March 28, 2021
In my recent podcast on my Spiritual Disciplines habits, which included a Q&A from my listeners, someone asked me a specific question about my thoughts on “what happens after you die.” While I certainly spitballed my gut response to the listener question in that particular episode, upon further reflection and study, I feel as though my reply wasn't entirely adequate…
…and for a matter as important as death and the afterlife, I think that such a topic—although visited just a bit in my article about what I think heaven itself will be like and also my article about what Jesus likely experienced during his three-day “harrowing in hell”—still requires a bit more of a thorough and considerate response.
After all, death is a serious topic and not to be treated lightly or without deep thought. As author and theologian John Piper writes here:
“Jesus kicked the teeth out of death, crushing its power over his people (Revelation 20:6) and promising one day to destroy it forever (Revelation 20:14). But because death has been conquered, it doesn’t mean peace has been made with it. This isn’t a tennis match. Death is no less terrible, and should be no less hated.”
Not a tennis match, indeed. Just think about it…
Imagine Your Death
No, really, really think about it. Your death, I mean. So seldom is it that we actually, apart from those who may have undergone an actual near-death experience, truly imagine or experience death in vivid visualization.
Imagine, right now, as you are reading this very sentence, out of seemingly nowhere, a bullet rips through the wall of your room and buries itself with red hot fire into your upper right gut. You don't know where it came from. Perhaps it was a stray shot. Perhaps you're being assassinated. At this point, it doesn't matter. You've heard the tales of the temporary horror and debilitating pain of a sudden gallstone, or a heart attack, or a snapped femur, but this is far, far more horrific. As what feels like a live hornet's nest full of a million razor-sharp barbs is unleashed like a cluster bomb within your viscera and organs, your vision clouds over and your jaw drops open to scream in bone-chilling, blood-curdling terror.
You can't stop screaming. You keep trying to breathe through your screams, but as you struggle against the spasming in your gut t0 swallow precious air, blood instead bubbles up your throat and you choke violently on it, spitting thin flecks of bright crimson across the floor and walls in front of you. As the gore from your throat spatters against the wall, you double over and vomit dark green bile pooled with more blood, then you crumble to your side, your muscles failing as calcium floods into your cells and your entire musculoskeletal system begins to spasm.
You feel the cold, hard floor against your cheek. Desperately, you pull your knees to your chest in a fetal position, but this makes the pain even more unbearable, as though half a dozen daggers are plunging deep into your stomach and being twisted by a depraved demon again, and again, and again—each time causing bright bursts of lightning to flash across your eyes. Your head feels as though it is going to explode into a million fragments of brain and bones and more blood, but it doesn't explode. Instead, the unbearable pain stays inside your head, radiating more intensely with each second as the cluster of hornets travels into every corner of your skull, buzzing with a terrible fury, burrowing deeper and deeper, stinging, biting, and stinging again.
As the lightning bolts of pain continue to strike throughout your body, your head becomes heavy and feels nearly foreign. It seems as though there is a thick rope knotted around your neck in a noose, getting tighter and tighter. Your vision begins to cloud, and the puddle of thick blood in which your face lies slips in and out of visibility, flashing like a crimson strobe-light.
Somewhere in your bowels, something aggressively shifts, and you feel your own urine and fecal matter spill into your pants, along with pieces of your insides and more green, yellow, and red soupy fragments from within your intestines. You scream and squirm again and pain shoots through your body once more, but now your screams sound far away and muffled to your own ears as if your voice is echoing back at you from a distant cave.
Then, as endorphins, neurotransmitters, and photons of light pouring from your mitochondria and an enormous dump of DMT from your pineal gland all converge at once in a chemical thunderstorm in your bloodstream, pushed along with the final struggling beats of your heart, the pain begins to fade—and is replaced by an intense, black darkness that envelops your entire consciousness, accompanied by brief flashes of kaleidoscopes of color and, somewhere, still in the far distance, your own screams.
You cannot breathe. There is no oxygen. Everything becomes black. Dark, black, the velvetiest of black.
You glimpse a brief vision of your mangled body lying in a pool of blood and intestines.
Then that fades too.
You realize you no longer have a body. You've never felt this before. No flesh. Just a faint awareness of existence. And somewhere, like a tiny speck in that blackness, a single photon of light between where your eyes used to be.
You are separated.
Your soul, your consciousness, is fully disconnected from your body.
