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Archive for September, 2011

Philosopher and theologian Alister McGrath writes in his book, “Doubt”: “Deep within all of us lies a longing for absolute security, to be able to know with absolute certainty” (23).

I would add that most people want to be known with absolute certainty as well.  Is all of this possible?  In studying what secularism, atheism, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism has to offer, none of these can even come close to the God of the Bible for absolute security, to know with absolute certainty and to be known by Him with absolute certainty.

One thing I love about the Bible is that it never holds back; it tells us right up front that nothing else in life satisfies like a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, but that in order to have that relationship, one must absolutely surrender his or her life to Jesus.  No other religion dares to call for this or promise such fulfillment.

For example, the Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), but of the 99 names in the Koran, not one refers to Allah as “love” and its teachings demonstrate this god to be quite inconsistent.  Yet Scripture tells us of a God who is intimate, perfect in faithfulness and who has an unconditional love toward us (agape) and who even has a friendship love for us (phileo).

Moreover, the Bible tells us that in this life, due to the fallen nature that we live in, we can c0ntinually go deeper in our knowledge and experience of God but that full appreciation of Him will only be experienced in heaven — which is but a mere breath away.  Everyone dies; not everyone really lives.

Only the Bible can give us the incredible detail of heaven that it does — and give us the certain perspective that our lives are ultimately not the segmented lives we think they are.

Just as there are certainties in this life — for example, mathematical certainties — there are spiritual and eternal certainties.  But mathematical certainties cannot give one the ultimate meaning of life.  However, Jesus tells us that the ultimate meaning in life is relationship with Him (John 17:3).

He offers perfect forgiveness; perfect mercy; perfect justice; perfect understanding and perfect fulfillment.  If you do not have a relationship with God today but you would like to, all you have to do is pray a prayer like the one I will offer.  If you truly mean it in your heart and you tell God you now belong to Him, He will hear your prayer and change your life.

Once you pray this prayer, please reply back to me and wherever you live, I will do my best to find an excellent church for you to be involved in, so that you can grow in this new relationship you’ll have with God through Jesus Christ.

Please pray this prayer with me: “Dear Lord Jesus, I have not lived my life for You.  I confess that I am a sinner, in need of Your forgiveness, which You have already offered me when You died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins.  Take my life, use it for Your glory.  Reveal Youself, Your ways and Your nature to me.  Place me in the best church possible so that I can grow with You now, in Your name I pray, amen.”

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1) The theological error that teaches that believers in Christ go to “sleep” at death and do not go immediately into heaven in continued existence is completely foreign to Jesus and to Paul, who do the main teaching in the New Testament (NT) on what happens to a believer immediately upon death.

2) If the teaching on “soul-sleep” is accurate, the evidence for it in the NT should be overwhelming.  But instead, we find a preponderance of evidence that the believer’s spirit goes instantly into God’s presence.

3) First of all, Jesus teaches us in John 3:16 that the one who believes in Him will “have everlasting life.”  The Greek word translated “have,” is in the present tense; this shows that His promise is constant and not interrupted by “soul-sleep.”

4) Moreover, He tells us in John 8:51 that one who “keeps My word” will “never see death.”  It is instructive for us to understand that the word “never” is emphatic in the Greek text and the word “see,” means to perceive; to experience; to watch, look upon, observe or notice.”

5) Now, it is obvious that the body dies but Paul promises that it will be raised again (1 Cor. 15).  However, the human spirit, which is born-again if the person has received Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior, is eternal.  It is not the physical body that trusts Jesus for salvation but the human spirit.

6) We will continue to see that the person’s spirit – now renewed by the Spirit of God – transitions immediately upon death into God’s presence.  This idea holds true in John 11:25-26 as well:

7) “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”

8) It is also highly instructive for us to note that the Greek words translated “never die,” have the strongest adversative in Greek.  The meaning is, “under no circumstances; not ever.”

9) Jesus is either speaking with hyperbole in John 8:51; 11:25-26 or He is speaking literally.  If He is speaking with hyperbole (exaggeration to make a point), then at the very least, death is but a split-second occurrence for the believer.

10) I believe He is speaking literally; Paul supplies the reason for this belief in Phil. 1:23 when he declares that, facing imminent execution or the possibility of release from prison, he nevertheless desires “to depart and be with Christ.”

11) The Greek word translated “depart” was a common word that was used for transition in continued existence.

