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The False Doctrine of 'Soul Sleep' II

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Question #1:  I am a Conservative Presbyterian from California and I just found your website, it's fantastic! Such thorough explanations all with appropriate references from the Bible. So far I think mostly what you say is true or may be true. Just one thing stands out that I wanted to ask about what happens to believers after death. In your view a post Christ's resurrection Christian spends time in the temporary 3rd heaven which would make the parts in Revelation such as the 5th seal and as you say the thief on the cross easy to understand BUT what about these passages and others like them.

Daniel 12:2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

1 Corinthians 15:52 (New International Version): in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 (New International Version): 13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

I always gathered from them that it was a peaceful state like sleep maybe even the kind like stage 4 human sleep where you essentially aren't really thinking about much at all... so that when you "wake up" 100 years could seem like one minute. Anyway just a thought it's not important of course, I'm just sort of the curious speculative sort.

Sincerely,

Response #1:   

Good to make your acquaintance. Thanks so much for your encouraging words! As to your question, first, as a Presbyterian, you might be interested to learn (if you don't already know), that one of John Calvin's first literary efforts in theology was an attack on the false doctrine of "soul sleep" (entitled Psychopannychia). Indeed, he seems to have coined the phrase "soul sleep" in the process of demolishing the false idea.

I understand your point in regard to the verses you supply. However, if one takes a broad overview of scripture on this issue, while there are a few verses such as these which need to be explained, there are many more which cannot be explained if one argues that "souls fall asleep until the resurrection". Not to get off on a tangent here, but the word "soul" is in itself very misleading (see the links: "The Creation of Adam" and "the Human Spirit"). The "soul" is the "person" or "self" rather than an independent immaterial entity (like the human spirit). But back to the point, when we read of Abraham and Lazarus in paradise below the earth, we see that they are not asleep (indeed, even the rich man in Torments is wide awake; Lk.16:19-31). In Revelation 6:9-11 and 7:9-17 we see the (physically dead) tribulational martyrs wide-awake -- in heaven. In John 12:26 et alibi Jesus says that we will be where He is . . . and He is in heaven. One could go on. The point I wish to emphasize here is that there is no reasonable way to explain these and many other passages which demonstrate most perspicuously that believers are awake in the next life, even before the resurrection. It is not just a matter of counting up verses (although that method would result in the same conclusion); we could not explain how believers could be awake in these passages if there were "soul sleep", but it is possible to explain in a reasonable, biblical way what the passages (and their like) which you quote really mean, that is, they are in fact consistent with being conscious after death. Case in point is the comparison of two of them: "the dead will be raised imperishable" (1Cor.15:52), and "God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him" (1Thes.4:14). Now the similar theme of resurrection in both passages makes it undeniable that "the dead" are the same as "those who have fallen asleep", and that is key to understanding this point:

Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?
Ecclesiastes 3:21 NIV

The spirit goes up; the body goes down. The spirit is alive; the body is dead. Viewing a departed loved one we view the body and the body is dead; therefore the body is asleep (since sleep, we have established, is a euphemism for death as seen in the two Pauline passages above). But because the body is asleep/dead, does not mean that the spirit is asleep/dead. In fact, the spirit is immortal, even for the truly "dead", that is, unbelievers, as is clear from the rich man in torments in Luke 16. So when the Bible speaks of "the dead" in referring to believers, we know that this refers to their physical bodies and to the fact that they are no longer in this world, but that on another much more important level believers have eternal life and will never die.

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.
John 11:25 NIV

For we are most certainly not in fact "dead" to God.

Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him.
Luke 20:38 NASB

In short, scripture does sometimes use figures of speech common to all literature (like the euphemism used here). For example, when we hear that "God repented" (Gen.6:6; Jdg.2:18), we should understand that this does not mean that God did not know what was going to happen (we call this figure of speech an "anthropopathism"). The "dead" are asleep in a manner of speaking only: their bodies do sleep so from our point of view they themselves seem also asleep (since we can't see their present, heavenly life); but to God, they are alive, and that is the only way to explain the passages in scripture which clearly present them as awake.

Here are the two links I have to this issue (in case you only bumped into one of them):

Sleep as a Euphemism for Death.

The False Doctrine of "Soul Sleep"

Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State.

Thanks again for your good words.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob Luginbill

Question #2: 

[Question removed at correspondent's request]

Response #2: 

Dear Friend,

I do not find your distinction between "body" and "them" convincing, nor do I find it biblical. As human beings, we are created dichotomous -- body and spirit. Thus we are from the point of our physical birth when our spirit is created by the Lord and we become "who we are"; thus we will ever be hereafter (even in the case of unbelievers). Yes, Jesus is coming back for us, but the passages in John you cite detail neither the how nor the when nor the what. In fact, variously understood (i.e., without your assumptions), these passages fit equally well into either "tradition" (or either "fallacy", depending on your preference).

Both views are taught in respective and various "traditions"; that does not make either true, nor does it make either false. Personally, I do not care a fig for tradition. However, it is fair to point out that because some group teaches some point of doctrine traditionally, that does not make it a "fallacy" ipso facto. Nor, of course, does it make it true. The false doctrine of "soul sleep" is a fallacy, for example, and the fact that it is a traditional one in certain denominations does not make it any less incorrect.   "Sleep" when viewing the dead is a euphemism:

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

The second point of rhetoric in which you engage is your characterization of all other positions which deny "soul sleep" as teaching a "partial resurrection". Nothing could be further from the truth. Although there is a difference of opinion on the timing of the resurrection in evangelical circles (the resurrection actually takes place at Christ's second advent, not before the Tribulation; see the link: The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride in CT #5), the mechanics are generally taught consistently in that tradition as one of a total and complete resurrection of the entire person, body and spirit. That is certainly what I teach.

I will grant you that many theological systems haven't thought all this out entirely. There is, for example, the widespread misunderstanding about what the "soul" is (it is really a biblical term for the inner person, that is, the "heart" which is the interface between body and spirit; please see the link: in Bible Basics 3A: "The Dichotomy of Man"). What many who hold my position often fail to understand is that human beings, from the time they come into existence, will never fail to be complete and dichotomous persons to the end of time and into eternity (please see the link: Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State). What those who hold your position fail to understand is that human beings, from the time they come into existence, will never fail to be extant to the end of time and into eternity (please see the link: The False Doctrine of "Soul Sleep"). The human being as created by God is an indivisible whole; and the human being as created by God is incapable of going out of existence. This was true of both believers and unbelievers before the cross (e.g., Jesus' description of Lazarus and Abraham in paradise, and the rich man in torments: Lk.16:19-31); it is also true after the cross (believers are seen to be present and awake in heaven in the book of Revelation: Rev.6:9-11; 7:9-17; the description of the lake of fire as being where the beast and false prophet "are": Rev.20:10). The fact that God clothes the spirits of the departed with an interim body until the time of resurrection does not make the actual resurrection which takes place later "partial" in any way. The passage below is definite promise of just such an interim body for all believers who die before the resurrection.

