earth. Thus, when Jacob was informed of the death of his son Joseph, he said: “I shall go down to Sheol to my son mourning” (Gen 37:35). Perhaps the clearest example of the location of sheol beneath the earth is the account of the punishment of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who had revolted against the authority of Moses. “The ground under them split asunder; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their household and all the men that belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them” (Num 16:31-33). This episode clearly shows that the whole person, and not just the soul, goes down to sheol, to the realm of the dead.
Characteristics of Sheol
The characteristics of sheol are essentially those of the realm of the dead, or the grave. In numerous passages, sheol is found in parallelism with the Hebrew word bor, which denotes “a pit” or any kind of subterranean hole, such as a grave. For example, the Psalmist writes: “For my soul is full of troubles and my life draws near to Sheol. I am reckoned among those who go down to the Pit [bor]” (Ps 88:3-4).35 Here the parallelism identifies sheol with the pit, that is, the burial place of the dead.
Several times Sheol appears together with abaddon, which means “destruction,” or “ruin.”36 Abaddon appears in parallelism with the grave: “Is thy covenant loyalty declared in the grave, or thy faithfulness in Abaddon” (Ps 88:12). The fact that sheol is associated with abaddon, the place of destruction, shows that the realm of the dead was seen as the place of destruction, and not as the place of eternal suffering for the wicked.
Sheol is also characterized as “the land of darkness and deep darkness” (Job 10:21), where the dead never see light again (Ps 49:20; 88:13). It is also “the land of silence” (Ps 94:17; cf. 115:17) and the land of no-return: “As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up; he returns no more to his house, nor does his place know him any more” (Job 7:10).
Sheol as the Realm of the Dead
All the above characteristics of sheol describe accurately the realm of the dead. The pit, the place of destruction, the land of darkness, the land of silence, the land of no-return are all descriptive of the realm of the dead. Furthermore we have some instances where sheol occurs in parallelism with death and the grave: “Let death come upon them; let them go down to Sheol alive; let them go away in terror to their grave” (Ps 55:16). By virtue of the parallelism, here sheol is identified with death and the grave.
The various figures used to describe sheol all serve to show that it is not the locality of departed spirits, but the realm of the dead. Anthony Hoekema, a Calvinistic scholar, reaches essentially the same conclusion in his book The Bible and the Future. He writes: “The various figures which are applied to sheol can all be understood as referring to the realm of the dead: Sheol is said to have bars (Job 17:16), to be a dark and gloomy place (Job 17:13), to be a monster with insatiable appetite (Prov 27:20; 30:15-16; Is 5:14; Hab 2:5). When we think of sheol in this way, we must remember that both the godly and the ungodly go down into sheol at death, since both enter the realm of the dead.”37
Any attempt to turn sheol into the place of torment of the wicked or into the abode of spirits/souls clearly contradicts the Biblical characterization of sheol as the underground depository of the dead.
The Condition of the Dead in Sheol
Since death is the cessation of life and vitality, the state of the dead in sheol is described in terms antithetical to the concept of life on earth. Life means vitality and activity; death means weakness and inactivity. This is true for all, the righteous and the wicked. “One fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean” (Eccl 9:2). They all go to the same place, sheol, the realm of the dead.
The wise man offers a graphic description of the condition of the dead in sheol: “There is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going” (Eccl 9:10). It is evident that sheol, the realm of the dead, is the place of unconscious non-existence. “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward; but the memory of them is lost. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and they have no more for ever any share in all that is done under the sun” (Eccl 9:5-6). The main argument here is that death puts an abrupt end to all activity “under the sun,” and what follows death is sheol, the realm of the dead where there is a state of inactivity, without knowledge or consciousness. Such a state is best described as “sleep.”
The phrase “and he slept with his father” (cf. 1 Kings 1:21; 2:10; 11:43) reflects the idea that the dead join their predecessors in sheol in a somnolent, unconscious state. The idea of rest or sleep in sheol is prominent in Job, who cries in the midst of his sufferings: “Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire? . . . For then I should have lain down and been quiet; I should have slept; then I should have been at rest. . . . There the wicked cease from troubling and there the weary are at rest” (Job 3:11,13, 17).
Rest in sheol is not the rest of souls enjoying the bliss of paradise or the torments of hell, but the rest of dead bodies sleeping in their dusty, worm-covered graves. “If I wait for the grave [sheol] as my house, if I make my bed in the darkness, if I say to corruption, ‘You are my father,’ and to the worm, ‘you are my mother and my sister,’ where then is my hope? . . . Will they go down to the gates of Sheol? Shall we rest together in the dust?” (Job 17:13-16, NKJV).
The dead sleep in sheol until the End. “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” (Job 14:12). “Till the heavens are no more” is possibly an allusion to the coming of the Lord at the end of time to resurrect the saints. In all his trials, Job never gave up his hope of seeing the Lord even after the decay of his body. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27; NKJV).
In summation, the condition of the dead in sheol, the realm of the dead, is one of unconsciousness, inactivity, a rest or sleep that will continue until the day of the resurrection. None of the texts we have examined suggests that sheol is the place of punishment for the ungodly (hell) or a place of conscious existence for the souls or spirits of the dead. No souls are in sheol simply because in the Old Testament the soul does not survive the death of the body. As N. H. Snaith flatly states it: “A dead body, whether of man, or bird, or beast is without nephesh [soul]. In sheol, the abode of the dead, there is no nephesh [soul].”38
THE STATE OF THE DEAD
IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
The New Testament says very little about the state of the dead during the intermediate period between their falling asleep and their awakening on the day of the resurrection. The primary concern of the New Testament is with the events that mark the transition from this age to the Age to Come: the return of Christ and the resurrection of the dead.
Our major source of information for the New Testament view of the state of the dead are the 11 references to hades (which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew sheol) and 5 passages commonly cited in support of the belief in the conscious existence of the soul after death. The 5 passages are: (1) Luke 16:19-31, where we find the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus; (2) Luke 23:42-43, which reports the conversation between Jesus and the thief on the cross; (3) Philippians 1:23, where Paul speaks of his “desire to depart and be with Christ”; (4) 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, where Paul uses the imagery of the earthly/heavenly houses and of the unclothed/clothed conditions to express his desire to “be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8); and (5) Revelation 6:9-11 which mentions the souls of the martyrs under the altar crying to God to avenge their blood. We proceed to examine each of the above in the order given.
The Meaning and Nature of Hades
The Greek word hades came into Biblical use when the translators of the Septuagint chose it to render the Hebrew sheol. The problem is that hades was used in the Greek world in a vastly different way than sheol. While sheol in the Old Testament is the realm of the dead, where, as we have seen, the deceased are in an unconscious state, hades in Greek mythology is the underworld, where the conscious souls of the dead are divided in two major regions, one a place of torment and the other of blessedness.
Edward Fudge offers this concise description of the Greek conception of hades: “In Greek mythology Hades was the god of the underworld, and then the name of the nether world itself. Charon ferried the souls of the dead across the rivers Styx or Acheron into his abode, where the watchdog Cerberus guarded the gate so that none might escape. The pagan myth contained all the elements of the medieval eschatology: there was the pleasant Elysium, the gloomy and miserable Tartarus, and even the Plains of Asphodel, where ghosts could wander who were suited for neither of the above. Ruling beside the god was his queen Proserpine (or Persephone), whom he had raped from the world above.”39
This Greek conception of hades influenced Hellenistic Jews, during the intertestamental period, to adopt the belief in the immortality of the soul and the idea of a spatial separation in the underworld between the righteous and the godless. The souls of the righteous proceeded immediately after death to heavenly felicity, there to await the resurrection, while the souls of the godless went to a place of torment in hades.40 The popular acceptance of this scenario is reflected in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus to be examined shortly.
