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'Soul Sleep' versus our true Heavenly State

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Question #1: 

Hi Bob!

Below is an excerpt from your last email to me:

At the resurrection, we will know for certain that every bit of difficulty that came our way had a very specific purpose, if not to discipline us, then to train us.

You're a "sleep of the dead" ( not in heaven/hell) believer?

Response #1: 

Not at all! In fact, I have spilled no little ink refuting that false doctrine. Here are some links:

The False Doctrine of "Soul Sleep" I.

Sleep as a Euphemism for Death (debunking 'soul sleep').

The False Doctrine of "Soul Sleep" II.

I suppose you are wondering about "at the resurrection we will know for certain"? This is not meant to imply (nor does it necessitate) that we won't know anything before that. After all, we ought to know good and well right now that following Jesus is well worth it, whatever the cost (Rom.8:18; 2Cor.4:17-18) And you are certainly correct in the implication of your question that we will be blissfully happy as soon as we go to be with the Lord. But we only experience our eternal life in full at the resurrection (cf. 1Jn.3:2-3), and we are only rewarded after the resurrection (see the link: "the Judgment and Reward of the Church"). Importantly also, for some of us who are currently on earth, our first reunion with the Lord will actually be at the resurrection (i.e., for those who live through the Tribulation). Finally, even though it is true that the vast majority of Church Age believers will be with the Lord before that glorious day arrives, scripture frequently focuses our attention on the Second Advent and our concomitant resurrection (e.g., 1Cor.15:23; 1Thes.2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; Jas.5:7; 2Pet.3:12; 1Jn.2:28). Therefore it is good biblical precedent for me to do the same, especially since we see the time growing so close.

Sorry for any confusion!

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

You wrote: "neither the human spirit nor the human body is meant to exist without the other". I always thought that after our time here on earth finishes, it is only the spirit that lives, in heaven or hell, in eternity. If that is not the case, could you briefly explain what happens?

Response #2: 

Many people think this, but in my investigations of the question it has become clear to me that immediately after death the spirit is clothed with what, for want of a better term, I call an "interim body" which serves to house the spirit until the day of resurrection. In Jesus' relating of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk.16), for example, the rich man, Lazarus, and Abraham all have shape and are recognizable for who they are; the rich man requests water to cool his tongue. Lazarus is reclining. Samuel is also recognizable after death (1Sam.28:12). In other words, even before Old Testament believers were transferred to the third heaven at the ascension, there was no "soul sleep", and on the other hand these individuals behave in ways that are only consistent with having some sort of "body". It is clearly different from what we have now, and it is clearly different from what we will have at the resurrection, but by any other name it is a "body". Since we know that even unbelievers at the resurrection "unto death" will have a body, it seems clear to me that body and spirit were designed one for the other and will always exist in tandem – from the point when God creates the spirit for each of us at birth (see the link: "Life Begins at Birth"). At the resurrection, it is the original body which is transformed (even if it has completely dissolved). There are a number of other scriptures to consider on this point (please see the link: "Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State"), but here is how I translate a key verse in 2nd Corinthians which is universally mistranslated because of a failure to understand or accept this doctrine:

For we know that if our earthly tent-dwelling (i.e., our physical body) be struck, we have an abode [that comes] from God, a dwelling made without human agency, eternal in the heavens (i.e., the resurrection body). For indeed we do groan in this one, desiring to put on our habitation which comes from heaven. And if we do put off this present one, at any rate, we (i.e., our spirits) will not be found naked (i.e., "body-less"; for we will enjoy an interim body in the meantime: cf. Lk.16:19-31; Rev.6:9-10; Rev.7:9-17).
2nd Corinthians 5:1-3

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I have a question regarding the rapture occurring at Jesus' second coming. The bible says that those who are alive will not supersede the dead in Christ. Are the bodies of the dead caught up to be reunited with their souls that are with God? Some people may misinterpret this to mean that the souls of those who died in Christ are caught up implying that their souls were not with God in heaven but are at that time (at the rapture) caught up. I know that the soul sleep doctrine has taught using this passage, which I believe is not biblical. Would it be correct to say that the bodies of the dead in Christ are caught up to be reunited with their souls to be glorified, while those alive in Christ are caught up and glorified? Thanks!

God Bless,

Response #3: 

Yes, I essentially agree with your understanding of these matters. First, you are correct that "soul sleep" is a major heresy. Please see the links:

The False Doctrine of "Soul Sleep" I.

Sleep as a Euphemism for Death (debunking 'soul sleep').

The False Doctrine of "Soul Sleep" II.

There is a problem with using the word "soul" in this sense, however. I understand that this is traditionally how the word "soul" is used in contemporary English, i.e., as the immaterial part of our dichotomous make-up. The problem is that English translations of the Bible (correctly) use "spirit" for that immaterial part which complements the material body, not soul, but they do also often use "soul" for the Greek word psyche and for the Hebrew word nephesh, and these synonyms refer to something entirely different from the spirit in fact, namely, the whole "person", and often the whole "inner person" (i.e., the "heart" where body and soul interface). So unless we are all on the same page and understand when we say "soul" that we really mean a person's immaterial part, that is, his/her "spirit", but that on the other hand when we read "soul" in an English Bible we know it is talking about the whole living person or that person's inner-life or "heart" and not the immaterial "us", well, it is going to be a bit confusing. This is taken up at the link in BB 3A under "The Creation of Adam", and is very important, not least because of the questions you are asking here. Human beings are created by God. Granted, for all of us following Adam and Eve the body results from procreation, but the spirit, our immaterial part, is created and implanted by God at the point of birth (see the link: "When does life begin?"), and it is that divine act which creates us as "us" and gives us a spiritual as opposed to a mere biological existence. Not only that, but human beings are from the point of their creation until eternity and forever dichotomous. That is to say, there is no such thing in God's creation as a "disembodied human spirit". We have a mortal body as the house for our spirit now, and at the resurrection we shall have an eternal, "resurrection" body to enjoy forever. In-between, everyone who deceases has what I term an "interim body" – not mortal like the present one, but also not permanent like the resurrection one – and this is true of unbelievers as well as believers.

(1) For we know that if our earthly tent-dwelling (i.e., our physical body) be struck, we have an abode [that comes] from God, a dwelling made without human agency, eternal in the heavens (i.e., the resurrection body). (2) For indeed we do groan in this one, desiring to put on our habitation which comes from heaven. (3) And [even] if we do put off this present one, at any rate, we (i.e., our spirits) will not be found naked (i.e., "body-less"; for we will enjoy an interim body in the meantime: cf. Lk.16:19-31; Rev.6:9-10; Rev.7:9-17).
2nd Corinthians 5:1-3

The verses above are translated directly from the Greek and that accounts for the disparity in verse 3 between what you see here "and [even] if we do put off this present [body] . . . " and what, e.g., one finds in even the NIV: "because when we are clothed". This is not even a textual issue, by the way, but a blatant and deliberate and near universal mistranslation because the versions assume that "someone made a mistake" so they have "corrected" what the Bible actually says here (at least ESV and NLT ! have footnotes which contain the truth). The point Paul makes in verse three is that even if we die, we will still not be disembodied, even though the resurrection may not occur for some time. One wonders why this is so hard for some people to understand. After all, how can we "be with the Lord" after death as we are told we shall be if we are not persons because we lack a body of any sort? The (wrong) answer to this question has historically been found either in "soul sleep" (which for all its problems at least acknowledges that to be a person one must have both a body and a spirit [wrongly called "soul"]), or in going back to pagan ideas about the afterlife and assuming that we will be "shades" or disembodied spirits – which is not how the Lord created us, not what we will be in the end, and not at all something that is biblical or even possible, even in the interim.