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. For indeed we do groan in this one, desiring to put on our habitation which comes from heaven. 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" -- since we will have an interim "house" in the meantime).
2nd Corinthians 5:1-3

John 13:36 is clear enough. Jesus is telling Peter that he cannot follow "now" (i.e., he will not be martyred with Jesus on the morrow), but later he will do so (i.e., he would be martyred, but only later in his life). Note that if Jesus were speaking of His second advent return, this "following" of Jesus by Peter could not be true since that would not be a martyrdom, and that is clearly what Jesus means in this passage (cf. verse 37 NIV: "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you"). Secondly, this "following" also must refer to coming to be with Jesus in heaven upon their deaths at the conclusion of their ministries. That is because 1) "follow" must mean "to the place where Jesus is" = heaven; and 2) the time of the following had to take place at death since martyrdom is part of the picture. Therefore the "later" in this passage cannot mean "not until the resurrection".

As to John 14:1-4, Jesus' words here are put in such a way as to be precisely correct and entirely relevant to all who would ever hear them, the apostles, all those who follow them, and even those who remain until the second advent. Jesus has "prepared a place" for us all -- not so that we might not be with Him when we pass from this life, but so that we will indeed be with Him from that point forward and forevermore. His words "I will come again and take you" do refer to the second advent for those who will remain on earth at that future time, but also to the point of departure from life for all who die before that point. That is why our Lord is very careful not to call this "the resurrection" in this discourse, because His collecting up of all who are His before that time is not the resurrection. Yet collect us up He will and has done, ever since His ascension, to be with Him in heaven -- not "just our bodies" (for these shells do sleep in anticipation of that glorious day to come), but our real selves, our spirits -- and these are not "left naked", but are given a "covering" or interim body until the day of our bodily resurrection occurs (cf. the link already given and 2Cor.5:1-3, translated from the Greek above). After all, why would Jesus say in John 14:2-3 that He is going to prepare a place for us there if this is fulfilled only by His coming back here first? The phraseology used in John 14:2-3 can only mean that the place He has prepared is "there" in heaven. This discussion was even more important and more meaningful for the disciples than for us (since from the rest of the New Testament we now know very well that we are going to heaven at death). Jesus is describing what was a significant change: the imminent shift of believers from Sheol/paradise/Abraham's bosom to the third heaven in the wake of His ascension (before which they could not be allowed since the sacrifice had not yet been made; see the link: "The Transfer of Believers from the Subterranean Paradise to the Third Heaven" in BB 4A). Furthermore, in John 14:4 Jesus also says "you know the way there": but if there is no "way" and also no "there", these words would be incorrect. And in John 14:5 Jesus says He is "going to the Father", and that clearly fixes the location as the third heaven, and not the grave. John 14:3 is therefore clearly referring to His imminent ascension (that is His "going") and to session (by which a place is prepared in heaven), and to the admission of believers into heaven as a result ("I will come and get you . . . at your death") . . . "so that where I am there you may be also". Jesus is in heaven, and we may be assured that when we die that is where we will be too, for "we" shall never cease to exist.

There are many other points and passages that could be adduced. For example, Jesus tells us that all believers continue to remain "alive" to God, even after their death, even if they died as long ago as the patriarchs (Lk.20:37-38). David at 2nd Samuel 12:23 tells of his confidence of "going to" his dead child immediately after he dies, a hope inconsistent with "sleep" until the resurrection. And of course we are promised eternal life; how is our life eternal if it comes to an end at the conclusion of our time on earth, possibly for as long as thousands of years?

Finally, I find your completely unfounded assertion that unless I agree with your (traditional and biblically incorrect position) that "my name was never written in the Lamb's book". This is a horrendous thing to say, because if salvation depended upon having every single point of biblical doctrine completely correct, who, then could be saved? I certainly would not argue that you, because of your error in this regard, are for that reason not saved. In fact, of course, salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ. If a person is genuinely a believer in Jesus, that person has been / is / will be saved -- even if, for example, they have been convinced of some false doctrine like "soul sleep". And by the way, this is not how the "book of life" works at all. Everyone in human history is initially found in the book, because Jesus died for everyone. It is only by willful disbelief and/or failure to accept the truth of Jesus Christ that a person's name is blotted out (see the link: in CT 4, "The Book of Life").

Nothing is more important than the truth of God's Word, for Jesus Christ is the Word of God incarnate. When He descended into Hades/Paradise after dying for our sins in the darkness on the cross, He was most certainly not asleep (1Pet.3:18-20). I take this very seriously, and would urge you to do the same, understanding that it is not a matter of tradition nor of rhetoric, but what the Bible actually teaches.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #3:

[Question removed at correspondent's request]

Response #3:   

I find this response extremely puzzling.

First of all, the positions contained in the previous email came from the Bible, not from "men", not from some "tradition". I "blame" it on myself alone. Also, I gave you some very extensive exegesis and scriptural support for them to which you have not responded. I am left to wonder why that is, except if in fact you are unable to do so.

Second, I most assuredly did not say that when we believers die and go to heaven that we are "not in His presence". We most assuredly will be in His presence. Did you actually read my email?

Thirdly, it is nice for you that you find the scriptures you quoted to be "very clear" in support of your position. I, however, find them to be no particular support for what you claim at all. Forgive me if I do not find your definition of personal clarity to be a persuasive enough argument to refute the very large volume of scriptural evidence which teaches precisely the opposite of what you claim. If you do not understand these objections, tell me and I will clarify. If you have an argument to make against them, please do so. Restating your positions without interacting with these objections which demolish them is not an argument.

Fourthly, I do not follow any "Catholic" tradition (or any tradition at all, for that matter). I follow scripture as I have been given to understand it through careful exegesis over many decades based upon extensive preparation, formal and informal.

Fifthly, I do not claim "we don't know what He meant". My point is that you apparently don't fully understand what He meant (to give you the benefit of the doubt on this, because the alternative would be that you do understand this is not supported by scripture but are teaching it anyway).

Sixthly, the Holy Spirit has been working in this ministry for many years. No truth, in fact, can be understood without the Spirit's ministry. I am very confident that He has in fact led me to the precise truth on this matter.

Obviously, we both cannot be correct. I could (and I do) encourage you to offer up the very same prayer you suggest. Please do understand, however, that the Spirit works with those who are truly willing, not with those who have decided ahead of time what they are going to believe. Please also understand that the truth in our hearts is the spiritual capital of which the Spirit makes use. Everything in scripture is important, all verses, all teachings. And everything contributes to the proper understanding of everything else. What that means, significantly, is that it is virtually impossible to solve one single issue like this in complete isolation from all (or from most) other truths of the Bible. What may seem to make sense viewed from a very narrow one-issue perspective is often reduced to nonsense when more biblical evidence comes flooding in. That is why brothers and sisters who become fixated on a "one issue crusade" almost inevitably end up on the wrong side.