Life as you now it has suddenly, drastically, even horribly and painfully…
Are You Going To Be Reincarnated?
So what happens at that point, at the end, after your brain, your heart, and your entire lump of flesh have fully experienced physical death?
First, I'm not going to dive into reincarnation too heavily here, but in short, I believe it's an insult to God to believe that you are going to be reincarnated.
Why do I say that?
Perhaps you remember, or you should go and read, my writings on the horrific, gory, shocking details of Jesus Christ's brutal beating, torture, and crucifixion. This was the murder of a deity, a sacrificial death that was so unimaginably painful and profound that it caused the very earth to shudder, the temple curtains to be torn in half, Satan to be overthrown, and the entire spiritual underworld to experience a vast and irreversible transformation. And God gifted that sacrifice of his dear son to us, as the well-recognized verse from John 3:16 in the Bible states: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son…that whoever believes upon him shall not perish but have eternal life…”
But the idea of reincarnation completely negates the necessity, meaning, and importance of that entire loving sacrifice.
See, both Judaism and Christianity believe in an important doctrine that directly challenges reincarnation: the resurrection of the dead. This resurrection means that our dead bodies will someday be revived and brought back to life on the New Earth that I talk about here. Reincarnation dictates that our immaterial souls will be inserted into a new human life and future human body, while resurrection dictates that our dead and decayed flesh will be brought back to a full and glorious, perfect life. In 1 Corinthians 15:13-14 and 17-18, the Apostle Paul is resolute in identifying this resurrection as the core of Christianity:
“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.”
In short, reincarnation negates God's free gift of salvation that is described in the New Testament, a gift that was manifested in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. If we are a disembodied self that isn’t related to any particular time, then this means that our real self only has a sort of accidental connection to any specific body, because we'll go on to another body and another body and another body. But we are embodied beings, not separate from our souls, but with bodies so intimately intertwined to our souls that upon our resurrection, these same souls we possess now will be in the same bodies we possess now, but in a perfectly restored state of perfection.
Paul experienced quite a bit of resistance to this idea when he visited Athens, and preached Christ's resurrection to the Athenians. The Athenians derided Paul for teaching such an outlandish notion as resurrection. In Acts 17:32, we are told, “When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”
See, Paul's reference to the resurrection of the dead ignited an interesting reaction among the Greeks, who repudiated the idea of a bodily resurrection. Though they embraced the concept of a soul living forever, they sneered at the idea of a bodily resurrection because they considered the body to be evil, and something to be discarded. This concept, known as dualism, was derived from the teachings of Socrates and Plato, who believed that everything physical is evil, everything spiritual is good, and that it really doesn't matter what one does with one's body so long as their spirit is good.
The Athenians' adherence to this philosophy blinded them to the truth of the gospel and the ability to be able to receive God's free gift of salvation for all humankind, in the very same way that an adherence to the philosophy of reincarnation blinds us from being able to accept God's free gift and Jesus's massive sacrifice. After all, if you (and you are both your body and your soul) are going to be resurrected, restored, and proceed to dwell in a blissful, eternal afterlife, then, if reincarnation is true, who's to say that “you” isn't a monk from a thousand years ago, you in your current state now, an astronaut living 2089, a butterfly, a bullfrog, or a brick?
It's as though reincarnation thrusts a giant middle finger up at God, shouting at him that we don't need salvation or resurrection because our souls are drifting along just fine down here, thank you very much, and we've already discovered eternal life—albeit a far less perfect eternal life than what God has promised us if we simply believe in Jesus, and go forth fully inspired to love God and love our neighbors.
What Happens After You Die
So if you're not reincarnated, what does happen after you die?
In summary, when the final breath empties like a wind-blown wisp from the lungs, the heart shudders in the death roes of its final contraction, and that last electrical wave fades from the brain, those who die in Christ will immediately find their souls in his presence, while awaiting the resurrection in their physical bodies that will occur at His return. As Psalms 16:11 says, we long to be near him and experience the fullness of joy and eternal pleasure that his presence offers. And as soon as we are out of this wrap of flesh for a temporary period of time, there is no reason that he will not welcome us into that presence upon our death, rather than making us wait in some kind of dark (or even blissful) state of floating consciousness.
Why do I believe this is what happens?
