THE CHRISTIAN DEATH

By Juan Baixeras

 

Heaven
Hell
The Christian Goal
But What About These Verses?

Most Christians are under the impression that what they have come to believe and accept as Christianity, is the same as what Jesus and the Apostles taught. This unfortunately is not the case. Greek philosophy disastrously crept into the early church and changed some of the most fundamental and important concepts of the faith. What happened in a nutshell is the following: in the time of Jesus and the Apostles, Greek thought was considered to be the most enlightening way of thinking. All the educated people in those days had been educated in Greek philosophy. Greek was considered to be the international language of the civilized world, much as English is today. This is why the New Testament was written in Greek. Platonism was very widespread and very influential in those days. All of a sudden, here comes this man called Paul preaching the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, and doing incredible miracles in Jesus’ name. In his visits he converts many Greeks and people who have been taught the ways of Greek philosophy their whole lives. These were people who had been pagans for their entire lives up to this point, and now suddenly, they hear Paul’s message of the kingdom and believe the truth. They truly accept the kingdom of God message and Jesus Christ as the Messiah. But when time passes and the Apostles are no longer around, they start reading the Hebrew Scriptures with a Greek mind, that is, a thought process that is influenced by Greek philosophy. Attempting to read Hebrew Scriptures in this way will inevitably lead to the misinterpretation of some of the writings, which is exactly what happened in some key areas. A friend of mine has a great example of what I am speaking about. He says that if an Englishman says, "I am mad about my flat," he is actually saying that he is excited about his apartment, but to an American it means that "he is angry about his flat tire." In this case they are both speaking English in the same century, now imagine what can happen when you try to interpret Hebrew writings using Greek philosophy a few centuries later. In order to understand the true meanings of the Bible we must discard the Greek philosophical interpretations and return to what the words originally meant in Hebrew and Greek. Make no mistake, Greek philosophy has different definitions for words than does the Greek language.

By using Greek philosophical definitions one of the most important messages of the Bible has been changed into something that has very few if anything in common with the original message. This is why it is so important for each of us to know God’s word, so that we can avoid being deceived.

"Many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 Jn 4:1).

This paper will deal specifically with the concept of death. What does the Bible say happens to an individual at the moment of death as compared to what tradition through the influence of Greek philosophy has claimed.

Most Christians are under the impression that at the moment of death our spirit or soul will separate from our bodies and go to either heaven or hell. But is this what the Bible really teaches us or have we been misled? In order to understand death we must have an understanding of what heaven and hell actually is, and what the nature of man is composed of. Let’s start with heaven.

The Bible does not promise us heaven as our reward for following Jesus. It does however, in countless verses promise us entrance into "the kingdom of God," or as Matthew refers to it "the kingdom of heaven" which is the same thing. Let’s clarify this point before proceeding.

(For an understanding of what the Bible means by "the kingdom of God" request the papers listed at the end of this study free of charge)

Kingdom of Heaven – People have incorrectly taken this to mean that the kingdom of God is in heaven. This is a huge misunderstanding. This phrase is just another way of saying the kingdom of God. Let’s take a look at some sources to verify this claim.

"The kingdom of God was used to translate Old Testament expressions about God reigning. In the rabbinic literature outside the Targums the phrase used was "the kingdom of heaven." The two phrases are undoubtedly synonymous. The adoption of the latter was due to that same Jewish reverence for the name of God which led to the substitution of "LORD" for the name of "Yahweh" at the same time"(The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible).

"Kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven are equivalent"(The New American Bible Dictionary).

It would be a mistake to invoke more into this phrase than it really means.

There are also a few verses that speak of "our treasure in heaven," but these verses must be understood under the light of Jewish culture in that period. So what does it mean when the Bible speaks about our treasure in heaven?

Treasure in Heaven – Many people have taken a couple of verses that mention a reward in heaven as meaning that we will go to heaven as our reward. But is that what a Jewish writer means when he says something to that effect, or does he mean something else? Let us take a look at one such verse, Luke 18:

"Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven."

The Jews believe that everything good that God gives to us (our treasures), are kept in heaven until God decides to give them to us. In other words, our treasures in heaven are our blessings from God. Our ultimate treasure kept in heaven for us is when God will establish His kingdom on earth. When God gives us these treasures, they are said to have come from heaven (from God). To use an analogy that we are all familiar with, our money is kept in the bank, but we do not go to the bank to live, we receive our money from the bank and then go back home. This is what having "treasure in heaven" means to a Jew. It is kept there until it is given to us. Peter provides us with an excellent example of this literary device.

Peter is speaking about our inheritance, entrance into the kingdom of God which is our reward in 1 Peter 1:4:

"To an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time."

As you can see, the inheritance is kept in heaven for us until the final time when it will be revealed to us. Paul also speaks of the hope that is reserved for us in heaven in Colossians 1:4:

"Because of the hope reserved for you in Heaven."

"Hope" is not sitting around in heaven. In Revelation 21:10 John is speaking about the New Jerusalem that will come out of heaven to the earth. Notice that it is coming from heaven and that it is from God.

"He took me in Spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God."

The New Jerusalem was not actually in heaven, it just means that the New Jerusalem was reserved for us, and it is now being given to us by God.

