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Death and Resurrection - 2. The History of the Doctrines on Death & Resurrection.

 

2.   THE HISTORY OF THE DOCTRINES ON DEATH,
      THE INTERMEDIATE STATE AND THE RESURRECTION.



Jude 14 Enoch, seventh from Adam, also prophesied of these, saying, Look and see, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, 15 To execute judgment upon all, and to punish all that are wicked among them of all their unjust deeds which they have wickedly committed, and of all their hard words which wicked sinners have spoken against Him.



Right back to Enoch, there was an in-depth knowledge and understanding among mankind, of what happens to us when we die, the coming of the Lord with ten thousands of His angels, the resurrection of the dead and the Day of Damnation.  Enoch walked with God and God told him of these things.  Enoch would have passed this information on to his son Methuselah. Methuselah would have passed this information on to his grandson Noah. Who in turn would have passed it on to his son Shem, who would have been preaching justification by faith in the blood The Lamb, to the people of the world, right up to the day the tower of Babel was destroyed.  

In short, when mankind built the tower of Babel, they would have known and understood these things.  Nevertheless, at that time, mankind chose to reject the truth and rebel against God.  So God confused their language and scattered mankind over the face of the earth. Although God confused their language, I do not believe for one moment that God confused their knowledge of the truth about God their creator, the coming day of the Lord, the resurrection and of eternal damnation.  Although God divided mankind into many nations, each nation would have taken with them a good understanding of these truths. 

For this reason when one studies ancient civilizations of the world, it is not unusual to find many similar beliefs amongst the ancient civilizations of the world, to those beliefs held by today’s Christians. But because they loved not the truth, over the years the nations of the world have turned and wandered further and further from the truth. Knowing this many Christian missionaries will dig deep into the myths and history of pagan cultures. To find hidden truths in their ancient beliefs before witnessing into that culture. (I have covered this passing on of Scriptural knowledge more fully in the book, “God is revealed to us through Creation.”)

The choice is simple.  Either you believe in a creator God, who gave the knowledge of these truths to all mankind (therefore all beliefs contrary to true Judeo-Christian beliefs, are the result of nations and people groups rebelling against God and turning away from the truth). Or there is no God, and this earth and all its living creatures, including mankind and their religious beliefs, just evolved over time.  I happen to believe in God, the creator of the sky and earth, God who made man in his own image. A God, who before the tower of Babel was destroyed and the nations scattered around the world, told all mankind, of the Day of the Lord, the coming resurrection, and of eternal damnation. 

 

WHAT THE ISRAELITES BELIEVED.



Among the Children of Israel, there have always been those who believed, like their forefathers, that death came to their mortal body when their spirit return to God who gave it. Then their body would returned to the dust of the earth from which it came, while their soul would be carried by the angels of God to world of the dead, called Sheol in Hebrew, Hades in Greek and Hell in English. Sheol is a subterranean world into which, upon the death of the body, both the souls of the just and the wicked enter.  With the just entering into one area to be with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (This area is sometimes called Paradise, which means a park or gardened grounds.) and the wicked being thrown into a place of torment, known as the pit (bor in Hebrew). This is the first death.

After the first death comes the resurrection of the dead; the justified too everlasting life, the wicked too eternal damnation. Eternal damnation is to be thrown, both body and soul, into the eternal lake of fire, where the wicked will suffer for all eternity. The Greek word Gehenna is sometimes used to describe the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Right from the beginning of the Scriptures, the Hebrew writers chose different words to describe the grave, the resting place of the body after death, and the subterranean world of the dead, the resting place of man’s soul after death.  Both Job, who wrote the earliest book in the Bible, and Moses, who wrote the first five books of the Bible used the Hebrew word ‘quber’ to describe the grave, and the Hebrew word ‘sheol’ to describe the world of the dead.

This word ‘sheol’ was used by the Hebrew writers in three ways.  So depending on how and where it was used, it could have any one of three meanings.

(1) Death and its power.

(2) The place of the dead in general, when the writer wanted to lump all the dead together.

(3) The place where the wicked who have died, are tormented while waiting for the final damnation.

When the Jewish translators went looking for a Greek word that meant the same as Sheol, they chose Hades. To the Greeks, Hades is a subterranean world, which holds both the souls of the just and the wicked.

New Testament writers continued to use the Greek word ‘Hades’ to describe the world of the dead in general.  They also used the Greek word “Gehenna’ to describe ‘the lake of fire’, which is the second death.  Peter uses the Greek word “Tartarus’, to describe the area within Sheol, where the fallen angels are kept in chains (2 Peter 2:4).  Then in Revelation, John uses the Greek word ‘abussos’ to describe an area within Sheol.  ‘Abussos’ is translated into English as either ‘the bottomless pit’, or ‘abyss’.  It is up from this abyss that the beast mentioned in the Book of Revelation comes (Rev 11:7).

From the time of Enoch, through the line of Noah, Abraham and Israel, God has always maintained a remnant of believers who have maintained this truth, taught by God Himself.  It was to this remnant of believers that God entrusted both the writing of the Scriptures and their preservation.  It is these Israelites we can thank for the writing of both the Old and the New Testaments.


CHRISTIAN BELIEFS.