We can see what our interim state looks like most clearly in Luke in 16 our Lord's relating of the incident between Lazarus, Abraham and the rich man who is in torments: all of them look, talk, sound, and act as if, though dead, they do have bodies of some sort – which of course they do (cf. 1Sam.28:12). I.e., how can a person be thirsty or feel torment without a body? How can a person look like who they were in this life without a body? How can a person "recline" if just a specter?

The above was, I believe, necessary to say in order to answer your basic question. Yes, the resurrection of the entire Church occurs at Christ's return to earth at the Second Advent, and not before: i.e., not pre-Trib or mid-Trib or anything else, but at His parousia which in the Greek consistently refers to the Second Advent and cannot ever refer to the point of time just preceding the Tribulation (see the link: "No [pre-Trib] Rapture"). At that time, immediately preceding the battle of Armageddon, those who have died are resurrected first, followed directly thereafter by the living transformation of believers who have survived the Tribulation and are still alive to see our Lord's return (see the link: "The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride"). Therefore those who are resurrected first, the formerly deceased believers, must be united with their new, permanent resurrection bodies at this time. Through the example of our Lord's resurrection, we know the essential mechanics: just as He was, for three days in an interim body in paradise below the earth, in His human spirit, reunited on Easter Sunday morning with His physical body as it was transformed into the permanent resurrection body, so those who have died in the Lord will likewise be reunited to their bodies as these transform into the "homes" we shall enjoy for all eternity. And it matters not that someone's mortal remains have turned to dust: God knows the location and history of every sub-atomic particle in the universe. The place of resurrection creation of the new body for each and everyone will be the place they were laid to rest (or fell in battle or accident or had their ashes scattered, etc.), regardless of the state of their remains. And just as our Lord's spirit in His interim body was brought to the place of resurrection by the Holy Spirit (1Pet.3:18-19), so we may be sure that such will be the case for us as well, the main differences being the time (we are still waiting in anticipation of that blessed event), the places of resurrection (wherever we were interred on earth), and the place of origin: departed believers since the ascension are all in the third heaven in our Lord's presence, and it is from there that they will be conveyed back to earth for their spirits to pass seamlessly from the interim to the resurrection body as their mortal remains are regathered and transformed into glory.

Please feel free to write back about any of the above (and see also the link: "Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State").

In joyous anticipation of the resurrection, confident that even if we die before our Lord's return, we will never find ourselves either asleep or unclothed.

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Let's start with....Good Tuesday Afternoon, Marine......

Dr Luginbill,

I stumbled across your web site last night googling "...dust you are and to dust you will return."

The question(s) are...

1. Where does the individual's spirit come from (skip the simplistic answer)?

2. Does each person get a unique spirit? (Keeping in mind infant death's and the such)

3. Where does it go after physical death? (Keeping in mind infant death's and the such)

4. Biblical verse support for your comments...

...and it gets more complicated from there.

You can choose to answer the above or not, answer them yourself or assign them to someone to answer. The later will be a disappointment.

S/F,

Captain, USMCR 1969-1972

Response #4: 

Good to make your acquaintance – and thank you for your service (from your dates of service, I'm guessing that you had a much rougher road than I did).

As to your questions, since you ask specifically about the human spirit, I will skip over the necessarily lengthy explanation of the distinction between spirit and "soul" (some people consider them synonymous terms, but that is incorrect, biblically speaking; see the link: in BB 3A: "The Dichotomy of Man").

Secularists would consider the "human spirit" entirely material, no matter how defined, whether as a vague set of evolutionary impulses or the mind or the super-ego or what have you. In traditional Christian theology, by way of contrast, there are two essential positions: Traducianism and Creationism. It goes without saying that all Christians believe in an immaterial part of each human being which originates with God. Traducianists believe, bizarrely in my view, that this immaterial part is somehow passed down through the process of natural procreation; on the other hand, creationists (of whom I am one) believe that the immaterial part is created directly by God.

There are several different variations of creationism (when the word is used in this sense). Some hold that God created all spirits/souls (or at least the substance of what they are constructed) in eternity past, and parcels it out later; others believe that God creates spirits/souls immediately when He creates each person in question (I hold to that view). Of the latter group, the "when" depends upon when life is felt to begin. The position I find to be consistent with scripture is that God creates spirits at birth in the case of each individual to whom He grants life and existence. That spirit is unique in each case. Still births and infant deaths do not change or affect God's process in any way. The critical thing about those who are taken home to be with the Lord immediately is that, as in the case with all who never have a genuine opportunity to exercise their free-will faith to receive Jesus Christ, salvation is automatic.

Please keep in mind that this is a highly simplified synopsis of a topic that is developed in much greater detail in several major studies posted at Ichthys, as well as one about which I have fielded many questions over the years on just about every possible aspect. I will have a few more things to say about all this below, but those later comments as well as the above will make more sense (even if you do not find them convincing), if you first have a look at some of these links:

*Bible Basics 3A: Anthropology: The Purpose, Creation, and Fall of Man

Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State

Life Begins at Birth

The first thing to point out is that, if secularists and traducianists are correct, then the material is lord of the spiritual; whereas most Christians would hold with our Lord that "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing" (Jn.6:63 NASB). On the other hand, scripture specifically says that we believers are "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (Jn.1:13).

Adam gives the pattern of how it is that the Lord creates a new person: the flesh is formed first, then God breathes into the flesh the "breath of life" (i.e., the human spirit), and it is this inputting of the human spirit which results in the individual in question becoming a "living being" (Gen.2:7).

It is God who "gives life and breath (lit. a spirit) to everyone" (Acts 17:25), therefore life does not result from human procreation alone; that is merely the intermediate means of forming our bodies since the creation of Adam and Eve; that is true even though it may not be obvious or perceptible to material measurement: the world, for example, gives the appearance of arising from a process other than what is actually the case (Heb.11:3).

In each and every case, this is indeed an individual act of creation. God knows all the stars and calls them by name (Ps.147:4); He will also give new individual names to us all in eternity (e.g., Rev.2:17). And, after all, we are all individually responsible for responding to Jesus in faith with our personal free-will faith so as to be saved (Acts 16:31). The entire creation of mankind is all about choice (please see the link: BB 4B "Soteriology"), and, specifically, our responsiveness (in the case of believers) is used to demonstrate God's justice in condemning rebellious angels – who are being replaced by us, one for one (see the link: The Satanic Rebellion series).

[King David:] "But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me."
2nd Samuel 12:23 NIV

David makes these remarks about his infant son who had just died. The only way that David can "go to him" is if David goes to the same place after death to which the infant has just now gone in death. That certainly means, for all who believe in Jesus' literal words "that where I am, [there] ye may be also" (Jn.14:3 KJV), that David and the child are in the presence of the Lord in heaven – along with all other believers and along with all who, like David's infant child, did not get an opportunity to respond in faith in life for one reason or another (failing to reach maturity, mentally or chronologically). There are those who believe in the false doctrine of "soul sleep", but as that is an entirely different "kettle of fish" which does not seem to be at issue here, I will leave that for now (many responses on that topic too are available at the web site; see the link).

I hope you will find this a satisfactory beginning to answering your questions. I take from your comment "it gets more complicated from there" that you already have some detailed opinions of your own on these matters, so I hope you will understand that as these are not entirely obvious from your set of questions I have answered them straight-forwardly and without undue or argumentation or excessive detail. I am certainly happy to continue the conversation if you wish.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #5: 

I'm guessing that you had a much rougher road than I did.

Relative. As a Motor Transport Officer, I was consistently assigned to infantry battalions in RVN. Life was not difficult in terms of being an 0302, with people who are not your friends trying to kill you... daily. The only people who made such an effort in my direction was us...yes, (ineffective) friendly fire, a couple of times. Enough to generate "sea stories" and excitement.

the distinction between spirit and "soul" some people consider them synonymous terms, but that is incorrect, biblically speaking

A shadowy distinction, but since we are created SIMILAR to God (Gen 1:26) then the soul has a separate part, as spirit and body do.

set of evolutionary impulses or the mind or the super-ego

...electrical discharges...

creationists (of whom I am one) believe that the immaterial part is created directly by God.