We are not supposed to go to heaven. Heaven is where God, Jesus, (until his Second Coming) and the angels dwell. God made the earth for us. The paradise where Adam and Eve lived was here on earth, it was not in heaven. The concept of going to heaven is another one of those Greek concepts that filtered into early Christianity. The Greek philosophers (Pythagoreans) are the ones who believe that the soul separates from the body after death. Plato learned this concept from the Pythagoreans and applied it to his own philosophy. This is not what the Bible teaches.

Let’s review what the word "spirit" and "soul" means to both a Greek philosopher and then to a Jew. First, the Greek philosophical definition. To a Greek philosopher, spirit and soul are interchangeable. Grolier's Encyclopedia states:

Platonism – Believed that we must be capable of existing apart from our bodies. The flesh is evil. The body is a prison. It is bad for the soul (i.e. spirit) to be in the body. Platonism suggests the immortality of the soul, and the soul then becoming incarnate.

This idea of souls separating from our bodies was unknown to the Hebrews. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible states:

"The ancient Hebrews knew nothing of the Greek concept of salvation by flight from the body and the world of which man is a part of."

This understanding of "soul" will lead us to many false conclusions. It has problems right away with other passages in the Bible. First, only God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:15-16). Second, If your spirit or soul is alive in heaven, then you are by no means dead. Third, I do not know of anyone that would dispute that judgement happens at the return of Christ. How then, can your spirit or soul go to heaven or hell if it hasn’t been judged yet? This should be a clue that something is wrong with this definition of "spirit."

Justin Martyr, one of the early Christian theologians wrote in 150 AD:

"If you meet some who say that their souls go to heaven when they die, do not believe that they are Christians!"

He wrote this in order to warn his fellow Christians about a strange new idea that was beginning to creep into Christianity. Let’s see what these words mean to a Jew writing in Hebrew or Greek.

Spirit (ruah & pneuma) – Breath of life. The vital principle by which the body is animated (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (VED)).

In other words, it is the life force that God gives to people and animals, which animates their bodies, which gives them life. When He takes it away, they die.

"When you take away their breath (ruah), they perish and return to the dust from which they came. When you send forth your breath (ruah), they are created" (Psalm 104:29:30).

"When his spirit (ruah) departs he returns to his earth; on that day his plans perish" (Psalm 146:4).

"And when the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath (ruah) returns to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

Soul - As was mentioned earlier, to a Greek philosopher spirit and soul are interchangeable, they mean the same thing. To a Jew however, they are not. Neither in Hebrew nor Greek does Soul mean something that is separable from the body. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words states:

"The Hebrew system of thought does not include the combination or opposition of the terms "body" and "soul," which are really Greek (philosophy) and Latin in origin."

Let’s take a look at some definitions:

Soul (Heb. nepes) - 1. living being, self, life, person. 2. The inner person, seat of emotions and passions (VED & The Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (BDB)).

Soul (Gk. psuche) - 1.own self, the natural life of the body. 2. The seat of feelings, desires, affections, aversions (VED & Thayer's Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament (TGEL)).

In both languages the definitions are almost identical. When a person or animal receives the breath of life (spirit) he becomes a living soul (a living being). Example:

Genesis 2:7: "The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life (ruah), and so man became a living soul (nepes)."

Here are some other examples of the usage of the word "psuche:"

Acts 15:24: "Since we have heard that some of our members who went out without mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind (psuche)."

Matthew 10:39: "Whoever finds his life (psuche) will lose it, and whoever loses his life (psuche) for my sake will find it."

These are excellent examples. Genesis is self-explanatory. Acts 15:24 uses the definition of "the seat of your emotions." When your peace of mind is disturbed it really means that you are emotionally upset. Matthew uses the definition of "life" for psuche. This is what "soul" means to a Jew. It is never used to imply that it is something separable from the body. Even the definition of "the seat of your emotions" does not come close. Your emotions cannot be separated from you. When you die, your emotions die with you. These are the definitions that one must keep in mind when reading the Bible in order to understand the meanings of the verses as the writer intended. Now let us proceed to what hell actually means to the authors of the Bible.

Hell - This word has inspired fear in millions of people throughout the centuries. It has been denoted as a place for the souls (Gk. philosophical def.) of the wicked of everlasting torment. This is the place where Satan tortures the wicked forever. Words like fire and brimstone and scenes like in Dante’s drawings come to mind when one mentions hell. Fortunately, this is not the correct meaning. It is another word that must be examined with the proper definitions.

The Bible does not give us this image of a God who tortures individuals for eternity without compassion, on the contrary, it talks about a loving God who is extremely merciful and compassionate. He does punish the wicked, but only after He has given them every chance possible to repent and change their ways. Even when He has punished individuals or cities, it has been a just punishment that fit the crime. The punishment has been destruction, i.e. death, not everlasting torment. The Catholic Church adopted this concept of everlasting torment and it served to instill fear in the people and thus control their behavior. Whether it was adopted by the church to control behavior, or whether it was just adopted and the result was that it controlled behavior is unknown.

Hell - In the KJV, the word "hell" is used thirty-one times in the Old Testament; in each case it is a translation of Sheol, which was the place where both the ungodly and the godly were to go at death. Ten times in the New Testament, hell is a translation of Hades, which is the New Testament counterpart of Sheol, the place where all of the dead dwell. On eleven other occasions, however, it is used to translate Gehenna, which refers to the place of the punishment of the ungodly, and therefore to "hell" as the term is used today (ZEB, vol.3,pg.114). This unfortunately is a bad interpretation, which will only serve to confuse the reader. It would have been much better had the translators left the word Gehenna and not substituted "hell" instead. The correct translation of hell is Hades or Sheol.

