During this Bible class Dr. Dean mentioned a book dealing with the relationship between Naziism and the current green movement by R. Mark Musser entitled Nazi Oaks.
After Death, Then What?
Matthew Lesson #138
August 28, 2016
“Our Father, we’re thankful that we have Your Word because it is in Your Word that we learn vital information that is not available in any other way.
Experience cannot inform us of these things, our reason cannot get there. But You have informed us about who You are, You have informed us about Your love for us and Your grace and Your goodness.
You’ve informed us about who human beings are, as those who are created in Your image and likeness to fulfill a purpose, to exercise rulership over this planet and over everything that You have created here.
Father, You have also informed us of sin, that because of Adam’s sin, we are all sinners: we’re all condemned. We’re under condemnation, and everything in this creation has been impacted by the corruption that sin brings.
But You, Your grace and Your love provided a perfect solution, so that death is not the endgame. But we have life, the promise of life, and that is based upon trusting Christ as Savior.
Father, as we study today and reflect upon matters of life and death and what happens at the time of death, we pray that you would help us to understand what Your Word has revealed to us.
We pray this in Christ’s name, Amen.”
At the time of death, there are always a lot of questions that people have. There are all kinds of ideas as to what happens when a person dies. There are some people who think that when someone dies, that’s it, it’s over with: they just are nonexistent anymore, and that’s all there is.
There are others who think that everyone goes to Heaven—everyone goes to some place of bliss, some place of happiness—and that it doesn’t matter what has happened in this life, everyone shows up in this sort of paradise beyond this life.
There are others who recognize that there is some sort of accountability, that there is going to be some kind of judgment. But for many, they somewhat back away from the teaching of Scripture that there’s going to be some sort of horrible enduring, everlasting, fiery punishment—they question what Scripture says there.
What is important is that we understand what God has revealed to us, and why we need not fear punishment, but we can anticipate a full abundant life—a life in Heaven—that is beyond anything that we can possibly imagine.
I announced earlier how Hal Hagemeier’s wife, Irene, went to be with the Lord on Thursday night. Over the last couple of days, Pastor Dan Inghram and I—who most of you know are very close friends—have talked about things, and he wanted to address something very similar to what I’m talking about this morning—that is around the topic of what happens when we die, in relation to that—because she was such an integral part of their congregation.
As we were thinking through what the Scripture teaches: it doesn’t teach a lot. In fact, even though there is one book out there that is fairly good, called Heaven, a lot of it is still speculation. I believe that Heaven is so far beyond our comprehension that the Lord just hasn’t revealed much, because we couldn’t comprehend it if He did. That is part of our faith and trust in Him.
One thing we know for sure is that we’re not going to spend eternity in Heaven if we’re believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. That may surprise some of you, but we saw in our study of Revelation a few years ago that our eternal destiny is on the earth.
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit will take up their abode on the new earth, when the new heavens and new earth come into existence. Church Age believers will have their abode in the New Jerusalem that’s on the earth.
So often we talk somewhat idiomatically—that we look forward to spending eternity in Heaven—when in actuality we will spend eternity on the new earth.
This morning what I want to do, building off of where we studied last time, is sort of wrap up a couple of loose ends from our study in Matthew 22, where there’s an attempt to entrap Jesus with a question by the Sadducees about the resurrection.
There were some things about the resurrection that I didn’t complete last time and want to move on, then make some application to our own experience of death and coming to understand that.
This morning we’re going to look at the question, “After Death, Then What?”
We saw that in this section of Matthew that Jesus taught three consecutive parables, and each of these focuses on judgment. This section in Matthew isn’t one of those feel-good sections because Matthew 21–23 all focus on God’s condemnation of the religious leaders of Israel and the judgment that’s going to be coming to that generation of Israel.
That’s not a warm and fuzzy message that we can take home.
It’s followed though by a very important section of Scripture in Matthew 24 and 25 that’s going to focus on the end times. We will spend quite a bit of time there: it may take us five or six months to get to the crucifixion, but that’s okay.
We’ll have the celebration of Good Friday and Resurrection Day in about five or six months, so who knows, maybe it will work out timewise.