Borderline secular rationalization. The first step in denying God's hand in ALL creation.

The critical thing about those who are taken home to be with the Lord immediately is that, as in the case with all who never have a genuine opportunity to exercise their free-will faith to receive Jesus Christ, salvation is automatic.

No Biblical support...wishful thinking

if secularists and traducianists are correct, then the material is lord of the spiritual;

(we can skip this nonsense.)

On the other hand, scripture specifically says that we believers are "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (Jn.1:13).

The sound you just heard was the evolutionist leaving the room...bye, bye.

Adam gives the pattern of how it is that the Lord creates a new person: the flesh is formed first, then God breathes into the flesh the "breath of life" (i.e., the human spirit), and it is this inputting of the human spirit which results in the individual in question becoming a "living being" (Gen.2:7).

Now we are at the fine tune level. The egg is fertilized (flesh is formed) and IMMEDIATELY...God breathes "life" (existence an the ability to live into the first cell division.) Where is the spirit of the "man" at this point? There, but "dead"?

It is God who "gives life and breath (lit. a spirit) to everyone" (Acts 17:25),

Oh. Oh.

the world, for example, gives the appearance of arising from a process other than what is actually the case (Heb.11:3).

Okay...

He will also give new individual names to us all in eternity (e.g., Rev.2:17).

Why? What's wrong with "Robert D. Luginbill" as your eternal name?

And, after all, we are all individually responsible for responding to Jesus in faith with our personal free-will faith so as to be saved (Acts 16:31).

COMMENT: It appear to me that as your faith increases, your "free-will" decreases.

along with all other believers and along with all who, like David's infant child, did not get an opportunity to respond in faith in life for one reason or another (failing to reach maturity, mentally or chronologically).

You're mixing things here. Jesus was referring to those who accepted him. You're dropping david & son into a "pot" that did not exist at their time. You'll have to make a better argument on this one. I think we are still short on the origination of the spirit of the individual "man". When it is created; when it is born; what happens if it is not "born again". Keeping in mind that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore there are three components of all "men"...body, soul and spirit...spirit being the eternal component. Mix in here the ultimate, merciful God. That being the case (maybe), why would the ultimate, merciful God dispose of a spirit he created with out opportunity to correct the error of his sinful ways. "No one comes to the Father except through me." That would include David & son. No exceptions. I'll look at the above citations from your site shortly.

Response #5: 

Good to hear back from you. I will do my best to answer your objections.

1) On the "soul". The distinction is biblical and critical (merely very much understood not only by casual Bible readers but also by many "scholars"). The spirit is described in scripture as our immaterial self. The soul is the interface between body and spirit (aka our "mind"). There is much to say about this but not much profit in it unless you first have a look at the following link: "The Dichotomy of Man".

2) Believing in the biblical position that the spirit is created directly by God at birth may not be your "cup of tea", but the characterization of it as "secular rationalization" seems an unlikely criticism unless I have misunderstood your comment.

3) There is plenty of biblical proof for the proposition that those who die before maturity are automatically saved (please see the link: Infant Salvation).

4) Conception vs. Birth: Plants are alive, but they do not have spirits. Human beings do not have an independent existence, speaking from the divine point of view, until they are born and the Lord breaths the "spirit of life" into them. No birth, no spirit; no breath, no spirit (the word for spirit and breath are the same both in Hebrew and in Greek). The fetus is living, but it is not independently alive.

5) Names: scripture says what scripture says. I like my name just fine. But the Lord will give us names which perfectly reflect our performance here in the world (after the pattern of renaming found in the Bible; cf. Abraham and Peter).

6) Faith vs. Free-will: Free-will and faith are really the same thing: human choice, from the divine point of view, revolves around using one's faith in the proper way or failing or refusing to do so (see the link: BB 4B: "Soteriology"). The greater one's faith (if by this we mean spiritual growth and closeness to God), the better a believer is responding to God's plan for his/her life – sort of like getting more rounds in black (as opposed to missing the paper altogether).

7) Mixing things: Jesus' words to the disciples apply to us, even though we were not there; they also apply to all members of His assembly, His Church, and that assembly-Church consists of every believer from Adam and Eve to the last person saved before His return.

I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
John 10:16 NIV

There is only one phase of the resurrection yet to come before our Lord's return, and Jesus assures us that "Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" will be sitting at the victory banquet along with us (Matt.8:11). Salvation has always been and will always be essentially the same: accepting God's sacrifice for our sins (with pre-NT believers looking forward to the cross only dimly perceived and with post-NT looking back to a Jesus Christ clearly revealed). But since those who die young never have the opportunity to make the choice of choices, they are relieved of the responsibility of doing so (see previous link). As you correctly say later on, " 'No one comes to the Father except through me.' That would include David & son. No exceptions". Since David and his son are most assuredly in heaven today and will rule with us and with the Lord for all eternity, that fact would seem to prove the point.

8) Summation: It is clear from your final comments that there are many things to be discussed. As with some of the issues above, this discussion will be much more profitable with a better idea of where I am "coming from" on these critical issues. For example, the "image and likeness" is usually misunderstood but its correct understanding is essential for all of these matters. Most of what you ask about (including "image and likeness") is contained in the study at the link: BB 3A: Biblical Anthropology. If a person looks into these subjects with due diligence in the original languages, it quickly becomes apparent that the trichotomy position is incorrect (please see the links: "Is the soul a tertium quid?", and "The Creation of Adam and the Human Spirit"), and a hindrance to getting to the truth of many of these things.

9) Finally, your statement, "why would the ultimate, merciful God dispose of a spirit he created with out opportunity to correct the error of his sinful ways?" puzzles me greatly. Nothing I have ever said or taught even comes close to suggesting anything of the sort. The entire plan of God for creature history is designed to save, not to judge. No one endowed with a human spirit is ever condemned without personally choosing that condemnation (please see the link: BB 4B: Soteriology).

I am happy to continue the conversation and only too willing to clear up any misunderstandings about any of the above.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I often hear Pastor's preaching on how we will immediately be in the presence of God when we die physically. I had this discussion with a Pastor a while back and he said how they're (the other Pastors) all wrong and how he heard every argument too.

I cited the thief on the cross and Paul's (absent from the body, present with the Lord). He said that the comma should be placed before the word "today" in "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise". He also said that Paul actually meant that it is better to be absent from his body of death and in the presence of the Lord in a glorified body.

Are any of his interpretations correct, or are they taken out of context? Thanks!

God Bless,

Response #6: 

Good to hear from you. The false doctrine of "soul sleep" is another very popular heresy out there these days. I'm not sure why, except to say that the evil one has his priorities. Pushing "soul sleep" is, like all "hobby-horse" heresies (by which I mean a favorite topic which anyone can "load up" on so as to seem and feel "smart" because most people don't have the time to go into such depth on one small area of so-called "truth"), yet another way to sow discontent and confusion in the Church. Laodicea is an easy target too, because so few of our brothers and sisters today know much of anything (or care to know much of anything) about the Bible and about its true doctrines. The damage done by this heresy is in its capacity to demoralize Christians who take it seriously. I don't know about you, but the prospect of being delivered from the grave and from death was instrumental in my coming to Jesus as a young lad. But the alternative fate of moldering dead in the grave is some sort of undefined limbo is, well, not very encouraging. Indeed, if that was what we were looking forward to, "hope" would seem to be completely out of place. I think if this false doctrine were believed, most who adopted it would end up being pretty poor Christians because they would not be motivated positively by what is to come. I cannot think of any false teaching more spiritually disappointing than "soul sleep". If it were biblical, we would have to accept it. Praise God that it is very clearly a satanic lie with no biblical basis whatsoever!

