Monday, January 23, 2012

Questions on the Afterlife: Part 1 - Life After Death

Part 1: Life After Death

I.               Life: What Is a Human Being?

A.              The Bible teaches that God created human beings in some sense as both material and immaterial.

1.              “Outer self – inner self” (2 Cor. 4:16).

2.              “Kill the body  - cannot kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28).

B.              The Bible does not clearly explain the precise nature of the immaterial aspect.

1.              Various terms: spirit (1 Cor. 2:11), soul (Psalm 42:1), mind (Rom. 7:25), hidden person of the heart (1 Peter 3:4).

2.              1 Thess. 5:23 distinguishes “spirit and soul and body” but does not define how they are different.

3.              The primary point to remember is that humanity as God intended is to be whole.

II.              Death: What Happens When We Die?

A.              This wholeness is fractured by death.

1.              “The body apart from the spirit is dead” (James 2:26).

2.              “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46; cf. Acts 7:59).

3.              “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit” (Matt. 27:50).

B.              Death is the result of the curse of sin, and is a disruption of what God created.

1.              Imposed at the fall due to Adam’s sin (Gen. 3:19; cf. the genealogy in Gen. 5).

2.              “By a man came death…in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:21-22).

3.              Words used to describe the body subject to death:

a)              Mortal (Rom. 8:11).

b)              Perishable, dishonorable, weak, natural (1 Cor. 15:42-44).

c)              Body of death (Rom. 7:24).

C.              Death is therefore pictured as an enemy of God’s creation.

1.              Jesus will put all enemies under His feet – the last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15:25-26).

2.              Jesus came to deliver us from the power of death (Heb. 2:14-15).

3.              Death will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14).

III.            Life After Death: What Happens After We Die?

A.              Though the body is dead, there is some sense in which the person continues to exist.

1.              The dead are said to be in “Sheol” (OT), “Hades” (NT), although it is not clear what is meant by these terms.

2.              In some sense Jesus and the thief would be together after death  - “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

3.              The most common metaphor in the NT for the existence of those who are dead is “sleep” (John 11:11; Luke 8:52; Acts 7:60; 1 Cor. 15:6, 18, 20).

a)              This indicates rest from labors (Rev. 14:13).

b)              This also indicates a temporary state.

B.              Some believe the righteous go to a place of “paradise,” but not “heaven.”

1.              Is this the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke?  This assumes two things:

a)              This is a description of real events and not a parable.

b)              “Abraham’s side” is not heaven.

2.              In 2 Cor. 12:2-3 Paul equates paradise with “the third heaven,” where God is.

C.              The righteous go to be with the Lord at death.

1.              The terminology is not so much about “going to paradise” or “going to heaven” but going to be with the Lord.

2.              Depart and be with Christ (Phil. 1:23-24), absent from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6-8).

3.              Those who are asleep will come back with Christ (1 Thess. 4:13-14).

4.              In Revelation (which is highly symbolic) the righteous dead are pictured with God.

D.             Questions:

1.              If the righteous dead are already with God, then in some sense haven’t they already been judged?

a)              Yes, but that is true if you take the “paradise isn’t heaven” view as well.

b)              In a sense we are judged in this life (John 3:18).

c)              Perhaps we should think of the final judgment is the formal recognition of what is already the case at death.

2.              If the righteous dead are already “in heaven,” what will happen at the Second Coming?

a)              The resurrection, in which the body will be raised and transformed (next lesson – but see 1 Thess. 4:14-18).

b)              The “new heavens and earth,” whatever that is, where God will dwell with humanity (lesson after next).

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