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Bible Questions and Spiritual Discussion
The best answer I have, and one that I use often both to myself and with others, is found in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord--
7 for we walk by faith, not by sight--8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
I know that there are others who imterpret this differently than I do, but I believe that when you read it in contest, Paul is telling the church that when we leave this body, we are in teh presence of God. Just my thoughts.
Craig and Mike, the verse in 2 Corinthians does not say present awake or asleep. We can be at home asleep. There are more verses that point towards sleep in both Old and New Testaments than awake. Asleep there is no time sense so when we are resurrected it would be like we had just passed from our carnal existence to our eternal presence with Jesus. As far as I know there are only a couple of passages that could refer to be being awake. The parable of Lazarus and the Rich man and 2 Corinthians 5:6-8. The parable was spoken by Jesus to teach a point and cannot necessarily be taken as a literal happening. Aside from these two instances the overwhelming weight of Scripture points toward sleep.
Craig from Illinois
Thanks Mike for your response. I am familiar with that text and I do agree that others will interpret this passage differently. The alternative interpretation requires a much larger part of the text. 2 Cor. 5:1-8 is this...
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord”
The context of this text seems to suggest that we will be "clothed" one way or another. Clothed in this body in this present life and clothed in a new body present with the Lord.
Still, what is the order? Is there a time lapse between the change of clothes?
So Marcie, I am curious not for my own soul but pondering this question in regards to those who have already departed this life for the next. As you can guess, if there is a period of time between death and joining the presence of God, then our discussion on praying to the saints was moot. LOL...
Looking forward to commentary too
"I struggle much more with figuring out the here and now. LOL"
I think Marcie writes a bunch of wisdom here. I suppose I guess this is one of the many "secret things." Deut 29:29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
That said, here's an observation that just came to me. It may be quite silly arithmetic, but maybe not. Matt 17:3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Do these guys get special marching around privileges? Maybe. They are physically dead, well, Moses anyway. Deut 34:5 And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. 6 He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. James 5:17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. I have to think they have our nature and we know they show up in whatever transfiguration is.
And while these guys did have a special place in the war down here, are they like us or not? I heard a talk by Dallas Willard recently and he said if we are planning to die, we are going to be disappointed. "We are eternal spiritual beings with a Divine destiny in God's great universe." As Marcie hints, that life has already begun. Her figuring out the "here and now" is part of that "real" eternal life. Willard points to this in Rom 8. He said our minds have this special place in both realms. We know this is true from the many battles that have been fought there.
Rom 8:5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
I think we get to grab a little bit more of the plane of transfiguration in our minds each day of our new life. Secret things...
I need to clarify what I mean by the vast majority of Scripture pointing toward sleep. It does but there are also verses that clearly show some who are not asleep like Moses and Elijah. I believe that most are in fact asleep. As to whether or not there are those we can call on to intercede for us in Heaven is not stated in Scripture except for Jesus.
Heb 7:25 Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.
Joh 6:39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those He has given Me, but that I should raise them up at the last day.
Joh 6:40 For it is My Father's will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day."
Jesus said raise them up the last day twice in the same speech hammering home a very important point. This very strongly suggest that most are asleep till the day of resurection.
I think we get that sleep vision from the translation of the word koimao. It's all over the place and so it permeates our thoughts.
The rising MIGHT be from something besides sleep, though, right? Sleep seems so dull and uncreative, and our Lord is anything but dull. The state could be something completely different. I've always liked the image C. S. Lewis painted in "The Great Divorce." It's fictional work and a vehicle for evangelism, but he writes of a very mystical, wide expanse where there are conversations going on with the attempt to get people to turn from their way and move towards the distant, glorious mountain. It's a place you could rise from.
I'm not saying that's how it is. I'm just saying we don't know everything the Lord is up to and He is very, very creative.
"What Happens When We Die?"
I'm glad you raised the question, Craig,
because I've been thinking about that a lot lately, too
(maybe turning 66 next month has something to do with it!)
For me, I see it as a question at two levels,
and I start at the most basic level.
What DOES happen when we die?
Is our faith correct, that there is "something more"?
Or is this all there is?
And is the idea that there is "something more"
an idea that our mind created,
or that was placed in our minds,
to enable us to face the fear of dying?
In fact, we really don't know.
But I have also come increasingly to believe (most of the time!)
that it's OK not to know.
If there is "something more," that will be wonderful.
And if this is all there is,
there won't be any regret or disappointment,
because we'll never know it!
For some, not knowing might be reason for fear and despair.
But I believe the uncertainty should be reason
to fully embrace the life we have been given here and now.
"Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die"
is usually seen as fatalistic or hedonistic,
but in fact it can be seen as a call to embrace life and enjoy life to the full
(and, as life is a gift from God, living it responsibly
as an act of gratitude to the giver).
