Death and the Intermediate State Part 2

Posted: February 5, 2009 in Uncategorized

How should Christians few their own death and the death of others? 

Paul writes in Philippians,

1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

The inspired author of the Book of Revelation writes in Chapter 14:13, “and I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

These passages, and many others, lead Wayne Grudem to assert, “believers need have no fear of death, therefore, for Scripture reassures us that not even ‘death’ will ‘separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom. 8:38-39; cf. Ps. 23:4).  In fact, Jesus died in order that he might ‘deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage’ (Heb. 2:15).”  

However, Grudem reminds us that such a great hope does not mean that we shouldn’t mourn for fellow believers who pass away.  Even the devout men of the early church “made great lamentation” over the martyr Stephen.  After all, we will miss our brothers and sisters while we work for the Kingdom here. 

Yet, we do not mourn as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13) for, although we miss them now, we know that our family members in Christ who no longer dwell on this side of eternity our with King Jesus and happy to be so.

The death of an unbeliever is another matter.  While Grudem does not deal with it in this chapter, hell is very real and eternal (note that Matt. 25:46 refers to hell as “eternal punishment”).  Such a reality should urge all of us to share the Gospel as best we can with as many as we can even though at the end of the day faith is a gift (See Ephesians 2) and “salvation belongs to the Lord” (Jonah 2:9).

So exactly what happens when people die? Grudem rightly asserts that the souls of believers go immediately into God’s presence (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23, etc.).  With all do respect to my Catholic friends, the Waynester rightly states that the Bible does not teach the doctrine of purgatory, which is largely lifted from the book of 2 Maccabees, which is not (and should not) be included as an inspired work, but that’s another discussion.

Neither does Scripture teach the doctrine of “soul sleep” for, as we have seen, the Bible teaches that once we pass our souls go immediately to be with Jesus in heaven.

So what happened to Old Testament believers? Many passages of Scripture speak of the faithful going to heaven (Gen. 5:24; 2 Kings 2:11; Ps. 23:6, etc.).  How this happened is not clearly outlined in the Bible and Grudem does not fully address it although some have speculated (and that is all it is) that these believers had at least some faith in a future coming of Jesus that saved them. 

The Great and Powerful Grudem waits until the next chapter to deal with an issue that I think is of great importance for the believer and needs to be discussed here, namely, that heaven is not our final destination. 

The Bible is clear that if we die before Jesus returns then our souls go to heaven BUT once he returns all people will receive a new eternal body like the one Christ had after his resurrection (see 1 Cor. 15:50-55; Phil. 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2, etc.) and God will dwell with us on earth forever (Rev. 21:1-4). 

Many people don’t find Christianity attractive because they think the portrait of heaven presented by many churches sounds…well…boring!  I mean who wants to sit on a cloud in a diaper playing a harp for eternity? Yet, the Bible is clear that, eventually, we will live here with physical bodies that, like Jesus’ resurrected body, can be recognized, can eat, drink, be felt, etc.  Awesome!

This is a brief summary of the doctrine of glorification that Grudem discusses in his next chapter and that we will tackle tomorrow.  Until then, grace and peace.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s