The True Life is the Next Life
Everyone will die (Heb. 9:27), but everyone will also live forever – there. Where is “there?” It all depends upon your relationship with Jesus (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Jesus actually spoke more of hell, than of heaven. Jesus is very concerned with our final destiny. We are all born with a ticket to hell (John 3:18). Is there anyone who doesn’t want to exchange it?
All will be called to salvation by the gospel, the Good News of Jesus, the Christ (Matt. 13:1-23, 22:9-10, 24:14, 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:45-48; John 1:6-9; Acts 13:47; Rom. 10:14-21, 16:25-26; 1 Peter 4:17; Rev. 20:6). Some will accept the gift, and some will DENY Christ.
The English Bible refers to the place of the dead as “hell.” This is very misleading. In Hebrew, the word translated as hell is Sheol. In the Greek it is Hades. In the Bible, Sheol, or Hades, is a place of sleep, rest, and waiting for the resurrection and the judgment, not hell, as we think of it today in the west. A few saints were predestined by God to be raptured (taken to heaven), and are not waiting in Hades (Deut. 34:1-8; Matt. 17:3). It is tradition that either Moses was raptured like Elijah, or he was resurrected to accomplish God’s plan (Rom. 8:28-29; Jude 9). However, most are not to be raised immediately. Most sleep in Hades, awaiting the resurrection of the masses when Christ returns (Gen. 37:35; Psalms 16:9-10, 139:8; Dan. 12:2; Acts 2:27-31, 13:36; Rev. 20:5, 13-14).
Hades, in the Hebrew understanding, has a lower part, and an upper part. Hades is a temporary place where the spirits of the dead sleep and await the resurrection to either heaven, or eternal torment. The resurrection and judgment are as Christ described for us in Luke 16:19-31, where all spirits are given their resurrected bodies. Some are comforted by Christ, and others judged to hell. Sheol, or Hades, is not heaven, or hell, or the grave, as we might think of them today. Both the Hebrew, as well as the Greek Septuagint (written over 250 years before Christ), use different words for heaven, grave, pit, tomb, and hell as we think of them in the West. Hades (Sheol), is not hell. Hades is the temporary place of the departed spirits (asleep), awaiting the resurrection, and God is present in Hades along with the spirits (Psalm. 139:8; Heb. 12:22-24). Death, until the resurrection, is pictured as sleep (Psalms 6:5, 115:17, 139:8, 146:4; Dan. 12:2; John 11:11-12; Acts 7:60, 13:36; 1 Corin. 7:39, 11:27-32, 15:6, 15:17-18, 15:20, 15:51; 1 Thess. 4:13-15; 2 Peter 3:4).
When the Bible was translated into English, and by Martin Luther into German, no equivalent word for Sheol (Hebrew), or Hades (Greek), was provided. This was done deliberately, because of the effort by the Protestant reformers to expunge the doctrine of purgatory from the Roman Catholic teaching as un-biblical. Purgatory is an ancient Babylonian belief, adopted by the Roman Catholic Church, of a place (easily confused with Hades), where one must be cleansed before entering heaven, which is not supported by any Scripture. In place of the word Sheol, or Hades, the King James translation translates Sheol (Hades), as grave 31 times, hell 31 times, and the pit 3 times, thus clouding the true Hebrew meaning of the word. Sheol (Hades), is a temporary place, where the spirit sleeps awaiting the resurrection. Time, there, ends with death, and begins with the resurrection.
There are two other names for hell which refer to severe places of punishment for those who have already been judged unrighteous. One is Tartaros (2 Pet. 2:4), a temporary place for the angels, those supernatural beings which have denied God. The other is Gehenna (Matt. 5:22; 2 Pet. 3:7), the fiery punishment, the final destiny for all those who deny Christ. Not all fallen angels are already confined. Some will still be in heaven until the very end (Rev. 12:9).