Hell is the English translation of the Greek word Hades, which is a translation of the Jewish word Sheol. Hell = Hades = Sheol. Gehenna is the Jewish word that denotes an eternal fire, but not as what we have been told to believe as "in burning in the fires of hell forever."

Let’s see what these words really mean to a Jew.

Sheol - The ancient concept of the abode of the dead (the netherworld, in Hebrew, Sheol) supposed no activity or lofty emotion among the deceased (NABD). It is the final resting-place of all men. Sheol is parallel to Hebrew words for pit, hell, corruption, decay, and destruction (VED). It is the final resting-place of all men until the return of Christ. There is no reason, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in Sheol. It is the sleep of the dead.

"For there will be no work, nor reason, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in Sheol where you are going" (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Hades - is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol (ZEB, vol.3,pg.7). It corresponds to Sheol in the Old Testament and New Testament (TGEL).

As we can see, Sheol = Hades = Hell. They are the same thing. It is the pit, the grave. It is not a place of consciousness nor torment. So where do we get this idea of "burning in hell forever?" We get it from a misunderstanding of Gehenna. Hell in Greek should not be translated as Gehenna, but as all the sources above say, as Hades.

Gehenna - The Biblical word "Gehenna" refers to the valley of Hinnom. This valley was the location of the notorious sacrificial offering by fire of children into the fiery arms of the god Molech by Ahaz and by Manasseh. The Jews so abhorred the place that after these horrible sacrifices had been abolished by King Joshia that they cast into it not only all manner of refuse, but even the dead bodies of animals and of unburied criminals who had been executed. The fires were always needed to consume the dead bodies and waste of Jerusalem. (TGEL)

Gehenna was a continuous huge fire outside of Jerusalem that was used to burn refuse and dead bodies. When they threw a body into the fires of Gehenna it was destroyed. The fire was eternal because it was always burning outside the gates of Jerusalem. When you were cast into the fires of Gehenna, you were cast into the eternal fire and you were consumed by the fire and destroyed. Keep the purpose of Gehenna (to destroy bodies and refuse) in the back of your mind as we go through some verses. Let's look at some examples:

Jude verse 7: "Sodom and Gomorrah… serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire."

Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. The cities are not being tormented in an eternal fire.

Matthew 7:19: "Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be thrown into the fire" (consumed & destroyed).

Matthew 5:29: "It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna"(and destroyed).

It is important to note that Jesus says that your whole body is thrown into Gehenna, not your Greek-type soul. The concept of your Greek-type soul going to hell to burn will not fit at all in this verse.

Matthew 13:39-41: "The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are the angels. Just as weeds are burned up with fire (destroyed), so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will cast them into the fiery furnace" (to also be destroyed).

The weeds are burned up with fire, they are consumed and destroyed. And just as the weeds are destroyed by fire (not tormented), so are all evildoers cast into the furnace of fire and destroyed.

2 Thessalonians 18-9: "Those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord."

Psalm 92:8-9: "Though the wicked flourish like grass and all evildoers thrive, they are destined for eternal destruction."

The penalty is eternal destruction.

Hebrews 10:26.27: "If we sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains sacrifice for sins but a fearful prospect of judgment and a flaming fire that is going to consume the adversaries."

The flaming fire of Gehenna, the furnace of fire, will consume (destroy) the adversaries.

With this understanding of "eternal fire," we can better understand a verse like Matthew 18:8:

"It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire."

Gehenna is the eternal fire that will destroy the adversaries. Eternal destruction is eternal punishment because you are dead for eternity. This is called the second death.

"Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire. This pool of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name is not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire."

Death and Hades will be thrown into the fire, they will be destroyed. There is no more death and Hades in the kingdom of God. Anyone (sinners) whose name is not found in the book of life will also suffer the same fate. No one will say that death and Hades will burn in hell forever. They will be destroyed. Psalms 37:38 & 145:20 sum it up for us:

"Sinners shall all alike be destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off."

"The LORD keeps all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy."

The second death is eternal ruin because you are dead forever, seperated from the presence and glory of God for all eternity. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 sums it up best:

"These will pay the penalty of eternal ruin, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power."

With this understanding of some key words and concepts we will now cover the many specific verses on death which many of us are never showed because it does not fit with the traditional (Platonic) view of death.

When the Bible talks about being asleep, it means being dead. Read John 11:11-14 if you have any doubts. You will notice that Jesus says that no one has been to heaven. King David who was one of God’s favorites is not in heaven. You will see that there is no knowledge of God when you are dead. If we were to go to heaven I would suppose that you would be well aware of God. The Bible says that man and animals go to the same place when we die, that there is no difference, except that man will one day resurrect. You will notice that all will come to life only at Jesus’ return, and not before. Remember we do not have immortal souls, that is a Greek philosophical idea. Only God is immortal. The Jewish and Christian concept of death is that the whole person dies.

Who is in heaven besides God, Jesus, and the angels? No one.

John 3:13

"No one has gone up to heaven."

Acts 2:29

"My brothers, one can confidently say about the patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day."

Acts 2:34

"For David did not go up into heaven."

Hebrews 11:13

"All these died in faith" (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah).

 

Where are the dead? In their tombs in the earth. When you are dead there is no knowledge of anything, not even of God.

2 Peter 3:4

"From the time when our ancestors fell asleep, everything has remained as it was from the beginning of creation."

