The resurrection of the saints, and the great transformation of those alive when Christ returns, has always been the pinnacle of Christianity. The Second Advent (when the first resurrection takes place) has even been called the “blessed hope” in scripture (Titus 2:13). Christ, when speaking to the Jews about his origin, told the people four different times in John chapter six, “I will raise him up at the last day,” (verses 39b, 40b, 44b, and 54b), thus showing when the first resurrection would take place. To say the resurrection and transformation of the Church is least among the doctrines of the New Testament would reveal a lack of understanding the importance placed upon this glorious event. To Martha, at the death of her brother Lazarus, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection. And the life” (John 11:25). Jesus is the “only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only has immortality” (I Timothy 5:15, 16). Jesus is “the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). Yes, the resurrection, His and ours, is imperative. Yet today, many in Christendom ignore this most sacred teaching.
Quite often believers and no-believers will speak of departing this world at death. We hear statements like; “They went on to be with the Lord,” or “They’re in a better place now.” These types of statements not only lessen the importance of the resurrection they also do great damage to the Word of God. Misinterpreted passages such as II Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21, 23, and Luke 16:19-31 have caused the scripture to appear to be in err. The Bible tells us in death, “His breath goes forth, he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish” (Psalm 146:4). And again, “The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence” (Psalm 115:17). Ecclesiastes 9:5, “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing…” It is very clear by the passages quoted, that death is an unconscious state. But what about those misinterpreted passages?
II Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Does this passage tell us that we “go to be with the Lord at death?” As with many beliefs that are contrary to established doctrine, the problem occurs when we take a statement out of context. Yes, Paul is saying that he would rather be absent from the body, which means one will be present with the Lord, but the question is, when can this take place? If we say at death then we have a problem, we have uncovered a biblical contradiction. According to the passages cited earlier “the dead know not anything,” (Ecc. 9:5). A rule of thumb is applied here. If there appears to be an inconsistency in Scripture there may well be a problem with the interpretation. Within the context of verse 8 the Apostle Paul was not talking about being “unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life” (II Cor. 5:4b). Paul made the statement found in verse 8 within the framework of life, not death. This changes everything. Paul’s hope was not in death but in the second coming of Christ when mortality will be swallowed up in victory. Consider Paul’s words in I Corinthians 15:51-54, “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” II Corinthians 5:1-10 speaks within the outline of the second coming of Christ. There is another question to consider. When will we receive our spiritual body? Many teach that at death we will “put on our spiritual bodies.” Is that what the scripture says? I Corinthians 15:44 makes clear when we should expect our spiritual bodies; “it is raised a spiritual body.” Only at the first resurrection will the saints adorn their spiritual bodies. No where, outside of the “firstfruits” offered unto the Father at the resurrection of Christ, can we find anyone with a spiritual body until the second coming of Christ.
Philippians 1:21, 23, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain…For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.” It appears as if Paul was speaking of death as a gateway to glory. Again the same rule applies. Scripture must work hand-in-hand or there is a mistake within our understand. Paul, the author of I Corinthians also said, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (I Cor. 15:22, 23). We can’t have it both ways, so let’s see what Paul was saying. As stated earlier, the scripture teaches us that at death man remains unconscious until his resurrection. Job said, “So man lieth down, and rises not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. O that thou would hide me in the grave, that thou would keep me secret, until they wrath be past, that thou would appoint me a set time, and remember be! If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt’ call, and I will answer thee” (Job 14:12-15a). Like Job, Paul believed that death is likened unto a sleep. I remember once having a conversation with someone who did not believe that the soul could sleep, I asked this simple question; “Could you recall everything that happened last night while you were asleep?” Of course they could not. I reminded them that every time they close their eyes to sleep they are unable to see, hear, or otherwise sense what is going on around them, we call this unconsciousness. Death is likened unto sleep because we are unconscious, only through the resurrection will we awake from our sleep. Jesus said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28, 29). Paul was a student of scripture; he fully understood that his next conscious moment would be in the presence of Christ at his second coming. Let’s let Paul have the last say on this subject. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing’ (II Timothy 4:7, 8).
Luke 16:19-31, “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeing Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And 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 thou in they lifetime received thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou would send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham said unto him, they have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
Before we begin we must establish the fact that this is a parable. Matthew 13:34 tells us, “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them.” What is a parable? A parable can be described as a metaphor, which is the application of a word or phrase to somebody or something that is not meant literally but to make a comparison. The parable is a short simple story intended to illustrate a moral or religious lesson. As we view this story, it is obvious that this is a parable, simply because a literal application would make little to no sense. Example: the beggar was carried into Abraham’s bosom; one drop of water to cool the tongue while engulfed in flames; wealthy people go to hell. A literal application works against the doctrine of justification by faith. If literal, poor people are comforted in death without any mention of believing upon Christ Jesus as their Savior.
The message from this parable comes to light towards the end. Abraham (of which the Jews declared to be their father, John 8:39) told the wealthy man who had died, (spiritually speaking) that his “brothers” had Moses and the prophets to hear; the prosperous man replied, “but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.” Abraham’s answer is indeed the tell all verse; “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, through one rose from the dead” (verse 31). Jesus said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:39, 40).
The parable reveals the disobedience of the Jews who were indeed wealthy, spiritually speaking, but was about to lose their control because they refused to receive Jesus as the Christ (John 1:11). Now, Jesus tells them, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:38). The Gentiles on the other hand, were now permitted to approach God through Christ. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ…Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God’ (Ephesians 2:13, 19). Wow! Can you believe it? The poor beggar who was likened unto a dog (Matthew 15:21-28) now is robed as royalty because of Jesus Christ. The message had nothing to do with literal heaven and literal hell; it was simply a cryptic word to the Jews who remained disobedient to the Savior, Jesus Christ.
When studying the Word of God one must be careful not to change the Word in order to fit their doctrine. This happens quite often. If the Old Testament unveils a truth the New Testament will build upon that truth, it will not change nor alter the doctrine, it will only establish and confirm the truth. If sin is sin in the Old Testament, it remains sin in the New Testament. Yes, some things in the O.T. are either fulfilled or not pertinent in the N.T., but the N.T. does not diminish the truth that was established in the O.T. Most modern teaching dismisses the foundation that was laid in the O.T. Jesus warned us of this when he said, ”Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17,18).
In view of the fact that death was described as an unconscious state in the Old Testament, it must be viewed the same in the New Testament. When we toy with these established truths we begin to create our “own” foundational truths, which are drawn from thin air. We begin to believe that we are something more that what the Old Testament reveals about us. Example: The O.T. says, “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). The modern teachings of man tell us that we are immortal souls; it would be impossible to die. Has the confirmed truth of the O.T. changed? No! Another example: The O.T. says, “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” (Genesis 2:3). The modern teachings of man refuses to acknowledge God as the Creator and thus declines to recognize the day that commemorates God as the Creator. Romans 1:25, “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more that the Creator…” We now parade Sunday as the “Christian Sabbath,” even though there is not one passage that permits the change. Some, like Liberty University have gone as far as to say that we only keep nine commandments today. When you refuse the foundation of scripture, you begin to open the door for many false teachings.
At truthandfreedom.org we are committed to teach the infallibility of all scripture. Time is running out, we must be diligent students and communicators of God’s Eternal Word. Our challenge to you is simple, study the Word of God and share its truth with your neighbor. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (I Thessalonians 5:6).