Having said that, though,
I still want to believe there is "something more,"
not so much for my sake,
but for the sake of others about whom I cae deeply.
When I look at all the pain and suffering my wife has endured,
and all the disappointments and unfulfilled dreams she's had,
I have to hope that there is something more,
both in this life and in the life to come.
And when I think of the millions of little children who die of hunger and disease,
for whom this life has been all too brief and empty,
I have to believe that the Creator has something more in store.
But at the second level,
and this is the essence of what you were asking,
if there is "something more,"
when and what will it be?
The discussion here has been inte4resting.
But again, it's a question without a definitive answer.
The Sadducees were the ultra conservatives of Jesus' day,
refusing to believe anything that wasn't in the Pentateuch.
And because there is no mention of a resurrection from the dead there,
they refused to believe in it, and challenged Jesus about it.
Later in the Old Testament,
the idea of resurrection arose (no pun intended).
Because they had no concept of a disembodied soul (a later Greek concept),
the dead were believed to be in Sheol, the "abode of the dead,"
I agree that the general concept in Scripture is of sleep,
though there is also a sense of consciousness, too.
How else could Jesus be pictured as preaching to the dead
after the Crucifixion?
Jesus was a Jew,
and as a Jew he seems to have held to the Jewish idea
of bodily resurrection at some later time.
This is the idea we see in the earliest letters of Paul,
especially in Thessalonians.
But the idea of the immortality of the soul,
and hence an immediate experience of life after death
is clearly evident in Paul's later writings.
As a Jew, he didn't believe in a disembodied soul, either,
but he suggests that our bodies may be a different kind of body.
And as others have already suggested,
there are places in Paul's writings where the idea of
"being with the Lord" immediately after death seems to be his belief.
And, yes, there are places in the Gospels
where Jesus seems to suggest immortality of the soul,
over against a future resurrection.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus has already been mentioned.
But there is also the picture of Jesus on the cross saying to the thief,
"Today you will be with me in paradise."
No "waiting period" here!
And what do we make of the resurrection of Jesus himself?
This was something the disciples witnessed after only a three-day waiting period!
The nature of that resurrection, of course, is unclear;
at times he doesn't seem to have a physical body as we do,
appearing at will behind locked doors.
But at other times he makes it clear that he is not a ghost
(the subject of "ghosts" is a whole other subject!)
by eating fish and preparing breakfast on the seashore.
The bottom line is,
it's interesting to ask the question,
"What happens when we die?"
But in the end it's a mystery
and we'll have to wait to the end to know the answer.
let us all embrace this life God has given us here and now,
and live it to the fullest in faithfulness to the Author of life!
I wanted to comment on another part of your post,
as it may be related to some of my wrestling with this issue as well.
"If it is "soul sleep" then time has no context in our unconsciousness. So the net effect is the same as if we had immediately been taken to Heaven anyway. But an unconscious soul is fairly complex idea too with it's own pitfalls and questions."
When we are awake,
we are conscious of the external world.
But when we sleep, we are largely unaware of the world around us,
and our consciousness is occupied with dreams,
which appear to the mind to be real but aren't.
In either case, though,
and in "near death" experiences as well,
the brain is still alive and functioning at some level.
But what happens when the brain is dead and ceases to function?
Do we enter into some sort of suspended animation
where there is no thought or consciousness at all,
at least until some sort of resurrection?
Or is there some unknown part of us that is still conscious after death,
and of what would that something be conscious?
This side of the grave, none of us can know for sure,
but it makes for interesting speculation!
Craig from Illinois
You're on to something, Lanny. The mind and the soul are interconnected by separate. Our mind perceives consciousness in - well - reality. How does our soul perceive? Or does it perceive?
When the soul leaves the body (including the mind) how does the soul perceive that event? It probably doesn't in the way our mind would think it would. Talk about tricks of the mind!
Wow, some very good questions and thoughts here. It is an intriguing question. One book, that I have yet to read is Randy Alcorn's "Heaven". He has done extensive research through the word on the topic, and even incorporates it into his fiction Novels which I have read.
There are some interesting bits that I've read before and that have stuck in my head such as this one:
Rev 6:9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.
Rev 6:10 They cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"
Rev 6:11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
So these are the martyrs, those who had been killed for being a witness to the Word of God. And they're able to cry out "How long O Lord!" So they have some sense of waiting, of a desire to see things set right. A desire to see the Lord fulfil the "vengeance is mine" part of his promise.
And then there is this one:
Heb 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
Heb 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Now it doesn't specify who this cloud of witnesses are - but I've heard it preached and taught that this could be those in heaven, the saints in Heaven cheering us on for the race. It's an interesting picture.
I'm sure there's much more, but that's what's coming to my mind now.
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