Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What Happens When We Die?

            Do dead people go to heaven or hell immediately after their death? What do the dead people do? Do they reunite with their loved ones upon death? Do the dead know what the living are doing? These questions are of practical importance. 

            The doctrine of intermediate state seeks to understand the state or condition of the individual between their death and resurrection. The Bible offers us essential information but does not go into detail upon the intermediate state; probably because it is non-salvific in nature (this doctrine is not essential to one’s salvation). Hence the examination of intermediate state becomes all the more difficult and controversial in certain situations.

            The Christian belief in “afterlife” is indeed a sound proposition that has been validated by science as well (for more information into this theme, click here). (Christian beliefs are not essentially required to be validated by science, for science cannot validate the metaphysical aspects of life. But if science validates certain biblical notions then we will mention them.)

What Is Death?

            Soul is the principle of life that animates the body. Hence, the body is considered dead when the soul departs from the body.

Doctrines To Reject

            Certain denominations (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists etc.) believe that our soul goes to sleep or becomes unconscious after our death. But the Bible describes soul’s consciousness in the case of rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31). Moreover, the Lord Jesus told the prisoner on the cross, “And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”” (Luke 23: 43, NASB, Emphasis Mine). So the view of soul sleep is flawed.

            Roman Catholics claim that the soul becomes aware of God’s judgment upon death and passes on to heaven, hell or purgatory. Very minimally, purgatory is assumed to be the state of temporary punishment of those who are in a state of grace, but not yet spiritually perfect (not fully free from sins). When the soul arrives at a state of perfection because of “Mass, prayers and good works,” the soul is believed to be released from purgatory and passes into heaven.

            The concept of purgatory implies salvation by works. This contradicts the clear teachings of salvation by grace alone (Galatians 3: 1-4, Ephesians 2: 8-9). Hence we cannot accept the doctrine of purgatory.

            Some believe that unbelievers would be annihilated or destroyed after the final judgment. The annihilationists argue that while unbelievers cannot enjoy the everlasting bliss with the righteous, they do not deserve the eternal torment in hell. This doctrine is flawed because the Bible teaches eternality for the unbelievers, “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thessalonians 1: 7-9). 

            Some believe that the dead are resurrected with the resurrection body instantaneously after death (Extreme Preterism). This view is based on a loose interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5. There are number of passages in the Scripture that teaches the concept of future resurrection of the dead that is accompanied by the Lord’s second coming (Philippians 3: 20-21, 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-17). Second coming of our Lord is the occasion for our glorification (1 Corinthians 4:5, 2 Timothy 4:8). The Lord Jesus also referred to a future time when the dead - both the believers and the unbelievers - will be raised (John 5: 25-29). Based on these passages we can reject the notion that the dead receive their resurrection bodies immediately after death.

Further Scriptural Considerations

            1. The New Testament distinguishes between Gehenna and Hades. Hades receives the unrighteous for the period between death and resurrection. Gehenna is the place of eternal torment (Mark 9: 43-48) where both the body and soul are united after the dead receive their resurrection body at the resurrection. 

            2. The righteous dead do not descend to the Hades (Matthew 16: 18-19, Acts 2: 31).

            3. The souls of the righteous dead are received into paradise (Luke 16: 19-31; 23: 43).

            4. The Bible equates being absent from the body with being present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5: 1-10, Philippians 1: 19-26).

What Happens When We Die?

            1. Upon death, believers of Christ go immediately into a place and condition of blessedness; the unbelievers go into a place of misery, torment and punishment. The souls would remain in existence, but in a disembodied state.

            2. Human beings can exist in either a bodily existence or immaterialized condition. w The immaterialized condition is one in which the soul or the spirit exists independent of a body (disembodied existence).

            The Bible teaches that soul could exist in a disembodied state. For instance, consider the verse Matthew 22: 31-32, “But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: “‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Emphasis Mine). Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are dead but haven’t yet resurrected to their glorified bodies. Nevertheless Christ termed them as living, which implies that their soul is living without their body.

            3. During the Lord’s second coming (when Christ returns for the second time) the believers will be raised from dead, they will receive their glorified bodies, and then to ascend to be with Christ (1 Corinthians 15: 21-26, 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-17).

            4. The believer’s resurrected body will be like Christ’s resurrected body (cf. Philippians 3:21). Our resurrected body will be…

            …a physical body with flesh and bones (John 20: 27, Luke 24: 39-40).

            …capable of eating food (Luke 24: 42), not for nourishment but for pleasure and celebration (cf. Matthew 26: 29).

            …a tangible body, “And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.” (Emphasis Mine).

            …an immortal body (1 Corinthians 15: 53)

            …a glorious body (Philippians 3: 21).

            …a supernatural body that can move through space (Acts 1: 10-11) and can move through material things (cf. John 20:19).

            5. Like the believer, the unbeliever will also be resurrected. The resurrected body will be a never-dying physical body.

            For questions of practical significance such as “What do the dead people do? Do they reunite with their loved ones upon death? Do the dead know what we are doing?” please click here 
            
Endnotes:

wHuman beings can exist in an immaterialized condition or disembodied state.

Dr. Gary Habermas says, “...After death, the spirit lives separately from the body, until it is given a new, resurrected body.
No, the brain does not die with the body. What is the evidence for these things? One of my primary responses comes from my 30 year study of near-death cases. I have found almost 100 cases that are accompanied by evidence--some so impressive that it has been written up in secular medical journals. For example, some cases involve people reporting verifiable things that happened a distance away, but after they were pronounced dead and lying where they couldn't see these things physically. Others have correctly described a variety of things even while they had no heart beat, no brain waves, etc. This tells me that people seem to live even while their bodies are "dead" and that sometimes they are capable of observing things even while their bodies are incapacitated."

Source: http://www.garyhabermas.com/qa/qa_index.htm#nea

3 comments:

Andrew Rodrigues said...

Wonderfully and fearfully written for everyone to revere God who is perfect and cannot change, Pastor! I loved it and the glimpse of Heaven is crystal-clear. I am inspired to share this with all my friends and acquaintances. God bless.

Raj Richard said...

Thank you brother Andrew. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Remain blessed.

Kolkata Joshua said...

Though this doctrine is non-salvific in nature, understanding on life after death is essential for everyone to live in an expectation and hope for the blessed time with God ( Paradise and heaven). The reality of hell must drive an unbeliever to come to the agreement with Christ for accepting the salvation. Thank you dear Brother Richard for bringing out the truth in a lucid manner. May Lord Jesus bless you dear Brother!