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This book devotes a separate chapter to each of the words translated "hell" in the New Testament: Tartarus, Gehenna, and Hades. It also deals with the biblical nature of the "lake of fire" and its duration as "eonian." It concludes with a historical chapter, showing what many of the early Christian fathers believed about divine judgment and how it was restorative, rather than destructive.
Category - Short Book
Hades in Greek mythology was the god of the underworld, the place of the dead. And so the underworld itself was also known as Hades, named for its ruler. When men went there, they were ferried across the river Styx by one named Charon. Hades was called Pluto by the Romans. It is obvious that the Bible writers did not entertain the Greek concept of Hades.
Hades was a Greek religious term that the Hebrews borrowed a few centuries before Christ in order to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. When Alexander the Great conquered Jerusalem in 332 B.C., the Greeks ruled Judea until 163 B.C., when the Judeans were able to regain a century of independence. Yet even so, they had a difficult time resisting Greek culture and language, which was spoken throughout Asia (now Turkey) and Egypt. Many Judeans (“Jews”), especially in Egypt, could no longer speak Hebrew, and thus the need arose to translate the Scriptures into Greek.
This project was begun about 280 B.C. by a group of 72 scholars. Hence, the new translation was called the Septuagint, meaning “the seventy.” This translation is valuable in that it provides us with a key to Hebrew-to-Greek word equivalents, so that we know how to understand New Testament Greek terms. Though Greek words were adopted, they were meant to convey Hebrew definitions.
One such example was this Greek word Hades. When the Septuagint translators came to the Hebrew word Sheol, they translated it as Hades. It was the nearest Greek equivalent to Sheol. But this did not mean that we ought to adopt the Greek mythological concept of Hades. No, the concept of the place or state of the dead had already been set in the Hebrew scriptures by the term Sheol.
And so, while the Greeks viewed their Hades as a place of conscious torture, torment, or hard labor, the Hebrew concept conveyed the idea of rest or sleep. However, Sheol was not a tomb or sepulcher. The place where one puts a dead body was a qeber or qebura. But the soul was said to go to Sheol. In Psalm 13:3 David says, “enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” Daniel 12:2 says also,
2 and many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting [Heb. olam, to obscurity, or an obscure amount of time, an age] life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting [Heb. olam] contempt.
When Jesus was about to raise a young girl from the dead, He said in Matt. 9:24,
24 He began to say, Depart; for the girl has not died, but is asleep. And they began laughing at Him.
The Apostle Paul carries this same Hebrew terminology into his writings as well. He says in 1 Cor. 15:18-20,
18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished . . . 20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
The Bible also says that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). This idea was not unusual in the Bible. In the great prophecy of Christ’s death on the Cross, it is said in Isaiah 53:10,
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief; when thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed. . . 12 because He hath poured out His soul unto death.”
The concept of the soul of the Sacrifice dying on behalf of OUR souls is found in Leviticus 17:11-14. There we are told that the soul (Heb. nephesh) is in the blood, and God has given the blood for an atonement for our souls. That was why men were not to drink blood, but to pour it out upon the ground. And so, Jesus “poured out His soul unto death” (Isaiah 53:12). Physically, it was the blood that was poured upon the ground, but the blood represented the soul being poured out.
There is no question as to the use of the word “sleep” to describe the dead. It is also apparent that the soul is said to die and to be poured out as the blood. Every good biblical scholar knows that this is the case. Yet there is debate over whether or not this term indicates a conscious or unconscious state of the dead. Some say that sleep indicates a state of unconsciousness, citing Ecclesiastes 9:5,
5 For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. 6 Indeed their love, their hate, and their zeal have already perished . . . .
Others say that Solomon was not talking about the actual state of the dead, but that from our living human perspective the dead know nothing. Some go so far as to say that Solomon was speaking as an unbeliever (in which case the inspiration of the book itself might be undermined). Still others say that the dead WERE in a state of sleep until Jesus’ resurrection, at which time He raised them up and brought them to heaven with Him.
It is not our purpose here to engage in a lengthy discussion of the state of the dead. Many books have been written on the subject, and the issue has only served to divide people. I will only say that I believe that death is a return.