This view of hades as a place of torment for the wicked eventually entered into the Christian Church and influenced even Bible translators. It is noteworthy that the word hades, which occurs 11 times in the New Testament, is translated in the KJV 10 times as “hell” 41 and 1 time as “grave.”42 The RSV transliterates the word as “Hades.”
The translation of hades as “hell” is inaccurate and misleading, because, with the exception of Luke 16:23, the term refers to the grave or the realm of the dead, not to a place of punishment. The latter is designated as gehenna, a term which also occurs 11 times in the New Testament43 and is rightly translated “hell,” since it refers to the lake of fire, the place of doom for the lost. Hades, on the other hand, is used in the New Testament as the standing equivalent of sheol, the realm of the dead or the grave.
Jesus and Hades
In the Gospels, Jesus refers to hades three times. The first use of hades is found in Matthew 11:23, where Jesus upbraids Capernaum, saying: “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades” (cf. Luke 10:15). Here hades, like sheol in the Old Testament (Amos 9:2-3; Job 11:7-9), denotes the deepest place in the universe, just as the heaven is the highest. This means that Capernaum will be humiliated by being brought down to the realm of the dead, the deepest place in the universe.
The second use of hades in the teaching of Jesus occurs in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:23). We shall return to this shortly. The third use is found in Matthew 16:18, where Jesus expresses His confidence that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail” against His church. The meaning of the phrase “the gates of Hades” is illuminated by the use of the same expression in the Old Testament and Jewish literature (3 Macc 5:51; Wis. of Sol 16:13) as a synonym for death. For example, Job asks rhetorically: “Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?” (Job 38:17; cf. Is 38:18). The underworld was pictured as enclosed with cliffs, where the dead were locked in. Thus, what Jesus meant by “the gates of Hades” is that death shall not prevail against His church, obviously because He had gained the victory over death.
Like all the dead, Jesus went to hades, that is, to the grave, but unlike the rest He was victorious over death. “For thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let thy Holy One see corruption” (Acts 2:27; cf. 2:31). Here hades is the grave where Christ’s body rested for only three days and, consequently, did not “see corruption,” the decay process resulting from a prolonged interment. Because of His victory over death, hades–the grave is a defeated enemy. Thus, Paul exclaims: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave [hades] where is thy victory?” (1 Cor 15:55, KJV). Here hades is correctly translated “grave” in the KJV since it is in parallel with death.
Christ now holds the keys to “death and Hades” (Rev 1:18), He has power over death and the grave. This enables Him to unlock the graves and call forth the saints to everlasting life at His coming. In all these passages, hades is consistently associated with death, because it is the resting place of the dead, the grave. The same is true in Revelation 6:8, where the pale horse has a rider whose name “was Death, and Hades followed him.” The reason “Hades” follows “Death” is obviously because hades, as the grave, receives the dead.
At the end of the millennium, “Death and Hades” will give up their dead (Rev 20:13) and “then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire” (Rev 20:14). These two verses are significant. First, because they tell us that eventually hades will give up the dead, which indicates again that hades is the realm of the dead. Second, they inform us that at the End, hades itself will be thrown into the lake of fire. By means of this colorful imagery, the Bible reassures us that at the End, both death and the grave will be eliminated. This will be the death of death, or as Revelation puts it, “the second death.”
This brief survey of the use of hades in the New Testament clearly shows that its meaning and usage is consistent with that of sheol in the Old Testament. Both terms denote the grave or the realm of the dead and not the place of punishment of the ungodly.44
The Rich Man and Lazarus
The word hades also occurs in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, but with a different meaning. While in the 10 references we have just examined hades refers to the grave or the realm of the dead, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus it denotes the place of punishment for the ungodly (Luke 16:23). The reason for this exceptional use will be explained shortly. Obviously, dualists make great use of this parable to support the notion of the conscious existence of disembodied souls during the intermediate state (Luke 16:19-31). Because of the importance attached to this parable, we need to examine it closely.
First, let us look at the main points of the story. Lazarus and the rich man both die. Their situations in life are now reversed after their death. For when Lazarus died, he “was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22), whereas the rich man was taken to hades where he was tormented by scorching flames (Luke 16:23). Although a great gulf separated them, the rich man could see Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom. So he pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus on two errands: first, to “send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool his tongue” (Luke 16:24) and second, to send Lazarus to warn his family members to repent lest they experience the same punishment. Abraham denied both requests for two reasons. The first, because there was a great chasm that made it impossible for Lazarus to cross over to help him (Luke 16:26); the second, because if his family members did “not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).
Before looking at the parable, we need to remember that contrary to an allegory like Pilgrim’s Progress, where every details counts, the details of a parable do not necessarily have any significance in themselves, except as “props” for the story. A parable is designed to teach a fundamental truth, and the details do not have a literal meaning, unless the context indicates otherwise. Out of this principle another grows, namely, only the fundamental teaching of a parable, confirmed by the general tenor of Scripture, may be legitimately used for defining doctrine.
The Problems of a Literal Interpretation
Those who interpret the parable as a literal representation of the state of the saved and unsaved after death are faced with insurmountable problems. If the narrative is an actual description of the intermediate state, then it must be true in fact and consistent in detail. But if the parable is figurative, then only the moral truth to be conveyed need concern us. A literal interpretation of the narrative breaks down under the weight of its own absurdities and contradictions, as becomes apparent under scrutiny.
Contenders for literalism suppose that the rich man and Lazarus were disembodied spirits, destitute of bodies. Yet the rich man is described as having “eyes” that see and a “tongue” that speaks, as well as seeking relief from the “finger” of Lazarus—all real body parts. They are portrayed as existing physically, despite the fact that the rich man’s body was duly buried in the grave. Was his body carried away into hades together with his soul by mistake?
A gulf separates Lazarus in Heaven (Abraham’s bosom) from the rich man in hades. The gulf is too wide for anyone to cross and yet narrow enough to permit them to converse. Taken literally, this means that Heaven and Hell are within geographical speaking and seeing distance from each other so that saints and sinners eternally can see and communicate with one another. Ponder for a moment the case of parents in Heaven seeing their children agonizing in hades for all eternity. Would not such a sight destroy the very joy and peace of Heaven? It is unthinkable that the saved will see and converse with their unsaved loved ones for all eternity across a dividing gulf.
Conflict With Biblical Truths
A literal interpretation of the parable contradicts some fundamental Biblical truths. If the narrative is literal, then Lazarus received his reward and the rich man his punishment, immediately after death and before the judgment day. But the Bible clearly teaches that the rewards and punishments, as well as the separation between the saved and the unsaved will take place on the day of Christ’s coming: “When the Son of man comes in his glory, . . . and before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another” (Matt 25:31-32). “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay everyone for what he has done” (Rev 22:12). Paul expected to receive “the crown of righteousness” on the day of Christ’s appearing (2 Tim 4:8).
A literal interpretation of the parable also contradicts the uniform testimony of the Old and New Testaments that the dead, both righteous and ungodly, lie silent and unconscious in death until the resurrection day (Eccl 9:5-6; Job 14:12-15, 20, 21; Ps 6:5; 115:17). A literal interpretation also contradicts the consistent use of hades in the New Testament to denote the grave or the realm of the dead, not a place of punishment. We have found that in 10 of its 11 occurrences, hades is explicitly connected with death and the grave. The exceptional use of hades in this parable as a fiery place of torment (Luke 16:24) derives not from Scripture, but from current Jewish beliefs influenced by Greek mythology.