Please consider, while this is of course an important question (all truly biblical questions are important), you are threatening those who disagree with hell over something that is not nearly in the "top ten" of doctrines which determine the course of a Christian's spiritual life. That is a clear indication to me that you have fallen into this trap. Even assuming (merely for the sake of argument) that you are correct about this, I cannot see how it would ever be a legitimate personal ministry to seek out those who disagree on this issue for the purpose of "correcting them". Teaching the truth to those who are interested in hearing the truth is certainly a noble undertaking (for those who have that particular gift). Seeking out controversy in this way is never a sign of spiritual health.

If you can accept it, I would advise you to find a good, solid source of biblical truth, one which you are able to receive without major disagreement, and grow in grace through the Word and Spirit. That is what we have been called to do. I believe you will find down the road -- even if you should be led to "stick to your guns" on this point -- that God has something much more important for you to do. It is by growing as He would have us grow, producing what He would have us produce, and ministering where and how He would have us minister, that we win the greatest eternal rewards, rewards that will not only delight us for all eternity, but will win glory for the One who saved us forever and ever, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

[Question removed at correspondent's request]

Response #4: 

Your assumption about where my beliefs come from is incorrect. I have spent a lifetime refining everything I currently teach, and have done so through very careful attention to the scripture, studied in the original languages, laboriously and diligently learned. This process has caused me to abandon many "commonly held" positions, and to develop many others which I dare say that you will not find taught anywhere else -- not out of any desire to be controversial or to set this ministry apart -- rather my one and only desire is to please my Lord and benefit His Church by teaching the truth. Please understand that if I believed that the Bible taught "soul sleep", I would adopt that position wholeheartedly. In fact, I have had occasion in the past to research this point of view, and while I have since come to find much additional scriptural evidence which supports the position to which I was led earlier by scripture, I have found nothing that would cause me to reevaluate in favor of your position. You are most certainly entitled to your view, but you are greatly mistaken about the nature of this ministry and my approach to it.

You are correct that I have not read your link. If I took on every such unsolicited "homework assignment" I would have precious little time for anything else (and I do have a full-time job in addition to this ministry). Besides, it is incumbent upon those who challenge someone else's teachings to interact with their positions, not the other way around.

I really have little with which to disagree in the first part of your second point -- if I am understanding what you are saying. I fully agree that Hosea 6:2 cannot be understood apart from understanding in turn the Millennial Day construction of human history, that is, that human history has been constructed by the Lord in seven one-thousand year segments (to which the seven days of re-construction in Genesis respond; please see the link: in SR 5, "The Seven Days of Human History"). The "two days" are the Church Age during which the nation of Israel is in hiatus, and the "third day" -- on which, not after which, Israel is raised -- is a reference to the Millennium: Israel is restored and the resurrection takes place at the point of the Second Advent. But this all is precisely what I teach: the resurrection takes place when Christ returns and encompasses everyone who died as a believer from Adam and Eve until that point and also everyone still alive at Christ's return who is a believer (those who believe during the Millennium, the "Friends of the Bride", are raised at history's end).

You lose me on Stephen, however. What does he say at the point of death? "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" We may be sure that this was not a vain prayer. His spirit -- united to a temporary, interim body -- was taken to be in the presence of the Lord immediately as he died. It is not lingering in the grave with the dust that his first physical shell has now long since become. And I certainly agree with you on the point that a period of "separation" of body and spirit is not biblical. Human beings are, from the point of birth forever dichotomous. But consider, there is most definitely a change of bodies (transition, not separation). The "heavenly/spiritual" resurrection body is entirely superior to the "earthly/soulish" one (cf. 1Cor.15:35-49). What we are now is not what we will be. The present body will be entirely transformed. There is a temporary transition at death; a permanent one at resurrection. The fact that the latter is true does not invalidate the former. Indeed, the eternal dichotomy represented by the latter is evidence in favor of the former. The real "us" is the spirit, but it is never left "naked" (2Cor.5:1-3; cf. 1Cor.15:35-49), nor is it ever "abandoned to the grave".

But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me.
Psalm 49:15 KJV

And as to separation of body and spirit, which I agree is not biblical, consider also that for those believers (and, come to think of it, unbelievers), who lived six thousand years ago before the great flood, there is no chance that their bodies have not in the intervening period entirely dissolved into atoms (and possibly even subatomic particles) and been scattered to the ends of the earth to the point where there is no single one "place" to which their spirit could attach, were it still attached to the first body. In fact, we know from Luke 16 that unbelievers are in interim bodies in Hades/Torments, and that believers, i.e., their spirits, their real selves as we agree, are in interim bodies, in paradise before the ascension, in heaven today (as in Rev.6:9-11; 7:9-17). Stephen's spirit is indeed housed in a home (2Cor.5:1-3), but that home is in heaven in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ who did answer his prayer to "receive" his spirit (and gave it a covering in anticipation of the resurrection: "Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.", Rev.7:11).

We still seem to be talking past each other vis-a-vis John 14: My position is clear. The disciples are in Jesus presence right now, i.e., "where I am"; they were so from the point of their physical deaths, but not before: "you will follow Me later"; so also we will be with Him from the point of our physical deaths, though we are not so now. Just as Jesus "came and got" Stephen, so He "came and got" the disciples, and so He will "come and get" everyone of us who believe in Him and die before the resurrection. If what He meant was "you will be dead until the resurrection" (and I have already shown you how that was not and cannot be what He meant), then there words would be cold comfort indeed. For those who live until His return, the "coming" will be the Second Coming, and the resurrection will be bodily. There is a biblical distinction between these two eventualities after all: 1Thes.4:15-17.

Your third point: For the third (and I hope final) time: I do not believe in a partial resurrection. The resurrection is the final, eternal transformation of the original, physical (whether or not it still exists -- nothing is impossible for God) into the same type of body Jesus now has (only glorified) and as described in 1st Corinthians 15. This will happen at Christ's return, and there is nothing temporary or "partial" about it. What I do not find in scripture is any convincing evidence which supports the essential annihilation of our persons for thousands of years (in some cases). Not only is that impossible in the way God has constructed things, but it is refuted, voluminously, by scripture.

Point four: See above. Please understand that the degree of untruth in this argument of yours is exceeded only by its capacity to annoy.

Five. The point is, claiming someone else "just doesn't understand" is not much of an argument.