John 5:28-29

"Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation."

Daniel 12:2

"Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace."

Genesis 3:19

"Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; for you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return."

Psalms 6:5-6

"Return, O LORD, save my life; rescue me because of your kindness, for among the dead no one remembers you."

Ezekiel 18:4

"The soul that sins, it shall die."

Ecclesiastes 9:10

"For there will be no work, nor reason, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the nether world where you are going."

Psalm 115:17

"It is not the dead who praise the LORD."

Ecclesiastes 3:19-20

"For the lot of man and of beast is one lot; the one dies as well as the other. Both have the same life-breath, and man has no advantage over the beast; but all is vanity. Both go to the same place; both were made from the dust, and to the dust they both return."

Psalms 146:4

"When his spirit departs he returns to his earth; on that day his plans perish."

When will the dead rise? At Jesus’ Second Coming, on the last day.

1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17

"For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air."

Revelation 20:4-5

"They came to life and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were over."

1 Corinthians 15:22-23

"For just as in Adam all die, so to in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ."

John 11:24

"Martha said to him, " I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day."

Job 14:12

"So men lie down and rise not again. Till the heavens are no more, they shall not awake, nor be roused out of their sleep."

Mark 12:23

"At the resurrection when they arise, whose wife will she be."

 

 

THE CHRISTIAN GOAL

The Christian goal is to resurrect and enter the kingdom of God that Jesus will inaugurate at his coming. Webster’s Dictionary states: Resurrect - rising from the dead. We are supposed to resurrect like Jesus. This is our goal. 1 Corinthians 15:20-25 is very specific on this matter:

"But now Christ has been raise from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ."

The first resurrection will be a resurrection of the followers of Christ. Those who willfully believed in the message of the kingdom of God and the Messiah Jesus Christ, and lived their lives accordingly to those beliefs.

Luke 14:14: "For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

Revelation 20:4-6: "They came to life and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years (i.e. a long period of time). The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were over. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection." The second death has no power over these; they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for the thousand years."

Notice that there is a first resurrection that is for those in Christ, the righteous only. It says that the righteous will reign (administer the kingdom) with Christ for a thousand years. Where will they reign?

Revelation 5:10: "You have made them a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will reign ON EARTH."

After this long millennial kingdom Satan will be released from his prison and he will again deceive the nations. This will lead to the battle of Armageddon where Satan will be finally destroyed (Revelation 20:7-10). Then there will be the second resurrection (Revelation 11-14). This will incorporate everyone who did not believe in the promises of God (the kingdom and Jesus). This will include all the people who willfully knew about them but decided to reject them. But it will also include some whose names are found in the book of life that will be rewarded eternal life.

Revelation 20:15: "Anyone whose name is not found in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire."

Who are these people that were not followers of Jesus but yet receive eternal life? If you come to know one characteristic from the Bible about God, it is that he is a fair God. I believe that these are the people that have never heard the word of God about His Son Jesus. That native in a remote Pacific island. Aborted babies that were never given the chance to accept or reject God’s message. Retarded children that did not have the capacity to understand the word of God, and children who were to young to understand and receive the promises of God when they died. I believe that theses will enter the kingdom of God at the second resurrection.

When we believe Plato over Jesus and the rest of the authors of the Bible that our spirit or soul separates from our bodies at death we are negating the wonderful promise of resurrection that God has given us. The whole point of the resurrection is nullified by this Greek philosophical belief. Why would I want to resurrect when I am already in heaven with God? It is because of this heaven or hell going idea that the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles on the kingdom of God have been almost completely lost or changed to a degree that in reality it does not exist anymore. We have covered a multitude of very specific verses on death in the Old and New Testaments, but there are a few verses that people will cling to in order to try and prove the man made idea of going to heaven or hell at death. Let’s take a look at some of these now. There will be a few short repetitive definitions to illustrate the meaning of the verses better.

 BUT WHAT ABOUT THESE VERSES?

Q. Didn’t Jesus’ Spirit go to be with God when he died?

This question comes from an incorrect Hellenistic (Greek philosophy) interpretation of Luke 23:46:

"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit, and when he had said this he breathed his last."

There are two ways to interpret this verse. The first is the way that most of us have been taught, which is the Hellenistic interpretation. The second is if we use the Jewish meaning of the word "spirit," this is the meaning that was intended by its Jewish author. Lets review what the word "spirit" means to both a Greek philosopher and to a Jew. First, the Greek philosophical definition. To a Greek philosopher, spirit and soul are interchangeable.

Platonism – Believed that we must be capable of existing apart from our bodies. The flesh is evil. The body is a prison. It is bad for the soul (i.e. spirit) to be in the body. Platonism suggests the immortality of the soul, and the soul then becoming incarnate (Grloier's Encyclopedia).

This idea of souls separating from our bodies was unknown to the Hebrews. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible states:

"The ancient Hebrews knew nothing of the Greek concept of salvation by flight from the body and the world of which man is a part of."

This understanding of "spirit" will lead us to many false conclusions. It has problems right away with other passages in the Bible. First, only God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:15-16). Second, I do not know of anyone that would dispute that judgement happens at the return of Christ. So how can your spirit or soul go to heaven or hell if it has not been judged? This should be a clue that something is wrong with this definition of "spirit."

