On Death (Part 3)

VIII. What happens when someone dies? Is that the end of existence or does something continue on? Do souls migrate after death or reincarnate? Do souls hibernate or “sleep” in an unconscious state when one dies? Is there a kind of “half-way house” after death for saints (e.g., purgatory)? A. LUK 16:19-31 provides insight which counters soul sleep, soul mortality, soul migration, soul detention, soul annihilation, reincarnation and purgatory. 1. Some (like Jehovah's Witnesses) affirm that this account is only a parable. a. The text does not say that it is a parable. b. The text does not use the common language of a parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto...,” etc. c. Christ is not here using earthly things to speak of spiritual and eternal realities, as in parables. He is speaking of those great things themselves. d. Proper names are used, unlike the indeterminate, “A certain man...” (MAR 12:1) which is common to Christ's parables. e. Christ's parables used sensible, concrete things as analogies of spiritual things. (1) Jesus never spoke parables such as, “A 4100-year-old man neglected his centaur...” or “An elf and a leprechaun were on a boat...” (2) If conscious existence in hell is abstract nonsense, then it cannot be a parable of spiritual truth. f. If conscious existence after death is heresy, then should we suppose that Jesus was using a heretical lie to teach a spiritual truth? g. Ezekiel (among many harsh warnings) prophesied about conscious torment in hell (EZE 31:14-16; 32:21, 30-32). The rebellious unbelievers of his day wrote off his warnings as parables. EZE 20:49. 2. v. 22. The souls of the righteous upon death are promptly carried into glory, where they have conscious existence. c/w LUK 23:43; PHIL 1:23; REV 6:9-10; HEB 12:23. a. To the Jew, being close to Abraham was the sum of all good. b. “Abraham's bosom” implies reclining with him at the heavenly feast. MAT 8:11 c/w JOH 13:23. 3. v. 23. The souls of the wicked upon death are contrarily cast into the torment of hell where they suffer consciously without ceasing. Their only comfort comes from the fact that they are not alone. c/w JUDE 1:7; EZE 32:30-31; REV 14:11. 4. v. 26. There is no soul migration or reincarnation. Souls are consigned to one of two places of continual residence where they must stay until the Second Coming and Judgment Day. REV 20:11-14. a. Some have speculated from texts like MAT 11:13-14 that John the Baptist was a reincarnation of Elijah. (1) Elijah never physically died. 2KI 2:11. (2) He furthermore was seen as himself on the Mount of Transfiguration. MAT 17:1-3. b. Moses, who had died (JUDE 1:9), was still seen on that Mount as Moses, On Death 8-29-15 Page 6 obviously in a state of conscious existence. c. Elijah and Moses on the Mount with Christ are typical of the children of the resurrection (LUK 20:36). All the elect, both dead and living, shall be caught up to meet Christ in the air. 1TH 4:16-17. d. Spirits of devils may leave hell to come to earth (MAT 8:16; REV 16:14) but not the souls of men. e. The one occasion where a departed spirit returned momentarily to this world was a notable exception. 1SAM 28:11-20. 5. Catholicism believes in Purgatory, which is “...a place between heaven and hell where sinners, through punishments, pay off the balance of the price for their sin before entering into Heaven. It is held that souls in purgatory can obtain earlier entrance into Heaven if they, while living, were devoted to Mary through the Rosary and the Brown Scapular, or through the Sacrifice of the Mass, or both.” (Timothy F. Kaufman, Graven Bread, pp. 192-193) a. “So we presume all Catholics who die to be in Purgatory, although it may often seem more probable for a particular soul that it is in heaven or hell.” (Plain Facts, p. 125, a Catholic publ.) b. “We would appeal to these general principles of Scripture rather than to particular texts often alleged in proof of Purgatory. We doubt if they contain an explicit and direct reference to it.” (Catholic Dictionary, p. 704) c. Combining Purgatory with another error called the Treasury of Merit (which supposes that there is excess righteousness in Christ and the Saints that can be purchased by survivors of “purgatoried” Catholics to expedite their release to heaven), the Roman church has found a lucrative way of exploiting grief. But see PSA 49:7-8; 1PE 1:18-19; MAT 23:14. d. The notion of a third destination after death (other than heaven or hell), the migration or transfer of departed souls, and the manipulation of the departed soul's circumstance by the living do not square with LUK 16:19-31. e. Bless God for the liberating truth that eternal life is entirely a gift of God's grace according to His own will! 2TI 1:9-10; EPH 1:4-7. B. LUK 16:19-31 does show that there is conscious recognition between the inhabitants of heaven and hell. 1. Jesus had previously affirmed that the wicked's misery would be exacerbated by seeing the righteous dead in peace. LUK 13:28. 