At Christ’s death, Jesus tells the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43), that today he would be in Paradise with Him. This was the same place that Abraham was in. At judgment day (Luke 16:19-31), all pictured here were given their resurrected bodies. They were able to see (eyes), and talk (tongue), and hear (ears), touch (finger), and feel at this resurrection in Hades. Hades, up to this point, was a place of waiting, but note that verse 28 states Hades has now become a place of torment, indicating the resurrection and judgment has taken place. Also, this must be the resurrection because verse 28 also states a concern about his brothers, but in Hades, before the resurrection (the place of waiting, sleep, and rest), there is no such concern (Eccl. 9:10).
Christ, after His death (Jonah 2:2-6; Matt. 12:39-40; John 2:19; Acts 2:31-32), preached the gospel to all those dead (Hades), from the beginning of time (Matt. 12:39-40; Eph. 4:8-9; 1 Pet.3:18-22; Rev. 1:18). Christ brought with Him the spirits of those righteous from the beginning of time (Eph. 4:7-10). Many saints were predestined to resurrection at the time of Christ’s death, and seen in their supernatural bodies (Matt. 27:50-54). Those judged unrighteous, remain in Hades (the lower part), until the end of the millennium (Rev. 20:5, 13-14).
Now, since the time of Christ’s resurrection, the focus has shifted more to Heaven, a higher place, to which Christ, the saints, and the resurrected souls of the righteous were raised. This place is described by Paul as the third Heaven (2 Corin. 12:2-6: 1st – heaven or sky, 2nd – Cosmos, 3rd – Kingdom of God). For those redeemed, who have died since Christ’s resurrection, their spirit is with the Lord in Hades (the upper portion – Paradise/Heaven), awaiting the resurrection at Christ’s return (Heb. 12:22-24; Rev. 20:1-4). For those who reject Jesus, their spirit is sent from God to Hades (the lower part – Prov. 9:18), to await the judgment at the end of the millennium (Rev. 20:5, 13-14; Matt. 12:32). For the aborted, deceived, and lost who were never called by God, their spirits are with God in Hades (Psalm. 139:8—upper portion Paradise/Heaven), awaiting birth into the Millennium (Isa. 65:23; Ez. 37:25; Jer. 31:16-17), in order to be called to salvation.
There is much confusion concerning the terms “spirit” and “soul,” and whether they are eternal or not. God’s Word defines spirit and soul as different from each other. However, because of Greek metaphysics, and Greek philosophy (where the body is viewed as evil), we have confused their meaning, and have replaced God’s truth with man’s understanding (1 Corin. 1:19-25; 2:14). The eastern (Hebrew) view of soul and spirit is different from the western (Greek). In the eastern view we are a soul (Gen. 2:7), and in the western view we have a soul. God defines the body as material, whether it is natural flesh, or supernatural (Gen. 2:7; Luke 24:36-39).
“Spirit and soul” are understood by many today (in the west – Greek view), to mean personality, rational thought, consciousness, dreaming, emotion, etc., and the spirit and soul are thought to be eternal and immaterial. However, God’s Word gives us a different picture of the meanings of spirit and soul. God describes spirit (or breath of life), as immaterial, and referring to one’s eternal life, and one’s eternal character, whereas, the soul is material, and subject to separation; death (Ezek. 18:4; Matt. 10:28).
If we define “spirit / soul” as thinking, dreaming, rational thought, consciousness, emotion, and personality, then we are actually referring to a material life (soul), which is temporal and subject to death.
These are physical electro-chemical cellular processes, products of genetics and environment (Greek is psuche, and Hebrew is nephesh – Ez. 22:27; Acts 27:37; 1 Thess. 2:8). These (the soul), no longer function at death. The spirit returns to God, is asleep, and awaits the resurrection to a body, so as to become a living soul once again. Passages such as 1 Kings 17:21-22, Psalms 16:10, 30:3, 49:15, and 86:13 all are in the context of the body, or resurrection and body.
If we define “spirit / soul” as life, the animation principle, and the eternal character of an individual, then we are actually referring to immaterial life (spirit), sometimes called the “breath of life” in God’s Word. In this sense, God is spirit and is immaterial, omnipresent, and timeless (Hebrew is nshamah, and Greek is pneuma – eternal – Gen. 2:7; Job 27:3; John 4:24; 1 Thess. 5:23). The spirit is eternal, and we receive our spirit when “born again.” Note, the Scripture states that we become spirit (John. 3:1-7). After death, the spirit will be united with a resurrection body to once again become a living soul.