The body returns to the ground from whence it came, returning to dust. (Gen. 3:19; Psalm 104:29; Eccl. 12:7). Few people would argue against this point. The contention comes when we discuss the state of the soul. Though Ezekiel tells us that the soul that sins will die,” men speak of their “immortal souls.” So let us see if we can clear up some of this confusion by showing that the soul is not the seat of immortality. We will then show that it is the spirit—not the soul—that survives death.
Where does the soul go after death? I believe that the soul, like the body, returns to its state before creation. The body returns to dust, but the soul did not exist or have a consciousness prior to the moment God breathed the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils. Hence, the soul ceases to exist as such after death. This does not mean that it is impossible for God to bring the soul back into conscious existence. Acts 2:25-27 says of Christ,
25 For David says of Him [Christ] . . . 27 Because Thou wilt not abandon My soul to Hades, nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.
We see here that Christ’s soul was in Hades, but not abandoned there. In other words, He was raised from the dead. This makes it clear that the soul goes to Hades at death. That is described in terms of sleep, and it certainly is not a place of torment. This caused some in later centuries to assume that Hades was composed of two compartments, one for the righteous, and one for the wicked. But the Bible says nothing of this. It was simply men’s way of trying to explain how all men could go to Hades, while trying to hang on to the idea that Hades was “hell,” that is, a place of torture for the wicked.
Acts 2:27 quotes the Septuagint translation of Psalm 16:10, where Sheol is rendered by the Greek word Hades.
The idea that Hades is a place of torture is part of the Greek mythology. The only justification that Christian teachers have in adopting their torture theory has been the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). To hold this theory, such teachers have had to literalize this parable, instead of seeing it in the context of Jesus’ other Kingdom parables. Jesus told many parables to illustrate how the Kingdom of God would be taken from the Jews and given to another (Matt. 21:43).
In this case, the rich man was dressed in purple and fine linen like the temple priests who ruled the people. So the rich man is identified with rulers of the Judean nation. Another identifying mark for the rich man was that he had five brothers (Luke 16:28). The patriarch Judah had five brothers born in Gen. 29 and 30. They are Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, and Zebulon.
The rich man feasted every day (on the Word).
Lazarus, on the other hand, first represents the lost house of Israel, which, at that time, was “laid [ballo, to cast down] at his gate.” The Greek word, ballo, is usually translated “cast” in the New Testament. For example, in Matt. 3:10, a tree that does not bear good fruit is “cast” into the fire. In Matt. 7:6, we are told not to “cast” our pearls before swine. The word picture does not convey a man lovingly and carefully laying pearls in front of swine. Neither does it convey the idea of Lazarus being carefully laid at the gate of the rich man. It portrays Lazarus as being cast down.
Lazarus represents the house of Israel that had been cast down and cast out of the land from 745-721 B.C. We read of this in 2 Kings 17:20,
20 And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them out of His sight.
Thus, Lazarus represents the house of Israel that had been cast out many centuries before the time of Christ. He was the beggar at the gate, who could only receive a few crumbs from the rich man’s table, for they were largely cut off from the Word of God at that time.
The parable portrays both Lazarus and the rich man dying. Since these men represent Israel and Judah, the parable shows the ultimate fate of each nation after these nations were destroyed. The house of Israel, like Lazarus, would be restored to Abraham’s bosom (the promise of God, the New Covenant). The majority portion of the house of Judah, which rejected Jesus, would go into a time of “torment,” which they themselves affirm continuously.
The rich man wanted someone to go to his living brethren and warn them. However, we read in Luke 16:31,
31 But he said to him, If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.
Elsewhere, in John 5:46, 47, Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews who opposed Him,
46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?
And indeed, this came to pass. When Jesus rose from the dead, the temple priests knew the truth but still did not believe. In fact, they are responsible for blinding the eyes of the rest of the Judeans, most of whom would have believed in Christ if their leaders had not deceived them. Matt. 28:11-15 says,
11 Now while they were on their way, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, You are to say, His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep. 14 And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble. 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is just one of many parables of the kingdom that tell essentially the same story but in different ways. To do a complete study of Jesus’ parables is not possible in this short study, but it is most appropriate to look at the others that have led to the climactic parable of the rich man and Lazarus. These provide us with a context by which we can be sure of our interpretation.
