Chawnghilh's Blog

TRUTH —many have no courage to know!

Posted in Qualitus : Habitus by chawnghilh on December 6, 2009

I’ve heard preachers use 1 Thessalonians 3:13 (“at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints”) to prove that souls of the redeemed are now in heaven. Is there a better interpretation?

This is one of two verses in Paul’s letter that speak of God bringing the saints “with” Jesus. The other is 4:14, which says those God will bring are those who now sleep in Jesus, awaiting resurrection. We believe these two verses affirm that, as Jesus descends, dead saints will be raised from their graves and joined by the living righteous to meet the Lord in the air (4:15-17). What a grand and heavenly time that will be! After this airy reunion, as the saints descend with Christ toward the earth, it will appear to the watching world that they’re all coming from heaven, as 3:13 can imply. But not all of them are, for only Jesus was ever there (John 3:13). The saints soar somewhere into the vast expanse to meet Him coming this way, but none of them come “all the way” from heaven. From this perspective, it makes perfect sense that Jesus brings all His saints (from their graves and from the meeting in the air) with Him when He returns from heaven. The next question addresses texts that could imply deceased Christians are in heaven prior to Jesus’ return.

Some Christians quote 2 Corinthians 5:1-9 as proof that we are immediately in the presence of the Lord when we die. How is the phrase “be absent from the body and . . . be present with the Lord” properly understood?

This passage is one of two places where Paul expresses his hope of being with Christ when he departs in death; the other is Philippians 1:23b. If these texts were his only statements on the topic, we might indeed think that Paul anticipated “heaven” immediately upon death, in accord with the theory that souls never die.

In other texts, however, Paul states his belief that the heavenly reward will not be experienced by believers until Christ returns (1 Thess. 4:14ff), until the dead are raised immortal (1 Cor. 15:52ff), and until fi nal judgment is passed (2 Tim. 4:1ff). These three texts are more defi nitive teachings of Paul than the previous two.

Being “absent from the body” and “present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8) expresses Paul’s confident hope that even the death of this mortal body will not break the believer’s fellowship with his loving Lord. Indeed it will not, as Romans 8:38, 39 affi rms, for the New Testament describes death much like a sleep in which we are not aware of time’s passage, but from which we shall be wakened by the trumpet of Christ’s return and the glory of resurrection — with a new body. Rather than the common view of natural immortality, Paul’s teaching later in Philippians (3:10, 11, 20, 21) affirms the view presented here. Note also that Paul’s statement in 2 Cor. 5:3 (“if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked”) expresses aversion to the thought of being in God’s presence without a resurrected, immortal body.

Did Enoch and Elijah go to God’s heaven without experiencing physical death?

The question is not an easy one; only God knows the answer for sure. Our studied opinion is that Enoch and Elijah did not ascend into heaven where God dwells in His infi nite glory and majesty. Until now, it seems that only Christ, who came from there, has done that (John 3:13). Other verses that support this conclusion are Hebrews 11:13, 39, 40. Here we learn that all the heroes of faith, like Enoch (v. 5) and the prophets (v. 32) like Elijah, have died without receiving their final reward. They will receive it at the resurrection, when Christ returns, just like the rest of God’s people (1 Cor. 15:22, 23).

What does the Bible say about immortality of the soul? If we don’t go to heaven when we die, where are the dead?

The term immortal soul(s) is not found in the Bible. The idea that humans are naturally born with an immortal component that survives death and continues to exist in another realm owes more to Greek philosophy than to Hebrew religion. The Israelites did not think of one aspect of human personality continuing to exist without the whole. No detachable parts. In Scripture the word soul has several connotations. One of the most common of these is “whole person”; a person is a soul (Gen. 2:7; Ex. 1:5; Ezek. 18:4; Acts 2:41, all KJV). All human persons (souls) are mortal and subject to death. While the influence of Greek dualism (body and soul) begins to be felt in the New Testament, our future hope as Christians is always couched in terms of Christ’s return and a resurrected body. This — not an immortal soul that departs the body at death — is the blessed hope of all God’s people (Titus 2:13, 14). Rather than what every human has at birth, immortality is the gift of God in Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 6:23; 2 Tim. 1:10). Though eternal life is a spiritual reality now, by faith, the ultimate reality of immortal life in the new heavens and earth awaits the return of Christ and the resurrection of the dead, when “this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:52-54).


Len luhna thlàkhlelhawm with great infatuation —

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