Category Archives: anthropology

it’s like a box of chocolates

DSCF2150gift of life #23

it’s like a box of chocolates

If you are ever inclined to be philosophical, try an internet search for quotes that begin with the words “life is…”

Some of my favourites are:

  • “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  (John Lennon).
  • “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”  (Albert Einstein).
  • “Life’s hard. It’s even harder when you’re stupid.”  (John Wayne).
  • “Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.”  (Margaret Mitchell).
  • “Life … is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  (William Shakespeare, Macbeth).
  • …And then there’s my favourite “life is…” quote of all, attributed to Forrest Gump’s mother: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”

It seems that almost everybody has an idea or two about life, but we all do not agree. Even if we were unified, who’s to say that we would be right? What we need is advice from the One who invented life. We can find such advice, but we have to look in the right place – the Bible.

The most prevalent message in the Bible about life is that it is limited. It is a precious thing because it runs out. Life has a beginning and an end, and the end always comes too soon. The Bible says “our days on earth are a shadow.” Our days pass by quickly, disappearing as soon as the light hits them. Job said “Man who is born of a woman …flees like a shadow and continues not.” You cannot look at a shadow, and come back in an hour or two and find it in the same place. Like life, shadows are always coming and going. Shadows do not stay put. You never know what you’re going to get when you open the box of chocolates, but you know it won’t last very long.

Lots of things just seem unfair, particularly the more we realize that the limits of life do not allow for do-overs. Often we realize too late that our days are like an evening shadow, soon to be over – swallowed up in death, and nothing we can do will change that fact. Robert Harris said “The true currency of life is time, not money, and we’ve all got a limited stock of that.” As we conclude our study of the gift of life, I want to leave you with a word of application. Since the Bible teaches that we are mortal, and our lives are limited, don’t waste your life currency. Don’t waste your limited time doing things that will not matter in eternity.

And now a short summary of the 23 lessons in this series:

  • Life is a gift, not a given. Socrates was wrong: only God has immortality. We are dependent on him for life.
  • Having a soul does not make us immortal. Animals have souls.
  • In our sinful state, being immortal would be a curse, not a blessing.
  • Death is not going to a better place. It is not the answer to our problems. Christ is. Death is sleep – an unconscious wait for the resurrection. The dead go to a silent, dark state or condition in which everyone exists at death. In that state we know nothing, and can only live again by a resurrection from the LORD.
  • Hell is a reality, but it does not take place at death. It is the future lake of fire in which God will punish the lost with everlasting destruction.
  • The hope of resurrection is essential to the gospel message, and it should never be replaced by a hope of going to heaven at death.

If you have any questions about this teaching, you can ask me at jeffersonvann@yahoo.com. Thank you for joining me in this series as we have searched the scriptures to learn about the gift of life.

Listen to the audio file at Afterlife.

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resurrection makes sense

gift of lifegift of life #13

resurrection makes sense

Conditionalists believe that death is a reality because everyone was in Adam when God warned Adam not to eat of the forbidden tree. That includes Eve, since she was part of Adam at the time. That includes you and me, since we were still part of Adam as well. So, everyone, regardless of their spiritual condition will experience this death that God warned Adam about. Just look around at all the cemeteries scattered throughout the planet. You will see that God’s threat was real. Death is a reality for all of us. The good news of the gospel is not that we don’t die. Satan was not right about that, and God was not lying. The good news is that God in his grace offers us hope after death: a resurrection of the whole person to permanent life.

Jesus said: “an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29). This resurrection to permanent life is the true hope of the believer, not going to heaven as a disembodied spirit. In fact, Jesus says that if he does not raise you from the dead, you will be lost! He said “Now this is the will of the one who sent me–that I should not lose one person of every one he has given me, but raise them all up at the last day”(John 6:39). This would make no sense whatsoever if believers are already with Jesus in heaven for thousands of years before the resurrection. It only makes sense if believers are dead in their graves awaiting a resurrection when Christ returns.