The series of parables leading up to the rich man and Lazarus really begins in Luke 15:3-7. It is the parable of the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
3 And He told them this parable, saying, 4 What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost! 7 I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Though Jesus applies it specifically to the individual, the motif itself is taken from a national situation with the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Hence, the parable is certainly applicable on that level. Ezekiel 34 is the classic passage dealing with the lost sheep of Israel. Ezekiel was a contemporary of Jeremiah, but they ministered primarily to two different nations. Jeremiah remained in Judah and Jerusalem and directed most of his prophecies to them. Ezekiel, however, was told to go as a missionary to the house of Israel, “the exiles who lived beside the river Chebar at Tel-abib” (Ezekiel 3:15). This was the location of some of the exiles of Israel. We read in 2 Kings 17:6,
6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and settled them in Halah and Habor [the same as Chebar], on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
In Ezekiel 34 the prophet prophesied against “the shepherds of Israel,” that is, the priests and civil leaders, who had fleeced the sheep but did not care for them responsibly. Part of the condemnation was that they had not “sought for the lost” (34:4). The divine law says in Deut. 22:1, 2,
1 You shall not see your countryman’s ox or his sheep straying away, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly bring them back to your countryman. 2 And if your countryman is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall remain with you until your countryman looks for it; then you shall restore it to him.
Lost sheep were the responsibility of all shepherds. Shepherds were not to ignore lost sheep. Applied to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, it has always been the responsibility of the Shepherds to find God’s lost sheep. It is written in the divine law. Yet most have been content to turn the other way. Ezekiel says further in 34:6,
6 My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill, and My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth; and there was no one to search or seek for them. 11 . . . Behold I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.
This is the source material for Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep. He came as the great Shepherd (Heb. 13:20), the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), and the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). He came to find His lost sheep, but in finding them, He also has brought in other sheep which were not of that fold. That is the subject of other parables such as the one in Matthew 13:44.
In Hosea 2:19, 20 the prophet tells us that the divorced house of Israel would be betrothed to Christ once again while they were yet in the wilderness—that is, outside the old land. This, too, is important to understand, in view of the fact that Lazarus was taken to Abraham’s bosom—that is, restored to the covenant with Abraham.
The next parable leading up to the rich man and Lazarus is the parable of the lost coin in Luke 15:8-10. It is said that this was no ordinary coin. But was part of a wedding bracelet that was traditional in those days. If this is true, then there is no doubt that Jesus’ biblical source material came from Exodus 19:5, where God said to Israel,
5 Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession [“peculiar treasure” in the KJV] among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine.
The prophets speak of Israel as being God’s wife, especially in the context of His divorce from her in later years (Jer. 3:8-14; Hosea 2:2). So once again, Christ came to seek out the lost coin, representing the lost house of Israel.
The prodigal son was the next parable recorded in the last part of Luke 15. The prodigal was the house of Israel (called “My son” in Hosea 11:1), while the older brother with the begrudging attitude was Judah. As long as the house of Israel is lost (in the eyes of those who refuse to seek them out) the Jews are more than happy to lay claim to the inheritance of the birthright. But the day will come when Israel will return. This will happen on more than one level. They will “return” in the sense of being found as a people; and they will “return” in the sense of repenting and returning to the Lord. When that day arrives, let us not begrudge them as the elder brother did in the parable.
This much is sufficient to see that the parable of Lazarus and the rich man ought not to be taken as a literal historical account of an individual who died and went to Hades, but is part of the ongoing teaching that Jesus did through His Kingdom parables. The objection that the story of Lazarus is not specifically labeled a parable is not valid, because Luke 15 and 16 is a series of parables, beginning with Luke 15:3, which says, “And He told them this parable, saying. . ..” From that point on, none of the other parables are individually labeled as parables. But who among us would say that the story of the prodigal son was not a parable, just because it was not specifically labeled as such?