I want to commend you once again for your spiritual common sense and for your good knowledge of the scriptures. The two objections you offered to this false teaching are both excellent points for which "soul-sleepers" have no reasonable answer – as the report you give of this person's responses makes clear:

1) Luke 23:43: "And Jesus said unto him, 'Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.' " KJV

What would be the point of Jesus saying, "Verily I say unto thee, Today"? There is no persuasive linguistic rationale for placing the adverb with this introductory phrase (it serves no purpose there) but there is every reason to take it with what follows (it is part of our Lord's whole point and placed first for emphasis). This silly solution offered by "soul-sleepers" merely demonstrates the lengths people will go to – even deliberately falsifying the very clear meaning of scripture – in order to support their own false ideas. Simply put, no one who knows Greek – and few who know English – would fail to be troubled by the contention that "today" could be moved to the first part of the sentence: it doesn't pass the linguistic "sniff test". This passage is clearly promising an immediate and conscious afterlife (in Paradise beneath the earth; cf. Lk.16) following physical death. After the ascension of our Lord, of course, we go to be with Him in heaven (see the link: "Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State"):

In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
John 14:2-3 NIV

These words are very comforting, and we know very well what they mean – our immediate transfer to heaven to be where our Lord is the instant we die. Trying to convince Christians that in spite of our Lord's promises and our Christian hope that after death there will be nothing but mortifying flesh and oblivion is exceptional cruel – and biblically wrong.

2) Philippians 1:21-23 NIV: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far."

In this passage Paul says "death is gain" in v.21. He then contrasts death with "continuing to live in this body" in v.22. As a conclusion in v.23 he says that dying ("departing") is therefore "better by far" – and why? Because departing means "being with Christ". Dying is better because it means being with Christ. That is what this passage says and it cannot be twisted to mean anything else. Just because this person "has heard all this before" is not an argument I find persuasive for abandoning the blessed truth for a horrible fairy-tale. I receive emails all the time from people (believers, sadly, as well as unbelievers) who have long since stopped up their ears, hardened their hearts, and now refuse to accept clear logic or indisputable facts. I understand biblically the doctrine of the hardness of the heart (see the link), but I find it incredibly galling when such individuals reject solid proof out of hand without even considering it and then say something like "I've heard all that before". Really? Then why didn't you listen to the truth? You'll have a good time explaining that to the Lord on the day He judges every secret thought and twisted word! To return to the point, in this passage Paul presents two alternatives and makes it very clear that they are opposites: living and dying. He calls dying "better by far" and gives a reason for that: it means "being with Christ". Paul says nothing about the glorified body (which admittedly will be wonderful), but he gladly anticipates dying because he anticipates being with Christ as a result . . . immediately (and not after some two thousand years of unconscious decay in the grave). And consider: Paul does hesitate to die, not because he fears death (which is "better by far" because of being with Christ), but because he will no longer be able to minister to the Philippians and others when he dies. But if there were no immediate transfer of our spirits into heaven to be with Jesus right after death, then Paul, upon dying, would be in the grave – not with Christ, and, significantly for our argument here, not helping the Philippians either! So, if soul-sleep were true, why would he want to be making this argument at all? Why would he not rather stay around as long as he could to minister, since he's only going to be a moldering corpse after death, not with Christ and not helping these believers or anyone else!

Such is the ridiculousness one has to accept to be persuaded by this false doctrine. One further problem it has is that it reduces human beings to entirely material things with no spiritual aspect. Where is the human spirit in this false doctrine? The human spirit (see the link) is a fundamental part of who we are, and understanding it and its importance is a major part of spiritual growth (just for example, it is impossible to grasp the fundamentals of Christian epistemology without it, or the nature of our inner man, or what really happened when Adam was created, or, or, or). Additionally, making human beings purely material renders Christianity no different from Marxism or other materialistic philosophies, degrades the importance we have in God's eyes, and makes a confusion of the Person and work of Christ. Once rot creeps into sound doctrine, it can spread like gangrene.

But you, dear brother, have grown solid in the scriptures and the truth they contain, and I thank God for you and for your solid footing in the Word of God!

Here are some links where the topic is discussed at greater length:

The False Doctrine of "Soul Sleep" I.

Sleep as a Euphemism for Death (debunking 'soul sleep').

The False Doctrine of "Soul Sleep" II.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus for whom we wait in hope, convinced that if we do not survive until His return He will take us to Himself as soon as depart this world.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

The Bible says none of the dead are in heaven. It says we sleep, know nothing. It says that when Christ comes the dead in Christ will come out of their graves and along with the living that are Christ's will meet him in the air. I don't understand why you say otherwise.

Response #7: 

Good to make your acquaintance. If you would like to know my thinking and teaching on this issue, please read the following links:

The False Doctrine of "Soul Sleep" I.

Sleep as a Euphemism for Death (debunking 'soul sleep').

The False Doctrine of "Soul Sleep" II.

Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State

To begin, consider John 8:56:

"Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." NIV

But Abraham couldn't have seen Christ's day, nor could he have rejoiced as Jesus says he did, if Abraham were dead in the sense of moldering in the grave until the resurrection.

As to your statement "the Bible says none of the dead are in heaven", that is certainly not the case. Indeed, we see "those who have come out of the Great Tribulation" in the presence of Christ in Revelation chapters six and seven; we see Lazarus and Abraham conversing in Luke chapter sixteen; we see our Lord refer to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as "alive" and "not dead" at Matt. 16:16; 22:32; Mk.12:27; and Lk.20:38. The earthly bodies of all these believers are dead, but they are alive. Therefore the "dead" refers to the first, earthly bodies of those who are now "dead", not to their spirits in interim state which are at present with Jesus in heaven.

Paul tells us he would rather die than live because by so doing he will "depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better" (Phil.1:23 KJV) – but he would be wrong . . . if the dead were dead in their spirits as well as in their first, physical bodies. There are many more reasons why the doctrine of soul-sleep is a false one. It is never taught in scripture, rather it is a theological construct (i.e., it is made up out of scraps). What has always interested me is why those who adhere to it seem to love it so much. It is not as if scripture required it (it is not in the Bible), and it certainly is one of the most depressing ideas I have ever personally heard – or it would be, if it were it true (praise God it is not!).

Our hope is to be with Jesus when we die; that is the Christian hope – not decaying in the grave. I entreat you to have a look at the links above and accept the truth of scripture on this issue. It can only help you spiritually, focusing you more intently on the glories to come.

In our dear Lord Jesus for whom and through whom we live.

Bob Luginbill

Question #8: 