Six. I can appreciate this. And I too believe in a "complete resurrection" as I have attempted to explain above. If you do take the time to investigate the links provided, I hope that you will see that the positions taught by this ministry are in many ways unique, and I am confident that they do in fact bridge the gap between the legitimate objections you have with the traditional view on the one hand and the problematic idea of "soul-sleep" on the other. The "traditional" view of disembodied "souls" (actually, it would have to be spirits -- the "soul" is the life, the inner-person) is just as wrong as the other equally "traditional" view of human beings being bodies only and after death those bodies (along with any consciousness) being in the grave until the resurrection. Understanding the true make-up of the human being, spirit (the real "who we are") and body being one from the point of God's creation of that spirit in the body at birth is a prerequisite for getting to the full truth of this issue. But please understand, "body" is variable; spirit is not; spirit is eternal, "body" is not, at least not at first -- nor for most "at second", since the interim covering will also not be eternal; only the final, resurrection body is eternal, and it is an entirely different entity from the first, earthly, soulish body (1Cor.15).

As I have done from the beginning of this exchange, I suspect that many of your "problems" with me are really a result of your assuming that the incorrect part of the equation with which you have been struggling is common to this ministry: I assure you that it is not.

Again, let us consider the example of Christ. Critical to your theory is that Christ was "asleep" in the grave. Yet we have very specific scriptural testimony which assures us that this was definitely not the case:

(7) And to each of us this grace has been given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (8) For it says, "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive (i.e., He brought pre-cross believers from paradise below the earth to heaven). He gave gifts to men." (9) Now [as to] this [phrase] "He ascended", what can it mean except that He had also [previously] descended into the lower reaches of the earth (i.e., paradise in Hades, from whence He brought the pre-cross believers to heaven)? (10) The One who descended is also the One who ascended above all the heavens (i.e., into the third heaven, the place of the Father's residence), in order to fulfill all things (i.e., complete the victory won at the cross; cf. Ps.110:1).
Ephesians 4:7-10

[Jesus Christ], who appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the [Holy] Spirit, appeared to angels, was preached among the nations, was believed upon in the world, was taken up in glory.
1st Timothy 3:16

It was also by means of the Spirit that [Christ] visited the [angelic] spirits in prison (i.e., in the Abyss), and proclaimed [His victory]. [These are the angels who] were disobedient in the days of Noah at the time when God patiently waited (i.e., delayed judgment) while the ark was being built.
1st Peter 3:19-20a

Just as Jesus in His humanity did not lose consciousness or "sleep" when His original physical body was in the grave, but was present below the earth in a recognizable form (viz., His spirit temporarily housed in an interim body), so also it will be with us, unless it is our blessed lot to survive until His glorious return.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
Psalm 16:9-10

In anticipation of that great day of days.

Bob L.

Question #5:

[Question removed at correspondent's request]

Response #5:   

For the fourth time, I do not believe in or teach a partial resurrection.  I also cannot help but noticing that you began this discussion by criticizing tradition and are now embracing it with these quotes in order to shore up your position.

In the interest of coherent dialogue, at this point in our conversation it is necessary that we focus on specifics. Thus, rather than produce an equally voluminous reply, I am happy to take the key passages and key issues one at a time. I think it is very fair to say that much of your argument revolves around the refutation of the biblical paradise below the earth, so that is as good a place to begin as any.

Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."
Luke 23:43 TNIV

First of all, the word "today" is in all the major witnesses to the text and occurs after "I tell you", which in Greek word order means that it goes with what follows. Nestle's 26th edition does not list a single case of the word being left out or being in a different position. It is present as part of the content statement, for example, in the very best of the ancient manuscripts, codex Sinaiticus (I checked the facsimile personally). The meaning you wish to foist upon the adverb does not wash in the Greek. In the formula of quotation, the content follows the verb of saying so that this meaning you suggest is impossible. Were "today" to apply to "when I am saying it", not only would this be a bizarre and unnecessary thing for our Lord to say, but 1) it would have to be moved, and 2) it would virtually demand an answer to the implied question of "when?". That is to say, even if semeron, "today", occurred in the text before lego "I say", the place where it would have to occur to have your meaning, the unusual emphasis on the time of saying would demand an answer in the statement to the implied question of when such a thing would be fulfilled. In other words, even if we changed the word order (and no manuscript does), we would still need to have a phrase which explained what you claim is meant, like "in the Millennium" -- otherwise the statement would be enigmatic and elliptical in the extreme to an unusual and unworkable degree. Simply put, as someone who makes a living studying, teaching, and writing about ancient Greek and the like, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the thief listening to Jesus would most certainly have understood these words to mean that the fulfillment was "today", and certainly not that Jesus was only referring (and to no apparent purpose) to the time when He was making the statement. It would be so unusual in fact so as to be deceptive.

Don't take my word for it. Look at all the other versions regardless of their theological orientation, and you will see that this is the way they all take the verse. You quote two Syriac versions, but the only Syriac translation I was able to find (the Lamsa version) takes the verse precisely as I have described. As to the Concordant Literal version, this is supposed to be a literal Greek version, but the comma they place in your text does not exist in the actual Greek (there are no commas in the original) -- take out the comma and it does not necessitate your view. That leaves only "The Gospel of History", the personal work of Charles A.L. Totten, a British Israelitist with no particular credentials in Greek. These are very slender reeds upon which to proclaim that Jesus did not mean precisely what He said and what scholars of all persuasion have interpreted Him to have meant without significant exception. The bottom line here is that Jesus was of course very clearly saying that the two would be together "in paradise" that very day. And consider: that means "you and me in our entirety", something only possible with the provision of an interim body, with both Jesus and the thief conscious and recognizable as who they were in the paradise below the earth.

On Lazarus, Abraham and the rich man, what in the world makes you think that Luke 16:19-21 is a parable? I would very much like to know the answer to that question. Jesus most certainly does not say that it is a parable, although that is His practice when engaging in parables. Also, what other parable of our Lord's can you cite where historical people with definite names are employed? When Jesus is using a parable, the gospels generally say so. On the other hand, parables do not attribute definite historical actions to definite and precise historical people whom we know from elsewhere in the Bible as having done things they actually did not do. Finally, even were it a parable, that would still have to mean that the circumstances of the parable could not and would not teach theological error (cf. Mark 3:23-27 where Jesus' speaking "in parables" recounts an actual historical situation; Satan is certainly real and not a myth, nor is any of the information given there about the devil to be explained away). The text of Luke 16:19-21 clearly describes people after death, believers and unbelievers both, awake, conscious, and recognizable as who they were in life. That requires that they have interim bodies as well as spirits. There is no way that a person can read this passage and not be led to the conclusion that there is no such thing as "soul sleep" -- unless they are involved in serious self-delusion. Your objection that there was "no ascension" yet is off the point since we know from previously quoted passages like 1st Peter 3:19-20 that this pre-ascension paradise was below the earth. Only by the most arcane verbal gymnastics and obfuscation is it even possible to engage in any sort of specious argument to the contrary. Why would you wish to do so?