We conclude, then, that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus was meant to foretell the condition of “torment” that the Jews would experience in the 1,900 years of exile after the destruction of Jerusalem. Thus, this parable ought not to be used to teach that rich men—or any others—are tormented by a literal fire in Hades after they are dead. We have taken the time to explain this parable in some detail, because it is such a stumbling block to so many people.
The soul had no existence prior to God breathing the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils, for at that moment, man became a living soul. When that breath is removed, the soul ceases to exist in its conscious state that we call “living.”
The soul is attached to the flesh and depends upon the physical body for its consciousness. Leviticus 17 shows this quite clearly, saying in verse 11, “the life [Heb. nephesh, “soul”] of the flesh is in the blood.” The phrase, “the soul of the flesh,” or “the fleshly soul,” as it could be rendered, shows that the soul is fleshly, or carnal. This is why the Apostle Paul speaks of the soulish, or natural man, as being carnal, fleshly. The soul is that part of us that is carnal. It is the “old man,” within each of us (Rom. 6:6), that derives its mortality and weakness from Adam. This is in direct contrast with our spirit, which, when made alive by a relationship with Christ, is the inner “new man.” We will have more to say about this in our next section dealing with man’s spirit.
Paul says in 1 Thess. 5:23,
23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When Paul speaks of “you entirely,” he lists the three parts of “you.” They are spirit, soul, and body. There is a difference between soul and spirit, which men can see if they rightly divide the word of truth. Heb. 4:12 says that the Word is sharper than any sword and can divide soul and spirit. That alone shows that soul and spirit are two different things. They can be separated.
The best way to understand the relationship between spirit, soul, and body is to think of them in terms of their physical counterparts.
Spirit = breath, or wind [Heb. ruach = spirit, breath]
Soul = blood (Lev. 17:11)
Body = flesh (self-evident)
The breath gives oxygen to the blood, which is then carried by arteries and capillaries in the body. Even so, the spirit gives life to the soul, which is in the flesh. The relationship between spirit and soul is pictured in the relationship between the breath and the blood. They are different, but it is the spirit that gives life to the soul. It was only when God breathed the breath of life into Adam that he became a living soul.
When the breath is removed from a man, his flesh and blood dies. Even so, when God removes the breath of life from a man, both his body and soul die. A man’s mind, will, and emotion cannot function apart from his flesh (brain). The out-of-body experiences that men often relate to us after being revived from death are not a function of the conscious soul, but of the consciousness of the spirit. As we will see shortly, the spirit and soul each have a separate consciousness.
The soul is not the part of man that transcends death. The soul comprises mind, will, and emotion that is dependent upon the Spirit of God for its existence and upon the physical body (brain) for its expression. It has a consciousness, as long as it is made alive by the breath or Spirit of God. When Spirit is separated from the body, it cannot survive, for James 2:26 says, “the body without the spirit is dead.” But neither can the soul survive without the body, for it is mortal. The seat of life is in the spirit.
Death is a return. The body returns to dust, the soul returns to “sleep,” and the spirit returns to God. A more metaphysical way of putting it is this: the body goes to the tomb; the soul goes to Hades; the spirit goes to God (heaven).
The best example of this in the Bible is Jesus’ death. Jesus’ body was put in Joseph’s tomb (John 19:38-42). As we have already shown previously, Jesus’ soul went to Hades. We turn now to the idea that Jesus’ spirit returned to God.
The spirit—that is, man’s spirit, as distinct from the Holy Spirit of God—is the part of man that transcends death. Ecclesiastes 12:7 speaks of death, saying,
7 then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
In the New Testament we find this idea continued in the death of Jesus. Luke 23:46 quotes Psalm 31:5 in giving Jesus’ last words:
46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, Father into Thy hands I commit My spirit. And having said this, He breathed His last.
This detail is recorded in Matthew 27:50 in this way:
50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
So we see that Jesus’ spirit did not go either to Joseph’s grave with His body, nor did it go to Hades with His soul (Acts 2:27). It went to God who had given it to Him. The real question is whether or not a person’s spirit has a consciousness that is distinct from the consciousness of the soul.