What we’ve seen is that each of those parables focused on a question and answer related to Jesus’ authority. Each involves the father, the son: a rejection of the father’s authority in each one.
Each parable was addressed to the unsaved, unbelieving religious leaders of Israel, not the multitude. Each one built a case for God’s rejection of the religious leaders and the announcement of coming judgment on Israel because they had rejected the Kingdom offer, rejected Jesus as the Messiah, and the consequence would be temporal judgment on the nation, and they would be destroyed.
This is followed up by three questions, which we looked at. The first question was “Is it lawful to pay taxes?” The Pharisees tried to entrap Jesus, the disciples, and the Pharisees, and the Herodians.
And then the second one we looked at last time, which is, “in the resurrection, whose wife will this woman be, who has had seven consecutive husbands, each of whom died and then she married the brother?” We walked through that last time.
Matthew 22:28, their question was “Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.”
For those of you who weren’t here, have not listened to the lesson: in the Mosaic Law, there’s this provision for the passing on of inheritance and property within the family; part of the protection of divine institution #3.
The family was to preserve property to preserve the family wealth. The focus of much of the economic laws in the Mosaic Law was to help families develop and preserve wealth and to protect against poverty and loss.
As a result of that, property was not taxed. It was not viewed as the possession of the state, but it was viewed as the possession of God that was being lent, as it were, to the people of Israel.
To preserve that inheritance, there was this law called “levirate marriage”, where if a man died before he had children and heirs to pass the inheritance to, then the wife was to be married to the next in line, the next brother if he was not married, so that the firstborn of that union would then be raised as the son and the heir of the first brother who had died.
So they set up this scenario: she marries a husband, he dies; marries the next brother, he dies, etc. through seven brothers.
They asked this facetious question—for them—because the Sadducees didn’t even believe in resurrection. They had an annihilationist view that at the point of death, that a person just was gone.
That was it: their soul, their body was extinguished because they had a materialistic view of a human being.
This is not uncommon today. We find that many secularists, many atheists, evolutionists believe that there’s no such thing as an immaterial soul, an immaterial part of man, that man is just the total product of material forces and material laws.
So, when the body dies, everything about that person dies, and they are gone, that’s all there is to it. There’s no future, there’s no hope, there is no eternal life: that’s it.
I have talked to people who are actually excited about that: that doesn’t bother them. That’s what happens when you suppress truth in unrighteousness: you come to accept whatever may be negative and rationalize it into something that is good.
We saw last time that Jesus goes to the Scriptures as His authority. He confronted the Sadducees and told them that they were mistaken. Matthew 22:29, He said, “ ‘You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.’ ”
He went on from there to explain some things about what the Scripture says in terms of marriage and giving in marriage: that there’s going to be a different scenario when we get to Heaven, and we will be similar to the angels of God in Heaven.
He goes on to argue that concerning the resurrection of the dead—affirming that there would be a resurrection of the dead—and He bases this on the statement that God said to Moses in Exodus 4, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” that God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.
In other words, the implication of that statement is that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were still alive. Maybe not in this life physically, but they were still alive in Exodus when God made this statement to Moses, some 300 to 400 years after the death of Jacob.
As we look at this, and we think about resurrection, we think about physical death and what happens to a human being at the point of physical death. There are three basic questions that are raised. Other questions somehow fit under these three.
- What actually happens when a person physically dies? What happens to that person, the essence of that person, the identity, the self-consciousness of that individual?
Part of that is we need to ask what happens when a believer dies physically, and then what happens when the unbeliever dies physically. So the first question focuses on just exactly what happens to our identity, the person who’s the real us when we die physically.
- Is there some sort of interim body prior to the reception of a resurrection body?
There are some who think that, “Well, we just go into sort of a state of spiritual hibernation called soul sleep, and that we don’t have consciousness again until the resurrection occurs or the Rapture occurs, and then we’re face-to-face with the Lord.” That is not a belief that is held by Bible-believing Christians.
- What is the nature of the punishment for unbelievers? Is this punishment that the Scripture talks about in reference to the Lake of Fire, is it a conscious eternal torment or is their soul or identity immediately annihilated?