Bob,

I’m still having problems with explaining ‘soul sleep’. I stand firm in my belief that I will go to be with Jesus when I die, but I am getting many different arguments, despite scripture to the contrary. Here is the gist of their beliefs. They say it doesn’t really matter because ‘time’ when we die and are sleeping is like when we lay down at night. One moment we are awake, lying in bed and the next we are awake and it is morning. Though there is a span of time, it won’t seem that way to us, therefore, we could be sleeping, yet we will never truly be aware of the time spent that way. When I mention those ‘in white robes’ in heaven, they claim these are all those whom Jesus took with Him from Abraham’s Bosom, but that everyone from that time on, until the second coming, will sleep and that those before Christ died, were asleep. They were awakened and taken with Him, those after also sleep, but will be taken at His return. I then wondered, if that was true, then that would mean that the second echelon of the ‘resurrection’ had taken place and that these people believe there is only the last echelon to happen: those alive at Christ’s second coming. Or does ‘dead in Christ’ mean both, those who died before and after Christ’s ascension? So, when Jesus ascended, He brought with Him those from Abraham’s Bosom, which contained all who had died from Adam until that point. This sounds like the second part of the echelon of the resurrection, Jesus being the first fruit, therefore there being only one resurrection left, those alive at Jesus’ second coming. But, in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18, it states that Jesus will descend with a ‘shout’ and the ‘dead in Christ shall rise first’, so, these are those who have died since Christ’s ascension, but which of the two, before His ascension or after His descension, were the ‘dead in Christ, second echelon of the resurrection? And are these whom rise and go into the Holy city resurrected in their glorified bodies and part of the second echelon in the Matthew 27:50-53 scripture? When I go to use other scriptures: Philippians 1:23, Acts 7:59, for example, they claim that this is an implied ‘future’ event and stating it is only a ‘hope’ or ‘wish’, knowing that ‘eventually’, they will be with the Lord, stating they understood the above explanation of a shortened appearance of time during ‘sleep’. Thanks, Bob, I hope I made sense out of that. I am just looking for further scriptures to show that we will not sleep. I just can’t understand why they would want to believe we sleep. And why Jesus wouldn’t have just explained it that way in the first place, that sleep is actually sleep, that we must wait some length of time. All they say to me is that He already did with the mention of ‘sleep’ umpteen times throughout the NT. They say to me, why wouldn’t Jesus just use another word and just explain it differently and to the point, stating that if sleep were a metaphor, He would have stated that fact, as He does in other places and then explains further. They also state that yes, Jesus will bring those that ‘sleep’ with Him, but that all the time before that they were sleeping, it is only when He goes to take them, that they are awakened. I’d also like to mention that these are not JWs or Latter Days, these are people to which I couldn’t fathom believing this, but to my dismay, they do. I asked, well, if those asleep are in limbo, neither here nor there, heaven or hell, is that not just like the Catholic purgatory? I await the answer to that one, because this particular person is quite disdained by Catholicism. I also wish to look into where scripture states that our spirits can sleep, when we know even angels, who are not material, don't sleep or eat. Anyway, I look forward to your thoughts.

Response #8: 

Very good to hear from you. I hope you and yours are doing well. As to your questions:

1. Time doesn't matter: If there were a soul sleep, then, once we were dead, it certainly "wouldn't matter" because we wouldn't know the difference – but that is no argument. If there were no God and only oblivion following death, then, once we were dead "it really wouldn't matter because we wouldn't know the difference". In fact, that perspective was used in antiquity as a way of comforting the living, believe it or not. The Epicureans in particular taught that doctrine. The idea of oblivion was meant to be comforting because it relieved those who accepted it of the terror of judgment following death.

The problem with this false doctrine is not what happens later, because, after all, when these people who teach it die, assuming they are actually Christians, they will immediately be with Jesus. And then it "really won't matter" that they had falsely believed in such a horrible thing, except that it had hampered them spiritually in life (and will no doubt cost them in the area of eternal reward). However, if they actively taught this false doctrine, well, that falls into the category of "causing little ones to stumble", and for such activities, whatever the true motivation that lies beneath the surface, there are consequences here in time as well.

The problem with this false doctrine, as I say, is how it affects believers now. People who hold to this lie may claim that it doesn't affect their own personal spirituality, but I cannot imagine anything more discouraging than telling someone that, "no, you won't be with Jesus when you die; you'll be in the grave". If we believe that any contact with the Lord and our subsequent resurrection is far out in the future and separated from our actual life and death by unknown eons of time, it has to have a dampening effect upon the commitment to live for Jesus day by day. Assuming that when we are dead we are, essentially, dead for all intents and purposes, militates against hope, and aggressively so. It may be that some people can believe this and still maintain a modicum of Christian faith, but this false belief will act as anchor which weighs them down. Instead of embracing the Bible and all manner of Christian truth, this belief tends to make people have as little to do with active Christianity as possible so as to put out of their minds the uncomfortable notion of being dead in the grave. This is clearly why Satan is so pleased to foster it.

2. Those in white robes: First of all, Matthew 27:50-53 is referring not to a permanent resurrection but to a temporary resuscitation (Paul was stoned to death and revived, yet later he died again physically; and very clearly the individuals like Lazarus brought back to life by our Lord and then later by His apostles most definitely did die physically thereafter; see the link: Transmutation, Resuscitation, and Resurrection). Secondly, there is no biblical basis for drawing some sort of sharp distinction between Adam and Eve and the last person saved before the Second Advent: all of us who put our faith in Jesus, either anticipating Him before the cross or accepting Him come in the flesh after the cross, are members of the Bride, the Body of Christ. For beyond all argument we who are believers today are members of the Bride, and it certainly cannot be that Abraham and all the great Old Testament believers will have no part in Jesus Christ. Thirdly, as you point out, Paul explicitly tells us the echelons of resurrection at 1st Corinthians 15:23-24: Jesus is the first, and the second, that is, the very first group of resurrected believers, are "those who are Christ's at His coming". The word "coming" is the Greek word parousia and in such contexts always refers to Jesus' 2nd Advent (see the link: in Peter #27, "the Greek word parousia"). Therefore, since the 2nd Advent has not yet occurred, there has been no resurrection of believers as yet. During Paul's own day, there were those who were troubling the believers with false doctrines of this sort. That is why Paul has to tell the Thessalonians in his second epistle to them "Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come" (2Thes.2:1-2). Note that Paul directly connects the parousia ("coming" or 2nd Advent) with our "being gathered together to Him" (i.e., the resurrection of the Church; cf. 1Thes.4:17). There has been and will be no resurrection of the Church until "the Day of the Lord" mentioned here; not, that is, until Jesus' Day: His return and millennial-day reign thereafter (see the link: in CT 1, "The Day of the Lord Paradigm"), and that is the day on which we, the Church in toto, shall receive our eternal bodies (see the link in CT 5: "The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride").

So the white robed individuals of Revelation are not individuals who have been resurrected, because the 2nd Advent does not occur until much later in the book (chapter 19). But these persons also cannot be only Old Testament saints because there is no biblical basis for making any spiritual or eternal distinction between them and us in the carrying out of God's plan for us after we depart this earth (see the link: "Dispensationalism"). Nowhere, moreover, does scripture suggest any re-population of Hades, etc. Your correspondents are grasping at straws here and have no scriptural basis for doing so. And, in fact, we know very well who these white-robed individuals are because the Bible tells us explicitly:

These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Revelation 7:14b KJV

These are the tribulational martyrs who take center-stage on the heavenly scene here for obvious reasons (the scene is depicting tribulational events); but they are not alone, of course, for there is a "a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues" before the throne (v.9). What is pertinent to our subject is the fact that at least some of the white-robed individuals, the ones identified by the angel, are recent arrivals, having just come out of the beast's persecution. In short, as of this moment they have not yet arrived in heaven because as we exchange these emails they have not yet been martyred – yet they will be found in heaven, robed in white, and very much awake, before the Second Advent. The multitude cannot, therefore, be only Old Testament saints.

I am happy to see you quote Philippians 1:23, because I think that this verse and others like it put the lie to this false doctrine in a most effective way. Paul encouraged and motivated himself constantly with the thought that immediately after death he would be in the presence of Christ. That is what he says, very directly and unambiguously. This set of verses cannot be made to say, "what I really mean is 'after some long period of time being dead in the grave and not remembering anything in between' ". For in that case, Paul could not say that he would "be with Christ" after death because, in that case, he would not be with Christ after death. "I desire to depart-and-be-with-Christ" is the unified alternative Paul proffers to "remaining in the body" (v.24).