In all this, you seem to be quite content to strain out the gnat (the admittedly incorrect understanding on the part of many evangelicals about a bodiless soul [spirit], whereas there is actually an interim body: 2Cor.5:1-3), yet swallow the camel (the scripturally refuted false doctrine of "soul sleep").

Before engaging on all of the other peripheral and less important points contained in your last response, I would prefer to receive satisfactory answers to the above before proceeding. After all, with all the significant evidence for the interim body (e.g. 2Cor.5:1-3; Rev.6:9-11; 7:9-17 -- passages with which you chose not to engage), it is incumbent upon you to give a persuasive and reasonable explanation of the above at the very least if there is to be any profit in further conversation.

In the One who died that we might be with Him forever (not languish in the grave for centuries), our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #6: 

[Question removed at correspondent's request]

Response #6: 

As I believe I have said several times now, Jesus did not ascend into heaven until the ascension described in Acts chapter one. During the three days He descended into the Paradise below the earth. After all, in the story of Lazarus the rich man in torments (which is clearly not in heaven) is seen from this subterranean Paradise and can see by those in the subterranean Paradise across a gulf fixed to separate them.

Secondly, you present no evidence that the story is a parable. Pharisees were present during much of His teaching, and not everything He says is a parable (also I know of no scripture which would ipso facto exclude Him speaking to them directly). Jesus does not call the story a parable, it does not sound at all like a parable or have the characteristics of a parable. The naming of historical people, moreover, excludes the possibility of it being a parable. Finally, not mentioned before but equally valid, no parable constructs a situation of essential untruth. Jesus would not describe a place called "torments" and another called "paradise" with no such places existing. This would not be a generalizing of facts which could be true theoretically (as in parables) but a the relation of a specific fact described as true which would then have to be so -- even in your scenario. "Parable" is not a magic word which could erase such a teaching of something purportedly true but not. So even if you wish to see it as a parable which it most assuredly is not, the architecture would have to be true. For example, if you see the "good Samaritan" as a parable, the general events could be theoretically only, but there does have to be a place called Jericho, and there do have to be people called "Samaritans".

As to the passages you refuse to discuss, first, as I say now for the fifth time (please listen this time if you wish to continue the dialogue), I do not hold with a partial resurrection either. That said, how do you explain the presence of believers in heaven in Revelation 6 and 7? It is very clear that the resurrection has not yet occurred when these individuals are seen, for they both precede the second advent, the time of the resurrection.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7:

[Question removed at correspondent's request]

Response #7:   

1. Descent to paradise: 1) Eph.4:8 says Jesus descended "to the lower parts of the earth" (Gk. katotera which corresponds to Hebrew tachtiyoth; cf. the LXX = the underworld); 2) 1Tim.3:16 has Jesus' "appearance to [fallen] angels" after His appearance in the flesh and vindication by the Spirit (through resurrection), meaning it had to occur during the three days in the grave so that this is act He undertook when in paradise (not asleep); 3) 1Pet.3:19 has Jesus "proclaiming victory" to the fallen angels, and as the victory was the cross (Col.2:15), this did not happen in the days of Noah (that is when these angels sinned and were thrown into the Abyss), but had to occur during the three days in the grave.

He said "Today you will be with Me in paradise", and since He was not in heaven, we know the paradise was somewhere else, namely, below the earth, the place of departed believers prior to the ascension.

2. On Luke 16:

1) Even were this a parable, there is no precedent, as pointed out exhaustively before, for "making up" places and putting historical persons in them. And even if, as you outrageously suppose, Jesus "made up" these places, He could not have described Abraham there saying something he didn't say -- for that would have been an untruth. It was not untrue, however: Abraham was there in paradise beneath the earth and remained there until the ascension.

2) As to the places existing "in the minds of the Pharisees", I am not aware of any Pharisaical teaching about the underworld at all; perhaps you could give me the references. You say the place existed "in their minds"; unless you have some source about which I am unaware, how did you come to know what was in their minds?

3) And of course this is not a parable just because you say it is a parable. I have provided a number of clear proofs for the fact that it is not and you have been unable to respond:

a) not called a parable by Jesus or Luke;

b) not general or generic in nature;

c) includes historical persons doing and saying things that they must have said or done otherwise this would be false information rather;

d) there is no precedent for anything like this in any of the instances where scripture specifically says that Jesus is using a parable;

4) Your assumption based upon Matthew 13:34 is incorrect. By this logic, everything Jesus ever said to anyone who was not one of His inner circle was a parable, and that is ridiculous. For Matthew 13:34 says "to the crowds", with no indication that Pharisees have anything whatsoever to do with the equation. There are innumerable examples in all of the gospels of Jesus' remarks not, in fact, being in parable form. What Matthew 13:34 means is that Jesus used parable methods in all of His discourses, not that everything in all of His discourses or that everything He said was a full-blown parable. The point of the parable method is to teach the truth but to give the unbeliever an opportunity to reject the truth through not fully understanding it (because it is not drawn so direct as to be incapable of misunderstanding). But neither in Luke 16 nor in stories in true parable form (as opposed to historical accounts as we have in Abraham and Lazarus) is it the case that the facts are ever incorrect. Matthew 13:34 does not teach that we are free to consider anything Jesus ever said to be "not literal" -- although that is the logic of your position here.

5) "In Hades, where he was in torment": there is plenty in the New Testament alone about the subterranean underworld, e.g.:

a) Hades: also Matt.11:23; 16:18; Lk.10:15; Acts 2:27; 2:31; Rev.1:18; 6:8; 20:13-14

b) Hell: Matt.5:22; 5:52-30; 10:2811:23; 16:18; 18:9; 23:15; 23:33; Mk.9:43-47; Lk.10:15; 12:5; 2:27; 2:31; Jas.3:6; 2Pet.2:4; Rev.1:18;

c) "Torments" described: Mk.9:44-48

d) Abyss: Lk.8:31; Rom.10:7; Rev.9:1-2; 9:11; 11:7 17:8; 20:1-3; cf. 2Pet.2:4; Jude 1:6

e) Paradise: Lk.16:19-31; 23:43; cf. 1Sam.28:15

3. Rev.6-7: I'm glad to hear that you agree that these are believers who are conscious and not asleep. Know, however, that they have yet to be resurrected. For in Rev.6:10 they call for vengeance and in the next verse they are told to wait; then in vv.12-17 we have the description of the second advent. Since the resurrection occurs only at the point of the second advent (1Thes.4:13-18), and since these believers are awake and recognizable before that point, this admission destroys your position: the "soul sleep" position must be in error, because here we have conscious believers after death but before the resurrection. Even if you are now teaching a "partial resurrection" of Tribulational martyrs before everyone else, that is contradicted by scripture (note, no place for a partial, prior resurrection of the martyrs below):