God uses words for spirit and soul in contexts which give us His truth. In Genesis 2:7, God tells us that He created Adam in Paradise to live eternally. The material body was given eternal life and character by His breath (spirit), and Adam became an eternal soul (nephesh—body and spirit). The combination of the material body and this eternal quality, breath of life (or spirit), are combined to make up the eternal soul (Job 27:3; 1 Thess. 5:23; Gen. 2:7). God is spirit (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit), and Jesus is also material (John 1:14; Matt. 27:50-54; Luke 24:36-43). Man was created in Paradise in God’s image, and today we are not in paradise, and have lost the image of God. We are in fact born corrupt (Rom. 1:23), and must be conformed to His true image again (Rom. 8:29; 1 Corin. 15:49; 2 Corin. 3:18; Col. 3:9-11 – see Target Truth Ministries.com for Studies on Predestination, or Original Sin, and The Two Creation Accounts in book Eden to Evil).
God tells us in Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, 10, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16, that the dead have no further connection with this earth age we are in. They are asleep in heaven with God, or in hell, all awaiting the resurrection. Being in heaven with God is viewed as being in the third heaven (2 Corin. 12:2), the same place as the upper part of hades (Luke 16:19-31). God describes the dead as asleep, at rest, at peace, awaiting the resurrection to their new supernatural bodies (Psalm 139:8; Eccl. 12:7; John 11:11-14; Acts 7:60, 13:36; 1 Corin. 15:6, 15:17-18, 15:20, 15:51; 1 Thess. 4:13-17; 2 Peter 3:4). The dead are not floating around with us here (Job 7:7-10).
There is a lot of confusion about life after death. Are we asleep, at peace, at rest, and unaware of things while we await the resurrection (Eccl. 12:7; 1 Thess. 4:13-17), or are we conscious and can see those still living on the earth, as well as those in heaven or hell? I want to give you two entirely different perspectives from two pastors in the same denomination. Myself, and Pastor Robert Jefferss, who is Senior Pastor of the 13,000 member First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. First, however, it needs to be said that we all have different views of the same passage of Scripture. Christians differ on their understanding of many areas, including the two creations (Eden and the 7-day), timing of the rapture, period of tribulation of the end-times, meaning of the millennium, as well as our life after death and many other areas. Our salvation is determined by whether we submit to, and trust in, Jesus as our Savior… not various interpretations of Scripture. But, interpretation of Scripture does determine whether a person might be misled, and turn away from God—not submit and trust in Jesus (John 14:6).
Pastor Jefferss uses four passages to conclude that those who have died are fully conscious and can see everything on earth and heaven right now. Following are a review his interpretation of these four Scriptural passages, followed by my thoughts:
In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus told how a rich man who did not trust in God, and Lazarus, who did trust in God, were both in hades (Sheol in the Hebrew, and hades in the Greek—the place of the dead). One interpretation is that this represents two men who are fully conscious after death—these two men are both fully aware of each other, as well as those left behind on earth (it does not say that the dead can actually see people on earth—only that they are concerned). The other interpretation is that this represents the resurrection, where both men receive their bodies and are able to touch, see, hear, and even taste, and because it is the resurrection, and they are now conscious and aware, and the judgment has taken place, they are now concerned about others eternal destiny as well. This passage therefore does not indicate that those who have passed away, and are not yet resurrected, are fully conscious and can see those still living on the earth. This passage refers to those judged and resurrected being concerned.
In Revelation 6:9-10, the souls of those slain because of the Word of God are seeking judgment upon those wicked still on the earth. One interpretation is that these slain believers from our time are able to see, and be aware of the evil times taking place on the earth, and they want justice. The other interpretation is that these are the slain who lived and died before Jesus’ resurrection, and they are resurrected and concerned about justice because they are in their resurrected bodies now (Matt. 27:50-54). This passage does not state that they actually see activities on the earth…only that they want justice. Those who died after the resurrection of Jesus (including our generation), await the resurrection to come at the return of Jesus, and are therefore asleep, at rest, at peace, and not fully conscious until the resurrection yet to occur (1 Thess. 4:13-17).