Using this definition of "spirit" we arrive at the conclusion that when Jesus died, his spirit went to heaven to be with God. This has a few major problems. First, if Jesus went to be with the Father and then came back to appear before the Apostles, and then plans to return again on the day of judgement, then his return will be the third coming of Christ instead of the second. 1+1+1=3. But the biggest problem with this interpretation is that it forms a huge contradiction with John 20:27:

"Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father."

Jesus says this to Mary of Magdala after he has resurrected, three days after he commended his spirit to God. He is clearly stating that he has not been to the Father. If he has not been with the Father, where has he been? John 12:32 and Matthew 12:40 provide us with the answer:

"And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself."

"so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights."

Jesus has been in Sheol, a.k.a. the pit, the grave, the earth, for the last three days. Jesus himself tells us he has not been to heaven.

These are the sort of problems that arise when you use definitions that are different from the ones that the writers used. Now lets see what "spirit" means to a Jew:

Spirit (ruah & pneuma) – Breath of life. The vital principle by which the body is animated (VED & TGEL).

In other words, it is the life force that God gives to people and animals, which animates their bodies, which gives them life. When He takes it away, they die.

"When you take away their breath (ruah), they perish and return to the dust from which they came. When you send forth your breath (ruah), they are created" (Psalm 104:29:30).

"When his spirit (ruah) departs he returns to his earth; on that day his plans perish" (Psalm 146:4).

"And when the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath (ruah) returns to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

With the proper definition of "spirit" we can now interpret this verse correctly: Jesus commends his spirit (breath of life) to God. God takes his breath of life and Jesus breathes his last (he died).

This is the intended Jewish meaning of this verse. This interpretation is in agreement with the Jewish definition of "spirit" and with the psalms that are quoted above. It also does not contradict John 20:17.

Q. What about the thief on the cross, wasn’t he with Jesus in paradise that same day?

This question arises from the verse in Luke 23:43: It states:

"Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me in your kingdom.’ He replied to him, ‘Amen, I say to you today you will be with me in paradise."

This verse will take two entirely different meanings depending on where you put the comma. In Greek there are no commas, so when the Bible is translated into English the translator puts the comma where he thinks it should go. But if the translator believes in Greek type spirits that leave your body at death, he is going to put the comma after "you" before "today." The other place it can go, the correct place is after "today."

There are many examples of people saying "I tell you something today (right now)." It was a common way of speaking. In my files I have a list of 49 examples of this way of speaking. Here are seven of them:

"Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today" (Deuteronomy 6:6).

"If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him..." (Deuteronomy 30:16).

"I tell you now that you will certainly perish" (Deuteronomy 30:18).

"I call heaven and earth today to witness against you" Deuteronomy 30:19).

"The statues and the decrees which I enjoin on you today" (Deuteronomy 7:11).

"Besides setting up on Mount Ebal these stones concerning which I commanded you today" (Deuteronomy 27:4).

"Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men" (Acts 20:26).

All these are excellent examples, but the best is Paul’s statement, "I declare to you today." It is identical to Jesus’ statement.

I say to you today = I declare to you today

Jesus and Paul are saying. "I am telling you this moment, right now."

I have in my files 44 more examples like the ones above

Let’s see the consequences of both. If we use the first interpretation that the thief was in paradise with Jesus that day, then we run into the same problems that we had with the spirit of Jesus going to the Father. Jesus tells us three days after his burial that he has not yet been to the Father (John 20:17). He also tells us that he has been in the earth, not in paradise (John 12:32). If Jesus has not been to the Father, then how can we expect the thief to be in paradise with Jesus that very same day? Notice also that the thief asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom.

The kingdom of God = Paradise

The kingdom of God has obviously not come yet. After Jesus resurrected, he appeared to the Apostles and instructed them on the kingdom of God for forty days (Acts 1:3). They then asked him:

"Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6).

Even after the resurrection, the kingdom of God had still not come. So how could the thief have been in the kingdom on that very same day?

If we use the other way of interpreting this verse, it means that the thief asked Jesus to remember him when his kingdom comes. Jesus replies to him at that moment, that on that day, you will be with. With this interpretation there are no contradictions and we do not have to throw away 20 to 30 verses on death that will also contradict the previous interpretation.

Q. What about these two verses?

2 Corinthians 5:8 - "absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord"

and,

Philippians 1:23 - "I long to depart this life and be with Christ."

People have taken these two verses to mean that when you die you are automatically taken to heaven to be with Christ. The question that we must ask ourselves is what does Paul mean when he says, "with Christ?" When does Paul expect to be with Christ? Is it immediately after death, or is it during the resurrection of the dead at the Second Coming of Christ? This is an easy question to answer if you know where to look, but first let’s takes a look at what a few sources say about this verse.

The New American Bible states the following on 2 Corinthians chapter 5:

"Unlike the Greeks (philosophers), who found dissolution of the body desirable (cf Socrates), Paul has a Jewish horror of it."

The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible states the following on 2 Corinthians 5:8:

"Paul’s pithy statement, to be "absent from the body and to be present with the Lord," a statement pregnant with hope for all Christians, is understood to reflect an immediacy of sequence in the consciousness of the individual only. When a Christian closes his eyes in death, the next moment, as far as he is concerned, he will be with the Lord, though countless millennia may have intervened. Thus the basic structure of the New Testament, which is death followed by resurrection is preserved; at the sane time the postponement of the resurrection until the parousia, is maintained."

In other words, there is no sensation of time when you are dead. When you die, the next thing that you will experience is being with the Lord Jesus Christ on the day of his return, even though thousands of years have passed by.