Current Jewish Concepts
Fortunately for our investigation, we have Jewish writings that illuminate the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Especially revealing is the “Discourse to the Greeks Concerning Hades,” written by Josephus, the famous Jewish historian who lived during New Testament times (died about A. D. 100). His discourse parallels very closely the narrative of the rich man and Lazarus. In it Josephus explains that “Hades is a subterraneous region where the light of this world does not shine. . . . This region is allowed as a place of custody for souls, in which angels are appointed as guardians to them, who distribute to them temporary punishments, agreeable to every one’s behavior and manners.”45
Josephus points out, however, that hades is divided into two regions. One is “the region of light” where the souls of the righteous dead are brought by angels to the “place we call The Bosom of Abraham.”46 The second region is in “perpetual darkness,” and the souls of the ungodly are dragged by force “by the angels allotted for punishment.”47 These angels drag the ungodly “into the neighborhood of hell itself,” so that they can see and feel the heat of the flames.48 But they are not thrown into hell itself until after the final judgment. “A chaos deep and large is fixed between them; insomuch that a just man that hath compassion upon them, cannot be admitted, nor can one that is unjust, if he were bold enough to attempt it, pass over it.”49
The striking similarities between Josephus’ description of hades and the parable of the rich man and Lazarus are self-evident. In both accounts we have the two regions that separate the righteous from the ungodly, the bosom of Abraham as the abode of the righteous, a great gulf that cannot be crossed, and the inhabitants of one region who can see those of the other region.
Josephus’ description of hades is not unique. Similar descriptions can be found in other Jewish literature.50 What this means is that Jesus capitalized on the popular understanding of the condition of the dead in hades, not to endorse such views, but to drive home the importance of heeding in this present life the teachings of Moses and the prophets because this determines bliss or misery in the world to come.
Jesus’ Use of Current Beliefs
At this juncture, it may be proper to ask, “Why did Jesus tell a parable based on current beliefs that do not accurately represent truth as set forth elsewhere in the Scripture and in His own teachings?” The answer is that Jesus met people on their own ground, capitalizing on what was familiar to them to teach them vital truths. Many of His hearers had come to believe in a conscious state of existence between death and the resurrection, though such a belief is foreign to Scripture. This erroneous belief was adopted during the intertestamental period as part of the process of Hellenization of Judaism and had become a part of Judaism by the time of Jesus.
In this parable, Jesus made use of a popular belief, not to endorse it, but to impress upon the minds of His hearers an important spiritual lesson. It should be noted that even in the preceding parable of the Dishonest Steward (Luke 16:1-12), Jesus uses a story that does not accurately represent Biblical truth. Nowhere, does the Bible endorse the practice of a dishonest administrator who reduces to half the outstanding debts of creditors in order to get some personal benefits from such creditors. The lesson of the parable is to “make friends for yourselves” (Luke 16:9), not to teach dishonest business practices.
John Cooper, though he has produced in my view the most scholarly defence of the dualistic view of human nature, acknowledges that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus “does not necessarily tell us what Jesus or Luke believed about the afterlife, nor does it provide a firm basis for a doctrine of the intermediate state. For it is possible that Jesus simply uses popular images in order to make his ethical point. He may not have been endorsing those images. He may not have believed them himself because he knew them to be false.”51
Cooper then asks the question: “What does this passage tell us about the intermediate state?” He flatly and honestly replies: “The answer may be, ‘Nothing.’ The dualist case cannot lean on this text as a main support.”52 The reason he gives is that it is most difficult to draw conclusions from the imagery of the parable. For example, Cooper asks: “Will we be bodily beings [in the intermediate state]? Will the blessed and the damned be able to see each other?”53
Jesus and the Thief on the Cross
The brief conversation between Jesus and the penitent thief on the cross next to Him (Luke 23:42-43) is used by dualists as a major proof for the conscious existence of the faithful dead in paradise before the resurrection. Thus, it is important to take a close look to the words spoken by Jesus to the penitent thief.
Unlike the other criminal and most of the crowd, the penitent thief did believe that Jesus was the Messiah. He said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus answered him, “Truly I say to you today you shall be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). A major problem in the interpretation of this text is caused by the location of the comma, which in most translations, is placed before “today.” Thus, most readers and commentators assume that Jesus said: “Today you shall be with me in paradise” Such reading is interpreted to mean that “on that very day”54 the thief went to paradise with Christ.
The original Greek text, however, has no punctuation and, translated literally, reads: “Truly to you I say today with me you will be in paradise.” The adverb “today–semeron” stands between the verb “I say–lego” and “you will be–ese.” This means that grammatically the adverb “today” can apply to either of the two verbs. If it qualifies the first verb, then Jesus said: “Truly I say to you today, you shall be with me in paradise.”
Translators have placed the comma before the adverb “today,” not for grammatical reasons, but for the theological conviction that the dead receive their reward at death. One would wish that translators would limit themselves to translating the text and leave the task of interpretation to the reader.
The question we are facing is: Did Jesus mean to say, “Truly, I say to you today. . .” or “Today you shall be with me in paradise”? Those who maintain that Jesus meant the latter appeal to the fact that the adverb “today” does not occur elsewhere with the frequently used phrase “Truly, I say to you.” This is a valid observation, but the reason for this exceptional attachment of the adverb “today” to the phrase “Truly, I say to you” could very well be the immediate context. The thief asked Jesus to remember him in the future when He would establish His messianic kingdom. But Jesus responded by remembering the penitent thief immediately, “today,” and by reassuring him that he would be with Him in paradise. This interpretation is supported by two major considerations: (1) the time when the saved will enter upon their reward in paradise, and (2) the time when Jesus Himself returned to Paradise.
When Will the Redeem Enter Paradise?
Throughout His ministry, Jesus taught that the redeemed would enter into His Father’s Kingdom at His coming: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt 25:34; 16:27). Paul taught the same truth. At Christ’s second coming, the sleeping saints will be resurrected and the living saints translated, and all “shall be caught up together . . . in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:17). It is at that time, following the resurrection of the righteous, that the thief will be with Jesus in Paradise.
When Did Jesus Return to Paradise?
Those who interpret Christ’s statement to the thief as meaning that on that very day the thief went to paradise to be with Christ, assume that both Jesus and the thief ascended to heaven immediately after their death. But such a conclusion can hardly be supported by Scripture.
The Scriptures expressly teach that on the day of His crucifixion, Christ went into the grave–hades. At Pentecost, Peter proclaimed that in accordance to David’s prophecy (Ps 16:10), Christ “was not abandoned in Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption,” but was raised up by God (Acts 2:31-32). Hades, as we have seen, is associated consistently in the New Testament with the grave or the realm of the dead. What this means is that Christ could hardly have told the thief that on that very day he would be with Him in paradise, when He knew that on that day He would be resting in the grave.
Those who would argue that only Christ’s body went into the grave while His soul ascended to heaven ignore what Jesus said to Mary on the day of His resurrection: “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (John 20:17). It is evident that Jesus was not in Heaven during the three days of his burial. He was resting in the grave, waiting for His Father to call Him back to life. Thus, the thief could hardly have gone to be with Jesus in Paradise immediately after his death when Jesus Himself did not ascend to the Father until some time after His resurrection. To appreciate more fully the meaning of being “with Christ in paradise,” let us look at Paul’s use of the phrase “being with Christ.”