There are a few Christians who hold that position. Then another view is that there is a temporary period of torment, and that is followed by annihilation.
So what does the Scripture say about what happens to unbelievers?
To begin with, I want to go through several points related to what the Bible teaches about the make up—what makes a human being a human being—because we have to understand that before we can understand what happens at the time of physical death.
So first of all, we need to recognize that the Scripture teaches that:
- The human being is comprised of three components: A physical body that is made from the chemicals of the soil, a human soul, and what we call a human spirit.
Sometimes the word “spirit” and the word “soul” are used almost synonymously. That has confused some people into thinking that they are identical.
But we have passages such as Hebrews 4:12 that talk about the Word of God being so powerful that it’s like a two-edged sword that separates the soul from the spirit.
There are a couple of passages where it’s clear that God makes a distinction at some point between soul and spirit when they’re used in a more technical sense. Paul talks about the fact that we are made up of a body, a soul, and a spirit: he uses all three terms.
That indicates that there is this tripartite nature to man, and I diagram it this way:
- We have a human body that was formed from the chemicals of the ground. That’s how Adam’s original human body was formed. Then God built into that the capability to generate itself through procreation, so that the DNA structure allows for reproduction from generation to generation. It is a material body that is distinct from an immaterial soul.
We can see at least four distinct components for an immaterial soul.
- We have self-consciousness.
When you look in the mirror, at least until you have Alzheimer’s, you recognize yourself. Some of us look in the mirror in the morning, and we recognize one of our parents, and then we wake up a little further. We recognize who we are.
But your dog, Spot, doesn’t look in his reflection and go “Ah! That’s Spot.” He sees another dog and starts barking. Animals do not identify themselves; they don’t have self-consciousness as human beings do.
- We also have a mentality.
We can think. We can reason. We can reflect. We can develop thoughts based on logic and based on observation.
- We have a conscience.
That means we have a sense of norms and standards: what is right, what is wrong. These are where our moral and ethical categories are stored, as to what we ought to do and what we should do.
- We have a volition: a will, the ability to choose to do right or to do wrong, to follow the correct standards of our conscience or not.
That is the components of our soul, and that soul relates to ourselves and to the creation around us.
- We have another component that I call the human spirit.
This intersects and interacts with the components of the soul. It’s also immaterial, and it allows the components of our soul to relate to God, so that in self-consciousness we can relate to God in terms of God-consciousness.
In our mentality we can think God’s thoughts after Him. In our conscience we can reflect God’s absolute standards of right and wrong. And in our volition, we can make decisions to obey God and to serve God.
In the Garden of Eden, when God first created man, man was created in His image and likeness, and that meant that man was created righteous. But it was sort of a probationary or provisional righteousness in that it could be lost.
It could be lost because there was a test in the garden, and that was whether or not man would obey God at the point of the prohibition to not eat from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
If man used his volition to disobey God, then there was a penalty, there were consequences called spiritual death, which was separation from God. What would happen at that point is that this human spirit, that capacity to relate to God, was lost.
But something was acquired that we call a sin nature: it is a capacity to sin, a capacity to disobey God. It is a constitutional defect in every human being passed on from our original father Adam.
When we trust in Christ as Savior, the Bible says we are born again. The idea of a rebirth indicates that something comes alive.
There are some within Christianity that think that regeneration just means that the sin nature is limited, and you get eternal life, but the idea of birth is that something comes into existence.
So what happens is there is restoration of a human spirit, which enables us as new creatures in Christ—as those who are born again, those who are regenerate—to have a relationship with God through our soul. This then is a restoration.
Then we still have a sin nature, and it is not until physical death that we lose the attachment to this fallen, corrupt body that has the sin nature; we are then without sin, and we’re face-to-face with the Lord.
- This human physical human body is important.
By the middle to late second century—I’m talking AD 150 to AD 200—a secular philosophy came out of Platonism that was sort of a revitalization, a revision of some of Plato’s ideas, called Neoplatonism.
In Platonism, Plato came up with the idea that this world is inherently corrupt: so far so good. But reality really existed in this ideal world, so he makes a separation between the physical and the ideal.