First, as I write about here, the Bible does not describe eternity in the afterlife some kind of disembodied existence in the heavens, such is not the language of the Scriptures. Rather, as Romans 8:23 says “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” This verse demonstrates the hope we can have in the eventual redemption of our physical bodies, which is ultimately what the resurrection will be.
That redemption and resurrection, however, does not happen upon our immediate death, but will rather occur upon the return of Christ at the end of the age, as 1 Corinthians 15:22-23 alludes to when Paul says, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.”
But in the meantime, what exactly occurs during that “waiting period” between the death and resurrection?
Many people (including me when, upon reflection, I responded incorrectly to a listener question in this spiritual disciplines podcast, but subsequently studied up more on the matter) believe that we will experience something referred to as “soul sleep” during this time, which is a state of some kind of unconsciousness or soul floating or unattached, ethereal existence, after which we are to be awakened at the resurrection, whether that is a few years, a century or a millennia after our physical bodies have died. However, this seems to stand in stark contrast to what we read in the Bible.
For example, in Luke 23:43, Jesus says to a thief who is dying on the cross beside him that today they would be together in paradise. Later, in Philippians 1:22-24, Paul expresses his hope to, upon his death, “depart and be with Christ.” Even clearer is the testimony of 2 Corinthians 5:1-9:
“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
If you read carefully here, Paul actually identifies three separate stages of existence for those who believe in Jesus: 1) life in this mortal, fleshly “tent,” which is our earthly home—a home in which we, as Romans 8:23 alludes to, groan to await freedom from when our bodies are finally redeemed; 2) an unclothing into nakedness where we go to be at home with the Lord as our bodies rest in the dust of the earth, a home in a spiritual existence without a physical body and a home that is incomplete, but a home that is nonetheless far better than our existence away from the Lord in our present burdened body; and 3) finally, a complete clothing in a heavenly dwelling at the resurrection, and the ultimate, satisfied consummation of our longing to be with the Lord in which our bodies and souls are united once again and we are able to exist eternally on the New Earth, still in the presence of the Lord…as Revelations 21:1-7 tell us:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”
So that is what happens after you die: Your soul is immediately whisked away from your body to be with the Lord in Heaven, you await Jesus's return, upon which you are finally resurrected in a state in which your soul and body are finally united, and that soul and body go on to live for all eternity, soaking up the full joy of a New Heaven and New Earth.
But wait a minute.
There's one glaring issue here: If accepting God's free gift, believing in Jesus, and laying all our burdens and sin at the foot of the cross gives us all the glory and the joy I've described above—a restoration of our new bodies in a New Earth for an exciting afterlife in eternity after our mortal bodies have breathed their last—then what happens if we don't believe?
In short, if we don't believe, then we too will go on to dwell in eternity.
But not with God.
Instead, we will be alone.
Lost and wandering.
Isolated in complete and dark loneliness, staring up at the heavens, painfully gritting our teeth and licking our dry lips as we regret those short decades on this planet during which we decided that all this world's pleasures were far more attractive than a glorious existence with God for all time.
But that topic of what a horrible, hellish existence will be like is one that I'll address at a different time, in a future article. However, I can tell you right now that when you die, and before you are potentially resurrected, there is no second chance. You do not, after your physical death, get another opportunity to be redeemed by believing in Jesus. The Bible is quite clear in Hebrews 9:27 that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
The powerful and convicting parable of the rich man and Lazarus from Luke 16 also backs this up:
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.”
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'”
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'”
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'”
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'”
“‘No, father Abraham,' he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'”
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”
That parable should give you something to seriously think about as you consider your own death. I describe another way to look at your own death in my Marshmallows article, which you can read here.
In the meantime, I challenge you to close your eyes and create your own “near-death experience”. Imagine it. Visualize it in detail. Feel the discomfort. Feel the pain. Feel the separation from your physical body. Put yourself in your own shoes as you die, then, most importantly, dwell upon what will happen afterwards. It's a powerful exercise.
Finally, what about you? What do you think happens after we die? What do you think the Bible tells us about the afterlife? While you're thinking about the entire topic of death, you may also want to consider how you will be remembered, and whether your death will, as the Apostle Paul alluded to be “gain” and truly rock this planet. You can read more about that in my article here. In the meantime, leave your questions, comments, and feedback below. I read them all.
22 thoughts on “Sabbath Ramblings: Death.”