12) For example, it was used of a ship pulling up anchor to sail to a new location; it was also used of soldiers breaking camp and moving on and by farmers untying the yoke and setting their animals free.  Finally, the word was used to describe Roman officials setting prisoners free.

13) Moreover, we should also note in the verse the present-tense infinitive, to “be with Christ” in v.23.  This is further, incontrovertible evidence
for the believer being instantly in the presence of God upon the expiration of his or her body.

14) This is reinforced by Paul’s teaching in 2 Cor. 5:8-9: “we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.  Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”

15) Incidentally, the Greek word translated “with” (pros) in v.8 has the idea of personal intimacy.

16) Let us return to Jesus’ teaching on what happens to a believer immediately upon death.  The Sadducees, who did not believe that a believer immediately entered heaven upon death, were quite embarrassed by Jesus’ teaching on the subject in Luke 20:27-38 (note especially vv.37-38).

17) Moreover, Moses’ body was buried (Deut. 34:6; cf. Jude 9), yet it was clear that he too was in heaven (Mt. 17:1-8).  And Rev.6:9-11; 7:9-17 (cf. Heb.12:22) gives us still more proof of the continued existence of believers who are in heaven – not “sleeping.”

18) The primary reason for the teaching on “soul-sleep” is view is easy enough to understand: it comes from 1 Thess. 4:13-14: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”

19) Note that Paul is writing to correct a misunderstanding among his readers: “We do not want you to be uninformed” (literally, “ignorant”).

20) The Thessalonians had mistakenly taken the view that those who died in Christ either were literally “asleep” and not in heaven or perhaps  they took this in a figurative sense.

21) Taken at “face value” – without a careful consideration of how the word “sleep” is used in the immediate and broad context of 1 Thessalonians
– and without a careful examination of what the rest of the New Testament teaches on the subject — could lead one to the wrong conclusion about what Paul is teaching.

22) In fact, the first answer to this theological error comes in the very same passage that people use to attempt to support “soul-sleep”: Paul says that “God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus” (v.14).

23) As we’ve already clearly seen elsewhere in the NT, the Thessalonian believers who had died were already in God’s presence.

24) Moreover, Paul is using a common euphemism that was used in that culture for one who had died – especially because there was no hope whatsoever for people beyond the grave: In that society, death was an extremely grievous thing.

25) Consider a typical inscription on a gravestone from that era:

I was not;

I became;

I am not;

I care not.

26) Again, a euphemism is a term that refers to something that is less harsh than a literal term.  For example, we politely say to the spouse of someone who just died, “I want to offer my condolence to you for the passing of your husband.”

27) We don’t say, “I’m sorry about your husband’s death.”  In the broader context of 1 Thessalonians, Paul plainly makes it clear in 5:10 that “soul-sleep” is unbiblical.

28) Jews also used the euphemism of “sleep” to refer to literal death, as can be seen in Jesus’ example with His disciples (John 11:11-14).

 29) Additional important passages that will help us to understand that a believer goes immediately into God’s presence upon death: Gen. 5:24; 2 Kings 2:11; Luke 16:19-31; Acts 7:54-59.

30) Dan. 12:2 (cf. 2 Kings 4:31; 13:21; Job 3:13; 14:12; Ps. 13:3; Is. 26:19; Jer. 51:39, 57) would seem to support the “soul-sleep” viewpoint, but how would the original Jewish reader have understood this?

31) Job 19:25-27; Ps. 16:10; 23:6; 49:15; 73:24 and many additional places in the OT indicate an immediate entrance into heaven upon death.  Is there contradiction here?

32) Not at all, for the writers of the OT did not have full comprehension of all that they wrote, as can be seen by Jesus explanation of what truly happens to a believer immediately upon death (Luke 30:37-38; cf. Mt. 17:1-8).

33) We’ve already seen that both the Jewish and Gentile mindset about death is no different than ours; they used euphemisms to describe it just as we do.

34) It is also critically important to keep in mind two essential theological concepts of biblical interpretation: that Scripture interprets Scripture and progressive revelation – that God’s truth becomes continually clearer from the OT to the completion of the NT.

35) Thus, we must conclude from Dan. 12:2 and similar OT verses that it is the body that “sleeps” and will be raised and reunited with the living spirit of a believer who is already with Jesus, immediately upon death, just as we find in 1 Cor. 15.

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