In his thinking, anything associated with the physical is inherently corrupt, so we need to focus on this sort of “ideal” thing. One of the consequences of that idea was that Christians began to minimize the importance and the significance of the human body—the importance and the significance of anything in the physical world—and just put all this emphasis on other-worldliness.
That’s not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that God had a specific intention and purpose in creating the physical body, and originally, it was good. It only became corrupt as a result of sin; therefore, we should not minimize or denigrate the role of the physical or the role of the body.
In Genesis 1:26, “God said.” This is the triune God in operation here now. From Colossians 1, we understand that the Lord Jesus Christ is the One who is carrying out the specific function of being the Creator, but all three Members were involved.
Genesis 1:26, we just have the phrase, “Then God said”—Elohim—“let Us”—again an emphasis on the Trinity in the plural forms of the pronoun—“make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”
This is talking about that which distinguishes man—human beings—from all other creatures. Other creatures were called nephesh. Nephesh is the Hebrew word that is often translated “soul.”
So some animals—not all animals, but some— have nephesh, but that which distinguishes animals from human beings is not that they have an immaterial nephesh, but it’s that they’re not in the image and likeness of God.
That’s ultimately what distinguishes man and makes him distinct from all other orders of life. Man is made in the image of God, and that has a function, a purpose.
They are to rule then as God’s representatives. That’s the idea of an image; it is a representation.
Genesis 1:26, “Let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that that creeps on the earth.”
That is one of the most hated verses by environmentalists because they don’t want man to rule over creation. They look at this as being a mandate to destroy the creation, and that the Judeo-Christian view of the planet is inherently destructive. That’s their view; that’s obviously antithetical. This is really an idea that was picked up by those wonderful folks over in Germany known as the Nazis.
If you want to learn something about the relationship between the philosophy of Nazism and the green movement, the environmentalist movement, then you need to read Mark Musser’s book [Nazi Oaks] that deals with this whole issue.
This was something that was embedded in Nazi philosophy, and their anti-Semitism: the Jews had this view that man was to rule over the planet. They hated Genesis 1, so this was a part of what fueled their anti-Semitism.
But positively what we have here is that God created mankind in His own image, and it goes on to say—Genesis 1:27— “in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Another observation here is that this “imageness” is not gender specific. It is related to man and woman. Male and female are primarily seen as physical characteristics. Although we also recognize that there are soul distinctions between men and women.
A lot of that has been corrupted because of sin, which is why we have some folks who have some gender confusion and gender identification issues.
Ultimately what we can say at just a superficial level here is that because of this distinction—“male and female” physically—is that the imageness is basically the manifestation of the soul that is designed as a representation of God to rule over the planet.
We see the body is important and the soul—God breathes the immaterial part into man—so that together they become a human being. That shows that both are important and the soul is not preexistent.
That was another Platonic idea: that souls existed forever. That came across in an idea of Plato’s that was identified as the “immortality of the soul.” Later that was picked up by a lot of Medieval Christian thinkers. They didn’t mean the soul preexisted, though—they changed it a little bit—but it impacted some of the ways in which they thought about this.
- The third point I want to make is that as the triune God created—this is primarily the role of God the Son according to Colossians 1:16—as God is there, running His fingers through the mud, as it were.
He’s thinking about—I’m being very anthropomorphic here—He’s thinking, “Now I’m going to become a human being: I’m going to incarnate Myself. What is the best physical shape and form that I can create through which I can reveal Myself?”
That’s a profound thought! That when God is sort of digging around in the mud and plays around, as it were, with different shapes and figures, He’s thinking, “What’s the best physical shape that I can design through which I can best manifest Myself and reveal Myself to this race?”
That is why we are shaped the way we are. We’re not shaped like an elephant, we’re not shaped like a giraffe, we’re not shaped like a centipede; because those physical shapes would not enable God to reveal Himself the best way.
Our physical, bodily shape is not some accident. It’s designed specifically this way because this was, as Hebrews 10:5 says, a body that God was preparing for the Messiah to reveal Himself through.
Isn’t that remarkable? So our physical bodies are intentionally designed this way, and they are important: it’s not just some secondary thing.
- The fourth thing we learn from this is that the human soul never exists independent of a body.