The Bible is quite clear that death is like a sleep. When we die we go to sleep awaiting the resurrection. Our next conscious thought would be the coming of Jesus. That’s why Paul says that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. There’s no consciousness of time when you’re sleeping. So the righteous are resurrected at Jesus’ second coming and taken to heaven to reign with Him for 1000 years, while the wicked are still dead. Then the new Jerusalem is brought down to earth, the wicked are resurrected and receive their judgment along with Satan and his angels, fire comes down from heaven and consumes them all. (Rev 20-21). There’s no eternal hell or torment.
I am a follower of Christ and love the Lord. However.. how do you explain the spontaneous past life experiences that myself and many others I’ve met have experienced? It’s not about belief in reincarnation, but a direct experience.
epigenetics is how I explain that.
Don’t epigenetics assume that the child would be a descendant from the person they have the past life experience of? What if the child is not related in any way to the person they claim they used to be?
One can believe in both resurrection and reincarnation without conflict. In fact, that is what a great number of Jewish people believe. In our bedtime prayer before sleep, we pray to God to help us to forgive anyone who harmed us in word or deed in this incarnation or any other. Judaism is not a religion focusing on salvation but one of redemption, as Rabbi Sacks once described as the “life we share as fellow citizens under the sovereignty of God.” We don’t believe in original sin as such and when the focus is not on a personal experience of salvation (though admittedly we have cycles through the year that address this) we see the drama of life and afterlife and its goals in a different way. But we also believe in the resurrection and pray for the era of resurrection daily. We pray 3x per day explicitly to God that “restores souls to lifeless bodies.” The life before the resurrection is one where we strive to serve God in all the ways possible, to perform as many good deeds as possible. There are enough examples of people recalling and verifying their prior lives to make a good case for it, but that isn’t important. In fact, reincarnation as a whole isn’t “important” at all and though many Jewish people like myself believe in it, we don’t spend much time on it except as described above. The Jewish religion believes that the good we could achieve in one day in these physical bodies can’t be achieved in an infinity of time outside the body. So, we don’t dwell on the afterlife much, we focus on serving God to the best of our ability in the here and now with this acknowledgement. Yet, all nations have access to a rewarding afterlife if they follow the laws of Noah, so we do believe in an afterlife as well, its not like we just move from one incarnation to another with no existence just in our soul bodies. It is a matter written about extensively by mystics which to me is endlessly fascinating and engrossing, however one which doesn’t impact our responsibility and service in the here and now, one iota. As for the resurrection in my tradition, it is for the future messianic era, after the messiah arrives (or as you would say returns:) ), the temple is rebuilt, all the Jewish people return to Israel, then some 40 years later, the resurrection will take place. Since you briefly mentioned Judaism above, thought I would provide another view. Much respect to you for your devotion to your path and to those who have shared their thoughts above!
Ben, sos muy valiente en compartir tus creencias, fundamentarlas. Comparto esta fe, y tomo de vos el ejemplo de valentía.
Es evidente que las personas tienen hambre no sólo de mejorar su salud, su cuerpo o estado físico, sino también hay una hambruna espiritual, y desde el prestigioso sitial que estás, seguro estás haciendo un gran impacto en las vidas de muchos de tus seguidores.
You are literally very brave to share your thoughts… Every person has a thinking and voice of his own and I respect that.. It’s just difference in thinking and so these comments.. But honestly as long as their is no hatred, there is no harm in sharing your viewpoint..
Appreciate your bravery and open mindedness.
Hey Ben, you are brave to venture out in this new way. I admire you for it brother. Too many believers have been silent for too long, too afraid of offending someone else’s belief. In reality, anyone can be offended at anytime over anything and if a person takes offense, that’s their problem, not yours. None of us understands everything perfectly. In mortality we all “see dimly through a glass” Maybe that is because if we have to see everythign to believe then we are negating the need for the presence of the holy spirit in our lives every minute of every day. You mentioned in a comment, The Still Small Voice. That Voice will help us all to fill in the gaps of our understanding, not all at once, but a little at a time. Ben, I’m glad we’re on the same team.
So to everyone else, please support Ben. Don’t throw stones. None of us has an answer to every question that all of us can easily accept or love. If you feel something good about what Ben is sharing, explore that further. If you feel defensive or upset, maybe consider that too. Only you are responsible and capable of choosing your state of mind.
