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What Happens to the Faithful at their Death?

 The Raising Lazarus- John 11 Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on verses 17-32:

“Here was a house where the fear of God was, and on which his blessing rested; yet it was made a house of mourning. Grace will keep sorrow from the heart, but not from the house. When God, by his grace and providence, is coming towards us in ways of mercy and comfort, we should, like Martha, go forth by faith, hope, and prayer, to meet him. When Martha went to meet Jesus, Mary sat still in the house; this temper formerly had been an advantage to her, when it put her at Christ’s feet to hear his word; but in the day of affliction, the same temper disposed her to melancholy. It is our wisdom to watch against the temptations, and to make use of the advantages of our natural tempers. When we know not what in particular to ask or expect, let us refer ourselves to God; let him do as seemeth him good. To enlarge Martha’s expectations, our Lord declared himself to be the Resurrection and the Life. In every sense he is the Resurrection; the source, the substance, the first-fruits, the cause of it. The redeemed soul lives after death in happiness; and after the resurrection, both body and soul are kept from all evil forever. When we have read or heard the word of Christ, about the great things of the other world, we should put it to ourselves, Do we believe this truth? The crosses and comforts of this present time would not make such a deep impression upon us as they do, if we believed the things of eternity as we ought. When Christ our Master comes, he calls for us. He comes in his word and ordinances, and calls us to them, calls us by them, calls us to himself. Those who, in a day of peace, set themselves at Christ’s feet to be taught by him, may with comfort, in a day of trouble, cast themselves at his feet, to find favour with him.”

(Same Commentary) “…He could have raised Lazarus by the silent exertion of his power and will, and the unseen working of the Spirit of life; but he did it by a loud call. This was a figure of the gospel call, by which dead souls are brought out of the grave of sin: and of the sound of the archangel’s trumpet at the last day, with which all that sleep in the dust shall be awakened, and summoned before the great tribunal. The grave of sin and this world, is no place for those whom Christ has quickened; they must come forth. Lazarus was thoroughly revived, and returned not only to life, but to health.”

         -Jesus words: “Where I’m going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

John 13:36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”  Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

       -In my house are many mansions, I go there to prepare a place for you – John 14

John 14:1-9 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Verses 15-31 (Presence of the Holy Spirit, ‘Christ with them’)

  • and I will come back, That where I am you will be also

      -I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise – Luke 23:42-43

     It is common knowledge that punctuation, including commas, was introduced into the biblical manuscripts centuries after the books were completed. Therefore, commas are not authoritative.  However, the placement of commas can affect our understanding of a text. For example, in Luke 23, one of the thieves crucified next to Jesus says, “‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise’” (verses 42-43). Commas help us keep the original phrasing intact. Was Jesus saying, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me . . .” (meaning that “today” is when the thief would be in paradise)? Or was He saying, “I tell you the truth today, you will be with me . . .” (meaning that “today” is when Jesus was speaking”)?

First, we should note that every major Bible translation inserts the comma before the word today. Thus, the KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, ESV, and RSV all agree that Jesus was speaking of the time that the thief would enter paradise. The thief would be in paradise with Jesus on that very same day.

Also, Jesus prefaced His response with the phrase, “I tell you the truth” (“Verily I say unto thee” in the KJV). Many scholars have noticed that Jesus uses this as a prefix phrase when He is about to say something that should be listened to with care. Seventy-six times in the New Testament, Jesus uses the phrase. Interestingly, no one but Jesus ever says it. When the Lord says “I tell you the truth,” He is affirming that what He is about to say is worthy of special attention. It was Jesus’ way of saying, “Listen up! What I’m about to say is very important and should be listened to carefully.” We’re too used to hearing the phrase to appreciate the astonishing authority it expresses and the often solemn nature of the announcement that follows. In every one of the 76 times Christ uses this introductory phrase, He simply says it and then makes a startling statement.