Moreover, departing and being with Christ is not a vain hope: Paul only wants to depart because then he will be with Christ; otherwise, he would rather remain, for remaining in the body "is more necessary for you". Let me expand on that. Paul considers two possibilities. He wants to remain because he is providing necessary ministry. So why would he ever wish or hope to leave at all? He might have to face the fact that we all die, but why would he express a hope or wish to die here, especially since the recipients of his letter need his services? The answer is, he only wants to depart because in departing he will "be with Christ". If it were not for the "be with Christ" part, there would be no desire on his part to depart. We are all going to "be with Christ" eventually; that is certainly true for all believers. But that could never make us eager to die and be in the grave until that happens at one and the same long distant future time (according to this false belief). It would be irrational in the extreme for Paul to want to be in the grave more quickly if that did not put him with Jesus a moment sooner – especially since it would end this necessary ministry he refers to. But he is eager, and precisely for the reason he so clearly states: "having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better". It is far better to be with Christ than be on earth, even if while on earth one is doing great work for the Lord. It is certainly not far better to be in the grave and not doing anything for the Lord any longer, if, alternatively, it were possible to abide and to continue to minister. No one would desire the latter (unless they are so depressed and defeated they wish no longer to live in any case), and Paul most certainly would not have seen any benefit in the cessation of his service except that such cessation meant his immediate entrance into the presence of the One he so dearly loved.

Your correspondents' reply that Paul is some how looking forward to a "shortened period" of soul sleep is ludicrous on two counts: 1) they have already put it out that in soul sleep, the period of time "makes no difference" because a person is not aware of it (so why would Paul care about that?), and 2) if Paul had died earlier he would have been "asleep" a longer amount of time before the resurrection, not a shorter amount of time. The only way this passage makes any sort of reasonable sense is if it is taken at face value: Paul expected to be in Jesus' presence when he died. The only way that this passage can be reconciled with the false doctrine of soul-sleep is if Paul were wrong about this.

As to passages, listening with what you have included and what we have already discussed in the past there are more than enough to convince a reasonable person who is really listening. Please see the links:

The False Doctrine of "Soul Sleep" I.

Sleep as a Euphemism for Death (debunking 'soul sleep').

The False Doctrine of "Soul Sleep" II.

Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State

The question is not how many passages you cite, especially in this case when they are so clear without having to be interpreted beyond reading them out loud in any English version. The question is whether or not you are conversing with those who "have ears but hear not".

As to "why" our Lord uses the words "sleep" and "asleep" to describe departed believers, we have seen previously that this is because when He (and the rest of scripture) does so, He is speaking of the present corrupt body and not the spirit. There is no "soul" apart from the union of body and spirit, after all (see the link: "The creation of Adam [and the human spirit]"). The "soul" is the self, often the inner-self or "heart", not a separate organ or entity (see the link: "Is the Soul a Tertium Quid?").

As Solomon says, "Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?" (Eccl.3:21 NIV). From our earthly perspective, we cannot see the departed – and that is certainly a deliberate feature of the plan of God. Were human beings able to see and commune with the departed, the choice of eternal futures would really not be a meaningful choice any longer. What we see after death is the first body emptied of the spirit, and the body immediately after death resembles a person asleep. Calling death "sleep" is thus natural; it is also less harsh than calling it "death". This is a case of sanctified euphemism (see the link where this is discussed in great detail: Sleep as a Euphemism for Death). Sparing people's feeling is certainly a loving thing to do, and we can all learn from our Lord's example in this. And, in truth, the body is experiencing a certain type of "sleep" in that it is not active and functioning in death, but it will be when it is "awakened" at the resurrection. But because the body is asleep does not mean the spirit is asleep (not to mention the "soul").

He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!"
Mark 12:27 NIV

Since "asleep" in this context means, in effect "dead", even for your correspondents (and when Jesus first says Lazarus is asleep and then says "Lazarus is dead", it should put all quibbles on that score to rest: Jn.11:14), the fact that Jesus says in the passage above that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are "living", unquestionably means that they are not asleep. For if they were asleep, they would be dead; they are not dead, however, but alive, as Jesus assures us. Consider John 8:56: "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad" (NIV). Abraham couldn't have seen Christ's day, nor could he have rejoiced as Jesus says he did, if Abraham were dead in the sense of rotting in the grave until the resurrection.

Your correspondents are "badly mistaken". They are grieved about passages they have not bothered to understand, are not willing to listen to a biblical explanation when tendered, and are not grieved about passages which clearly contradict what they choose to believe. To me, this is no different from arguing with a person who is not a Christian or who is a member of some other religion. They cannot be convinced by the clear meaning of scripture because they do accept the authority of scripture. In such cases (unbelievers or believers who have long since stopped up their ears), only the Holy Spirit can open up a path for understanding. Even so, there has to be a willingness somewhere down in their spirit to accept the truth.

I think you have asked some wonderful questions and made some terrific observations at the end of your email in particular. I have no comment upon them except, "Amen!".

And a last thought: if we were to decide the question on the basis of using the words "sleep" and "asleep" as being different from "dead" and "death", the last life-preserver to which some of your correspondents seem to wish to cling here, we would have to conclude (erroneously of course) that Paul's word at Philippians 1:23 are not talking about death at all; for he only says he wishes "to depart".

Finally, I want to remind you that one should always beware of gauging one's performance for Jesus or the quality of one's work by the apparent response of those ministered to. On the one hand, those who seem to respond may in truth be little affected; on the other hand, those you have helped the most may never tell you so.

(3)I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. (4) My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (5) Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
1st Corinthians 4:3-5 NIV

For now, labor in the Lord's vineyard is its own reward. But while we may be sowing with tears, we anticipate that glorious day when we will reap with songs of joy (Ps.126:5-6).

Keep fighting your good fight of faith. We will reap that harvest in good time, as long as we don't grow weary of tilling the patch the Lord has assigned us (Gal.6:9).

Yours in Jesus Christ with whom we long to be,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

As I was searching Google for a Bible study on death and dying, I happened on your website and was amazed to find this:

Between the earthly passing of those past and present and that blessed future time, all who now die in the Lord go to be with Him in heaven to await our corporate and corporal resurrection and return with Him at the Second Advent. For, following His resurrection, Jesus led "captivity captive" (Eph.4:8), taking all believers from paradise below in His train up to the third heaven (cf. Ps.68:18; 68:24-27; 146:7b; Is.14:17b; 42:7; 49:9; 61:1; Jn.14:2-3; 17:24; Col.2:15; 1Pet.3:18-22; Rev.1:18). As our departed brethren wait with Him above, moreover, they are not "naked" but have been clothed with an interim body which, while not to be compared to the one of resurrection to come, is incomparably better than the one in which we presently reside (2Cor.5:3 [in the Greek - most English version mistranslate the verse]; Rev.6:11; 7:9).

It is important to note that the interim body is in some sense at least a real body. Those in this interim state are "not left naked" (2Cor.5:3) but are given "white robes" to wear (Rev.6:11). We were made by God as body and spirit - the body came first and the spirit once breathed into the first man quickened him into a "living being" - exactly the same thing that all human beings since Adam and Eve have experienced at birth (see the link: The Creation of Man [from SR#3]). Even for those of us who die before the resurrection, there never will be a significant period of time when we are "disembodied spirits", incapable of appreciating and interacting with the Lord who bought us.

Don't let your heart be troubled. Believe in God, and believe also in Me. There are many rooms in my Father's house. If there weren't, I would have told you. For I am going in order to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I shall come again and take you to Myself, so that where I am, you may be also.
John 14:1-3

So you are absolutely correct - should we pass on before the great day of Christ's return, in this interim state we shall abide, basking in the glory of our Lord and waiting for the day when we are clothed with our permanent abode on the day of His return to reclaim the direct rulership of the world in which we shall all share.

How do you have the arrogance to publish this crap?

Ephesians 4:7-8 (NKJV) But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: " When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men."