It never just sort of free floats like Casper the ghost. It’s not some sort of protoplasmic blob floating around like in Ghostbusters.
It has another body; as soon as we die physically, we receive an immaterial body that is an interim body—we’ll look at that just a minute—and this demonstrates that the soul is dependent upon a body to manifest itself.
The soul doesn’t have ears and eyes, it doesn’t have feelings, it doesn’t have the tactile senses, it doesn’t have smell, it doesn’t have any way to interact with the created universe around it without having some form of a body.
This leads to questions about the immortality of the human soul, that the soul is going to last forever because of its nature. The house that we now have, according to 2 Corinthians 5, is just an earthly tent.
When it dies, then that will be replaced with a different kind. Whether we are a believer or nonbeliever, there is another kind of body that will immediately house the soul.
So at physical death, the immaterial part of man survives and continues into the next phase of existence, whether you’re a believer or an unbeliever.
Turn to Luke 16.
- In the fifth point, we see that after death, there is some sort of interim body. It’s temporary, and it has some similarities to the resurrection body for the believer. Yet it is not yet a resurrection body.
We see this in Luke 16, so turn with me in your Bibles to Luke 16:19, and we’ll just talk our way through this particular episode. There are a couple things we need to observe before we get into this.
First of all, this story is not a parable. It has become a little more popular by some writers in recent years, especially those who deny an eternal death in the Lake of Fire. There has been a trend towards denying this as a reality and just looking at it as a parable.
A parable by definition is a fictional story that is not related to specific places or times or people. A parable has similarities to a fable or something like that. It is a story with a moral and a spiritual principle that’s being taught, but it is not a story about a specific individual, a specific place, or a specific event.
In this story, we have one individual name—the person of Lazarus—and by identifying him as a real person and by identifying the rich man as one who has brothers, it goes beyond a parable.
We always have to watch that because as I was growing up in church and maturing in my studies in seminary, I never heard anyone say this was a parable. Only as things have degenerated in evangelical theology over the last 30 years, you find it being a more prominent approach.
The Lazarus here is not to be confused with the Lazarus of John 11. The cause of his death, the cause of the death of this Lazarus, the homeless beggar, were not the same. They are not the same individual; they just have a similar name.
The other thing that we want to point out is that this event takes place prior to the Cross, prior to Jesus going to the Cross, prior to His victory over sin; and therefore, it is depicting the way things were in the Old Testament period up to the point of Christ’s resurrection.
His physical bodily resurrection is the first fruits of resurrection. No one was resurrected prior to that.
You had people who were raised from the dead, you had the widow of Zarephath’s son, you had the Shunammite’s woman’s son; you had others that were brought back to life, who died physically.
They’re brought back to life by Jesus, including Lazarus, but they did not receive resurrection bodies. They were in a sense only resuscitated and brought back to this human life, but eventually they died.
We’re told that there were a number of those buried in the tombs in Jerusalem that when Jesus died physically, they came out of the tombs and walked through the city and proclaimed the gospel.
But they too would have to die physically again. So there was no resurrection until Jesus came: He was the first fruits of resurrection.
This episode, this story that Jesus tells is an important one to help us understand a few things. He talks about this rich man: he dresses well, he eats well. That’s described in Luke 16:19.
He is in contrast to this beggar, this homeless guy, who’s the dumpster diver who is eating the garbage, the leftovers from the rich man, he lives outside of his gate. He’s got physical illnesses, sores on his body: it’s a horrible, revolting description of this beggar.
Eventually we’re told, Luke 16:22, the beggar dies physically, and note that he is carried by the angels to Abraham’s Bosom. That tells us something: that when we die physically, when the believer dies physically that our immaterial nature is escorted to Heaven by the angels. God sends these angels to take us into His presence.
You hear a lot of stories about the so-called near-death experiences where people died, and they have some vision of a tunnel, but I’ve never heard anyone say what the Bible says here, that they’re escorted to Heaven by angels.
Never heard that: I’ve read a number of these. So we always have to compare experience to Scripture to find out if experience has any basis in truth or reality.
