Death – The Threshold of Life…

Authors

Who Cares About Dying?, my last blog, dealt with two issues:

1.    How the traditional dogma of “hell” diverted so far from what the Bible actually says; and
2.    Three reasons why it’s important for people today to understand what the Bible says happens in the afterlife, and what “hell” is, and what it is not. [See Who Cares About Dying?]

Understanding what the Bible really says happens when a person dies is a source of incredible comfort… so much so, that it begins to assume the right perspective: that of an Adventure that one can hardly wait to begin!

Of course, no one has to accept what the Bible says about dying and its aftermath — but knowing what it says can’t hurt — can it? And knowing what the Bible actually does say — as opposed to what church people have wrongly taught for centuries — has got to be interesting, even if one doesn’t buy into it — right?

What the Bible does not teach is that when a person dies, they “go to heaven” or they “go to hell”. Not even in one place in the Bible is this taught. What the Bible does not teach is that one’s “soul” is “immortal” so that when the flesh dies, the “soul” remains. And the Bible does not teach that when a person dies, their “soul” sort of “flies up to Heaven” to “be with God”.

All of these teachings are actually from Greek philosophy — not the Bible — and were added in the first two or three centuries… against the convictions of many biblical teachers of those days.

It’s not hard to know what the Bible teaches about when a person dies — and it’s incredibly exciting to consider its implications. To know what it really teaches only requires that one hold lightly to some of the “myths” about death, hell and the afterlife that have been taught “religiously” for so long. So, here (for your consideration) are a few Bible passages that give us the information you need.

First, the apostle Paul explains [2Cor 5.1ff] that when a person dies, it’s like moving from one dwelling-place to another — but it’s like moving from living in a decrepit, worn-out tent into a palace! He says, “We understand that if this body (our “tent of flesh”) is taken down, we have waiting for us a building from God — a house made with God’s Own Hands, eternal and heavenly.”

This new, “eternal building” is our “new flesh” — an immortal body just like Jesus’ Resurrection body — the same body with which He visited His disciples many times and in many places after rising from the grave.

Exchanging this “new building” (or “new flesh”) for the “old tent” (or the “old, corruptible flesh”) will be amazing beyond our understanding! After all, the Bible does give us a little bit of a description of what this “new body” is like by describing what Jesus did after His Resurrection and before He ascended into Heaven.

Let’s look at a few Bible passages to better understand what our resurrected bodies will be like — then we’ll wrap this up by understanding how and when we’ll “move” out of the decrepit “tent” of our old flesh and into the “new houses” of our immortal flesh God has prepared for us.

Like Jesus’ new body, our new bodies will be similar to our old in that we’ll be physical. Appearing to His disciples, Jesus encouraged them to “touch” His body, to “handle” it and “see for themselves” that He was physical, adding, “because a spirit [ghost] does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” [Lk 24.39]

Yet, even though these new bodies will be physical, they won’t “obey the laws of physics” with which we’re so familiar! At this same meeting with His disciples, the Bible relates the following story: “Then, the same day at evening, on Sunday, when the doors were locked shut where the disciples were hiding because they feared the Jewish leaders, Jesus stepped into the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’…”

Despite a locked door, Jesus entered into the middle of the room and then proceeded to prove that He was not a ghost! That His body was “flesh and bone”. (For some reason, Jesus doesn’t call the immortal bodies we can one day have, “flesh and blood” but “flesh and bone”.)

In another place, Paul wrote to the Corinthian Believers and implied that these new bodies won’t have digestive systems, per se. Criticizing people who were arguing over what kinds of food “godly people” could eat in Corinth, Paul wrote, “food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food — but in the end, God will put an end to them together.” [1Cor 6.13]

But these immortal bodies can still eat, if need be, since Jesus pointedly shared a meal with His disciples. [Lk 24.42-43] When the disciples were hiding in that locked room in Jerusalem, Jesus asked for food and they gave Him some fish and honeycomb which He ate — not because His immortal body needed nourishment but as further evidence to his disciples that he had a true, physical body. But the immortal bodies we’ll have cannot be dependent on natural food — or they’d not be “immortal”!

Many people — once they become aware that one day they’ll have an immortal body just like Jesus’ — ask if others will know them… if their body will look the same as the old one.

Emmaus

Disciples & Jesus on the Road to Emmaus.

The answer is “yes” and “no”! When Jesus walked with His disciples on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, during the journey, He explained how the Old Testament Scriptures bore witness to Jesus the Messiah — but they didn’t even recognize Him. Not then. Then they invited Him into their house in Emmaus and only when He blessed the meal were their “eyes opened” and they recognized Him. So these new, eternal bodies will be similar looking — but somehow different as well — as our old ones.

But not only that! When the disciples at Emmaus did recognize Jesus, He instantly disappeared from their sight! [Lk 24.30] These new bodies of ours are not going to be bound by the same physical laws with which we’re so familiar! Jesus proved Himself to be physical (not a ghost or a spirit), but He could appear behind locked doors (“teleportation”?) or disappear apparently at will… And His body is the same body we are going to have after we die and are resurrected! (Can I hear a “Wow!” here?)

In 1Cor 15, Paul tells us that we will be changed — “metamorphosized” — and our new bodies will then be imperishable, immortal, glorious, powerful and spiritually based instead of based on the physical laws of our current universe. In fact, the description of the City of God (the New Jerusalem) which will be established on a newly re-created heavens and earth, says it will no longer be “lighted” (or “powered”) by our old, familiar sun… but the City of God will be lighted and powered by the Person and Being of God Himself! [Rev 21.23 & 22.5] So also, it’s likely that our new bodies will not only not need food to power them, but will instead draw their power as well from the inexhaustible Source of the Being of God Himself!