(21) For since death [came] through a man, resurrection of the dead also [had to come] through a man. (22) For just as in Adam, all die, so also in Christ, shall all be made alive. (23) But each [will be resurrected] in his own echelon. Christ [is the] first-fruits (i.e., the initial person and echelon of resurrection). Next [will be] those belonging to Christ at His coming (i.e., all believers at the 2nd Advent). (24) Then the end [of human history – the resurrection of millennial believers], when He will hand the Kingdom over to the Father, after He has brought an end to all rule, all power, and all authority (i.e., hostile human and angelic control). (25) For He must rule until He has placed all His enemies under His feet.
1st Corinthians 15:21-25

Similarly, in Revelation 7 we see those "who have come out of the Great Tribulation" and clearly before the second advent; they are likewise in this awake condition before the end of the Tribulation and the second advent which does not occur until chapter 19. And, as I have said repeatedly, 2nd Corinthians 5 teaches directly the interim state as being not "naked" but clothed (with an interim body) and waiting for the resurrection with Jesus (not asleep in the grave):

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. For indeed we do groan in this one, desiring to put on our habitation which comes from heaven. 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" -- since we will have an interim "house" in the meantime].
2nd Corinthians 5:1-3

Finally, I am baffled that you would say that searching out and teaching the biblical truth of these matters could or would in any way "reduce the significance" of the resurrection! To the contrary, teaching people that they will in effect "cease to exist" after death for all intents and purposes until some unspecified future time, would, if true, be a very heavy load on faith. This is a burden, praise God, we do not have to bear because it is not true. However, to attempt to place it on the backs of our brothers and sisters in Christ is a horrendous thing to do; to accuse me of being in league with the devil for standing up for the truth is an audacious thing to do (especially as you have yet to refute a single proof of the incorrectness of your position); to threaten me with loss of salvation is a ridiculous thing to do: Praise God, my salvation stands firm in Jesus Christ, not in your misguided opinion.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

[Question removed at correspondent's request]

Response #8: 

Your couldn't be more wrong about this. This is a perfect example of how everything in scripture has to be understood properly in order for all things to be properly understood. There are no "easy outs"; no "one issue" solutions.

Simply put, there is no such thing as a pre-Trib "rapture". That was invented in the 19th century. Belief in it is clearly part of the false foundation upon which this mistaken belief you are defending is built.

If interested, please see: The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory.

I feel confident if you get the above straightened out, you may be able to get past this other false belief as well. It's pretty clear from your prior emails that you are very bothered by the story of Abraham, Lazarus and the rich man. There really is no getting around it without reducing biblical interpretation to the canon of "anything I want to make it mean", and it is a mark of some spark of obedience to God left in you that you are still struggling with it. I urge you to continue the struggle.

I never "count coup" over brothers and sisters who repent of false beliefs and turn back to the truth. The purpose of this ministry is to help them to do so. You certainly don't ever have to tell me about it -- I understand the principle of emotional investment in such things. It is enough for me that you put the Lord and His truth first and allow the scriptures to guide you closer to Jesus Christ in the privacy of your own heart.

Please feel free to use any of these materials any time -- most people do access them anonymously.

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ who is the truth.

Bob L.

Question #9:

[Question removed at correspondent's request]

Response #9:   

No offense, but "methinks thou dost protest a bit too much". There is no way around Luke 16, while John 14:3 doesn't necessitate at all what you have concluded. In terms of "evidence", this stacking up of points is like trying to take on a battleship with a fleet of row boats.

And, forgive me, but I also have a hard time swallowing what you report about the pre-Trib "rapture", namely, that you came up with the idea independently on your own. The reason for that is that the theory doesn't exist anywhere in the Bible. If it had not been invented by ambitious wanna-be "theologians" in the last century, no one would ever have heard of it. I have met many Christians who have "on their own" come to the conclusion that the pre-trib rapture is not biblical, but never anyone who came up with the pre-Trib rapture "independently", for the simple reason that this false doctrine is not one that can be easily concocted since it has no scriptural support in the first place.

The "twenty-four points" you introduce bespeak a (very common) confusion about the true eschatology of the Bible. Not that this is entirely your fault. I have heard all these sorts of things before many decades past. For my money, not one of these logical points can hold a candle to the actual verses which discuss the resurrection (if interested, please see the link: "The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride").

In the hopes that I can show you what I mean, I'll make this one last attempt.

1) In a post-trib scenario, there would be no Christians to rapture, since none worshiped the image of the beast and all of them were killed (Rev. 13:15).

Antichrist kills many, but not all. This verse does not say that all are killed. See the link: "The False Prophet"

2) The post-trib view confuses Israel with the Church. The tribulation is defined as the time of Israel's trouble, not the time of the Church's trouble.

To the contrary, it is the pre-trib position which is guilty of this confusion: the Church and Israel are one, for gentiles are the wild olive branch grafted into Israel. It is pre-trib theology that drives an unbiblical wedge between the two. See the link: "Israel and the Church".

3) Since the Antichrist must appear first in a post-trib scenario, Christians would be no longer watching for Christ, but for the Antichrist!

Christ Himself tells us repeatedly in Matt.24 to look out for antichrist. That is not inconsistent with our hope of Christ's return . . . especially when He comes to get us individually for those who die before the second advent (pace the false theory of "soul sleep" which confuses this point unnecessarily). See the link: "The Imminency of the Tribulation".

4) The Judgment Seat of Christ and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb are heavenly events, which can occur only during the tribulation.

These events occur on earth after the second advent (as part of the seven thunders judgments -- they are never said to occur in heaven). See the links: "The Seven Thunders" and "The Judgment of the Church".

5) Christ returns to earth with His bride, not His espoused (Rev 19, Eph 5:22-32). The post-trib view disregards the very important wedding.

The resurrection is the wedding and it occurs at the point of His return as all the scriptures say; no problem here (see the link: "The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride").

6) The restrainer (spirit in the Church) must be removed before the antichrist takes up residency in the temple.

This is another assumption from something scripture does not say; the restraining ministry of the Spirit is not tied to His indwelling of believers (which continues); see the link: "The Restraining Ministry of the Holy Spirit"

7) In Rev. 9 the locusts sting everyone except the 144,000 evangelistic Jews. Christians are not stung because they are not there.

Just as the plagues with which Pharaoh's Egypt was hit are in several places said to be universal (but in other places said to "miss" Goshen), and just as we understand that the Israelites were spared them all, so we understand that believers are spared this plague; this passage never says that believers are so plagued (see the link: "The First Woe").

8) It is highly unlikely the antichrist would be allowed to rule the world with the Church present. Simple if removed.

This is certainly not a biblical point. I don't see any problem here which needs to be removed (the devil is currently "the prince of the power of the air", and exercises immense control on earth now with believers present in great numbers).

9) Elders represent the church. No crowns are given until the Judgment Seat. John saw elders with crowns in Rev. 4:10.