In Revelation 19:1-2, multitudes in Heaven are praising God for judging the wicked because the time had finally come for Jesus’ return. One interpretation is that the “multitudes” include all those who have died up to this point, including those who have died during the tribulation of the end-times, and they are aware of things taking place on the earth—they are fully conscious. The other interpretation is that the “multitudes” are all the host of heaven who never fell (the two-thirds of Rev. 12:1-4), along with all those resurrected at the time of Jesus’ resurrection (Matt. 27:50-54). This passage does not state that they can actually see daily activities of people on earth…only that they are aware of the judgment. Those who died after the resurrection of Jesus (including our generation), await the resurrection to come at the return of Jesus, and are therefore asleep, at rest, at peace, and not conscious (Eccl. 12:7; 1 Thess. 4:13-17).
In Isaiah 65:17, God will create the millennium (new heaven and earth), and former things will be forgotten. One interpretation is that those who have died do remember former things for now, but will not when the millennium begins. Another interpretation is that this is a reference to God, not to people, and that it is God who will eliminate former things from His memory. As to people who have died recently remembering former things, God tells us that when we die, we are asleep, at rest, and at peace—the resurrection does not occur until Jesus returns to judge the wicked and take those resurrected into the millennium (Job 7:7-10; Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, 10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
As to Hebrews 12:1-2, where there is this great cloud of witnesses surrounding us…everyone agrees this is a reference to the testimony given by the Old Testament saints—the great cloud of witnesses in the context of Hebrews 11-12, where their testimony is helpful to us, not that they see us.
Our differences in understanding these Scriptures have to do with the historical understandings of Jesus’ time, and traditions handed down over the centuries by the church. For centuries the “preterits” position was in favor by the church…believing that Jesus returned around 70AD when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, and also the later tradition of the Catholic Church from around the year 1,000 AD, when the Catholic Church declared that we were now in the millennium period, and that Jesus had returned spiritually…indwelling the Pope. These traditions (that we were already in the millennium), meant that we must receive our resurrected body immediately when we die, because the resurrection takes place at the beginning of the millennium (Rev. 20)—so, now we are immediately resurrected when we die. But, after 1914, both of these positions fell out of favor, due to WWI, and the understanding that the church and God’s Word were not providing a more peaceful existence, that Jesus had not yet returned, and that we should look for the millennium sometime in the future. The problem was that even though many in the church began to see the millennium as a future event, the tradition of believers entering into a conscious existence with Jesus upon death (because we supposedly were in the millennium already), stayed with us. Additionally, many in the Christian movement still believe we are in the millennium right now, and that Jesus indwells the Pope.
However, Biblically, those who have passed on from this earth are asleep, at rest, at peace, and will awaken to their new resurrected body when Christ returns (Eccl. 12:7; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).
God tells us to fear that which can destroy the soul. This means that our eternal spirit could be condemned to hell with no body…isolated, alone, suffering separation from God forever (Ezek. 18:4; Matt. 10:28).
In John 3:1-7, God tells us that we must be “born again,” which means we need that eternal life spirit in order to share life with God. Our eternal spirit, our eternal character, or “breath of life,” is given to us by God the Holy Spirit, and we actually become spirit (John 3:6; Rom. 8:16). God the Holy Spirit, will also dwell in us while we still live in the flesh (Eccl. 12:7; Rom.8:9). Donald Guthrie, in “New Testament Theology” (1981, page 177), writes: “The spiritual man in the view of Paul, is a man in possession of pneuma (spirit), which the natural man does not possess. In Paul’s mind, the natural man is unspiritual.”