Lazarus is then taken to this place called Abraham’s Bosom, and then we’re told the rich man also died and was buried. I’m sure that Lazarus was buried also—that’s not the emphasis—it’s a more negative emphasis with the rich man. He dies and is buried.
Then we find that he is in Torments in Hades. Then he lifts up his eyes, and he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. Let’s just chart this out a little bit.
What we have here in Sheol is a picture, prior to the Cross, of basically three compartments; we learn from other Scripture.
There’s a compartment of Abraham’s Bosom, which is also call Paradise, and this is where Old Testament believers went before the Cross. Then we’re told that after Christ’s resurrection, He escorts Paradise to Heaven, according to 2 Corinthians 12:1–4.
There is another compartment known as Torments from this passage, and this is where unbelievers from all dispensations go. So if you’re not a believer, and you died today, you don’t go to the Lake of Fire; you go to Torments. It’s a fiery torment; it’s not dissimilar from the Lake of Fire, but it is similar.
What we also see in this story is that apparently those in the Old Testament period, those on the one side could see those on the other side, but they couldn’t get to them. There’s no movement back and forth: it’s an impassable barrier called a “great gulf fixed.”
There is a third division here in Hades. It’s called Tartarus, 2 Peter 2:4, which is where the angels who violated God’s standards in Genesis 6 are chained in chains of darkness.
What we see here is Lazarus is in Abraham’s Bosom, the rich man is in Torments. Eventually those in Abraham’s Bosom—after the resurrection—are taken to Heaven. Paradise is now located in Heaven.
I want you to notice something in the text: an emphasis on these physical features. We see that the rich man is able to lift up his eyes, he’s able to see. He has some sort of immaterial body there, and he can see Abraham. He can talk: he has a mouth, he has vocal chords, he can articulate.
Obviously, he can also think, but he can vocalize those thoughts, Luke 16:24, “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger.’ ”
Apparently, Lazarus has some sort of body that has fingers, probably toes, maybe a nose.
Luke 16:25–26 “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ ”—they can’t go back and forth.
Luke 16:27–28, “Then he said”—that is the rich man—“ ‘I beg you, therefore father, that you would send him to my father’s house for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ ”
What’s interesting in this particular statement is that he still has a conscious memory of his family. He knows who he is, he can recognize Lazarus on the other side.
That tells us that when we are in our resurrected state in the future that we will be recognizable. We will have a memory. Some people think that for some reason when you die, the slate’s just wiped clean and you don’t remember anything.
At the creation of the new heavens and the new earth, Isaiah indicates that the memory of the suffering in this life is eradicated, but not a memory of people we know.
So he remembers his family, he remembers his friends, he remembers those relationships. He can identify, and he can be identified, and he can be recognized.
When we are in Heaven, we will recognize others, we will be known by others, we will still remember who our friends are, and we’ll remember who our spouses are.
Now last time, remember, we saw in Matthew 22:30 that Jesus said, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage.”
I made a point last time that this bothers some people. This doesn’t say that you won’t have a relationship with your present spouse. It says that marriage is not operational in Heaven because it doesn’t have a function.
I went on to say that when we think about the original divine institutions, they’re not operational in the next life either. And I made the comment that kind of confused a couple of people, which is why I’m reviewing this.
Just thinking through those first three divine institutions; remember they’re individual responsibility: everyone is responsible to God.
In the original state, Adam had the freedom to obey or disobey. I said that volition—in that context—would not be operational in the next life. I didn’t mean we wouldn’t be making choices, but that part of divine institution #1 was not functional.
We’re going to be locked into a positive volition to God. We can choose: if you’re going to have shoes, you can put on your left shoe first, or you can choose to put on your right you first.
But you won’t be able to choose to disobey God and to do something immoral or something that violates God’s will. We’re going to be locked into that positive volition. Volition, in that sense, was designed for this life. Free will was designed for this life.
Just as the angels—after a certain probationary period, after the rebellion of Satan and the fallen angels—the fallen angels are locked into negative volition, and the elect angels are locked into positive volition. So it will be that same way for us when we get to Heaven.
The divine institution of marriage was designed to fulfill the mandate “to be fruitful and multiply” to protect the propagation of the species. Since that will not be part of the next life, then marriage doesn’t have a purpose.