“To Depart and Be With Christ”
In writing to the Philippians, Paul says: “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 1:22-23). Dualists consider this text one of the strongest proofs that at death the soul of the saved immediately goes into the presence of Christ. For example, Robert Morey states: “This is the clearest passage in the New Testament which speaks of the believer going to be with Christ in heaven after death. This context deals with Paul’s desire to depart this earthly life for a heavenly life with Christ. There is no mention or allusion to the resurrection in this passage.”55
The fundamental problem with this interpretation is the failure to recognize that Paul’s statement, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ” is a relational and not an anthropological statement. By this I mean, it is a statement of the relation that exists and continues between the believer and Christ through death, not a statement of the “state” of the body and soul between death and the resurrection.
The New Testament is not concerned about a ‘state’ which exists between death and resurrection, but about a relation that exists between the believer and Christ through death. This relationship of being with Christ is not interrupted by death because the believer who sleeps in Christ has no awareness of the passing of time.
For Paul those who “die in Christ” are “sleeping in Christ” (1 Cor 15:18; 1 Thess 4:14). Their relation with Christ is one of immediacy, because they have no awareness of the passing of time between their death and resurrection. They experience what may be called “eternal time.” But for those who go on living on earth-bound temporal time there is an interval between death and resurrection. The problem is that we cannot synchronize the clock of eternal time with that of our temporal time. It is the attempt to do this that has led to unfortunate speculations and controversies over the so-called intermediate state.
By expressing his desire “to depart and be with Christ,” Paul was not giving a doctrinal exposition of what happens at death. He is simply expressing his longing to see an end to his troubled existence and to be with Christ. Throughout the centuries, earnest Christians have expressed the same longing, without necessarily expecting to be ushered into Christ’s presence at the moment of their death. Paul’s statement must be interpreted on the basis of his clear teachings regarding the time when believers will be united with Christ.
With Christ at His Coming
Paul addresses this question in his letter to the Thessalonians where he explains that both the sleeping and living believers will be united with Christ, not at death, but at His coming. “The dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:17).56 The “so” (houtos) refers to the manner or way in which believers will be with Christ, namely, not by dying, but by being resurrected or translated at His coming. The word “so” in Greek houtos “means ‘in this way.’ Its place here at the beginning of the sentence is meant to explain the way believers will be with Christ, namely, through the resurrection.
It should be noted that in describing the union with Christ which believers will experience at His coming, Paul never speaks of disembodied souls being reunited with resurrected bodies. Rather, he speaks of “the dead in Christ” being risen (1 Thess 4:16). Obviously, what is risen at Christ’s coming is not just dead bodies but dead people. It is the whole person who will be resurrected and reunited with Christ. Note that the living saints will meet Christ at the same time “together with” the resurrected saints (1 Thess 4:17). Sleeping and living saints meet Christ “together” at His coming, not at death.
The total absence of any Pauline allusion to an alleged reunion of the body with the soul at the time of the resurrection constitutes, in my view, the most formidable challenge to the notion of the conscious survival of the soul. If Paul knew anything about this, he would surely have alluded to it, especially in his detailed discussion of what will happen to sleeping and living believers at Christ’s coming (1 Thess 4:13-18; 1 Cor 15:42-58). The fact that Paul never alluded to the conscious survival of the soul and its reattachment to the body at the resurrection clearly shows that such a notion was totally foreign to him and to Scripture as a whole.
“At Home With the Lord”
In 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, Paul expresses again the hope of being with Christ by using several striking metaphors. This passage is rightly regarded as the “crux interpretum,” that is “the cross of interpreters,” primarily because the figurative language is cryptic and open to different interpretations. Unfortunately, dualistic interpreters are eager to derive from this passage, as from Philippians 1:22-23, precise definitions of life survival of the soul after the death of the body. Such concerns, however, are far removed from Paul, who is using the poetic language of faith to express his hopes and fears regarding the present and future life, rather than the logical language of science to explain the afterlife. All of this should put the interpreter on guard against reading into the passage what Paul never intended to express.
The passage opens with the preposition “for–gar,” thus indicating that Paul picks up from chapter 4:16-18, where he contrasts the temporal, mortal nature of the present life which is “wasting away” (2 Cor 4:16) with the eternal, glorious nature of the future life, whose “eternal weight of glory [is] beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17). Paul continues in chapter 5 developing the contrast between temporality and eternity by using the imagery of two dwelling places representative of these characteristics.
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared for us this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Cor 5:1-5).
In this first section of the passage, Paul uses two sets of contrasting metaphors. First, he contrasts “the earthly tent,” which is subject to destruction, with the “building from God, a house not made with hands,” which is “eternal in the heavens.” Then Paul highlights this contrast by differentiating between the state of being clothed with the heavenly dwelling and that of being found naked.
The second section, verses 6 to 10, is more straightforward and contrasts being in the body and therefore away from the Lord, with being away from the body and at home with the Lord. The key statement occurs in verse 8 where Paul says: “We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” This passage has been the object of enormous variety of interpretations which are discuss at length in my book Immortality or Resurrection? pages 180186.
Heavenly and Earthly Modes of Existence
After rereading the passage countless times, I sense that Paul’s primary concern is not to define the state of the body before and after death, but rather to contrast two modes of existence. One is the heavenly mode of existence which is represented by the “building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1). The other is the earthly mode of existence which is typified by “the earthly tent” which is “destroyed” at death.
The meaning of the imagery of “putting on” or “being clothed” with “our heavenly dwelling” has more to do with accepting Christ’s provision of salvation than with “the spiritual body” given to believers at the Second Coming. Support for this conclusion can be seen in the figurative use of “heavenly dwelling” with reference to God and of “being clothed” with reference to the believer’s acceptance of Christ.
Paul’s assurance that “we have a building from God” (2 Cor 5:1) reminds us of such verses as “God is our refuge and strength” (Ps 46:1), or “Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place” (Ps 90:1).57 Christ referred to Himself as a temple in a way that is strikingly similar to Paul’s imagery of the heavenly dwelling “not made with hands.” He is reported to have said: “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands” (Mark 14:58). If Paul was thinking along these lines, then the heavenly dwelling place is Christ Himself and the gift of eternal life He provides to believers.
How, then, does a believer put on “the heavenly dwelling”? A look at Paul’s use of the metaphor of clothing may provide an answer. “As many as were baptized into Christ were clothed with Christ” (Gal 3:27). In this text, the clothing is associated with the acceptance of Christ at baptism. Paul also says: “This perishable being must be clothed with the imperishable, and what is mortal must be clothed with immortality” (1 Cor 15:53, NEB). Here the clothing represents the reception of immortality at Christ’s coming. These two references suggest that the “clothing” can refer to the new life in Christ, which is accepted at baptism, renewed every day, and consummated at the Parousia, when the final clothing will take place by means of the change from mortality to immortality.
In the light of the above interpretation, to “be found naked” or “unclothed” (2 Cor 5:3-4) may stand in contrast with being clothed with Christ and His Spirit. Most likely “naked” for Paul stands not for the soul stripped from the body, but for guilt and sin which results in death. When Adam sinned, he discovered that he was “naked” (Gen 3:10). Ezekiel allegorically describes how God clothed Israel with rich garments but then exposed her nakedness because of her disobedience (Ez 16:8-14). One may also think of the man without “the wedding garment” at the marriage feast (Matt 22:11). It is possible, then, that being “naked” for Paul meant to be in a mortal, sinful condition, bereft of Christ’s righteousness.