These elders are angels. See the link: "Angelic Elders"

10) In a post-trib scenario, we can wait to be right with God, having seven years to do so.  We would know to the day when Christ will come, and all the verses about immanency would be lies.

There is a difference between on the verge of happening and being imminent, at least as far as theology is concerned. Pre-trib supporters have defined Christ's statements to the effect that He will return "soon" and "quickly" to mean that there can be no intervening seven years of tribulation. That is not, however, what the words say or mean. Imminency is not, in fact, mutually exclusive with the events that will occur; See the link "The Imminency of the Tribulation"; As to "having seven years", we all have as long as we live, and no longer, to adjust to God's justice through salvation and spiritual growth, regardless of when or how long this time runs.

11) The church is "not appointed to wrath" and "kept from the hour of testing that shall come upon all the world." Rev. 3:10, Rom 5:9, 1 Thes 1:9-10.

These are separate passages which do not say (and certainly do not teach) a pre-trib rapture. The passage you quote here is referencing the church era of Philadelphia -- which is long since over (and God's promise did not fail: they were delivered from the Tribulation). We, however, live in the church era of Laodicea, and we are promised no such deliverance (see the link: "The Seven Churches of Revelation").

12) The wrath of Hell is current, the wrath of the great trib is coming. We are offered delivery from the "coming wrath" in 1 Thes 2:10.

The "wrath" of 1Thes.1:10 is the wrath of the final judgment of unbelievers (as in Rom.5:9) -- not the Tribulation.

13) You in Judea (the Jews) are addressed in Matthew 24 (earthly tribulation period), not Christians.

Indeed, this is addressed to Jews, but this is a command for believers to flee just before the start of the Great Tribulation, that is, the same events as covered in Rev.12 (see the link: "The Woman and the Dragon").

14) In a post-trib scenario, Christ would come to get us, but not return to heaven to allow us to occupy the prepared rooms.

Of course Christ comes to get those still alive, while those who died and are in heaven are resurrected first at His return, precisely as 1Thes.4 relates.

15) The believer has the opportunity to pray for escape of the tribulation period (Luke 21:36).

The Greek here is very specific: pray to ekphugein, "pray to escape out of [something you are in]"; that is to say, the Greek verb envisions a situation wherein someone in a mess makes it through the mess: not an avoidance of the mess altogether.

16) Not one single passage which discusses the earthly tribulation mentions the church. The Church is not mentioned from Rev. 4 thru Rev. 19.

The Church per se is never mentioned in Revelation at all (rather "churches" = church eras). This is indicative, however, of an essential misunderstanding of the point of there being no true distinction between Israel and the Church (see the link: "Israel and the Church").

17) The Rapture occurs while the church is sleeping (Mt 25:5, Mk 13:35,36). But the end of the Trib marks worldwide devastation and distress.

These "foolish virgins" represent those Christians who lose their faith during the Great Apostasy: see the link: "The Great Apostasy"

18) Those with eternal life are a part of resurrection group #1 (Rev 20:4-5, 1 Thess 4:16- 19) Those doomed to Hell are a part of resurrection group #2.

20) Res 1 includes Christ, the dead in Christ, the tribulation saints, and more. The lost will be part of group 2. Blessed are those who are part of group 1.

This construct is theoretical and not biblical. Here's what Paul says about this (with inserted explanations):

But each [will be resurrected] in his own echelon. Christ [is the] first-fruits (i.e., the initial person and echelon of resurrection). Next [will be] those belonging to Christ at His coming [all believers at the 2nd Advent]. Then the end [of human history – the resurrection of millennial believers], when He will hand the Kingdom over to the Father, after He has brought an end to all rule, all power, and all authority (i.e., hostile human and angelic control). For He must rule until He has placed all His enemies under His feet.
1st Corinthians 15:23-25 (cf. Psalm 110:1)

21) The Last Trump represents 'resurrection' at the end of each Jewish Feast of Trumpets. It is a rookie assumption to believe there will be no further trumpet blasts.

Here you have no argument, merely an assertion "proved" with a personal attack. The trumpets of the Feast of Trumpets are warnings represented by the seven trumpet judgments (see the link: "Jewish Festivals"); the "last trumpet" is the archangel's signal for the resurrection to begin.

22) Christ will come like a thief for His bride before, and with His bride after the tribulation (Rev 16:15). His coming will be a surprise to those left on earth (2 Thes 2:11).

It will not be a surprise to those of us awaiting His return. Rev.16:15 specifically defeats your entire argument here, since the Tribulation is well underway by this point (i.e., it can't be "before" the tribulation as you suggest).

23) There is no hint of a rapture scenario in Rev 19 when Christ returns to earth with His bride.

There is no hint of the judgment seat of Christ scenario here either as you insist has taken place already. Revelation as always must be supplemented by details known from elsewhere in scripture. Where do we find the "pre-trib rapture" scenario in Revelation?

24) John warns everyone in Revelation 22:18-19 that if anyone changes the words of the prophesy of this book, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. These plagues occur during the tribulation period.

I fail to see your point. Taking the verse the way you take it, this would seem to indicate that believers who "add/subtract" will be around to experience such curses, which is entirely contrary to your thesis.

This ministry, Ichthys, has voluminous information on all of these topics, and I would be pleased to have you peruse (and, hopefully, come to believe) it all. As I say, I am interested in your personal spiritual growth, and derive no other benefit or satisfaction from that (potential) process other than the satisfaction of God's truth helping a fellow believer. Feel free to access any or all of these studies anonymously, and also to ask whatever legitimate questions you might have (and it is the purpose of this ministry to field questions rather than to engage in apologetic debate). Thus I do fear that just as my patience with attempting to educate someone who is otherwise not willing to be educated is wearing thin, so the profitability of any such further communications as the above has long since hit the point of diminishing returns (again, as defined by the purpose of this ministry).

I do promise to say a prayer for you, that the Spirit lead you into all truth in all of these matters, for nothing is more critical than the truth of the Word of God.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

[Question removed at correspondent's request]

Response #10: 

The Father is omnipresent, but that is hardly a consideration here since John 14:3 is speaking about Christ's ascension which would follow the resurrection (cf. Jn.14:12; 14:28; 16:10; 16:17; 16:28).

Here's one for you:

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 5:8-9 NIV

Since "being away from the body" = being "at home with the Lord", there is no interval for a "soul sleep". Q.E.D.

Philippians 1:23 proves the same point. Paul presents these two opposites as absolutes. That is, if one is away from the body, one is with the Lord. This is the obvious reading and also the reading of the Greek after considered exegesis. These statements do allow for any interim whatsoever (let alone a lengthy one).

Critical to your unique take on these matters is your entire argument that the "soul" (really the spirit, biblically speaking) cannot be separated from the body. Since you believe that such is the case, how can Paul envision being "away from the body" at all? What would "away from the body" mean, in your "soul sleep" hypothesis? Clearly, Paul's words in either passage cannot be reconciled with your theory. 