 *It would be strange indeed if, in this one instance, Jesus departed from His normal way of making His signature statement by adding the word today to it. In every case where this sort of introductory phrase is used, Greek scholars add a punctuation break after the phrase in question and before the rest of the statement. So, the why would we take umbrage at this agreement between all the translators. The comma in Luke 23:43 seems to belong right where they put it.

This brings us to another question. If Jesus was buried and rose after three days and then many days later ascended to heaven, how could He have been in paradise with the thief?

After Christ died, it was His body that was buried in the tomb. However, Jesus’ spirit/soul was not in the tomb. Jesus’ spirit was in the Father’s presence (Luke 23:46Ephesians 4:8).

Luke 23:46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

 –          Peter – Jesus preaching to spirits in prison?  1 Peter 3:18

1 Pet 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

    One alternate interpretation, (instead of Christ speaking to fallen angels after His death), is that Christ was in Noah (spiritually) when Noah preached to his doomed neighbors. This explanation paraphrases 1 Peter 3:18-20 like this: Jesus was put to death in the flesh, but He was made alive in the Spirit (it was through this same Spirit that Jesus long ago preached to those who are right now in prison—those souls who disobeyed during the time of God’s great patience when Noah was building the ark).” According to this view, Jesus preached spiritually to the people of Noah’s time, and He did this through the prophet Noah, in much the same way that God speaks through us today when we proclaim God’s Word.

(Recall Dan Rogers recent sermon on the Jewish view of eternal life and the age to come from just a couple of weeks ago:  Paradise as a revisited Garden of Eden, restored on earth)

        -Paul: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ,…”, or to stay-  Phil 1:23, 2 Cor 5:6-8,

 Phil 1: Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 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. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.  (ESV)

2 Cor 5:6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For 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.

       -Heb 12:1 So great a cloud of witnesses

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (ESV) –

     In the previous chapter,11, we have the record of the faithful of the OT, Heroes of the faith, Like Enoch…Samson…

      -Enoch- ‘for the Lord took him’    Gen 5:24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

Heb 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. (ESV)

      -The Transfiguration- there appeared with him Moses & Elijah-  Future brought into the present?   A true image of the mystery of the faithful in him, the timeless always present I AM? 

 Matt 17: 1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

     -Yes, but what about?… John 3:13 “No one has ever gone to heaven except…”

    In John 3:13 Jesus says to Nicodemus, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man.” This verse is somewhat difficult to interpret and is often misunderstood. It is also frequently used by those who want to find contradictions in the Bible.

We must keep the verse in context. In verses 10-12, especially, we see that Jesus is talking about His authority and the validity of His teaching. Jesus tells Nicodemus that He has been teaching what He knew firsthand: “We speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen” (verse 11). Then, in verse 13 Jesus explains why He is uniquely qualified to teach of the kingdom of God—namely, because He alone came down from heaven and possesses the knowledge to teach people about heaven. Jesus alone has seen the Father, and He alone is qualified to declare God and make Him known (John 1:18).

The gist of John 3:13 is this: “None of your earthly teachers can really teach you about heaven, because none of them have actually been there. However, I have been there. In fact, it is My home. I have come to you from heaven, and I have brought with Me experiential knowledge of that place. My testimony carries weight; I can tell you the truth about salvation.” The NLT brings out the meaning well: “No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven.”

In claiming a heavenly abode, Jesus was claiming deity. Nicodemus himself had already admitted that Jesus was extraordinary when he said, “We know you are a teacher who has come from God” (verse 2).

Jesus was not teaching that no one had ever gone to heaven before. It seems obvious that the Old Testament saints had gone to heaven (or paradise) when they died.  His statement in Mark 12 is revelatory in terms of how God views those faithful who have gone before us.  He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

Mark 12:26-27   26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.” (ESV)

    Enoch and Elijah had been taken there without dying (Genesis 5:24Hebrews 11:52 Kings 2:11). Rather, He was teaching that, of all rabbis, He had the best credentials. Jesus has direct contact with heaven; He is an expert on the subject.

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