Resurrection Cures All
By Jim Huskins
Last month I claimed that when we die we return to dust and await the bodily resurrection. This view is in opposition to the popular notion that believers continue to exist as disembodied spirits in heaven. This month I will address several passages which appear to counter my position.
Genesis 5:24 tells us that Enoch did not die. God “took” him. Some believe that Enoch now exists as a conscious spirit in God’s presence. They cite Hebrews 11:5. “By faith lEnoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him.”
Since context is essential, we must also look at Hebrews 11:13. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” The phrase, “These all died in faith” refers to that list of Bible characters commended for faithfulness. Enoch is included. The text is clear that everyone on the list died, including Enoch.
The Greek word used for “death” in verse five refers to succumbing to the process of disease. A different word for death in verse 13 refers to ceasing physical existence. Enoch died, but he apparently did not have to experience any normal decline in health.
2 Kings 2:11 tells of Elijah being picked up by a chariot of fire and taken into heaven. This Hebrew word for heaven has various meanings. It can mean “sky.” It can refer to the realm of the planets and stars, or “space.” It can also indicate the place where God dwells. In Elijah’s famous story, it almost certainly refers to the sky. Second Chronicles 21:12 tells us that Elijah sent a prophetic letter to King Jehoram. This was ten years after his chariot ride. Apparently, Elijah was relocated to some other place where he continued a form of the prophetic ministry until his death.
Those who promote conscious existence after death often cite Luke 23:42-43, “And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” This is the famous request of the thief on the cross. Again, context is essential.
The thief asks to be remembered when Jesus comes into his kingdom. Jesus answers him in that context. First Century Jews understood the Messianic Kingdom to be an earthly reign. This will begin when Jesus returns to defeat His enemies and institute the Millennium.
If Jesus meant what is typically understood, the thief had to follow Him to “Paradise” on the day of the crucifixion. Several scriptures, including 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 and Revelation 2:7, make it clear that “Paradise” is in Heaven. Jesus did not go to Heaven on the day of His crucifixion. John 20:15-17 recounts an exchange between Jesus and Mary Magdalene on Sunday following the crucifixion. Jesus says, “I have not yet ascended to the Father.” If Jesus did not enter Paradise on the day of the crucifixion, neither did the thief.
The key to understanding that exchange is simple: New Testament Greek does not include punctuation. When translating the Bible into English, periods and commas must be determined from context. Since the earliest English translators believed that people exist as conscious spirits following death, they framed Jesus’ answer this way: “I tell you, this day you shall be with me in Paradise.” What He actually said was, “I tell you this day, you shall be with me In Paradise.” This comma placement is critical.
Another oft-cited proof text for conscious existence after death is Jesus’ account of the rich man and Lazarus. Rather than a literal description of after-death existence, this is a parable intended to communicate specific lessons to the Jewish leaders who first heard it. When we study scripture, it is not always easy to distinguish between parables and literal accounts.
For example, when Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days,” His audience assumed that He was speaking of Herod’s Temple. John 2:20 says that He was speaking of His body. His own disciples misunderstood when He told them to “Be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” They thought they were being reprimanded for failing to buy bread. They were with Him at the moment, but they did not always understand what He said. We are two thousand years removed. How likely is it that we could misunderstand?
The rich man and Lazarus must be viewed in the context of the rest of the Bible. Jesus says that parables are intentionally difficult to understand. See Matthew 13:13 and John 16:25. If the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is literally true, it presents a number of problems:
Jesus never says that the rich man is sinful or that Lazarus is righteous. A strictly literal interpretation of the story would require us to believe that all rich people are condemned and all poor people are saved.
If this parable is a literal description of the afterlife, then we must conclude that the saved will be able to view their loved ones being endlessly tormented.
If the parable is literal, then we are forced to believe that a single drop of water would bring some relief to one experiencing hell’s inferno.
Only by viewing this story as an allegory intended to teach larger spiritual truth can we avoid the many conundrums resulting from a literal interpretation.
For an in-depth discussion on this topic, watch the excellent YouTube series, Life After Death by 119 Ministries.
Obedient Heart Fellowship needs a place to meet in or near Marion. We meet on the Biblical Sabbath, Seventh Day. Our group is small and our needs are basic. Contact Jim at 828-460-7913 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim & Beverly Huskins are members of Obedient Heart Fellowship. You can read more good Christian news from Jim HERE.