Paul is using the imagery of Psalm 68 which is a victory hymn composed by David to celebrate God’s conquest of the Jebusite city and the triumphant ascent of God (represented by the Ark of the Covenant) up Mount Zion. After a king won such a victory he would bring home the spoils and enemy prisoners to parade before his people. An Israelite king would take his retinue through the holy city of Jerusalem and up Mount Zion. Behind him (in his train), chained to the back of his chariot, are all the people that he has conquered, his captives. The Lord Jesus came down and conquered sin, death and many other things. He ascends back to the heavens. He has as His captives that which He has conquered with Him (NOT believers!) . The many scripture references about prisoners say NOTHING about death, sin, or sickness which are the captives He ascends with! Since He DID NOT ascend with believers, the other references are not pertinent. Where do you get the fantastic concept of an "interim" body? In 2 Corinthians 5:2-3 Paul is obviously speaking about the saints who shall be alive at Christ's second coming, who will not be stripped of their bodies, and so will "not be found naked", or disembodied, and shall have a glory at once put upon them, both soul and body. Revelation 6:11 is talking about the martyrs of the tribulation in John's VISION. Biblically, a vision is a spiritual phenomenon in which God causes something to appear to a person in his mind’s eye as a message, not necessarily a representation of reality.

In John 14:1-3 do you see the words "I shall come again"? Does this not define the time that these things will happen? Your biography does not show any theological study. Is it possible that you do not know what the Bible is all about? Here are some clues:

John 1:1-4 (NKJV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Revelation 22:20 (NKJV) He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming quickly." Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

IT'S ALL ABOUT JESUS CHRIST! The Bible is for us, not about us! God does not need us, we need Him! The Bible tells us the history of establishing the Kingdom of God among men. Everything points to the end of the age when Jesus Christ comes to establish His final eternal Kingdom. The Gospel defines our opportunity to be present with the Lord THEN. The Gospel is the "good news" about the Kingdom of God, that we may escape the hopeless sinful condition of natural man condemned to death (ceasing to exist eternally) when we repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Don't be left out of the Kingdom, the alternative is destruction (permanently ceasing to exist) in the lake of fire AFTER being resurrected.

Response #9: 

Dear Friend,

I stand by everything written, in spite of your rude crudeness. Here is what I read our Lord saying in John's gospel:

"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."
John 8:56 NKJV

If Abraham could see Jesus' day when He came into the world, he couldn't have been dust in the tomb, rather he would have to have been precisely as our Lord describes him in Luke chapter 16: awake, conscious, alert, intelligible, capable of speech, and recognizable as Abraham – i.e., not a disembodied spirit.

A characteristic of all the passages soul-sleepers adduce to defend their indefensible position is that none of them actually teaches soul-sleep without a good deal of fanciful interpretation, whereas all such passages can in fact be easily explained by the alternative reality of our conscious presence with Jesus after death – on the other hand there are many passages like the one quoted above which cannot be denied to teach the conscious existence of believers after death, even if severely twisted.

Your incorrect analysis of 2nd Corinthians 5:8 is a good case in point. For while it teaches not only our conscience existence after death but also that we will not be disembodied, all attempts to defuse it fail (and of necessity since they are distortions of truth). Paul opens the chapter with the words "For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God" (v.1, NKJV). "Destroyed" refers to death, clearly not to the blessed transformation of the resurrection. And since Paul is indeed speaking about our status after death, thus speaking to all believers for all time, he is clearly not as you suggest limiting his remarks to that infinitesimally small number of believers who may live to experience the resurrection without death (thus your point is invalidated).

I am a bit perplexed at your criticism of the doctrine of the ascension. It is clear that you disagree with it, and you state that very emphatically, but what is not clear is how any of the points you adduce contradict that truth in any meaningful way. For example, you assert that "death, sin, or sickness which are the captives He ascends with" – something I have never seen asserted before, something which sounds bizarre to the ear practiced in the scripture, and, most importantly, something you cannot prove from scripture – and then use this unsupported assertion as "proof" that the position I have backed up with many passages and careful exegesis "must" be incorrect. That may be an approach persuasive in your own mind, but I dare say that would be the only place.

As to your needless aspersions upon my faith and my motives, your unnecessary lesson in the gospel, and your threats of hell and damnation for not agreeing with you on this, these things have nothing to do with the issue at hand. The only way this rant would be applicable would be if it were logically necessary for everyone who disagreed with you on this point to be an unbeliever. That is, to quote you, well, you can fill in the blank.

I admit that this response has been a tad brusque. It is not uncommon for me to come into contact with individuals who are not really interested in scripture (although they spout it), or not really saved (although they pretend to be Christian). In such instances, it is often the case that only a very direct and frank response is capable of letting in a little daylight. If I have misjudged you, I sincerely apologize. I would like to point out in closing, however, that serious investigation of the scriptures with at least a little bit of an open mind is our only hope of being corrected in those instances where it is needed – and which of us would claim it is never needed?

In the sure and certain hope of being with Jesus our dear Lord as soon as He calls us home,

Bob Luginbill

Question #10: 

You are obviously highly intelligent and educated and your ability to use language is apparent. What is also obvious, and your website is sufficient proof of this, is your ability to take almost any passage of scripture out of context and make a case that it supports your own prejudice by misintepretation of that isolated passage. As you must be aware, statements from anyone that are isolated from the original context often appear to have meanings that the originator did not intend. The true meaning usually becomes clear when the statement is considered in context along with information about who it was directed to and for what purpose. With respect to John 8:56, Jesus was speaking to Jews (Pharisees) who are threatening to kill him, accusing Him of being demon posessed for claiming deity as the son of God, speaking what the Father had shown Him. He reminded them that they likewise did what their father had shown them, to which they replied:

John 8:39-41 They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father." When they persisted in their accusation that He was demon possesed, He responded with a further claim to deity: John 8:49-51 Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death." The accusers were then even more convinced that He was demon posessed for they knew that Abraham was dead and they heard Jesus claiming that those keeping His word like Abraham did "shall never see death." They demanded to know who He thought He was. In His answer Jesus again asserted His deity and relationship with God the Father by telling them that He had personal knowledge of Abraham when he was alive and knew what Abraham thought about Himself. He also knew Abraham's belief and vision of the promises of God because He was who He said He was. John 8:54-56 Jesus answered, "If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."

The accusers then sought to prove Jesus was a liar by getting Him to convict Himself by answering the question, "have you seen Abraham?" because they knew Abraham was a long time dead. Jesus once again asserted His deity. John 8:58 Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." Jesus was at all times claiming deity by saying that He was with Abraham when Abraham was alive, NOT that Abraham was alive during the motal lifetime of Jesus. If your deluded theories about the dead only affected you, that would only be pitiful. My concern is your obvious attempt through your website to contaminate as many others as you can. This is abominable! Of course, only Jesus can and will judge your actions. I pray that this does not happen after the second ressurection!

Response #10: 

Dear Friend,

To begin, the ad hominem attack with which you start your reply is both unnecessary and sophistic. If my analysis is unsound (and I note that you have chosen to reply to only one small part of it), show me where; if you cannot, perhaps you should give it some consideration. The rhetorical effect of saying that I am "highly intelligent, educated and adept in the use language" and then equating these attributes with an "ability to take almost any passage of scripture out of context and make a case that supports your own prejudice by misintepretation" is to disallow any intelligent, educated or otherwise linguistically sound argument. By this logic, we will only know that a point of view is correct if it is stupid, ignorant and largely incomprehensible. While I grant you that this standard is indeed reminiscent of the modus operandi of many lukewarm groups in today's church-visible, I would hope that all who truly do love our Lord with a love incorruptible would aspire to a higher one.

Turning to the rest of your message, besides a long quotation from the gospel of John, your main point seems to be summed up entirely by your statement "Jesus was at all times claiming deity by saying that He was with Abraham when Abraham was alive, NOT that Abraham was alive during the motal (sic) lifetime of Jesus". In other words, in your view Jesus was not saying that Abraham saw Jesus come into the world at His first advent. Let's have another look at the verse in question, shall we?