This also explains why the apostle Paul argued strenuously for a resurrection to the Corinthians. These Corinthians had been exposed to the pagan philosophical notion of the survival of the immortal soul. In explaining the gospel, Paul had to convince them that this notion was wrong. He had to show them that resurrection of the whole person is necessary. This is what Paul says to them: “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-23). Nowhere in Paul’s argument does he concede that death is not real. He argues for the absolute necessity of resurrection. In fact, he says that if there is no resurrection, believing in Christ is useless. If there will be no resurrection, we are all still in our sins. If there will be no resurrection, we are of all people most to be pitied. Why? Because those who die are really dead. They have fallen asleep. They are not alive somewhere up yonder or down there. They are not alive anywhere. The promise of a resurrection makes sense because that is what mortal people need.

If you have any questions about this teaching, you can ask me at jeffersonvann@yahoo.com. Join me for this entire series as we search the scriptures to learn about the gift of life.

 

Listen to the audio file on Afterlife.

what the dead really know

gift of lifegift of life #12

what the dead really know

 

 

 

In his Exposition of the Bible, John Gill gives us a long list of things that people know after they are dead. He says that when people die, their knowledge “is greatly increased.” He says that…

  • · once believers die, they know as much as God knows about them,
  • · they know about God’s perfections, purposes, covenant, grace and love,
  • · they know about Christ’s person, offices and glory; they see him as he is,
  • · they know about the gospel, angels, other dead saints that they talk with,
  • · they know about the glories and happiness of their heavenly state,
  • · they in fact know more than they ever did while living
  • · once the wicked die, they know that God exists and is judging them,
  • · they know that their suffering souls are immortal,
  • · they know that there is a future state, filled with unending torment for them.

But you can take that long list of things that Gill says people that are dead know, and throw it in the trash. All it takes is one scripture to refute all that silly speculation. Wise Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 9:5 that “the living know that they will die: but the dead do not know anything.” He teaches that death deprives all human beings of everything in life. He is not saying that death only appears to rob us of conscious existence. In fact, if death ushers all human into a new state of conscious existence and awareness, the author of Ecclesiastes has lost his argument all together. Solomon had argued that it is best for the godly not to focus on any hopes of an afterlife in the intermediate state, but to make the best of life now. He was not addressing the question of whether there would ever be life after the grave. Instead, he was arguing that one’s objective should be making the best of life now. That explains why he later instructs his readers not to “let the excitement of youth cause them to forget their Creator” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). If one is caught up in the hopes and dreams of the future, one is liable to forget that his or her present relationship with God is what really matters.

In Ecclesiastes 9:5, Solomon uses a description of what happens at death to show that dying should not be a person’s goal. It is not the solution to humanity’s problem, God is. Death ends the pursuit. death ends the race. Solomon compares two groups: those who are presently alive and those who are presently dead. He does not distinguish between different groups within these groups. All people who are presently alive have hope, but all those presently dead do not. If (as Gill supposes) the actual awareness of the dead increases, then Solomon’s argument is a wash. Solomon’s argument demands that his readers take into account the present state of the dead, and requires that they understand that the dead are presently aware of nothing. So, don’t trust in death to solve your problems. Trust in God before you die, because he can raise you from the dead.

If you have any questions about this teaching, you can ask me at jeffersonvann@yahoo.com. Join me for this entire series as we search the scriptures to learn about the gift of life.

listen to this article at Afterlife.

sorry, Socrates!

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sorry, Socrates!

I wish I could travel back in time. I’d like to go back to the time of the Greek philosopher, Socrates. I would pretend to be one of Socrates’ disciples, standing around in his jail cell. According to Plato, Socrates had a discussion about death just before he swallowed the hemlock. He told them that his death would solve his problems. He taught that death was a good thing, it separated the soul from the body, and set it free from its corruptible prison.

I would like to be there, because I would say “Sorry, Socrates!, You really don’t know anything about death.” The Bible consistently teaches that death is an enemy to be feared, not than a solution to our present problems. God’s warning to the residents in Eden was “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, because in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” If death were a good thing, bringing release from the prison of their body, that warning would not make sense.

The Bible associates death with darkness, not freedom and light. It is pictured as a place void of all awareness, a place where the souls and bodies lie and await the next event – a resurrection and its accompanying judgment. The dead are described as unconscious of what is going on around them. This is not freedom.