When God created Adam and Eve, he held before them the prospect of everlasting life in paradise conditions on earth. They chose to reject divine terms for life, and so they died. Everlasting life depends on human obedience to divine terms, and the recognition of divine sovereignty over humanity – God is the trustor/creator, Man is his earthly trustee.
When we die, we do not go off into another realm – we are not immortal. Immortality means “indestructibility” – and if we were unable to be destroyed, then we would not suffer death. However, death is the penalty for sin – after death, we no longer exist. We are “conscious of nothing at all”, as Ecclesiastes 9:5 puts it.
In fact, dust we are, and to dust we return. – Genesis 3:19.
Also, if we were immortal, there would be no need or use for the ransom sacrifice of Christ’s death – Christ’s perfect life, in exchange for Adam’s forfeited perfect life. Therefore, the idea of the “immortal soul” is an unscriptural idea which originates outside of the Bible, from the vestiges of ancient paganism.
So, what happens to us when we die? According to the Bible, the lights go out, and we no longer exist. Which is why it was imperative for a remedy to be provided, for those who (in spite of everything) would still like to avail themselves of the divine intention for humans to enjoy everlasting life in paradise conditions on earth.
Romans 5:12 describes how, through one man (Adam), death was introduced into the world by his disobedience, and how, through another man (Christ), the price for death was appeased by his obedience, thus giving all those who exercise faith in that provision of that corresponding ransom to have their sins forgiven, and thereby go on to eventually have the gift of eternal life bestowed upon them by the person of God himself.
It is a gift of undeserved kindness, but necessary and lifesaving, and giving hope to humanity of reconciliation with God again, to live under the terms of his divine social contract whereby we, as his earthly trustees, recognise God in all we do, and live in harmony with his principles, so as to respect what he has created, and to honour him with our appreciation – in both word and in deed.
Therefore, what happens to us when we die is a vital question to consider. If we were not really dead, but alive in some other realm, the divine remedy for death would be a joke and would be ineffectual. There is only one real source for that lie, and it is Satan, whose mission it is to undermine God through his wiley contradictions, claiming that “you positively will not die, if you disobey God”, covering over that lie with the lies perpetuated by common religious thought of “immortal life” for sinners – the most blatant contradiction of divine truth there ever was.
Satan, who is an angel of the spirit realm – not even he can claim immortality, because he will one day be destroyed. No angel is immortal, except the chief of all the angels – Jesus Christ – who had immortality later conferred upon him by God, as a mark of the confidence God has in Christ’s unquestionable fidelity throughout his entire existence, both as a spirit creature before and after his human existence, as well as his proof given that man can be obedient to God despite the most horriific of trials and even unto death itself.
The ransom sacrifice of Christ provides God with the remedy of rescuing us from death – an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, perfect life sacrificed (through Christ’s divine obedience) for perfect life forfeited (through Adam’s divine disobedience).
And then there is the subject of God’s Kingdom – the administrative vehicle through which Christ’s ransom sacrifice will be poured out upon humanity in the future – after Armageddon’s destruction of this satanic system of things, and in the form of divine education and the forgiveness of sins through our constant attention to our spirituality under that divine government, eventually leading to sin’s elimination from us, and thus our liberation from both sin and death – under God’s Kingdom.
Daniel 2:44,45 states that God’s Kingdom will crush and put an end to all human governments (which are satanic divisive tools that keep humanity from reconciling with God). God’s Kingdom, with Christ as its King, will afford Jesus the two-fold opportunity of being both King and High Priest over mankind.
Christ will oversee humanity’s reversal of sin and death and, when God’s Kingdom accomplishes its stated purpose, Christ as King and High Priest will hand over the Kingdom and reconciled humanity back to his father, in humble yet glorious submission, bringing humanity back to God in its perfect condition as originally intended.
There is no immortality or indestrucibility – there is only everlasting mortality, which itself is dependent upon human obedience to the divine terms of God’s social contract, thereby guaranteeing a sustainable world (earth) of divine harmony, once the question of universal sovereighty is settled once and for all time.
In conclusion, Psalm 83:18 will see its fulfilment –
“That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth.”
