The motivation for writing, in this case, initiated with the study that I have been doing on the Revelation, where, at the moment, we are in chapters 21 and 22. Those chapters focus on a new heaven and a new earth.
I share these studies with the guys I sit with, and they always have questions. For example, one of the men asked about death and Heaven, which prompted him to buy a copy of the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I have a copy of that book but, until recently, never opened it.
The chapter I pursued first started on page twenty-three. By the time I got to chapter five, page 41, I had run into this bizarre statement by Randy Alcorn, and to be honest, I was done.
“When a Christian dies, he enters into what is referred to in theology as the intermediate state, a transitional period between our present lives on earth and our future resurrection to life on the New Earth.”
A Pastor I am familiar with, in his book Countdown, states that “a few cult religions believe in a soul sleep.” The problem is, the Bible does not use the phrase soul sleep; nor does it speak explicitly about an intermediate state or a transitional period as we believers await our “future resurrection” to our life on the “New Earth,” as Randy Alcorn stated.
The possibility of this intermediate state or transition being the same as soul sleep is not that difficult to perceive.
Because of the questions that believers ask and the conflicting statements from books and the pulpit, I have felt the need to look into the biblical understanding of death and our transition to our heavenly home.
Our education into death begins by grasping that the soul never dies.
- The ultimate “death” is separation from God, in whose image you are made.
It would be best if you let that statement sink in.
Since all of humanity was made in God’s image, then consider the fool that says there is no God, all the while their soul cries out as it longs to worship Him, and, because you chose to turn a blind eye to God, the rocks will sing out the praises of God.
So, what we call death is distributed – in a sense, between those who are followers of Jesus Christ and those who are not.
- For the follower of Christ, there is a glorious hope, and it is to live in the presence of Love Himself.
The Apostle Paul told us in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 that we are merely living in tents of flesh, and when those tents are taken down – destroyed, we are immediately in the presence of Jesus, clothed in the glory and garments of Heaven.
The phrase used is, “we have.” It is the Greek word echō. Thayer’s definition conveys that this word means: to have, hold, own, and possess – as in the sense of wearing a tent.
One of the verses we focus on is 2 Corinthians 5:6. Here the thought process seems to run backward; as Paul says,
“Therefore we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.”
If we apply a mathematical term, inverse, it is then easy to understand that we long to be clothed in our eternal bodies and be present with the Lord, an event that will happen instantly.
While I can’t tell you if you will be hanging around in the clouds with Jesus or dancing on golden streets, I can tell you that the transition from here to there will be instantaneous.
Please don’t ask me about the reasons behind God associating us back with our physical body, as I don’t have much more information than you do. Still, it is clear that God gave us these bodies, with sensation and emotion, for a reason and will, therefore, restore them in a condition far better than what we left them in.
Having said all that, I can picture Jesus sitting at the sea shore with the disciples, eating fish. In His immortal body, He doesn’t have to, but He did.
Is it because He could still enjoy it and the fellowship – an emotion?
Nobody ever tries to tell you that in His last days on earth, He could not feel the distress the disciples felt. They had Him, lost Him, gained Him back, and now He was going back to the Father once again. What a roller coaster of emotions. Perhaps none of this could be experienced without the body.
The death of those outside of a relationship with Jesus is different.
- Again, your soul never dies.
So, if you are unfortunate enough to make it to the great white throne, there is the sad possibility that your name is NOT listed in the book of life. If that happens, you will be cast into the lake of fire, right behind your fearless leader – Satan. You will experience eternal separation from God and the eternal agony designed for Satan and his fallen angel horde.
While the believers are taken immediately into the presence of Jesus, this is not the case for those who would not follow Him.
- I contend that, for the non-believer, the dead know nothing.
What does that mean?
It means your soul just lies there, somewhere, without a thought. Most people think of this as being asleep. I don’t know about that because I have all kinds of dreams, some of which fall under the category of demonic if you ask me. But whether asleep or simply thoughtless makes no difference, as you are, for whatever amount of time that takes, doing nothing, going nowhere.
What evidence do I have for the statement above?
How about Ecclesiastes 9:5, for one.
“The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered.” (NLT)
I am aware that some could interpret this otherwise, so I found other witnesses. Psalm 146:3-4 is an excellent one.
“Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; In that very day his thoughts perish.” (NASB)
Remember, it is two or three witnesses, so let’s look at one more. It doesn’t matter how many pieces of evidence I put up here, as some of you will never change your mind. Psalm 115:17 also bolsters the idea of a thoughtless condition.
“The dead do not praise the LORD, Nor do any who go down into silence;” (NASB)
It seems obvious that the dead would not praise the Lord, but how do you know that? Considering how some who “come back from the dead” see and feel horrendous torment, why wouldn’t they want to praise the Lord?
I feel as though I have done an adequate job of giving you an understanding of death and how the dead know nothing, and I backed my assertions with scripture.
Am I now to be considered a cult religion by some Pastor just because, in his book, he deemed those who believe there is a soul sleep as a religious cult, and he does it by saying, “a few cult religions believe in a soul sleep.”? I don’t think so, for I believe in scripture, God’s word, and a relationship with Jesus. And, as this Pastor often tells the audience, I preach the pure Word of God. But obviously, for some Pastors, that is not the case. If this does anything, it moves men like this Pastor into the category of false teachers, who may need correction or be ignored because none of us have the right to make Biblical-sounding statements that have no Biblical basis.
You follow whoever floats your boat because I am not the church police. But at least get yourself skillful with scripture and judge for yourselves. If what they preach is consistently wrong, and you follow them, then in time, what they say will weaken your faith and undermine your understanding of God’s character.