O.K. Our new, eternal bodies are going to be fantastic. But, question is, how do we get there?

Pretty simple. All the Bible says is that Jesus has prepared a way to deliver us from sin and death (and deliver us from the bodies of our death in which we live right now!) His means of saving us involves God becoming a human being (Jesus), dying on the Cross and rising from the dead — but understanding that isn’t even necessary for one to receive its benefit!

All a person needs to do to receive the benefit of eternal life in a resurrection body like His is simply to have confidence in Jesus — that whatever He did and however He did it is completely sufficient to guarantee our “translation” at death into Eternal Life!

No — “church attendance” is not necessary; giving to “charity” isn’t part of it; performing religious rituals like confession or communion has got nothing to do with it… As one of my favorite professors repeatedly said years ago, “When it comes to the issue of who has eternal life — it isn’t what you know, but who you know…”! Have you trusted Jesus and allowed Him to reveal Himself (through His Spirit) to you on a personal level? If so, you’ll not only face death with confidence and peace — but with an excitement verging on an earnest desire for it to actually come to pass!

This is exactly how the apostle Paul felt about death. Excited. There in 1Cor 5, he not only explained that he was more than ready to let his old “tent of flesh” get “dissolved” so he could be “clothed upon” with the “new house” (the new flesh) God had already prepared for him — he wrote that he groaned for this event to take place! He earnestly desired for this to happen in his life! He was more than ready!

Some people, in his day back 2,000 years ago, had been misled by Greek philosophers who hated the flesh, thinking all flesh was inherently evil. Not understanding that God had created humankind to always be fleshly creatures, they supposed that the soul or spirit of a person was immortal and at death could be “detached” from its flesh and exist forever in a bodiless form.

But Paul, in 1Cor 5, utterly rejected this idea. He called it “being naked”! In order to refute this wrong idea, he said that he groaned to be “unclothed” from his earthly, decrepit body of death — but not so he’d be unclothed or naked! He wanted to be “unclothed” from his old body in order to be immediately re-clothed with his new, eternal body! “Not that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, so that our mortality might be swallowed up by immortality.” [1Cor 5.4]

So two popular ideas people have been taught are refuted by Paul: (1) That upon death, people leave their bodies and “fly up to heaven” (or down to hell?); and (2) that upon death, people will remain in their graves until the Second Coming of Jesus — however long THAT’S going to take!

Paul’s very clear that “while we’re at home in the old body, we’re absent from the Lord — but when we’re absent from this old body, we’re present with the Lord.” [1Cor 5.6-8]

Here’s the thing that’s hard for some of us “earthly-minded creatures” to grasp: In this earthly existence, we live on what appears to be a “timeline”. To us, a beloved person dies, their body goes into the ground, and (how long? centuries?) time passes until the Great Day of Resurrection eventually arrives…

But that’s to us. Biblically, when a person dies, they cease to exist until they are resurrected. To that person, there is no passage of time whatsoever. In a very real sense, the person who dies, ceases to exist and is “removed from the earthly timeline”. What’s the effect? To a person who dies, they die, and (to their sense of what’s happening) in that very instant, they’re resurrected and they instantly find themselves in their eternal, incorruptible, immortal bodies — just like that which Jesus now has!

This is why Paul discounts any lapse of time between his dying and the Day of Resurrection when he’ll be raised up and “clothed” with his new body — this is why he says that when he’s absent from his old body he’ll be present with the Lord and he’ll find himself in his new body already prepared for him by Jesus — because at the point of his death, there’ll be no passage of time but instantly he’ll be with Jesus and in his new, eternal body.

Do you see why I’m excited about this? Why I call death the “threshold of Life”? The beginning of an eternal Adventure? I’m happy to live the life I have on this earth — to do whatever God has destined for me to do — but I can hardly wait for this fleshly tent to “be dissolved” and for me to be absent from this body and present with the Lord and in my new dwelling — my new body just like that of Jesus…

After all, in my relationship with God — especially as the years go by — I’m more and more delighted with life…

… but even though I hardly know what glory to expect, I know that what’s coming is far more delightful and exciting than anything I’ve ever know before!

And all I have to do now, to enter into this Great Adventure, is die…

To live forever!

EmDog

5 Comments

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  1. muhammad

    Its hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what youre talking about! Thanks

    • emdog

      Thanks. I’ve been studying the Scriptures since I was 4 (well over half a century ago!) and consciously taught by the Living Word for decades as well… I never stop learning and I never stop discovering areas in which I have mistaken ideas — which is a wonderful experience as that means the joy of new insights and greater illumination will never cease! It’s a journey that I enjoy sharing with others as well…

      EmDog

  2. Wol Ulchabhan

    Great stuff! A slender alternative paradigm but can lead to more questions. But so what? I am happy with the questions. But just for kick-n-grins; what about Samuel’s spirit being “called-up” by the Endorian medium?

    • emdog

      Bak-at-cha, my dear Owl —— “Called up”, yes, but “called up” from where???

      From the Grave — Sheol — a mythical Greek concept slipped into Jewish thinking during the Intertestamental Period???

      From Dante’s Purgatory? Or Milton’s Paradise???

      The Witch of Endor was shocked apparently to see the REAL “Samuel” arise — so where did he “arise” from???

      Emu

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