Soon after Adam and Eve were created, they were given satisfying work to do. They were told to fill the earth and to cultivate it. (Gen 1:28) They were also told what not to do. They were commanded not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad as eating from it would evidently constitute rebellion against God and his right to determine good and bad, right and wrong, for his creation. (Gen 2:17) At Genesis 2:17, the penalty for disobedience was clearly communicated. God told Adam and Eve very simply and clearly, “in the day you eat from it you will certainly die.” So, the penalty for disobedience was death. This is confirmed by God’s statement to Adam after Adam had disobediently eaten from the tree. God said, “For dust you are and to dust you will return.” Likewise, Paul later explained that the “wages” sin pays is death. (Romans 6:23). He also explained that when one dies, he (or she) is acquitted from sin. (Romans 6:7) Therefore, Adam and Eve understood that to obey meant everlasting life on the earth but to disobey meant death or non-existence. Had they obeyed, they would both still be alive today. God made no mention of burning eternal fiery torment. Penalizing a person eternally for sins committed during a short lifespan would have been out of harmony with his loving standard of justice, not to mention that such punishment was not communicated to them.
The scriptural account you cited regarding the rich man and Lazarus was a parable or story. It was not meant to describe a literal afterlife but rather to illustrate the chasm forming between the group made up of the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and other religious leaders who carried favored positions and the poor who they treated as inferior and spiritually diseased, divine favor being given to those humble ones conscious of their spiritual need rather than to the majority of those in their lofty worldly positions. Jesus had been talking to his disciples about the proper use of material riches, explaining that we cannot be slaves to these and at the same time be slaves to God. The Pharisees were also listening, and they begin to sneer at Jesus because they were money lovers. So he said to them: “You are those who declare yourselves righteous before men, but God knows your hearts; because what is lofty among men is a disgusting thing in God’s sight.”
The time had come for the tables to be turned on people who were rich in worldly goods, political power, and religious control and influence. They were to be put down. However, the people who recognized their spiritual need were to be lifted up. Jesus pointed to such a change when he went on to say to the Pharisees: “The Law and the Prophets were until John [the Baptizer]. From then on the kingdom of God is being declared as good news, and every sort of person is pressing forward toward it. Indeed, it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one particle of a letter of the Law to go unfulfilled.”
The scribes and the Pharisees were proud of their professed adherence to the Law of Moses. Recall that when Jesus miraculously gave sight to a certain man in Jerusalem, they boasted: “We are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses.” But now the Law of Moses had fulfilled its intended purpose of leading humble ones to God’s designated King, Jesus Christ. (Colossians 2:13, 14). So with the beginning of John’s ministry, all kinds of persons, especially the humble and the poor, began exerting themselves to become subjects of God’s Kingdom. Since the Mosaic Law was being fulfilled, the obligation to keep it was soon to be removed.
Jesus related an illustration that featured two men whose status, or situation, was eventually changed dramatically.
“But a certain man was rich,” Jesus explained, “and he used to deck himself with purple and linen, enjoying himself from day to day with magnificence. But a certain beggar named Lazarus used to be put at his gate, full of ulcers and desiring to be filled with the things dropping from the table of the rich man. Yes, too, the dogs would come and lick his ulcers.”
Jesus here used the rich man to represent the Jewish religious leaders, including not only the Pharisees and the scribes but the Sadducees and the chief priests as well. They were rich in spiritual privileges and opportunities, and they conducted themselves as the rich man did. Their clothing of royal purple represented their favored position, and the white linen pictured their self-righteousness.
This proud rich-man class viewed the poor, common people with utter contempt, calling them ‛am ha·’aʹrets, or people of the earth. The beggar Lazarus thus represented these people to whom the religious leaders denied proper spiritual nourishment and privileges. Hence, like Lazarus covered with ulcers, the common people were looked down upon as spiritually diseased and fit only to associate with dogs. Yet, those of the Lazarus class hungered and thirsted for spiritual nourishment and so were at the gate, seeking to receive whatever meager morsels of spiritual food might drop from the rich man’s table.
Jesus then described changes in the condition of the rich man and Lazarus. What were these changes, and what did they represent?
“Now in course of time,” Jesus said, “the beggar died and he was carried off by the angels to the bosom position of Abraham. Also, the rich man died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, he existing in torments, and he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in the bosom position with him.”
Since the rich man and Lazarus were not intended to be literal persons but rather to symbolize classes of people, logically their deaths are also symbolic. What do their deaths symbolize, or represent?
Jesus had just finished pointing to a change in circumstances by saying that ‘the Law and the Prophets were until John the Baptizer, but from then on the kingdom of God is being declared.’ Hence, it is with the preaching of John and Jesus Christ that both the rich man and Lazarus “died” to their former circumstances, or condition.