We are born with a body which has a “spirit/soul” (western/Greek understanding), in the material sense, capable of feeling and thought, but we are “born dead” in the eternal, spiritual sense (Eph 2:1-3; James 2:26), and need to be “born again” (John 3:1-6), in order to receive our eternal spirit (“breath of life”), with which God created us originally, before the foundation of the world (Gen. 2:1, 2:7; Job 38:4-7; Jer. 1:5; Ezek. 37:3-10; Acts 2:23; Rom. 8:28-30, 11:2, 7; Eph. 1:3-5, 11; 1 Peter 1:2 – see Target Truth Ministries.com for book Eden to Evil, for discussion of the Two Creation Accounts).
In Ecclesiastes 12:7, we are told our eternal spirit is with God upon death, but our body returns to the earth (Job 34:14-15; 2 Corin. 5:8; Eccl. 12:7). When a saved person dies, their body and spirit are separated (a “saved” person is born again, and has actually received their eternal spirit from God—John 3:1-7). Their body goes back to the earth, and their spirit goes back to God (Heb. 12:18-24). This is the first death (Heb. 9:27). The spirit with God is asleep, unconscious, and until given a body and judged at the resurrection to come (Rev. 20:4), the spirit is not concerned with the things of the world…it is at peace (Eccl. 9:1-10; Job 7:7-10, 14:12-14, 21; Dan. 12:2; Psalm 6:5, 17:15, 115:17, 146:4; Isa. 38:18-19, 57:1-2, 65:17; John 5:28-29; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-52; Col. 3:4; Rev. 22:12).
For those who die, who reject faith in Jesus as God, who are not born again, and do not receive their spirit from God…their eternal spirit is placed in Hades (where God is also– Psalm 139:8), where also are the spirits of all those who have rejected Jesus, and they await the final resurrection to judgment at the end of the millennium (Matt. 12:32; Rev. 20:5, 13-15).
There is no “soul sleep,” where some suggest the spirit no longer exists. The spirit is eternal. The soul (body and spirit), is separated and ceases to exist (Ezek. 18:4; Matt. 10:28). For those not born again, who have not heard the Gospel of God, and have not rejected Christ, their spirit remains with God in Hades, until birthed into the millennium to hear the gospel of God. Those who have denied God await the resurrection to the judgment of God at the end of the millennium (Matt. 12:32; Rev. 20:5, 13-15 – see the Message titled “Soul Mates” – Target Truth Ministries.com).
Some state that in Isaiah 14:9 (where it indicates that Satan, upon his arrival, will stir up those in Sheol (Hades), this means Hades is a place of conscious existence. However, Satan is not sent to Hades. Satan is thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10), where the beast and false prophet are (Rev. 19:20). This is the fire prepared for Satan and his angels, all those with their supernatural bodies (Matt. 25:41). This fire is associated with the Greek Gehenna (hell fire), which is referred to also in Matthew 5:22, 29, and 30. Gehenna is a reference to a type of hell we witness here on earth, at the Hinnom Valley southeast of Jerusalem (called in the Hebrew gehinnom). This is where children were sacrificed in the fires to false gods (these fires were garbage fires which burned continually). As Satan is thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15), death and Hades (those spirits who denied Christ), are resurrected for judgment, and are therefore now conscious. And, being conscious, they are stirred up (Isa. 14:9), as they witness the fate of Satan. This is at the final judgment, and those who have denied Christ are now in their supernatural bodies, and find themselves being cast into the burning fire—their bodies being destroyed, their spirit now will exist forever in darkness, alone and isolated (Matt. 8:12, 22:13, 25:30). The darkness is due to the fact that those judged unrighteous will be separated from God, and God is our source of light. God becomes our light at the beginning of the millennium (Zech. 14:6-7). The earth is transformed at Christ’s return, and there is no longer any sun, moon, or stars after the destruction on the last day (Matt. 24:29-31). This means that without God (the Light), there will be outer darkness all around the eternal lake of fire (fire represents the pain associated with burning—fire purges out impurities, or sin—the hottest fire gives no visible light). Supernatural bodies will suffer in the eternal fire…being purged, in outer darkness, separated from God. The fire is everlasting, but the body is destroyed—all except for the devil, the beast, and the false prophet (Rev. 20:10). The darkness is everlasting. Our spirit is everlasting. The body, whether physical flesh, or supernatural, is destroyed (Mal. 4:1-3; John 3:1-6; Rev. 20:9).