Paul clarifies what he meant by being “unclothed” or “naked” versus being “clothed” when he says: “So that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor 5:4). The same concept is repeated in 1 Corinthians15:35 which speaks of the transformation that human nature as a whole will experience at Christ’s coming: “For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality” (1 Cor 15:53).
In both passages, 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 and 1 Corinthians 15:35, Paul is not concerned with the state of the body or the soul as such before or after death. Incidentally, he never speaks of the soul nor of the “spiritual body” in 1 Corinthians 5. Instead, Paul’s concern is to show the contrast between the earthly mode of existence, represented by “earthly tent,” and the heavenly mode of existence, represented by the “heavenly dwelling. The former is “mortal” and the latter is immortal (“swallowed up by life;” 2 Cor 5:4). The former is experienced “at home in the body” and “away from the Lord” (2 Cor 5:6). The latter is experienced “away from the body” and “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8).
The failure to recognize that Paul is speaking about two different modes of existence and not about the state of the body or soul after death, has led to unnecessary, misguided speculations about the afterlife. A good example is Robert Peterson’s statement: “Paul confirms Jesus’ teaching when he contrasts being ‘at home in the body’ and ‘away from the Lord’ with being ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord’ (2 Cor 5:6, 8). He presupposes that human nature is composed of material and immaterial aspects.”58
This interpretation is gratuitous, because neither Jesus or Paul are concerned with defining human nature ontologically, that is, in terms of its material or immaterial components. Instead, their concern is to define human nature ethically and relationally, in terms of disobedience and obedience, sin and righteousness, mortality and immortality. This is Paul’s concern in 2 Corinthians 5:1-9, where he speaks of the earthly and heavenly modes of existence in relationship to God, and not of the material or immaterial composition of human nature before and after death.
The Souls Under the Altar
The last passage we examine is Revelation 6:9-11, which reads: “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?’ Then they each were given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”
This passage is often cited to support the notion that the “souls” of the saints exist after death in heaven as disembodied, conscious spirits. For example, Robert Morey emphatically states: “The souls are the disembodied spirits of the martyrs who cry out to God for vengeance on their enemies. . . . This passage has always proven a great difficulty to those who deny that believers ascend to heaven at death. But John’s language is clear that these souls were conscious and active in heaven.”59
This interpretation ignores that apocalyptic pictures are not meant to be photographs of actual realities, but symbolic representations of almost unimaginable spiritual realities. John was not given a view of what heaven is actually like. It is evident that there are no white, red, black, and pale horses in heaven with warlike riders. In heaven Christ does not look like a lamb with a bleeding knife wound (Rev 5:6). Likewise, there are no “souls” of martyrs in heaven squeezed at the base of an altar. The whole scene is simply a symbolic representation designed to reassure those facing martyrdom and death that ultimately they would be vindicated by God. Such a reassurance would be particularly heartening for those who, like John, were facing terrible persecution for refusing to participate in the emperor’s cult.
The use of the word “souls–psychas” in this passage is unique for the New Testament, because it is never used to refer to humans in the intermediate state. The reason for its use here is suggested by the unnatural death of the martyrs whose blood was shed for the cause of Christ. In the Old Testament sacrificial system, the blood of animals was poured out at the base of the altar of burnt offerings (Lev 4:7, 18, 25, 30). The blood contained the soul (Lev 17:11) of the innocent victim that was offered as an atoning sacrifice to God on behalf of penitent sinners. Thus, the souls of the martyrs are seen under the altar to signify that their blood had been symbolically poured at its base.
The language of sacrificial death is used elsewhere in the New Testament to denote martyrdom. Facing death, Paul wrote: “For I am already on the point of being sacrificed” (2 Tim 4:6). The apostle also says that he was glad “to be poured out as a libation” for Christ (Phil 2:17). Thus, Christian martyrs were viewed as sacrifices offered to God. Their blood shed on earth was poured symbolically at the heavenly altar. Thus their souls are seen under the altar because that is where symbolically the blood of the martyrs flowed.
No Representation of Intermediate State
The symbolic representation of the martyrs as sacrifices offered at the heavenly altar can hardly be used to argue for their conscious disembodied existence in heaven. George Eldon Ladd, a most respected evangelical scholar, rightly states: “The fact that John saw the souls of the martyrs under the altar has nothing to do with the state of the dead or their situation in the intermediate state; it is merely a vivid way of picturing the fact that they had been martyred in the name of God.”60
The souls of the martyrs are seen as resting beneath the altar, not because they are in a disembodied state, but because they are awaiting the completion of redemption (“until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete” Rev 6:11) and their resurrection at Christ’s coming. John describes this event later on, saying: “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. . . . This is the first resurrection” (Rev 20:4).
This description of the martyrs as “beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God” is very much like that of Revelation 6:9. The only difference is that in chapter 6 the deceased martyrs are told to rest, while in chapter 20 they are brought to life. It is evident that if the martyrs are brought to life at the beginning of the millennium in conjunction with Christ’s coming, they can hardly be living in heaven in a disembodied state while resting in the grave.
To sum up, the function of the vision of the martyrs under the heavenly altar is not to inform us on the intermediate state of the dead, but to reassure believers, especially the martyrs who in John’s time and later centuries gave their lives for the cause of Christ, that God ultimately would vindicate them.
Our study of all the relevant Biblical passages has shown that the notion of the intermediate state in which the souls of the saved enjoy the bliss of Paradise, while those of the unsaved suffer the torments of hell derives not from Scripture, but from pagan Greek dualism.
It is most unfortunate that during much of its history, Christianity by and large has been influenced by the Greek dualistic view of human nature, according to which the body is mortal and the soul immortal. The acceptance of this deadly heresy has conditioned the interpretation of Scripture and given rise to a host of other heresies such as Purgatory, eternal torment in hell, prayer for the dead, intercession of the saints, indulgences, and etherial view of paradise. Some of these popular heresies are examined in later chapters.
The challenge we face today is to help sincere people recover the Biblical wholistic view of human nature and destiny, and thus dispel the spiritual darkness perpetrated by centuries of superstitious beliefs.
This is the challenge the Seventh-day Adventist church is endeavoring to fulfill by divine grace. It is the challenge of leading people around the world to understand, accept, and live by some of the fundamental biblical teachings which are largely ignored or even rejected today.
In this chapter we have examined a fundamental teaching, namely, the biblical view of death and of the state of the dead. The conclusion of our investigation is aptly expressed in the 25th Fundamental belief of the Seventh-day Adventist Church: “The wages of sin is death. But God, who alone is immortal, will grant eternal life to His redeemed. Until that day death is an unconscious state for all people. When Christ, who is our life, appears, the resurrected righteous and the living righteous will be glorified and caught up to meet the Lord. The second resurrection, the resurrection of the unrighteous, will take place a thousand years later.
NOTES TO CHAPTER 3
1. Andrew M. Greeley, Michael Hout, “Americans’ Increasing Belief in Life after Death: Religious Competition and Acculturation,” American Sociological Review, vol. 64, No. 6 (Dec., 1999), p. 813.
3. The Barna Update, “Americans Describe Their Views About Life After Death,” October 21, 2003, www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=150.
5. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994, p. 267.
6. Ibid., p. 268.
7. “Hell,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, R.C. Broderick, Ed.,1987.
8. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994, p. 270.
10. Ibid., p. 268.
11. Ibid., p. 269.
12. See, for example, Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, 1940), Vol. 3, pp. 713-30; W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology (Grand Rapids, n.d.), Vol. 2, pp. 591-640. G. C. Berkouwer, The Return of Christ,1972, pp. 32-64.
13. Westminster Confession, chap. 32, as cited by John H. Leith, ed., Creeds of the Churches, 1977, p. 228.
14. “New Views of Heaven & Hell,” Time, Friday, May 19, 1967.
17. Catechism of the Catholic Church,1994, p. 265.
18. Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology, 1970, p. 982.
19. Paul Althaus, Die Letzten Dinge,1957, p. 157.
20. Ibid., p. 155
22. Ibid., p. 156.
23. Ibid., p. 158. For a similar view of death as the termination of life for the body and the soul, see John A. T. Robinson, The Body, A study in Pauline Theology, 1957, p. 14; Taito Kantonen, Life after Death,1952, p. 18; E. Jacob, “Death,” The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1962, vol. 1, p. 802; Herman Bavink, “Death,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia,1960, vol. 2, p. 812.
24. “New Views of Heaven & Hell,” Time, May 19, 1967, p. 34.
25. Martin Luther, Werke (Weimar, 1910), XVII, II, p. 235.
26. Ibid., XXXVII, p. 151.
27. Ewald Plass, What Luther Says (St. Louis, 1959), Vol. 1, par. 1132.
28. Alexander Heidel, The Gilgamish Epic and the Old Testament Parallels, 1949, pp. 170-207.
29. See Desmond Alexander, “The Old Testament View of Life After Death,” Themelios 11, 2 (1986), p. 44.
30. John W. Cooper, Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-Dualism Debate (Grand Rapids, 1989), p. 61.
31. Theodore H. Gaster, “Abode of the Dead,” The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible 1962, p. 788.
32. Johannes Pedersen, Israel: Its life and Culture, 1991, vol. 1, p. 462.
33. Theodore H. Gaster, (note 31), p. 787.
34. Ralph Walter Doermann, “Sheol in the Old Testament,” (Ph. D., dissertation, Duke University, 1961), p. 191.
35. See also Ps 30:3; Prov 1:12; Is 14:15; 38:18; Ez 31:16.
36. In Numbers 16:33 it is used of the rebels who “perished in Sheol.”
37. Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids, 1979), p. 96.
38. N. H. Snaith, “Life after Death,” Interpretation 1 (1947), p. 322.
39. Edward William Fudge, The Fire That Consumes. A Biblical and Historical Study of the Final Punishment (Houston, 1989), p. 205.
40. For an informative discussion of the adoption of the Greek conception of hades during the intertestamental period, see Joachim Jeremias, “Hades,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel (Grand Rapids, 1974), Vol. 1, pp. 147-148.
41. Matt 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev 1:18, 6:8; 20:13; 20:14.
42. 1 Cor 15:55.
43. Matt 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12: 5; Jam 3:6.
44. Karel Hanhart essentially reaches the same conclusion in her doctoral dissertation presented at the University of Amsterdam. She wrote: “We conclude that these passages do not shed any definite light on our problem [of the intermediate state]. In the sense of power of death, deepest realm, place for utter humiliation and judgment, the term Hades does not go beyond the Old Testament meaning of Sheol” (Karel Hanhart, “The Intermediate State in the New Testament,” [Doctoral dissertation, University of Amsterdam, 1966], p. 35).
45. Josephus, Discourse to the Greeks Concerning Hades, in Josephus Complete Works, trans. William Whiston (Grand Rapids, 1974), p. 637.
50. For a brief survey of the intertestamental Jewish literature on the condition of the dead in hades, see Karel Hanhart, “The Intermediate State in the New Testament,” Doctoral Dissertation, University of Amsterdam, 1966, pp. 18-31.
51. John W. Cooper, Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-Dualism Debate,1989,\, p. 139.
54. Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, 1983, p. 611.
55. Robert A. Morey, Death and the Afterlife,1984, pp. 211-212.
56. Emphasis supplied.
57. Emphasis supplied.
58. Robert A. Peterson, Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment,1995, p. 28.
59. Robert A. Morey (note 55), p. 214.
60. George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids, 1979), p. 103.
ANNOUNCEMENTS OF SERVICES AND PRODUCTS
HOW TO CONTACT THE CENTER FOR CANCER CARE
Last February 2007, I was told that I had only a few months to live, because my liver was infested with a three pounds cancer tumor that could not be removed surgically. I contacted several cancer centers, and the verdict of all the oncologists with whom I spoke, was essentially the same: You have a stage four terminal cancer that cannot be operated. We can only prolong your life of a few months with chemotherapy.
In a providential way the Lord lead me to the unique Center for Cancer Care, in Goshen, Indiana that offers clinical trials on different forms of cancer not readily available in most cancer centers. They use a combination of chemo and microspheres. After two treatments, over 80% of the cancer cells were shut down. And now over 98% of the cancer activity has been eliminated. I feel like a new man with a new lease on life.
To express my gratitude to God for His providential healing through the Center for Cancer Care in Goshen, Indiana, I decided to post the information on how you can contact the Center. Over 150 Adventists have already contacted the Center. The Vice-President is Vladimir Radivojevic, who is a gracious and caring Adventist Christian gentleman. Feel free to contact him by phone or email. These are his addresses:
Vladimir Radivojevic MS, MBA
The Center for Cancer Care
200 High Park Ave.
Goshen, IN 46526
Phone: 574.535.2970 Fax: 574.535.2535
If you or someone you know has cancer, feel free to contact Vladimir. He will talk with you personally, gather your information, and place you in contact with an oncologist who can examine your situation and give you a second opinion free of charge. Vladimir told me that he wants to help patients unable to come to their Center for Cancer Care, by asking physicians to evaluating the medical records free of charge to see if the current treatments are adequate or if one of their clinical trials programs could be of special help.
SPECIAL FIRST TIME OFFER OF 10 DVD/CD ALBUMS FOR ONLY $150.00, INSTEAD OF THE REGULAR PRICE OF $950.00
This offer may sound too good to be true. For the first time I am offering together as a package all the 10 DVD/CD albums, containing the recordings of Prof. Jon Paulien, Prof. Graeme Bradford, and my own. Until now I have offered all these recordings separately, costing considerably more. To make it possible for many to benefit from all these timely messages, I have decided to offer them together as a package for only $150.00, instead of the regular price of $950.00.
THE PACKAGE INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING 10 ALBUMS:
1) Prof. Jon Paulien's newly released DVD ALBUM video seminar on Simply Revelation.
2) Prof. Jon Paulien's CD ALBUM with a dozen of his books, and all his articles.
3) Prof. Graeme Bradford's DVD ALBUM with a two hours video lecture on Ellen White. He shares the highlights of his book More than a Prophet. The album contains also Prof. Bradford's the publications and articles.
4) Prof. Bacchiocchi's newly recorded DVD ALBUM called ABUNDANT LIFE SEMINAR. The album contains 2 video powerpoint lectures: The Christian and Alcoholic Beverages and How to Build a Happy and Lasting Marriage. These two lectures summarize the highlights of Bacchiocchi’s two books Wine in the Bible and The Marriage Covenant. Two separate files with 225 powerpoint slides are included.