"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."
John 8:56 NKJV

The phrase "My day" is the "fly in the ointment" which makes your interpretation "smell" (Eccl.10:1). "My day" refers to Jesus' coming into the world as a true human being in addition to His true deity; it refers to the virgin birth. Jesus Himself tells us in the verse above that Abraham actually "saw" the coming of the Messiah (past tense), and he was "glad" of it (past tense). Now the only way that Abraham could have actually "seen" Jesus come into the world was if he were capable of seeing; the only way he could have rejoiced was if he were capable of rejoicing; the only way he could have been glad was if he were capable of reacting with emotion to what he had seen and heard: the birth of the Messiah – impossible if your view were correct. Give this passage to any neutral observer and they will agree that it means precisely what it seems to mean. This is the clear sense of the verse, and the context of the passage doesn't contradict it in any way: the Lord brings Abraham in here as a witness to His Messiahship; it is a valid witness because Abraham actually "saw" Jesus being born into the world as the Messiah. On the other hand, give this passage to a neutral party and ask them whether they think it could mean that Jesus was talking about His communing with Abraham several thousand years previously and they will tell you no. In fact, that is not only impossible given the time-anchor "My day", but even if the verse said "Me" instead of "My day" your interpretation is still something that would never occur to the average person in a million years – unless they were looking for a way to defuse the obvious prima facie meaning of the verse to ward off problems for their own suppositions. Doing so in this case does violence to the scripture – the very definition of the "twisting" of which I am being accused.

Reading the earlier context over and over doesn't change any of the above because there is in fact no logical connection between it and your incorrect assertion of what verse 56 means. Allow me to demonstrate by examining your summary statement: "Jesus was at all times claiming deity by saying that He was with Abraham when Abraham was alive, NOT that Abraham was alive during the motal (sic) lifetime of Jesus".

Was Jesus always overtly claiming deity? Didn't He instead always speak in parables and not directly? Doesn't He allow those determined to disbelieve to have plausible deniability? Isn't that a large part of the program of the 1st Advent? After all, Jesus could have come in power and glory and forced all of His enemies to submit. But He came in humility and in a way that resulted in most rejecting Him (Jn.1:11). Make no mistake. Jesus is God. But where does our Lord overtly claim to be God or to be the Messiah, doing so in such a way that no one could misunderstand?

Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, "How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly."
John 10:24 NKJV

Jesus of course did tell them, but obliquely through His parables and miracles (v.25). He did not go around saying "I am the Messiah" (though He most certainly is), and you will not find those words in scripture. And He certainly did not go around saying "I was alive in my deity when Abraham was alive and He saw Me then and that proves I'm the Messiah". Indeed, how in the world would that be any sort of persuasive proof? Why would Jesus have to say anything of the sort to support His "claim of deity" as you suggest? If He were about claiming deity, He could have parted the heavens and brought down legions of angels to support His claim (among very many other things). Moreover, this part of your statement is patently false: "Jesus was at all times claiming deity by saying that He was with Abraham when Abraham was alive". Jesus is never once recorded to have said this or anything remotely like this at all! Even if it were possible for your twisted interpretation of John 8:56 not to refer to Abraham's reaction to Jesus' birth (which is in fact not possible), it is still impossible for it to bear the meaning of a "claim of deity" by "saying that He was with Abraham when Abraham was alive". Verse 56 cannot mean that, if language is to mean anything at all comprehensible. To bear that meaning the verse would have to refer to "Abraham's day" (i.e., the distant past), not "My day" (i.e., Jesus' first advent).

Jesus never says anything of the sort about Abraham, but our Lord does say some very interesting things about the patriarch which bear upon our discussion.

"But even Moses showed in the [burning] bush [passage] that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord 'the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' "For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him."
Luke 20:37-38 NKJV

How can Abraham be "alive" as this passage states even though the resurrection has yet to take place? Only if he is in an interim state, conscious and happy and "alive" in an interim body, waiting for the resurrection not in the grave but in the presence of the Lord – even as Jesus has promised us (e.g., Jn.17:24). Indeed, Jesus did talk about Abraham's actual state, the situation he was in which allowed him to "see My day" and be glad:

"And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. "Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.' "But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.' "Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, 'for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.' "Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' "And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' "But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' "
Luke 16:23-31 NKJV

Notice that coming back to earth would be "rising from the dead", but that in spite of the fact that the resurrection has not taken place, and in spite of being absent from the earthly body in the place of "the dead" (paradise for Abraham and Lazarus; torments for the unbelieving rich man), Abraham is even so conscious, capable of speech, and recognizable for who he is: showing irrefutably that he has an interim body (which can be recognized) and is in an interim state (where his actions seem not markedly different from our actions on earth). And Abraham is still himself! This is consistent with everything else scripture tells us on the subject. When Jesus tells the thief crucified with Him, "today you will be with Me in paradise" (Lk.23:43), it was not a vain promise. If all that meant was "you will be dead, you will lose consciousness, your body will decay and turn to dust, and who knows what will become of your spirit", that would have been a very strange thing for our Lord to say by way of encouragement – and very misleading too. But if on the other hand the paradise to which He referred was exactly as described in the passage quoted above, the statement was a legitimate and wonderful encouragement.

This brings me to your final section and the statement: "If your deluded theories about the dead only affected you, that would only be pitiful. My concern is your obvious attempt through your website to contaminate as many others as you can". Let's test that, shall we? Beyond all argument any Bible teacher who loves the Lord and honors the truth will want to teach only what is true and eschew all that is false. To do so requires diligent, time-consuming preparation, and hard work in studying and teaching thereafter. But what, I ask you, would be the irreparable harm of teaching believers that we will be with Jesus when we die rather than in the grave – even if it were not true? Mind you, I have already allowed that I wish to know the truth and teach only the truth. What I am asking here is precisely how this "false doctrine (in your view)" will "contaminate" those who are persuaded by it? Will it cause them to love Jesus less? Will it cause them to turn away from seeking Him and His truth? Will it decrease their motivation to follow Him closely and serve Him diligently? I think not. In fact, rather the opposite, it would seem to me.

On the other hand, what if you are wrong? If you are right, then you should teach what is right, let the chips fall where they may. But what if you are wrong? Does not the notion that when we die we are essentially snuffed out of existence just like the materialists say we are take the shine off the Christian hope? Does not the idea that we will not go to heaven but into the grave have the potential of dimming the ardor of even the most enthusiastic Christian? Does not the assumption that nothing awaits but immediate darkness and the loss of everything carry with it the potential of turning the gaze of those who believe it away from heaven, away from the Lord, and back to what little light they see in this dark world – out of despondency for all that is to come? And no promise of "eventual resurrection" is likely diminish these negatives in the case of most believers, especially since in your concept whatever we will be in future has no tangible connection with what we are now: so would we even be "us" whenever the resurrection finally does occur? If you are right, that is one thing. But if you are wrong, take care that your false doctrine does not destroy hope, lead to despair, and crush the faith of those unfortunate enough to follow you. In the days soon to come, fully one third of genuine believers are prophesied to fall away from the faith. In those dark days we shall need every bit of faith, hope and encouragement we can muster to stand up to the assaults on truth leveled by the evil one and his antichrist. Taking away any hope we have of being with Jesus immediately should it be our lot to die for our faith certainly seems to me to lend a powerful push to that coming apostasy, for all, that is, who have had their legitimate Christian hope unnecessarily trampled. No doubt that is why the evil one is promoting it so vigorously of late.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
2nd Corinthians 5:6-9 NIV

As these verses state irrefutably, the only possible way to "prefer to be away from the body" is to prefer to "be at home with the Lord": that is our hope, to be with Him, at home with Him, just as soon as we are "away from the body", and these are the only two alternatives given by Paul, with not a shred of daylight here to stick in an intermediate period of oblivion. Being truly "confident" and hopeful about what is to come is only possible if we accept the testimony of scripture – so clear and so emphatic in so many places and contexts – that we will never know an unconscious or a disembodied moment, but will be with the Lord we love the minute we depart this earth. For all true believers, to live is Jesus Christ, to die is gain (not the loss of everything).

In sure and certain hope of coming into the presence of the Lord the moment He takes me home,

Bob L.

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