Family doesn’t have a purpose. Family is not going to be functional as such in the next life, but we’ll remember who our family members are. You’ll know a lot more of them because of the ones that died before you.
You’ll be able to recognize your great-great-grandparents and your great-great- great-grandparents. You’ll know who all those relations are; and those second or third cousins whose names you can never remember now, you’ll probably remember them in Heaven if they’re there.
So those divine institutions don’t carry on, but we will still have a memory and recognition of loved ones and friends and family.
What happens is that after the resurrection, Paradise goes to Heaven, so that all that we have now is just Torments. This is where the unbeliever goes at the time of death.
That helps us understand a little bit about what happens to the unbeliever when the unbeliever dies. When the believer dies we’re going to be absent from the body and face-to-face with the Lord.
- At the Rapture of the church all Church Age believers receive their resurrection bodies.
This is 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; that’s when we receive our resurrection bodies.
We’ll have an interim body until the Rapture, and then the dead in Christ will rise first. That’s when they receive their resurrection body: that body comes out of the grave and is transformed. How that happens, I have no idea.
But when we look at the pattern of Jesus’ body, it wasn’t that God just gave Him a totally unrelated new body. When Peter and John went into the grave, what did they see? They saw nothing. It was that prior body that is somehow transformed into the new body.
That’s always led me to some facetious speculation. If I die, and I signed the back of my driver’s license to give my cornea to this person and my heart to that person and my liver to this person, you know all of these transplants that we do now.
If the Rapture were to occur six or seven months later, does that mean that my eye would come out of that person and my heart out of this other person and my cornea out of this other? I don’t know. I’ll worry about that when I get to Heaven.
What about those people who are just absolutely incinerated or vaporized due to whatever the cause of death is and their molecules are spread all over the earth, or a person who drowned in the ocean 5,000 years ago: there’s not much left of that body.
But God knows where every molecule is, and He’s going to reassemble everything and put it back together and give us a new body: that occurs at the Rapture. For Old Testament saints, it doesn’t occur until the end of the Tribulation period.
- Seventh point: 1 Corinthians 15:23 talks about the first resurrection, and that there are ranks or groups that are resurrected at different times. Christ is the first fruits.
Then all who are Christ’s at His Coming, at the Rapture, that’s the second rank. Then there are those who die—who are martyred—in the Tribulation period who were given their resurrection bodies. There are different ranks in the resurrection process.
- At physical death, all believers are immediately absent from the body and face-to-face with the Lord in our interim body. 2 Corinthians 5:6–8 describes this:
“We are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body”—that’s our physical body—“we’re absent from the Lord.” Then sort of a parenthesis: “For we walk by faith and not by sight.”
2 Corinthians 5:8 is parallel to 2 Corinthians 5:6, but looks at the other side, says “We’re confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present”—and the Greek preposition PROS means “face-to-face” “with the Lord.”
At physical death what happens immediately is we’re absent from this body, we are immediately given an interim body, and we are escorted by the angels and we are face-to-face with our Lord and Savior.
Then when Jesus returns at the Rapture, we will receive our resurrection body. Those who are alive at that time get their resurrection body on the way up, but those of us who’ve already died will have an interim body for a period, and then we receive our resurrection body at the Rapture.
Now what happens to unbelievers?
- Unbelievers get an interim body as well. An interim body that can endure the torments and the suffering that occurs in Torments, which is a fiery punishment as we have seen in the description by the rich man, but it is also a body that can endure the pain and the suffering that will go on into eternity.
- Now they are not judged, they do not go to their ultimate destiny until the Great White Throne judgment, which is described at the end of Revelation 20:12–15, which talks about all of the dead, that Hades gives up all of the dead, and all—these are the unbelieving dead—come before the Great White Throne judgment, where they are judged according to what’s written in the books, to see if they have enough righteousness to get into Heaven, but none of them do.
Then the conclusion is “anyone not written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
This has bothered people for a number of different reasons, but we have to be honest with what the text says, that this is an eternal punishment, an everlasting punishment. I’ll address that in a minute, but it is a punishment of unimaginable suffering.