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #11:

[Question removed at correspondent's request]

Response #11:   

If that were so, then how can Paul in speaking about death say he'll be "away from the body" (2Cor.5:6), if, as you say, he is "with his old body"?

Rather, this passage is consistent with Philippians 1:23 where also in respect to contemplating death (v.21) Paul says he desires rather to analysai, "to depart". What is he departing from? The body. And what is the result of "departing"? It is "to be with Christ -- which is far better".

Neither of these passages contemplates an interval of the spirit being in the ground with the dead body. In fact, both are completely inconsistent with that idea since in the former "away from the body" is set in opposition to "being with the Lord" -- the two are opposites, one of which must be true at all times as Paul has set up the comparison.

Likewise the latter passage, Philippians 1:23, presents two options between which Paul is "hard-pressed to choose". He cannot choose for himself whether to be with the Lord or to continue to live, although "departing" is better by far. Now if by departing his spirit did not leave the body at all, how would that even be departing? And it certainly would not be "better by far" prima facie to be in the grave for thousands of years, but also in scriptural terms it would not be better because he would not then "be with the Lord" unless this departure was to heaven rather than to the grave. Departing is "better by far" only because he will "be with the Lord", which he would certainly not be if he were in the grave asleep.

And it does not do to ignore the clear sense here and defer the matter, wrongly understanding the "being with the Lord" as something far future. For if that were the case, how would Paul be better off "departing" right then? He would be no better off in terms of being with the Lord whether he had died immediately or whether he had lived until the resurrection, because in neither case, according to your view, would he "be with the Lord" even a second sooner.

So only if we understand that "departing" places him with the Lord do his words here make any sense at all. Paul's desire to "depart" because "that were far better" only makes any sense if that departure places him with the Lord more quickly -- something it most assuredly would not do if his spirit were still in the grave today. Better he should have lived two more thousand years and ministered to us all -- better for us, but also better for him since at least he would have some fruit to his ministry whereas going into the grave has no advantage whatsoever. Yet he says he is preferring departure to remaining. Why? The only reason is so as to "be with the Lord". We should assume therefore that Paul understood that departure would mean his "being with the Lord" sooner than if he continued in the body. But he would have been wrong about that according to your theory, because according to your theory he would not in fact have found himself with the Lord after departure, and would not speed up the time-line one moment by dying earlier.

Furthermore, consider again that to "depart from the body" at all is impossible according to your understanding of things -- and yet that is exactly what Paul says he will to in order to "be with the Lord".

Therefore Paul is not desirous of "departing to be in the grave and wait there instead of here on earth". Were that the case, Christians would be motivated to cling to life almost as fervently as the most vehement unbeliever. And in Philippians 1:23, Paul is most desirous of "departing . . . to be with Christ". But that would be a vain expectation according to your position, since in your understanding of things he is not with Christ even now but is still in the grave, as far away from Christ as when he did depart. So why should he desire to depart? He might desire for Christ to return before he departed, but he would never have desired to depart "to be with Christ" if that were impossible.

Paul's courage in the face of death, even exhibiting a desire for it, is not because he seeks oblivion, even a temporary manifestation of it, but because he wants to be with Christ. That is my hope and desire as well, that is a very valid part of the Christian hope, and that is what scripture very clearly teaches -- everywhere.

(13) I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, (14) because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. (15) And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
2nd Peter 1:13-15

As Peter also describes the body as tent to be "put off" = being out/away/departed from it (rather than buried in it), and likewise describes this event as a "departure" (from the body and this life so as to be in the presence of Christ), isn't it time to put away this false argument? It will be an encouragement to you to recognize that you will be with Christ when you depart this body, and in accepting the truth of scripture on this point you will cease to be a discouragement to others. For I can think of few things more discouraging than the morbid idea of being stuck in the ground with one's decaying corpse until the distant day of resurrection. We take what scripture has to offer, whether or not we find it appealing. But, thankfully, this particular curiosity does not have the force of scripture behind it in truth, and I for one am most grateful for that. Just as Jesus "tented among us" when He became flesh and entered the world (Jn.1:14), so the "putting aside" of the bodily tent in the passage above means precisely what it says -- not a continued unconscious dwelling in a decaying tent, but a departing from this tent altogether and an entering into the presence of Jesus in an interim body to await the grand day of resurrection, not asleep, but in full cognizance of all our Lord will be doing up until that very moment.

I also think that if you have a look at the following link, you see that my position on this alleviates all your concerns about a "partial resurrection" or as I would say a false notion of disembodied spirits (or, less correctly, "souls"):

Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State.

In anticipation of being face to face with the Lord in company with all the departed saints, yours in Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #12: 

[Question removed at correspondent's request]

Response #12: 

It remains clear that you have no answer for these passages as this latest explanation makes no sense on any level (and I have serious doubts as to whether or not you really believe it yourself or merely throwing it out there as a last-ditch defense). It would be totally disingenuous of Paul to tell the Philippians and Corinthians that when they die they will be with the Lord if instead they would be dead in every horrible sense of the word, consigned to oblivion for thousands of years to come. Whatever you want to call your "soul sleep", it's not "being with the Lord".

Indeed, if what you teach were correct, Paul would have no reason to make these statements at all. There would be no reason for him to desire death at all. I could understand him looking forward to the resurrection after a long hiatus and seeing death as a necessary evil step along the way, but these statements actually look forward to physical death. They look forward to being with the Lord, not being dead and in the grave. Paul's words are indeed very clear, simple, as you say. To die is gain because to die is to be with the Lord. This is only possible if we find ourselves in heaven (in an interim body) after death -- precisely what the scriptures teach.

Finally, beyond all argument, the "bodies" of all believers who lived thousands of years ago are now nothing but dust ("dust to dust"). There is no way their spirits can still be in them because their molecules are scattered around the globe by now. Thus your position actually assumes what you accuse the (admittedly incorrect) "partial resurrectionists" of, namely, all those earliest believers would be disembodied spirits, because their bodies no longer exist.

Question #13:

[Question removed at correspondent's request]

Response #13:   

It is a not a question of "understanding" but of what the Bible says. "Be with the Lord" does not mean "be dead, in the grave, moldering, without consciousness, without a body (after it rots to dust), and eventually be resurrected". No one who has not over-emotionally invested in an incorrect teaching would ever think so.

Question #14: 

[Question removed at correspondent's request]

Response #14: 

If this were a teaching of the Spirit, your eyes would have been illuminated to the truth. The fact that you resist the clear sense of scripture smacks more of ego than Spirit.

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
John 11:25-26 NIV

He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.
1st Thessalonians 5:10 NIV
 

In Jesus with whom we long to be,

Bob L.

 

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