Let us now go back and answer the question that we asked before, "When does Paul expect to be with the Lord?" The answer is in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 where Paul is speaking of the Second Coming of Christ:

"And the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord."

This is when Paul expects to be with the Lord, at the resurrection of the dead at the return of Christ, not before then. Let us see another wonderful example of when Paul plans to be with Jesus. 2 Thessalonians 2:1 states:

"We ask you, brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembly with him."

Again, we can see that Paul expects the Thessalonians and himself to assemble with Christ AT HIS COMING."

When you read the Bible you must always keep in mind who the writer was writing to and why. Paul in this example was not writing with the idea that his letter would become part of the New Testament for all to read for generations to come. He was writing to the church at Corinth and at Philippi that he had personally established. The churches at Corinth and Philippi were already familiar with the teachings of Paul on the return of Christ and the resurrection of the dead. This is why he did not mention the time period between death and the return of Christ. In the Bible, and when speaking with other Christians, many times we read or say that Jesus died and three days later he resurrected. Other times we say that Jesus died and resurrected. We do not mention the three days in between his death and resurrection because we both know what we are talking about. This is all that happened in these verses. Paul was writing to his churches, people whom he instructed personally, not to people that were unfamiliar with Christianity. They knew exactly what he was talking about. Here are a few examples:

"It is Christ Jesus who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who intercedes for us" (Romans 8:34).

The same author Paul does not mention the three days from Jesus’death till his resurrection, but we all know that he is not implying that Jesus died and rose immediately. Paul is just omitting an obvious fact.

1 Peter 3:22 states:

"But an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God."

Peter does not mention the forty days in between the resurrection and his ascension that Jesus was with the Apostles before going to heaven to sit at the right hand of God. It is because the people that Peter was writing to were familiar with this fact already.

Q. What about Luke 16:19-31 - The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus?

A lot of people have used this parable as the sole basis for their doctrine on death. They will quote this one verse and completely ignore all the verses that have been covered in this paper. This is an irresponsible way of interpreting Scripture. You should never make a conclusion out of one verse, but instead compare all the related verses on that topic before making your conclusions. In this case, the situation is made worse by the fact that the verse that is used to create an entire doctrine of death happens to be a parable. All major Bible scholars consider this to be a parable. Let’s see what a parable is. According to the New American Bible under a section entitled Literary Genres or Forms, it states:

Parable – A short fictitious narrative from which a moral or spiritual truth is drawn. Keep in mind that the point of the parable (not the details) is God’s message to believers.

Parables are fictitious, they have never happened. They are meant to teach us a point. We cannot take this parable literally. If we do, it will contradict everything in the Bible that teaches us that you will receive your reward or punishment on judgment day and not before, and everything that we have covered on death. The biggest clue that this is not a literal passage is that the rich man is speaking from the netherworld. When I looked up Netherworld in the New American Bible Dictionary it said, "See Sheol."

Sheol – The ancient concept of the abode of the dead (the netherworld, in Hebrew, Sheol) supposed no activity or lofty emotion among the deceased, who were pictured as surrounded by the darkness of oblivion.

The rich man is speaking from the netherworld, he is displaying torment, and he is pleading with Abraham in order to help himself and save his brothers. These are impossibilities from the netherworld. In the netherworld there is no activity or emotion among the deceased, they are in oblivion. Yet the rich man displays both of them. If we do take it literally it will make no sense whatsoever. We will also have the poor man on Abraham’s chest, spirits that have actual eyes and tongues, plus the righteous and the wicked can see and speak to each other. This is bizarre!

This parable is not intended to teach us about death. Unfortunately many interpreters have made this parable the sole authority on death. The reason that they have misinterpreted this verse is that they bring with them a lot of baggage (preconceived ideas) which hide from them the true meaning of this verse and leads them to an incorrect conclusion. Please approach this parable with a mind set free from prior influences and the truth will be obvious. If you approach this with the mind set that this is about death, then that’s what you will find.

In order to understand a parable you must always be aware of the context of the verses before and after the parable. These usually provide you with clues to what the point of the parable is about. In this case only the preceding verses are helpful. This parable has two points, one primary and a secondary. So let’s see what this most controversial parable is about.

Jesus gives us this parable because of the conflict that he is having with the Pharisees over their love of money, their use of "dishonest wealth." This thought started in the Parable of the Dishonest Steward in Luke 16:1 and continued until Luke 16:15 which a few verses later led up to the Parable of the Rich man and Lazarus. In Luke 16:13-14 Jesus says:

"No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (money). The Pharisees who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him."

All the Parables of the Bible states on this verse:

"These religious leaders who fared sumptuously, living in the love of money, and of the enjoyments which money purchased, only mocked at the counsel of using their wealth for the benefit of others in a way to earn them eternal rewards. Their money was theirs and they wanted no advice from Jesus as to its right use. Then came this parable."

The main point of this parable is to show the consequences of making money your god, putting it first in your life instead of putting the will of God first. The sin of the rich man was not that he was rich, but that he failed to realize that he was God’s trustee, with wealth and influence that could have been used for God’s glory, and for the spiritual and material benefit of his fellow-men. Lazarus was rewarded because in spite of his pitiful condition, he had served God, finding his constant help in Him.

In a similar twist, The Quest Study Bible states on this verse:

"His point was that, contrary to popular opinion, money is not evidence of favor with God, nor does poverty indicate God’s displeasure."