5) Prof. Bacchiocchi's DVD ALBUM containing 10 video powerpoint lectures on the Sabbath and Second Advent. Some of the lectures show the documents Prof. Bacchiocchi found in Vatican libraries on the role of the papacy in changing the Sabbath to Sunday. This album contains the popular powerpoint SABBATH/ADVENT seminars Prof. Bacchiocchi presents in many countries.
6) Prof. Bacchiocchi's DVD ALBUM on Cracking the Da Vinci Code. The album contains a two hours video lecture, professionally taped with a vitual studio as a background. A separate file with 200 powerpoint slides is included.
7) Prof. Bacchiocchi's DVD ALBUM on The Mark and the Number of the Beast. The album contains the two hours video lecture and a separate powerpoint file with the 200 slides used for the lecture.
8) Prof. Bacchiocchi's CD ALBUM with all his books and powerpoint lectures. The album consists of two disks. The first disk has all his 18 books and over 200 articles. The second disk has the slides and script of 25 of Prof. Bacchiocci's popular PowerPoint presentations.
9) Prof. Bacchiocchi's DVD ALBUM on The Passion of Christ. The album contains the 2 hours live interview conducted by 3ABN on Prof. Bacchiocchi's book The Passion of Christ in Scripture and History.
10) Prof. Bacchiocchi's MP3 AUDIO ALBUM which contains 2 disks with 22 AUDIO lectures on vital biblical beliefs and practices. Ideal for listening in your car while driving.
HOW TO ORDER THE PACKAGE OF THE 10 ALBUMS
You can see the picture of all the 10 ALBUMS and read a detailed description of them, just by clicking at this URL address:
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NEWLY RELEASED DVD OF PROF. JON PAULIEN’S LIVE SEMINAR ON SIMPLY REVELATION
Prof. Jon Paulien’s DVD album on SIMPLY REVELATION was released few weeks ago. We have been airmailing the DVD album to church leaders, pastors, and lay Adventists in different part of the world. Several pastors have already shown the lectures to their congregations. They wrote to me saying that viewing the lectures was an enlightening experience for their members.
My wife and I viewed Simply Revelation on our TV on a Sabbath afternoon. Though I had already watched Prof. Paulien’s lectures during the taping session, I was spellbound to hear him again offering so many refreshing insights into the most difficult book of the Bible. For me it is a thrilling experience listening to a scholar like Prof. Paulien, who knows what he is talking about.
Prof. Paulien is one of the most respected Adventist scholars. Besides serving as the chairman of the New Testament at Andrews University Theological Seminary, he writes and lectures extensively in many parts of the world. He is rightly regarded as a leading Adventist authority on the book of Revelation which he has taught at the Seminary for the past 20 years. His doctoral dissertation as well as several of his books deal specifically with the Book of Revelation.
The constant demand for Prof. Paulien’s CD album with his publications and articles, led me to discuss with him the possibility of producing a live video recording of a mini Revelation Seminar, which he chose to call Simply Revelation. As suggested by its title, Simply Revelation aims to simply present the message of Revelation—not to read into Revelation sensational, but senseless views.
The preparation of this video recording took several months. The Simply Revelation seminar consists of four one-hour live video lectures, which have just been recorded in the studio of Andrews University. An impressive virtual studio provides the background of the lectures. Each lecture is delivered with about 50 powerpoint slides. I have spent long hours looking for suitable pictures to illustrate the text of each slide in order to enhance the visual effect of each lecture. This mini Revelation seminar will offer you and your congregation fresh insights into the Book of Revelation. Be sure to inform your pastor about the newly released Simply Revelation, if he is not aware of it.
You will be pleased to know that we have placed on a separate file all the powerpoint slides and text used for the live video presentations. Each slide has the script of the live lecture. This means that if you are a pastor or a lay member who want to use Prof. Paulien’s Simply Revelation Seminar, you can pick and choose the powerpoint slides that you like.
The file with the powerpoint slides is placed on Prof. Paulien’s CD album containing all his publications and articles. The reason is that there was no memory left on the DVD disks. In spite of my pleas, Prof. Paulien was so full of the subject that he used the full 60 minutes of his four lecture, leaving no space for the slides’ file.
This has been a very expensive project, both in time and money. The regular price of the DVD album is $100.00, but you can order it now at the introductory price of only $50.00. The price includes the airmailing expenses to any overseas destination.
If you have not ordered before the CD Album with Prof. Paulien’s publications, we will be glad to add it to your DVD order for only $20.00, instead of the regular price of $60.00. This means that you can order both the DVD album with Prof. Paulien’s four live video lectures on Revelation and his CD album with all his publications and the powerpoint slides of Simply Revelation, for only $70.00, instead of the regular price of $160.00.
As an additional incentive, I am offering you together with Prof. Paulien’s DVD/CD albums, also my own popular DVD album on The Mark and Number of the Beast, for an additional $10.00, instead of the regular price of $100.00. This means that you can order the DVD and CD albums by Prof, Paulien, together with my DVD album on The Mark and Number of the Beast, for only $80.00, instead of the regular price of $260.00.
This research on The Mark and Number of the Beast, was commissioned by Prof. Paulien himself. He asked me to trace historically the origin and use of the Pope’s title Vicarius Filii Dei and of the number 666. I spent six months conducting this investigation which was professionally taped at the Andrews University Towers Auditorium. I use 200 powerpoint slides to deliver this informative two hours lecture which is warmly received by Adventist church leaders and pastors in many parts of the world. For a detailed description of this DVD album click: http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/Beast/BeastPromo
SPECIAL OFFER ON PAULIEN/BACCHIOCCHI’S ALBUMS
* ONE DVD Album of Prof. Paulien’s four video lectures on Simply Revelation at the introductory price of $50.00, instead of $100.00. The price includes the airmailing expenses to any overseas destination.
* ONE DVD Album of Simply Revelation and ONE CD Album with Prof. Paulien’s publications for only $70.00, instead of the regular price of $160.00. The price includes the airmailing expenses to any overseas destination.
* ONE DVD Album of Simply Revelation, ONE CD Album with Prof. Paulien’s publications, and ONE DVD Album with Bacchiocchi’s two hours video lecture on The Mark and Number of the Beast for only $80.00, instead of the regular price of $260.00. The price includes the airmailing expenses to any overseas destination.
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NEW EDITION OF BRADFORD’S MORE THAN A PROPHET
The new edition Prof. Graeme Bradford’s book More than a Prophet with an additional 20 pages, was released few weeks ago. Many churches have ordered the book by the case of 30 copies for only $150.00, that is, $5.00 per copy, instead of the regular price of $25.00. This book is urgently needed to restore confidence in the prophetic ministry of Ellen White by telling the truth about her divine revelations and her human limitations.
The most gratifying responses have come from former Adventist. One lady wrote: “After reading More than a Prophet, I am seriously reconsidering returning to the Adventist church.” It is unfortunate that many Adventists have left the church, because they felt that they had been deceived about Ellen White. They could not reconcile in their mind that prophets do make mistakes. But Prof. Bradford compellingly shows that the mistakes found in the Bible or in the writings of Ellen White, do not negate the divine inspiration of their messages.
For a detailed description of More than a Prophet, together with the reviews and a picture of the book, click at this link: http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/BradfordOffer/offer.htm
To facilitate the distribution of this timely book among your church members, we are offering you two things:
1) Special discount on quantity orders of the book. Only $5.00 per copy, instead of $25.00 for a case of 30 copies.