Although we can say the doctrine which was entrusted to those who wrote the Scriptures did not evolve or devolve, but was given by God and remained constant throughout the writing of the Scriptures; we cannot say the same about Christian doctrines on death, the intermediate state and the resurrection. Because there has been much change and variation in Christian teaching on these things over the years.

In the earliest years of the Christian Church, there was little thought given to the intermediate state.  They believed that Jesus Christ was returning very soon.  So what happened to their soul, in the interval between the death of their mortal body and the day of resurrection, seemed of little consequence.  What happened to the soul during the intermediate time didn’t become a concern of most Christians, until it became apparent that Jesus Christ was not returning as soon as they had first thought.

Although the early Church Fathers were not unanimous in their beliefs on this subject, the majority of them followed basically the same beliefs on death, the intermediate state and the resurrection as the Jews.

The following is taken from “Systematic Theology,” by Berkhof Louis, p. 680.

    Addison says, in his book, ‘Life Beyond Death’, p. 202.

“For many centuries the general conclusion was widely accepted that in a subterranean Hades, the righteous enjoyed a measure of reward not equal to their future heaven and the wicked suffer a degree of punishment not equal to their future hell.  The intermediate state was thus a slightly reduced version of the ultimate retribution.”

This view was held though with some variations, by such men as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Novatain, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, and Augustine.  In the Alexandrian School the idea of the intermediate state passed into that of a gradual purification of the soul, and this in the course of time paved the way for the Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory.  There were some, however, who favoured the idea at death the souls of the justified immediately entered heaven, namely Gregory of Nazianze, Eusebius, and Gregory the Great.  In the Middle Ages the doctrine of the intermediate state was retained, and in connection with the Roman Catholic Church developed the doctrine of Purgatory.

During the middle Ages, it was believed that only those who were just and free from every stain of sin, went straight to Paradise, (It was believed that very few other than martyrs went straight to Paradise), while all other Christians went to Purgatory.  There they would be detained until they were purged from sin by purifying fires.  How long they had to stay in Purgatory depended on how much sin there was in their life.

With the coming of the Reformation, all Reformers rejected the doctrine of Purgatory.  But like the early Church Fathers, there was no unanimous teaching on this subject. Calvin, who had a strong following, taught that the justified went straight to Paradise. 

Given that Calvin was brought up to believe that the only reason Christians went to Sheol/Hell, was to be purified of their sins, prior to their ascent into Paradise.  Having then come to the understanding of the truth, that it is only by faith through Jesus Christ that we are justified and cleansed of our sins. One can understand how Calvin would then, wrongly jump to this conclusion; that all Christians upon the death of their body would go straight to Paradise.

Among the Reformers, the Socinians and the Anabaptist believed in the doctrine of soul sleep.  That is they believed that when a man’s body dies, his soul enters into soul sleep until the day of Jesus Christ return and of the resurrection of the dead. Today most Churches, who believe in soul sleep, do not believe in a literal hell, and usually teach that the words Sheol and Hades should always be translated as grave. 

However the term soul sleep for the Seventh Day Adventist could be a bit misleading.  Anthony Hoekema suggest instead “soul-extinction”, since in the Adventist view, ones soul does not fall asleep at death, but actually becomes completely non-existent.

In the Christian world today, there are six main views (with many variations) of Hell and the intermediate state.

1:  The view held by a large number of early Church Fathers.  This view teaches that when the body of a saint dies, his soul descends into paradise and remains there until the return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection to eternal life.

2:  The Roman Catholic view.  This view teaches that upon the death of a Christian, their soul enters into purgatory.  There to suffer in the purifying fires until cleansed of sin, before they can enter into Paradise.

3:  The soul sleep view.  This view teaches that when our body dies, the soul either sleeps or ceases to exist until the return of Jesus Christ.

4:  The view of Calvin and his followers. This view teaches that when a saint dies, his soul goes straight to Paradise.

5:  A more recent view that would appear to have come out of the U.S.A. in the last 150 years, then promoted within the American Pentecostal movement and later pushed by persons within the American Faith movement. This view teaches that man is not a soul but a spirit, which either goes straight to Paradise or hell when one dies.  Some believe that man’s spirit and soul are one and the same thing, therefore man is a dichotomy and not a trichotomy.  Others believe that the soul is no more than man’s feelings and emotions, and that the soul of man ceases to exist when he dies.

6:  The liberal (or allegorical) view.  This view teaches that there is no literal Paradise or hell.  When we die, they believe that is the end of us and we will be no more.  Therefore any Scriptures that refer to the dead going to Paradise or hell should be interpreted allegorically.

NOTE:  Views 1, 2, & 4 are trichotomy views, while views 3 & 5 are dichotomy views.
When man is viewed as a trichotomy, he is viewed as a combination of spirit, soul and body.
When man is viewed as a dichotomy, he is viewed as a combination of spirit and body only.

Why did I decide to write this book?
 
•    Because, view number 1 was widely accepted by a large number of the early Church Fathers.

•    Because I myself, after much research have come to the conclusion; this is the only view that lines up with the Scriptures.

•    Because, apart from the Bible I have been unable to find any book that looks at this view in any depth.

Written by Kenneth Allan Clark and printed and published by

VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN MINISTRIES INTERNATIONAL. P.O. BOX 144 WYNNUM QLD 4178 AUSTRALIA.
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