Its secondary point is to teach us that even after Jesus’ resurrection, men will still refuse to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 31 says:

"Then Abraham said, if they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they repent if someone should rise from the dead."

Let’s take a look at what The New American Bible states on this verse:

"A foreshadowing in Luke’s gospel of the rejection of the call to repentance even after Jesus’ resurrection."

Now that we understand the reason and the point of the parable, let us examine the details of this parable which have been disastrously misinterpreted. We will start with verse 22:

"When the poor man died he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham."

What does the "bosom of Abraham mean? According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, bosom as it is used in this verse means: To be a partaker of the same blessedness as Abraham in paradise.

So Lazarus will share the same reward with Abraham in paradise. God blessed Abraham by promising him that he would inherit the world (the kingdom of God). Romans 4:13 states:

"It was not through the law that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants that he would inherit the world, but through the righteousness that comes through faith."

Abraham has not inherited the world yet, he will first have to be resurrected. When will the resurrection occur? At the coming of the new age, the Second Coming of Christ. Luke 20:35 states:

"But those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead."

Lazarus was carried away by angels to be with Abraham. When are the angels supposed to collect the elect? At the coming of Christ at the end of the age in order to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew13:39-42 states it clearly:

"The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up (destroyed) with fire, so will it be at the end of the age." The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace" (to be destroyed as the weeds were destroyed).

Matthew 13: 49 follows six parables on the kingdom of God, the Parable of the Sower, theWeeds, the Mustard Seed, the Treasure, the Pearl, and the Net Thrown into the Sea. It is still dealing with the same topic, the kingdom of God. It states:

"Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth."

Both of these events, Abraham’s blessing and the collection of the righteous by the angels are events that will happen in the future, at the return of Christ. Let’s continue and then we will put it all together. Verse 22-23 states:

"The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side."

The rich man and Lazarus are not in the same place, one is in the kingdom of God and the other is in the netherworld. When the rich man sees Abraham "far off" it means that he sees him far off in time not in distance. This parable is pretending that the rich man from his grave in the present time is having a vision of Abraham (in the kingdom of God) in the future after the angels have collected the elect and the dead have been resurrected, and realizes that he is still in the grave and has missed out on the blessings of Abraham.

He is in torment because he realizes that he will not have life in the age to come because he has been thrown into the fiery flames (destroyed).

The rich man then asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers in the present time to warn them so that they will not suffer the same fate as him in the future. Verse 27 states:

"Then I beg you, father, send him (Lazarus) to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. So that he may warn them."

But Lazarus in the present time is also dead. When Abraham says in verse 29, " They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them." The rich man replies in verse 30:

"He said, Oh no father Abraham, but if someone (Lazarus from verse 27) from the dead goes to them they will repent."

Where is Lazarus? He is dead in Sheol. This is why the rich man says that, "If someone from the dead comes they will repent." He will be in the kingdom next to Abraham after the resurrection when the Son of Man comes and sends his angels to collect the dead in Christ.

Of course this verse foreshadows Jesus’ resurrection, but it is here speaking specifically about Lazarus.

Summary – You cannot serve two masters at once. If you choose the things of this world (i.e. money) over God, when Christ returns and inaugurates the kingdom of God you will be counted with the wicked and will not share in the inheritance (bosom) of Abraham. You will instead be thrown into the fiery flames and destroyed.

Remember that this is a parable, and a parable is a fictitious short story with a point. The details are not important, only the point. This parable was not meant to be the sole authority on death. It does however detail the end results correctly. Either we enter the kingdom of God or we are destroyed forever.

Q. What about 2 Kings 2:11: "And Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind."

This verse has of course been taken to mean that Elijah went to heaven and then so will we when we die. The Jewish word that is translated as heaven literally means, "sky." I will explain this verse by saying that what happened to Elijah was not that he was taken up to heaven where God dwells, but that he was translated to another location on earth. This explanation is very easy to prove. Read 1 Kings 18:7-16 where Elijah is speaking to Obadiah, King Ahab’s vizier. We see in verse 8 that Elijah asks Obadiah to go and tell Ahab that Elijah is here. Obadiah replies that there is no nation or kingdom that Ahab has not searched for Elijah in, and that they could not find him. In verse12 Obadiah says to Elijah that he is afraid to go and tell Ahab that Elijah is here because when he leaves, the Spirit of the LORD will carry him off somewhere that he does not know, and Ahab will have him killed.

"After I leave you, the Spirit of the LORD will carry you to some place I do not know, and when I go to inform Ahab and he does not find you, he will have me killed."

Being translated is not too common in the Bible but it does happen. Philip was translated in Acts 8:39:

"When they came out of the water, The Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away and the eunuch saw him no more."

Another excellent verse to show that Elijah is still on earth after the event on the chariot of fire is that he writes a letter to King Jehoram in 2 Chronicles 21:10-13 telling him that the LORD will strike his people with a great plague. Verse 12 is worth quoting:

"He (Jehoram) received a letter from the prophet Elijah with this message."

The crucial point in these verses is that Elijah wrote a letter to King Jehoram who was the son of King Jehoshaphat. Elijah was transported during the reign of King Jehoshaphat. Jehoram came after Jehoshaphat, and it was Jehoram that received a letter from Elijah. The obvious conclusion is that Elijah is still alive here on earth. If Elijah did go to heaven, then how could we explain Jesus’ statement in John 3:13: "No one has gone up to heaven."

Is Jesus wrong? Or is it that man’s interpretation of this verse is wrong?