2) A FREE ALBUM of Prof. Bradford’s DVD with a live two hours lecture on Ellen White. The DVD contains also a PDF file with all of Prof. Bardford’s books and articles. The regular price of the DVD album is $100.00, but you will receive it FREE with an order of 2 or more copies of More than a Prophet.
The reason for offering a Free Album of Prof. Bradford’s DVD live lecture on Ellen White, is to give your members the opportunity to enjoy the highlights of the More than a Prophet. After viewing the DVD, most members are eager to order the book.
SPECIAL OFFER ON MORE THAN A PROPHET
ONE COPY of More than a Prophet for $20.00 (instead of $25.00), plus $5.00 for mailing in the USA, or $10.00 for airmailing overseas.
TWO COPIES of More than a Prophet plus the DVD album with Prof. Bradford’s live two hours lecture on Ellen White, for $50.00 (instead of the regular price of $150.00). Add $10.00 for airmailing overseas.
THIRTY COPIES of More than a Prophet plus the DVD album with Prof. Bradford’s live two hours lecture on Ellen White, for only $150.00, instead of the regular price of $850.00. The price includes the mailing in the USA. Unfortunately as of May 14, 2007, the USA Post office no longer offers surface mail service for overseas. Everything must be sent AIRMAIL. The cost for airmailing a case of 30 books, is $95.00. Thus, the total cost for a case of 30 copies AIRMAILED overseas is $245.00. The advantage is that you will receive the case within a week.
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(4) Regular Mail: By mailing a check to BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVES, 4990 Appian Way, Berrien Springs, Michigan 49103, USA. We guarantee to process your order immediately.
UPCOMING SEMINARS FOR THE MONTHS OF SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER
Gradually I am rescheduling some of the invitations I had to cancel because of the colon cancer surgery and liver treatments. Here is a list of the upcoming weekend seminars for the months of September and October
AUGUST 31 - SEPTEMBER 1: DAYTONA BEACH SDA CHURCH
Location: 401 North Williamson Blvd, Daytona Beach, FL 32114.
For directions and information call Pastor William Barrett at (386) 258-1073.
SEPTEMBER 7-8: FRIENDS OF THE SABBATH CONFERENCE
Location: The Lecture Hall, Knoxville Convention Center, 701 Henley Street, Knoxville, TN 37920. This Sabbath Conference is organized by English Prof. Bruce Horne, Ph. D., a leader of the Seventh-day Christian Assembly in Knoxville with about 120 members. Several non-SDA sabbatarian churches and groups from neighboring states are participating at this Sabbath Conference.
Adventists living in the Knoxville area are encouraged to attend this Sabbath Conference. I will be the keynote speaker on Friday evening and Saturday. We are planning also for a panel discussion conducted by church leaders of various sabbatarian churches. This will be a unique opportunity to become acquainted with other sabbatarians. For directions and information call Prof. Bruce Horne at (865) 671-4342 or (423) 914-5475.
SEPTEMBER 15: WORLD’S WOMAN’S CHRISTIAN TEMPERANCE UNION CONFERENCE
Location: Adam’s Mark Hotel, 2544 Executive Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46241. The hotel phone number is: (317) 248-2481. This is the international World’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union that brings together WWCTU delegates of different denominations from all over the world.
Ellen White was very active in this organization and was often featured as the keynote speaker. Our Adventist church had an active Temperance program in the past. Today we hear little from our pulpit about Temperance, partly because alcohol and drugs are seen more as a medical than a moral issue.
I have been invited to deliver the keynote address on Saturday, September 15, 2007 at 10: 30 a. m. Prior to my lecture, there will be a church service from 9:00 to 10:00 a. m. My powerpoint lecture is entitled “The Christian and Alcoholic Beverages.” I will be sharing the highlights of my book Wine in the Bible, dealing with the biblical imperative of total abstinence. If you live in the Indianapolis area, I would urge you to attend the meetings, especially on Saturday. For directions and more detail information, contact Sarah R. Ward, WWCTU President, at (765) 345-2306
SEPTEMBER 21-22: HAWAII SAMOA-TOKELAU CHURCH
Location: 1128 Banyan Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96817.
For directions and information call Pastor Michael Asuega at (808) 261-7321 or (808) 206 5892.
SEPTEMBER 28-29: HONOLULU CENTRAL SDA CHURCH
Location: 2313 Nuuanu Avenue, Honolulu, Hawaii 96817. This will be the Hawaii Conference Convocation for all the churches in Oahu.
For directions and information, call the Hawaii Conference Office at (808) 595-7591.
OCTOBER 12-13: SUNNYSIDE SDA CHURCH, WA
Location: 1875 East Lincoln Avenue, Sunnyside, WA 98944.
For directions and information call Pastor Larry Mays at (509) 840 1932 or (509) 837 4233 or (509) 837 6411
OCTOBER 19-20: ENGLAND: EAST HAM & STRATFORD
Location: The East Ham SDA Church worships at Bryant Street Methodist Centre, Bryant Street, Stratford, London E14 4RU.
The Stratford SDA Church worships at 58 Janson Road (off Leytonstone Road) Stratford London E15 1TE.
For directions and information, call Pastor Leslie Ackie at 01279 427 558
OCTOBER 26-27: ENGLAND, LEEDS SDA CHURCH
Location: The Leeds SDA Church is located at 169 Meanwood Road corner of Oatland Place, Leeds LS7 1JW, Great Britain.
For directions and information call Pastor Ian Sweeney, 0114 286 9965.
NOVEMBER 2-3: BIRMINGHAM CAMP HILL SDA CHURCH
Location: Camp Hill Sparkbrook, Birmingham, West Midlands B12 OJP, Great Britain.
For directions and information call Pastor Jeffeth Nicholson at 01543 360253.
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The size of the transmitter is smaller than a credit card. You can stick it inside the palm of your hand and nobody can see it. I tested the remote in an open environment, and the radio signal can go up to 400 feet of distance. IT IS INCREDIBLE! The transmitter has three button: forward, backward, and laser.
You can order online the new POWERPOINT PRESENTER simply by clicking here: http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/cart/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=27&products_id=67
If you have a problem ordering online, simply call us at (269) 471-2915. We will take your order by phone. You can also email us your order at <email@example.com>, giving us your address, credit card number, and expiration date.
DOES YOUR CHURCH OR SCHOOL NEED A SCREEN?
If your church/school is looking for a screen, the DA-LITE SCREEN COMPANY, the largest manufacture of screens in the world, has agreed to offer their line of screens to our Adventist churches and schools at about 30% discount.
The procedure is very simple. Visit the DA-LITE SCREEN COMPANY website at http://www.da-lite.com. You will see hundreds of models of screens with their respective prices. Once you find the screen that you need, give us the model number by phone (269) 471-2915 or email your request <firstname.lastname@example.org> We will forward your order immediately to DA-LITE that will ship the screen directly to your address. You will receive the screen at about 30% discount.
BED & BREAKFAST FACILITIES IN LONDON, ENGLAND
If your travel plans call for a stop in London, you will be pleased to learn about a most gracious Adventist couple that offer the best accommodation and breakfast I have ever enjoyed. It has become my home away from home when in London. See details at: http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/Promotions/BED&BREAKFAST.htm
TAGNET SPECIAL NEW WEB HOSTING OFFER FOR ADVENTIST CHURCHES AND MEMBERS
TAGnet provides an incredible number of webhosting services to our churches and members. This newsletter comes to you through their gracious and efficient service. For detail information, visit their website at http://www.netadventist.org or http://home.tagnet.org/ You may also call their office 800 - 9TAGNET. They are ready and eager to help you.