Some people have said, “Well, but they didn’t commit that many bad sins.” Yes, but sin in and of itself has so many unintended consequences that brings so much sorrow and heartache to all people that we can’t quantify it.
Adam didn’t commit a horrendous sin in the Garden. He did something that many of you did this morning. He ate a piece of fruit, but because God prohibited that, eating that piece of fruit brought on all human suffering: famines, disease, emotional heartache, abuse, wars, torture; all of that is just the result of Adam eating that piece of fruit.
Ultimately, all of this began when Lucifer decided that he wanted to be like God, and that started the dominoes falling. When we think of sin in that way, we think that it’s not quantifiable, the horrors and the suffering and the misery that was brought about these acts of sin.
Christ paid the penalty for sin, for human sin; and therefore, even though we sin and are worthy of eternal death, because Christ bore in His own body on the Cross our sin, we can have eternal life. We don’t get what we deserve, we get grace; we get eternal life, and that’s salvation.
But for those who have chosen to do it on their own, to do it their way, then there is no provision for them. Because they are still in their sins, because they are still spiritually dead and corrupt, then they are destined for this Lake of Fire.
In the Old Testament, we have a verse that indicates this. Daniel 12:2 says, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake”—that is, physical death. He affirms resurrection: He says—“some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
There are those who think, “Well, there’s got to be some sort of punishment. It may go on for a while, but eventually God’s going to just annihilate them. They’ll be gone. How could God have them suffer forever and ever and ever?”
Well unfortunately, when we look at the language here, the word that modifies “life” is the same word that modifies “contempt” or “condemnation”. It’s the word in the Hebrew olam, which can mean just a very, very long period of time, but in many contexts it means forever and ever, for everlasting or forever more.
If we’re going to believe in everlasting non-ending life, eternal life, in Heaven, then we have to apply that same meaning to the second time the word is used here. You can’t say, “Well, it means forever and ever in the first use and just a long time in the second use.” It’s the context: it’s got to be the same in both places.
The same thing happens in Matthew 25:41, 46. After Jesus talks about the judgment of the surviving Gentiles at the end of the Tribulation period, He separates those who were righteous as the sheep and those who are unrighteous are identified as the goats; the sheep are on His right and the goats on the left.
I always want to make sure people remember that when God divides people, He puts the good people on the right. The goats are always on the left. Just remember that. Elections are not too far away.
So Jesus said that those on the left, the goats, Matthew 25:41, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels.”
This judgment wasn’t created for mankind. It was created for Satan and the fallen angels, but those who follow him by not believing in Christ will have that as their destiny.
It’s the same word that used five verses later in Matthew 25:46, “These will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The New King James uses two different words to translate that, which some people may think mean something different, but it’s the same word in the Greek.
In fact, in all three places everlasting fire, everlasting punishment, and everlasting life, it’s the same word—AIONIOS in the Greek—which means “forever and ever” in this context.
If it’s going to mean for life forever and ever with God, it has to also mean punishment that’s forever and ever.
But God has provided a solution, and that solution is described in John 3:16, that “… God loved the world in this way that He sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, should not go to the everlasting fire, but shall have eternal life.” That’s based on just believing in Jesus as Savior.
“Father, we thank You that we have a sure and certain knowledge of what happens at physical death. That for the believer we’re absent from the body, we’re escorted to Heaven, we’re face-to-face with You.
There’s no more sorrow. There’s no more sin. There’s no more pain. For all these things will pass away, and we are in Your eternal presence.
Father, the glories of that are such that our finite mind just can’t grasp it, but we can grasp the ideas of eternal punishment, and we recognize that that is not what we want.
Father, for those who have trusted in Christ, we rejoice in the certainty of our salvation. Those who have not, we pray that they will respond to this message to trust in Jesus.
We are saved not by virtue of our good works, but we are saved by virtue of Christ’s righteousness. When we trust in Him, we receive eternal life.
When we believe in Him, we receive the imputation of His righteousness, and because we possess His righteousness, we are saved eternally.
Father, we pray that You would drive this truth home to any who are not saved, that at this point they may trust in Christ as Savior.
Father, we pray these things in His precious name, Amen.”