Man’s spirit has a consciousness that is distinct from the consciousness of the soul. The fact that spirit has a conscious mind should not come as a surprise. The Spirit of God (i.e., the Holy Spirit) possesses a conscious mind. God is spirit (John 4:24) and needs no physical brain or soulish mind in order to function consciously. Gen. 6:3 says, “My Spirit will not always strive with man.” Such striving would require conscious behavior. Isaiah 11:2 speaks of the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Such things also require consciousness. In 1 Cor. 2:16 we are admonished to put on the mind of Christ. In Eph. 4:23, 24 “the spirit of your mind” is identified with the “new self” (NASB) or the “new man” (KJV):
23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
It is obviously a spiritual mind and an inner self that has consciousness.
Unclean spirits also have a consciousness, as we read many times in the Scriptures. For example, Mark 9:26 says of an unclean spirit, “after crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out.”
Man is made in the image of God. Therefore, it seems reasonable to say man’s spirit also has a consciousness. Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 2:14 that divine matters cannot be understood with the natural (literally “soulish”) mind, but must be understood with the spiritual mind. He says,
14 But a natural [pseukikos, “soulish”] man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. 16 . . . we have the mind of Christ.
Paul speaks of the Adamic flesh and soulish mind as the “old man” in Rom. 6:6, Eph. 4:22, and Col. 3:9. That “man” is not referring to an outer “man” who might stand before us. It is an inner “man,” which must be crucified with Christ in order for the spiritual mind (“new man”) of the Last Adam to become dominant in our lives.
On a secondary level, a soulish person is one ruled by the soulish mind inherited from Adam. A spiritual person is one ruled by the spiritual mind inherited from the Last Adam—Christ. We have two minds, two consciousnesses operating in our lives.
Hence, both the soul and the spirit have a conscious mind of its own. The one, which is the seat of mortality, must be crucified with Christ in order for the other, the seat of immortality, to be raised up.
The mind of the soul is dependent upon the flesh body in order for it to function. The mind of the spirit, however, is independent of the flesh body, but dependent upon the Spirit of God for its life and ability to think. It is this mind that does not die with the body or the soul. It is this mind that “returns to God” when the body and soul dies.
So what does this mean? Where does the spirit go when it “returns” to God?
To answer that, one must stop trying to think carnally. Heaven is not “located” somewhere in or beyond the stars. The spirit does not have to travel anywhere. It does not take a certain amount of time to go from heaven to earth or from earth to heaven. Ezekiel 44:17 speaks of it figuratively as changing clothes. Paul uses the same terminology in 2 Cor. 5:2-4. When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, He demonstrated His ability to move from flesh to spirit form in an instant (Luke 24:36).
When a person dies, his spirit remains in the realm of spirit, where there is neither time nor distance. It is always in the realm of “I am.” It is not “I was” or “I will be.” It is not “I am here” or “I am there.” All time is one. All space is one. In the spirit, all things simply are. It is only in the earthly realm that we are bound by time and space. To understand spiritual existence, we must think “outside the box.”
In that spiritual realm, and from that perspective, Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). Abraham was dead from man’s time-bound earthly perspective, but alive from God’s timeless spiritual perspective. The Pharisees did not understand this, because they did not view things from God’s spiritual perspective. Since Abraham will be raised from the dead (in earth’s future time perspective), and since Abraham will become a spiritual being that is no longer bound by time or space—that means that Abraham will ultimately exist from earth’s beginning! To break out of earth’s space-time continuum is to always exist and to always be alive.
Why? How? Because once a person has crossed the time-space barrier that limits our present Adamic body, he can re-enter the earth realm at whatever time and place he chooses. Will he decide to accompany Jesus Christ to visit Abraham and then Sodom, as we read in Genesis 18:2 and in 19:1? Why not? Will he be sent to John to give him revelation, as we read in Rev. 22:8, 9?
8 And I John am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. 9 And he said to me, Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book; worship God.