Those of the humble, repentant Lazarus class died to their former spiritually deprived condition and came into a position of divine favor. Whereas they had earlier looked to the religious leaders for what little dropped from the spiritual table, now the Scriptural truths imparted by Jesus we’re filling their needs. They were thus brought into the bosom, or favored position, of the Greater Abraham, the Almighty God. Notice the words of the Samaritan woman at the well, her being of a people and gender looked down upon by the religious leaders: “Yes, Lord, but really the little dogs do eat of the crumbs falling from the table of their masters.” (Matthew 15:27)
On the other hand, those who made up the rich-man class came under divine disfavor because of persistently having refused to accept the Kingdom message taught by Jesus. They thereby “died” to their former position of seeming favor. In fact, they were spoken of as being in figurative torment.
In the illustration, the rich man then spoke saying, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in anguish in this blazing fire.” God’s fiery judgment messages proclaimed by Jesus’ disciples were what tormented individuals of the rich-man class. They wanted the disciples to let up on declaring these messages, thus providing them some measure of relief from their torments.
“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you received in full your good things in your lifetime, but Lazarus correspondingly the injurious things. Now, however, he is having comfort here but you are in anguish. And besides all these things, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you people, so that those wanting to go over from here to you people cannot, neither may people cross over from there to us.’”
How just and appropriate that such a dramatic reversal took place between the Lazarus class and the rich-man class! The change in conditions was accomplished a few months later at Pentecost 33 C.E., when the old Law covenant mediated by Moses was replaced by the new covenant mediated by Jesus. It then became unmistakably clear that the disciples, not the Pharisees and other religious leaders, were favored by God. The “great chasm” that separated the symbolic rich man from Jesus’ disciples therefore represented God’s unchangeable, righteous judgment.
The rich man next requested of “father Abraham”: “Send [Lazarus] to the house of my father, for I have five brothers.” The rich man thus confessed he had a closer relationship to another father, who is actually Satan the Devil. The rich man requested that Lazarus water down God’s judgment messages so as not to put his “five brothers,” his religious allies, in “this place of torment.”
“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to these.’” Yes, if the “five brothers” would escape torment, all they had to do was heed the writings of Moses and the Prophets that identified Jesus as the Messiah and then become his disciples. But the rich man objected: “No, indeed, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them they will repent.”
However, he was told: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.” God would not provide additional special signs or miracles to convince people on their timetable. They were required to read and apply the Scriptures to obtain his favor. (John 17:3)
Thus, what does the Bible teach happens when a person dies? Harmonizing with the information communicated to Adam and the words of Paul, Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10 simply states, “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing at all, nor do they have any more reward, because all memory of them is forgotten. Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might, for there is no work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the Grave (Hebrew word, “Sheol”, Greek word, “Hades”), where you are going.”
Therefore, when one returns to the dust, that one is not conscious of anything at all. Why even the man, Job, desired the relief of death and wanted to be laid in the common grave of mankind (Hebrew word, “Sheol”, Greek word, “Hades”) when suffering to an extreme degree. Job stated at Job 14:13, “O that in the Grave (Hebrew word, “Sheol”, Greek word, “Hades”), you would conceal me, that you would set a time limit for me and remember me!” All future life prospects both for Job and for us when we die and any hope of a resurrection to life lie with God. Nor does a soul survive death and continue to live immortally. The prophet Ezekiel made that clear when he wrote at Ezekiel 18:4, 20, “The soul who sins is the one who will die.” Paul explained at Romans 5:12, “That is why, just as through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” Subsequently, we all grow old, get sick, and die ultimately because of inherited sin and imperfection. As you mentioned, Ben, it is the release from sin by Christ’s ransom that results in forgiveness of sin and the potential for gaining everlasting life to those exercising faith and practicing what is right. The close relative of the teaching of reincarnation, the teaching of the immortality of the soul, also insults God as it denies the need of the corresponding ransom of Jesus to buy back what Adam lost, reconcile righteous men and women to God, and present them with the opportunity to gain hold of everlasting life either by means of a resurrection or by never dying at all and surviving the impending great tribulation spoken of at Matthew 24:21, 22 and Revelation 7:9, 14.
In conclusion, when a person dies, they return to the dust. They are not conscious of anything at all. The spirit or life force present within the body dissipates. They are in a state similar to sleep as Jesus taught at Matthew 9:24 and John 11:11, 13. All future life prospects and the hope of resurrection lie with God.