When our spirit separates from our body at death (Eccl. 12:7), the spirit is with God, and Jesus will bring with Him “those” saved (spirits), to the resurrection (1 Thess. 4:13-18), when Christ returns, and we receive our supernatural bodies. These spirits are asleep, unconscious, and at peace, awaiting the resurrection to their supernatural bodies. At the resurrection, the bride is made ready, granted to be clothed, and invited (summoned), to the marriage supper (Rev. 19:7-9), to be resurrected (Rev. 20:4-5). In Hebrews 12:22-24, note that the assembly of heaven is listed, and spirits awaiting the resurrection are there.
Luke 16:19-31 is a picture of the judgment at the time of the death of Jesus, where the dead in Hades receive their new resurrected supernatural bodies, and some will suffer punishment, and the others are comforted. Today, Hades (lower part), is still a place for those judged unrighteous, to await the final judgment (Rev. 20:5, 13-14), and also a place for those who are still lost, (those who have not heard the gospel–the aborted and deceived), and also a place (upper part), for those who trust only in Christ, as they await the resurrection to come when Christ returns (Job 14:13; Psalms 49:15, 55:15-16, 139:8; Matt. 11:22-23; Luke 10:15).
In John 5:28-29, we are told that all bodies in the earth are to be resurrected…some to life, and some to damnation (Matt. 25:46; Acts 24:15; Dan. 12:2). Until that time of the resurrection, redeemed spirits are
with the Lord in Paradise, the upper part of Hades (Heaven–Heb. 12:22-24), and the wicked are pictured as being in the lower part of Hades. The aborted, deceived, and lost spirits who have not yet been called to salvation, will also remain with God in Hades (upper part),to be birthed into the millennium to be given the gospel (Jer. 31:16-17; Isa. 65:23; Ez. 37:25; Matt. 13:22, 22:9-10 – both the “bad” and the good – see the Millennium “Babies” Study, or books “Revelation Apostasy, End Times, & “This Generation,” or Book of Chronologies & Time Charts, at Target Truth Ministries.com).
The second death (Rev. 20:6), is the final judgment, by Christ, of the unrighteous who deny Him. By the end of the millennium and Satan’s release, everyone will have received the gospel, and either will have trusted in Christ, or denied Him. The final judgment is to determine rewards and punishment only. Actually, the judgment as to destination (Paradise, or eternal darkness and fire), is already determined before we are even born (see the Predestination Study, or books Eden to Evil, or God’s Plan / Satan’s Plan – Target Truth Ministries.com). This judgment is recorded in the book of life before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8, 17:8). Revelation 20:12-13 states “according to their works.” This second death is pictured as the condemned enduring isolation—being alone, forever separated from God, unlike those who are resurrected to life in a new body in the first resurrection. Those who suffer the second death (Rev. 2:11, 20:13-15), will suffer their supernatural bodies being purged of sin in the lake of fire (Gehenna), and eternal separation from God (darkness), and separation from loved ones who are saved (2 Thess. 1:9). Our sin against an infinite, uncreated, everlasting, eternal God requires justice. Only an infinite, everlasting punishment for rejecting our eternal uncreated God is just (Isa. 66:24; Dan.12:2; Matt. 25:46; Heb. 6:1-2; 2 Thess.1:9; Rev. 14:11, 20:10—Matt. 18:34-the debt can never be repaid).
The resurrection of the righteous unites their spirit with a supernatural material body, to live forever with God; a return to Eden, where we will walk with God, and God will be our light (Rev. 20:4-6, 21:23, 22:5; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Corin. 15:23-57; Luke 24:36-39).
There is only one way to paradise/heaven…Jesus (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Only Jesus gave us evidence of His power over death…only Jesus. All other “ways” are nice people with nice ideas about this life, but they have no evidence about life after death…only Jesus. It is your life…it is your choice (Deut. 30:19).