Who was this angel? He was just a man like John but in a glorified condition. I believe that he was a man from the future (from John’s perspective), a man who had received the glorified body that was no longer bound by time or space. He was a prophet that God sent to show John what was given him in the book of Revelation. That prophet may have been dead a long time (from John’s earthly perspective). Perhaps it was Moses, Isaiah, or Jeremiah. It makes no difference. God was not the God of the dead, but of the living. This is what Jesus meant when He astonished the people by saying in Matthew 22:31, 32,
31 But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.
These are not easy things for our soulish minds to understand. In fact, our soulish minds cannot conceive of such things, for they are outside their realm of experience. Only the spiritual mind can understand them, and, indeed, such understanding is perfectly natural to that mind. The carnal mind is severely exercised by such thoughts, and it is easy to develop a case of brain bruise.
So also is the doctrine known as “pre-existence.” Did man pre-exist before creation? Many teach this. There was a time when I taught against it. Then when I began to hear God’s voice for myself, I suddenly began to experience the sensation of knowing things in my spiritual mind that my soulish mind did not know or believe. It was at that point that I began to realize that I had two conscious minds within me. Only then did I understand the words of Jesus and of Paul that have been quoted above.
The fact is, every man that will—in the future—receive a transformed spiritual body will be able at that point to transcend time and go back into the past and interact with historical events and people back to Adam and before his creation. That leads us to the seeming contradiction that in the future we will pre-exist! That is the state of being in which God now sees us from His spiritual vantage point. He sees what will be as if it already is. If we will be immortal some day, then from God’s perspective we are already immortal, because immortality comes with the spiritual body that transcends time.
How important is it to understand such things? For me, it was important because I stopped arguing with people over the issue of whether men are mortal or immortal. I found that both sides were right, but both sides had an inadequate understanding of spirit.
I stopped arguing with people over the issue of whether men went to heaven when they died or into the ground to await a resurrection. I found that both were right in some ways, but both explanations were inadequate. The real issue is not whether or not we “go to heaven,” as our reward but rather a matter of being clothed with that tabernacle from above, that mortality might be swallowed by life (immortality). It is that glorified dust-body that Adam was given as his inheritance at the beginning. That is the inheritance that he lost through sin. And that is the inheritance that he must regain at the great Jubilee.
Thus, instead of conceiving of our inheritance as being some heavenly real estate in a land called “heaven,” we should be thinking in terms of inheriting the earth—beginning with our own “earth.” We must first inherit the portion of dust that we were made of before we can think of extending that dominion to the rest of the creation. We inherit this “earth” through the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Our dust is not the problem. Adam was made of dust, but it was not mortal. He had the spiritual ability to communicate directly with God. It was a glorified body. He only lost it after he sinned. Therein was he found “naked.” He was “unclothed” in the sense that he was no longer clothed with the tabernacle that is from above (2 Cor. 5:1-4). The way back to the inheritance is pictured in the great historical allegory of Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. That journey is marked by special days called holidays that signify the steps that each of us must take in our own personal journey.
The first holiday is Passover. We begin our journey by applying the blood of the Lamb to our door posts (ears) and lintels (forehead—that is, our minds). When we place our faith in the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, we have experienced Passover for ourselves. This is called “Justification.”
The next great holiday was Pentecost, which commemorates the day God spoke to the people from Mount Sinai and gave them the law (Exodus 20). When we hear His voice and are led by the Spirit (the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud), He begins to write His law upon our hearts to teach us obedience. This is the second great step toward the Promised Land. This is called “Sanctification.”
The final great holiday was the feast of Tabernacles, which marked the day that Israel would have entered the Promised Land, if they had taken heed to Caleb and Joshua. Because they refused, they died in the wilderness not having received the promises. But we are admonished to do what Israel failed to do. The Promised Land is our inheritance. It represents, not heaven, but the heavenly tabernacle that will clothe us when we receive that glorified body. This is called “Glorification.”
And that is why we ought to gain a better understanding of these holy days. They prophesy not only of historic events in the time-line of history, but also describe allegorically the path from Egypt (mortal body) to the Promised Land (inheritance of the immortal body). May God grant that we would be overcomers like Caleb and Joshua and that we would not fall short of any of His promises.