Sunday, February 3, 2013

Where Do The Spirits Of Believers Go At Death?

INTRODUCTION 1. Having determined from the Scriptures that man possesses a soul or spirit which continues after death, the question now before us is this: "Where do the spirits of believers go at death?" 2. In this lesson, I will be examining two different views: a. One that I will call the "traditional" view, which is held by many Christians b. Another that I will propose as the "scriptural" view, which I believe is more in harmony with what is revealed in the New Testament -- PLEASE NOTE: The use of the terms "traditional" and "scriptural" is rather arbitrary, used only to distinguish between the two views [Beginning, then, with...] I. THE "TRADITIONAL" VIEW EXPLAINED A. STATED BRIEFLY, THIS VIEW TEACHES THE FOLLOWING... 1. When we die... a. Our body return to the dust b. Our spirits go to HADES, the realm of the "unseen" 2. This realm of departed spirits (i.e., Hades) is divided into three parts... a. PARADISE, the place of rest for the righteous b. TARTARUS, the place of torment for the wicked c. And a GULF, separating the two 3. During this interim period between death and the resurrection, the righteous... a. Are separated from God and Christ b. For God and Christ are "in heaven", and Paradise is in Hades, not heaven 4. Such is the state of the "disembodied spirits" until the Resurrection a. At which time the spirits of both the wicked and the righteous will be united with their resurrected bodies b. At this time will occur the Judgment, after which... 1) The RIGHTEOUS will spend eternity with God 2) The WICKED will spend eternity in "HELL" (Grk., gehenna) B. THE SCRIPTURAL JUSTIFICATION FOR THIS VIEW... 1. Is based heavily upon what we read in Lk 16:16-31 a. I.e., the story of the rich man and Lazarus b. Notice especially verses 22-26 2. Lk 23:43 is also offered as support a. Where we read of the account of Jesus and the thief on the cross b. Both of whom would be in PARADISE that very day following their deaths 3. That this PARADISE was not in HEAVEN where God dwells is based upon Jesus' statement in Jn 20:17 a. These words of Jesus were made three days after promising the thief they would BOTH be in PARADISE b. Yet Jesus had not YET ascended to the Father! c. Suggesting, therefore, that PARADISE was not HEAVEN (or IN heaven)! 4. As further evidence that PARADISE is not in HEAVEN, appeal is made to Ac 2:29-35 a. Concerning CHRIST... 1) His soul was not to be left in HADES (the realm of the dead, which included PARADISE) 2) But after His resurrection Jesus ascended to the right hand of God (i.e., HEAVEN) b. Concerning DAVID... 1) Surely he went to PARADISE (in HADES) when he died, as did Abraham, Lazarus, and the thief on the cross 2) But note that Peter said "David did not ascend into the heavens" (Ac 2:34) a) Suggesting the one could die, be in HADES (Paradise), and yet not be in heaven with the Father b) Just as Christ implied to Mary in Jn 20:17 [Such is the "traditional" view as I understand it. Now let's take a closer look...] II. THE "TRADITIONAL" VIEW EXAMINED A. THE EVIDENCE FOR THIS VIEW IS CONVINCING, TO A POINT... 1. This explanation for what happens after death appears to be consistent with all the information we have PRIOR to the ASCENSION OF CHRIST! 2. But in light of what is revealed in the Scriptures AFTER Jesus' ascension into heaven... a. This "traditional" view may need some revision b. But only concerning what now happens to the spirits of the RIGHTEOUS between death and the resurrection B. REASONS TO SUGGEST A REVISION OF THE "TRADITIONAL" VIEW... 1. After Jesus ascended to heaven... a. PARADISE (the resting place of the righteous) is now spoken of as being in heaven! 1) We saw earlier that when Jesus spoke to Mary He had not yet ascended to the Father (i.e., heaven), though He had been in "Paradise" prior to His resurrection 2) But note carefully that "Paradise" is used synonymously with the "third heaven" (i.e., God's dwelling place) by Paul in 2Co 12:2,4 3) Whereas Paradise was once distinct from heaven, now it is not! b. The expectation of the righteous is to be with Christ upon death - Php 1:23; 2Co 5:6-8; 1Th 5:9-10 c. The book of Revelation speaks of the righteous dead being in heaven while much is still going on here on earth - Re 6: 9-11; 7:9-17 d. The Scriptures speak of Jesus bringing the righteous with Him at His Final Coming - 1Th 3:13: 4:13-14 1) I understand this to refer to the "spirits" of those who were righteous, and who are coming to be united with their resurrected bodies - cf. 1Th 4:16 2) Of course, I suppose Jesus could "pick up" these saints in HADES on His way, but in view of other passages I believe they are already with Him 2. Such passages as these found AFTER Christ's ascension into heaven I have a hard time reconciling with those made BEFORE Christ's ascension (unless something has changed, of course) [Therefore, as an alternative to the "traditional" view, I propose a more "scriptural" view...] III. THE "SCRIPTURAL" VIEW EXPLAINED A. FIRST, EVERYTHING ABOUT THE "TRADITIONAL" VIEW REMAINS THE SAME FOR THE PERIOD "PRIOR" TO JESUS' ASCENSION... 1. All who died went to HADES a. The wicked went to torment, awaiting judgment b. The righteous went to Paradise to await the Judgment 2. Even Jesus, with the thief on the cross, went to Paradise, which was in Hades B. BUT NOW, AFTER JESUS' ASCENSION, THE "INTERMEDIATE STATE" OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS DIFFERENT... 1. Paradise is now in HEAVEN, not HADES 2. The hope of the righteous is to spend the "intermediate state" in the presence of the Lord, awaiting the resurrection and the Judgment C. IF THE "INTERMEDIATE STATE" OF THE RIGHTEOUS CHANGED, WHY? 1. That the change did occur appears to be clear 2. The "why" may be speculation on my part, but here is one suggestion... a. God is holy, and sin cannot be tolerated in His presence 1) The righteous who died before the cross of Christ, were forgiven in view of Christ's coming death 2) But prior to the death of Christ, the true price for sin had not been paid 3) So until their spirits were actually "redeemed from sin by the blood of Christ", they were not permitted in God's presence, and Paradise remained in Hades b. After the cross, and when He ascended, Jesus offered His blood as the "eternal redemption price" to God to appease for sin - cf. He 9:11-15; 23-26 1) With such an offering, the spirits of just men were now "made perfect" (He 12:23), and now in a position to be with God and Christ in heaven, awaiting the resurrection and Day of Judgment - cf. Re 6:9-11 2) Thus Paradise (the intermediate dwelling place of the righteous) can now be in heaven! c. And therefore the Christian, whose spirit is also made perfect by the blood of Christ, can have the hope to be with Christ and God in heaven, during the "intermediate state" prior to the bodily resurrection at the Last Day! CONCLUSION 1. Again, the WHY may be purely speculation, but I do believe there is sufficient evidence to re-examine a view many have traditionally held a. A view that was true prior to the ascension of Christ b. But one that now fails to adequately explain many statements made after Christ's ascension 2. Our next study will look more closely at the condition of the righteous during the "intermediate state

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