Q. What about Enoch?

The problem with Enoch is two-fold. The first is in Genesis 5:24, it states:

"Then Enoch walked with God, and he was no longer here, for God took him."

In order to understand this verse you will have to read all of chapter five. People claim that since of everyone else it is said, "then he died" and of Enoch it is not, but instead it says that he "walked with God, for God took him," then that means that Enoch went to heaven with God. If you read the paragraph that talks about Enoch without this preconceived idea, you will come to the conclusion that Enoch died.

It says in verse 23:

"That the whole lifetime of Enoch was three hundred and sixty-five years."

To me that implies that Enoch’s whole lifetime was three hundred and sixty-five years and then he died. I do not see any hint that Enoch did not die. It says that "Enoch walked with God," but so did Noah in Genesis 6:10:

"Noah, a good man and blameless in that age, for he walked with God."

"Walked with God," means that the person follows God’s will. "God took him," means that God took his breath of life and that person died. We still use this saying today, we commonly say that God took a family member or a friend when we mean that someone died. The word translated as "took" is the Hebrew word laqah. It means:

laqah – of removal by death (The Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon).

An excellent example of the usage of this word is in Ezekiel 33:6:

"But if the watchman sees the sword coming and fails to blow the warning trumpet, so that the sword comes and takes (laqah) anyone, I will hold the watchman responsible for that person’s death, even though that person is taken (laqah) because of their own sin."

Notice how it is used, the sword comes and takes someone, in other words, kills someone. This is why the watchman will be held responsible for that person’s death.

So why is there a difference between the phrases of all the other people mentioned and Enoch? There is no clear-cut answer, but my opinion is that something happened to Enoch that cut his life short. Either an accident or illness, but something that prevented him from dying of old age like the others. Everyone mentioned lived to over nine hundred years old, except Lamech who lived to almost eight hundred years old. However, Enoch only lived to be three hundred and sixty-five years old. Something happened to Enoch that cut his life short; this is why it is said, "God took him."

The second verse is in Hebrews 11:5 where Paul is speaking about the faith of the ancients. It says:

"By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was found no more because God had taken him."

The problem that we arrive at if we say that because of this verse Enoch did not die, is that the same author in the same chapter in verse 13 says that all the ancients that he was talking about (which Enoch was one of) have died:

"All these died in faith."

So Abraham and Noah and Enoch and all the others mentioned died. So how do we explain verse 5? The clue is in knowing what the author meant when he said "That he should not see death." Obviously he does not mean that he did not die because he writes a few verses later that he did die.

In John 8:51 Jesus says:

"I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death."

This is identical to Hebrews 11:5. I do not think that Jesus meant that whoever keeps his word will be taken to heaven without ever experiencing death. It is more likely that Jesus means that whoever keeps his word will not experience eternal death. That they will be resurrected on the last day. Hebrews 11:5 meaning is probably along these lines.

For me, I am convinced that Enoch did die. I cannot let one verse that I cannot explain fully counter all the evidence in the massive amount of verses that are very specific on death.

Paul who wrote Hebrews says in Romans 5:12:

"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned."

Death came to all men, that includes Enoch. This statement of Paul also strengthens the position of Hebrews 11:13 "They all died in faith."

If we isolate Enoch from all the evidence on death, the preponderance of the evidence is about 75% in favor that Enoch died, and 25% that he did not see death. If we do not isolate Enoch from all the other Scriptures on death Enoch is really not a factor.

If Enoch went to heaven, then again, we have to assume that Jesus was wrong in John 3:13:

"No one has gone up to heaven."

Q. What about the transfiguration of Jesus?

The transfiguration of Jesus is a vision, it is a way in which God reveals a message to us. Jesus in speaking about the transfiguration says in Matthew 17:9:

"As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, ‘Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

A vision is not reality, it is a way in which God communicates or instructs us. In the transfiguration, the message was intended for Peter, James, and John.

Let’s take a look at some other visions. Genesis 15:1 says:

"After these things the word of the LORD came to Abraham in a vision."

"Daniel had a dream as he lay in bed, and was terrified by the visions of his mind" (Daniel 7:1).

Daniel then goes on to describe his vision which includes four beasts, one that looks like a lion with eagle wings etc. This is an excellent example of a vision. God is revealing a message to Daniel, the details are not necessarily reality, it is the message that is important. The message in this case is about the end times. God many times uses symbols to get his point across. But there are not going to be four actual beasts that look like a lion with eagle wings etc.

The purpose of the vision of the transfiguration was to confirm to Peter, James, and John that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. The New American Bible states on this verse:

"Moses and Elijah represent respectively law and prophecy in the Old Testament and are linked to Mount Sinai. They now appear with Jesus as witnesses to the fulfillment of the law and prophets taking place in the person of Jesus as he appears in glory."

It was a vision. It would be irresponsible to use this episode for any other purpose than what it was intended for.

There are a few more verses that might cause a little confusion, but they are easily explained.

The Bible is very clear on the subjects we have covered in this brief paper. Man made tradition has done everything possible to confuse God’s word, but it is very easy to see past the lies if one just takes the time to look. Once you understand these important points, a lot of the Bible starts to make sense, because it stops contradicting itself. You are no longer trying to force Greek thought into Hebrew writings. Think about it, if you believe that you go to heaven after you die, how would you explain all the verses in this paper without making a shamble out of the Bible?

See you at the resurrection!

CHRISTIAN

DOCTRINES