The term “sleep” is the single most used description of death in the Bible. It is used in the Old Testament and in the New. It is used of believers and unbelievers. It is used of people before the atonement and afterward. Now, sleep is a good thing, but only if you wake up later. The biblical hope is not death itself, but rescue from it. Jesus is the one who has the keys to set people free, and the prison that we are incarcerated in is not our physical body, but death and Hades.

Believers will be set free only when Jesus returns. Until then, we are still suffering the consequences of our ancestors’ sin – we die and return to the dust. But Jesus can raise us to life again. That is the blessed hope: “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” who comes to rescue us from death.

Teaching that death sets people free instead fails to reflect the Bible in three crucial areas. It is inconsistent with what the Bible says about death, it contradicts the Bible’s description of the intermediate state, and it detracts from the importance the Bible places on the resurrection. So, when people start to sound like Socrates when they describe death, we should explain to them that they are getting it wrong, too.

If you have any questions about this teaching, you can ask me at jeffersonvann@yahoo.com. Join me for this entire series as we search the scriptures to learn about the gift of life.

Listen to the audio file on Afterlife.

sheol in the ground

gift of lifegift of life #10

sheol in the ground

The vast majority of biblical references to the intermediate state are in the Old Testament. This makes sense because it was the saints in the Old Testament who first started asking questions about the intermediate state. By the time the Old Testament was completed, a theological consensus was clearly revealed. This Old Testament consensus reveals that Sheol is a much different place than that imagined by modern theologians.

When Jacob was told that his son Joseph was dead, he assumed that Joseph was down underneath the earth somewhere. Jacob was so upset that he thought he would die of grief. He tells his children who are trying to comfort him “No, I will go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” So, the intermediate state was not a mystery to Jacob. These Old Testament saints knew Sheol is not heaven. It is the exact opposite. Yet they knew Sheol is the state that all souls enter at death.

Also, in the Old Testament, the sky and the land are places where God is praised continually. But in Sheol that praise stops abruptly. David prays for God to “let the wicked be put to shame; let them go silently to Sheol.” The deaths of his enemies would not only silence them upon earth, it would silence them in the underworld as well. Sheol is a place where the once mighty now lie still. It is the land of silence, where the dead go down to silence.

Job described a person in Sheol as spreading out his bed in darkness. He described Sheol as “the land of darkness and deep shadow, the land of gloom like thick darkness, like deep shadow without any order, where light is as thick darkness.” David describes those “long dead” as “sitting in darkness.”

Daniel described existence in Sheol as sleeping in the dust of the earth. It was a condition which required an awakening – a resurrection. This sleep was never the hope of Old Testament saints. Their hope was resurrection and restoration to life.

The thing most stressed in the Old Testament concerning Sheol is that it is synonymous with death itself. In the New Testament, this is seen by the terms death and Hades appearing next to each other. All those who die (the event) experience Hades (the state). In the Old Testament, this fact is seen in numerous passages where death and Sheol are placed in parallel. David, for example says “the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.” He also says “in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?”

Let me summarize: Sheol is a silent, dark state or condition in which everyone exists at death, and can only live again by a resurrection from the LORD. It is always contrasted with heaven, and never equated with it. It is not the hope of the saints; rescue from it is the hope of the saints. That is the Old Testament consensus. And the New Testament agrees with that consensus.

If you have any questions about this teaching, you can ask me at jeffersonvann@yahoo.com. Join me for this entire series as we search the scriptures to learn about the gift of life.

listen to the audio file at Afterlife.

chasing slavery

May 2015 (10)“We chase all these things, thinking that we’re free.  But we’re blind to our own bondage. For in all our running to serve ourselves, we’re actually rebelling against the only One who can satisfy our souls.”

David Platt, Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans and Pornography. Tyndale House Publishers, 2015, p.8.

what girls are not for

May 2015 (9)“God …has uniquely formed (each precious girl) not for forced sexual violation from countless random men but for joyful sexual union with a husband who cherishes, serves, and loves her.”

David Platt, Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans and Pornography. Tyndale House Publishers, 2015, p.6.