Very nicely explained – thank you very much indeed. (Psalm 83:18)
What wil happen when you are born a tribesmen somewhere hidden in the Amazon.
You never heard of god, jesus or the bible, then when you die will yoy also: ” be alone. Forsaken. Lost and wandering.”?
Or with all the other believes and religions besides chriatianity.
Through what is called "natural revelation" they actually can be. Check out the book "Eternity In Their Hearts".
Thank you for responding, will chek that out.
All of those poor people born in countries where the predominant religious beliefs do not stem from Biblical teachings! Lucky us who were born in the western world and have the opportunity to spend eternity in bliss and the others in separation, unfortunately.. I’m a long time follower of yours Ben and also enjoy reading and gleaming how to live my life from the Bible! I do believe there are very skewed perspectives and viewpoints that are embedded in western consciousness that makes it difficult to understand the teachings. The Bible has certainly been doctored up over a millennia and used as a leverage point to control people.
Your friend, Paul Chek has an incredible vantage point when discussing things such as this and I would highly recommend keeping our minds open to his points here pertaining to God/Consciousness. The Law of One (book series) is an incredible resource helping us understand more so what’s going on here. All creation reflects back the glory of the One Infinite Creator. You and I Ben, are reflections of the Most High. The “evil” and “good” in dualities term, serve the ever-present one which abides in all of us in learning what God is. God is exploring Itself to know more so what It is. That’s where you and I come into play.
Following the teachings of Jesus allows us to break the cycle of death and rebirth and enter into the kingdom of heaven (a state of consciousness). The Earth will be renewed! And we will get the opportunity to come back to Earth and experience 4th Density. (law of one term.. synonymous with heaven in my opinion)
Jesus spoke as if he were God. Because He was. He completely died to ego consciousness and embodied Christ Consciousness or Enlightenment from eastern teachings.
I’m 100% positive this is hard to follow unless you look more into the Law of One teachings. I would highly recommend this. Ben you are INCREDIBLY smart and following Jesus’ teachings is important! Die to yourself (ego/body consciousness) and crucify it, and resurrect the Christ in you and me. That eternal dwelling observer who only knows peace.. and love.. in which the world was fabricated. No one is left behind, Rob Bells “Love Wins” is also a great resource for people transitioning from fundamentalist viewpoints of the Bible.
I got a bit frustrated reading Bens post …..
Thank you for taking the time to write such a wonderful comment to him .
Very well done .
“The kingdom of heaven is within” ….. and yet sooo many of the Christian faith will not head the call …
There is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous in the future, under God’s Kingdom, whereunder ALL will have the opportunity of learning divine truth (unsullied by religion and imperfect human interpretation).
God will give fair chance to all who are open to it, especially those who, up until now, have had no previous exposure to it.
There will even be “new scrolls” opened to us, under that programme of divine education.
Fear not – God has every eventuality covered.
What a bunch of medieval bullocks,most atheists I know are the kindest and most generous people, they are truly living by the so called ‘word of god’, whereas some ‘believers’ are the most evil people I ever met.
I’d tend to agree with you. I trust in science, here are the number on scientists and their beliefs.
a 2009 Pew survey showed that 41% of American scientists don’t believe in god or a universal spirit, effectively making them atheists. And in the National Academy of Scientists, a survey showed that 93% are either atheists or agnostics. Contrast this to only 7.1% of the general American public identifying as atheist or agnostic according to the latest Pew survey.
Have you felt clear direction from God as you sit in his presence? I have been christian my entire life and I have just come through the darkest storm I have ever ever faced and impacted my health and relationships on a level I can not explain and it made me question so many things about my rock solid faith. It made me question everything, but ultimately l look back now and realise I would have never ever made it through without believing he would make a way. I want to hear from him, I want him to guide me and heal me and show me how I can bless and heal others.
Yes, as long as you listen for his "still small voice" in the silence…
Man that was hard to read at first, but as you began to describe th etransition to th Easter life it was actually quite peaceful.
I love the Lord Ben, I have followed him most of my life (of course there have been SO many times I did not), But I couldn’t imagine life without him and of course could not imagine eternity without him. Thanks for sharing this insight and drawing the parallels and conclusions reincarnation, the resurrection, and so much more that I’ll have to go back and read again and again.
Bless you bro!