2. That the rich man in hell saw Abraham “...afar off...” (LUK 16:23) may have implications for the hireling prophet, Balaam. NUM 24:17. C. LUK 16:19-31 indicates that souls in hell or heaven have some knowledge of things on earth. 1. As to whether or not the departed saints have full cognizance of things on earth, we have limited information. 2. Heaven is a foreign country, beyond the veil. We now only “...see through a glass darkly...” (1CO 13:12) into that land. Here are some considerations: a. From REV 6:9-10, the souls of the martyrs are not totally ignorant of this earth. b. LUK 16:25 shows that Abraham had some knowledge of the affairs of earth, though God may have informed Abraham directly concerning the backgrounds of the two men (but this latter is not stated). c. ISA 63:15-16 appears to teach that Abraham was ignorant of the affairs of On Death 8-29-15 Page 7 his earthly brethren but the context implies that they were acknowledging the power of the living God to save as opposed to the powerless dead patriarchs. 3. According to ISA 65:17, the things of this earth are not to be remembered in the new heavens and earth, but this may not be absolute. a. Similar terminology is used to describe the superiority of the N.T. church age over the O.T. in JER 3:14-19. b. Obviously, N.T. apostles and believers have not forgotten everything about the ark of the covenant, etc. 4. Conclusion: departed saints may have some cognizance of the affairs of earth, but just how or how much is sketchy. a. Beyond what it is written, it is unwise to speculate, lest we be found “...wise in your own conceits” (ROM 12:16)” or “...intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” (COL 2:18). b. It suffices us to know that we serve a God before Whose eyes all things are naked and open. HEB 4:13. D. LUK 16:19-31 does not support the belief that prior to the resurrection of Christ nobody went to heaven when they died, that the souls of the righteous were “imprisoned” (soul detention) in a netherworld world called paradise or Abraham's bosom. 1. It is said that during His entombment, Jesus went down to this netherworld which is the same plane as hell and preached to the spirits of the righteous, facilitating their release. This is based largely on a faulty interpretation of 1PE 3:18-19. 2. The paradise which Jesus promised the thief (LUK 23:43) was not some netherworld of temporary detainment. Other scripture proves that paradise is in the very presence of God in heaven. 2CO 12:2-4; REV 2:7 c/w REV 22:1-2. 3. The spirit of the saint in the O.T. upon physical death returned upward to God. ECC 3:21; 12:7. 4. Elijah (a sinner who did not die), went to heaven. 2KI 2:11. 5. Moses (a sinner who died) was seen in glory on the Mount of Transfiguration prior to Christ's resurrection (LUK 9:30-31). Glory is where Christ was later received (1TI 3:16), and it is the final destination of all the saved. 1PE 5:10; ROM 8:30. 6. The context of 1PE 3:18-19 helps discern the time-frame and circumstances of the preaching unto imprisoned spirits. See 1PE 3:20. 7. 1PE 3:18-20 is describing spirits who are NOW in prison that WERE disobedient in the days of Noah. God preached unto them while they were living men by His spirit, the Spirit of Christ. 2PE 1:21; 1PE 1:10-12; 2PE 2:5. 8. At the time of Peter's writing in the first century A.D., the spirits of the wicked rebels of Noah's day were still in prison in hell, reserved unto judgment, just like the fallen angels and the wicked Sodomites. 2PE 2:4-6; JUDE 1:6-7; 2PE 2:9. 9. 1PE 3:18-20 is simply teaching that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by the Spirit of God (ROM 8:11), the same Spirit which delivered His words in the days of Noah.
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