"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Death Is Normal but Immortality Is a Gift from God

Is it natural for plants to die? Is it part of the normal life-cycle of God's creation for animals to die as well? What about humans? Does the "circle of life" mean death is the natural and expected end for everything God creates?

Christians like Martin Luther and N.T. Wright have taught that the Biblical answers to the above questions are "Yes." All life, they would say, is like a circle that goes around in a constant loop. Plants, animals, and people are constantly being born and are all ultimately experiencing death. That's natural; it's nature. Plants die, giving life to new plants. Stars die, giving life to new stars. People are born; people die. Death is a part of nature because all of God's creation is mortal.

However, there is a caveat when it comes to death for human beings. Every single human being has the potential for immortality. This immortality - or life that never ends - is not inherent to human existence. It is the reward from God for a particular kind of human existence.

Immortality is God's reward for a person who lives life with full, perfect, and sustained obedience to Him. 

Humans are the only creatures fashioned in the image of God. The Creator expects us to live our lives as He would live life. Look to Jesus for the example as to the kind of life God expects a human being to live. God promises that if you never deviate, never hesitate, never contemplate anything but loving Him and other people selflessly and sacrificially, then He will grant you immortality as the reward.

There's enough knowledge of God in every human mind to know how one ought to live (see Romans 1:18-25). Plants and animals don't have this knowledge of their Creator. That's why they don't have a dynamic and personal relationship with Him. You never see a dog bow its head in prayer before eating its food. Nor will you hear a plant praise its Creator.

But human beings can and do relate to God and their fellow human beings who are created in the image of God. So, the reward for living life the way God intends a human life to be lived is immortality.

Let me show you.

The Bible tells us that at the final judgment, God will reward people who have lived a life of full, consistent, and persistence obedience toward Him with immortal life. Paul says it like this in Romans 2:6-9:
"God will render (at the judgment) to each one according to his deeds: immortal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek."
God alone is inherently immortal (I Timothy 6:16). This is the clear teaching of Scripture, and to deny it is to deny the Word of God.

Every person, plant, creature, star, planet, and living organism that God creates is inherently mortal. Mortality is normal to all life because all life is mortal.

However, God created mankind alone with the potential for immortality. The Bible tells us that human beings are the only forms of life "created in the image of God" (Genesis 1:27).  Immortality is not inherent to our existence. Immortality is a potential for our existence. It is dependent upon our full, complete, sustained and joyful obedience to the Father who made us.

So who among us has lived the kind of life that deserves immortality as a reward from God?

Answer: None of us.  Paul takes his readers to this same conclusion. "As it is written, there is no one righteous or as he ought to be, no not one" (Romans 3:10).

Since deathlessness (e.g. immortality) is promised by God as the potential reward for the human life perfectly lived, then we who are human must consider death as our enemy. Socrates welcomed death as a friend, but the Savior fought death as an enemy. Those with little or no understanding of death and eternal life will often welcome death as a friend. But those who are acquainted with God's promise to mankind of potential immortality will fight death as their enemy.  And that is exactly what the Bible calls the death of any human being - the enemy (see I Corinthians 15:26).

Even more importantly, because "the wages of sin is death" then sin must also be the enemy of man since it is sin that brings death to those with the potential for immortality. It's really sad when mankind celebrates what God calls sin. He who welcomes his enemy as his friend will eventually find the light of his life turned into the darkness of his death.

God made the first man (Adam) and every person who descends from Adam (e.g. the human race) with the potential to be immortal. Adam's potential immortality was predicated on Adam's full, consistent, and persistent obedience to his Creator. But Adam failed in his obedience to God. 

When Adam failed, every one of his descendants (e.g. that means you and me) did not lose the potential for immortality, what we lost was the power to meet the standard which has immortality as the reward.

The seed that the first Adam implanted within each of us is the disposition toward rebellion against God. We are all the children of the first Adam. We will all die because of our inherent sin nature as well as our individual sin performance. "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). 

Perfect, complete, persistent, sustained, joyful obedience to God is still the standard for immortal life, but because Adam sinned, we received from him a nature to sin. We hopelessly and consistently fall short of that standard which God intends us to live (Romans 3:23). Again, if you want to see the standard clearly, look at the life of Jesus Christ. He met it. Nobody else is.

Each of us is similar to a track and field athlete who stands 5-foot tall trying to get over an 8-foot high jump bar. It's impossible. The standard is too high because of the athlete's shortcomings. The standard God set for Adam (man) in the beginning wasn't too high (full obedience to the Creator), and His standard hasn't changed over time. Mankind continues to spiritually shrink, infected with a disposition and tendency toward sin and rebellion against God. Instead of loving Him and others He creates, we love ourselves. 

None of us likes to think we are in this pickle of death because of the actions of another person, so very few people accept that we're sinners because of the actions of that first Adam. So why don't you take Adam out of the equation in terms of our lives and in relation to God's promise of immortal life? Each of us is still promised by God the gift of immortal life as a reward for fully, consistently and persistently obeying Him during our lifetimes.

God's promise of immortality, conditioned upon us living our lives like Christ lived His, seems impossible. In my experience, it is impossible. I've already failed. 

However, for a sinful human being - like each of us is - death is not necessarily the end of one's life altogether. Here comes the Good News. Immortality remains a possibility for sinners.

Jesus Christ, the unique God/Man, has done for human beings what we seemingly cannot do for ourselves. He has "fulfilled the law" of sin and death, and obtained for sinners the rewards of full obedience, which includes immortality (e.g. eternal life), for sinners.

Thus, eternal life is gifted by God to sinners who "embrace the Son" (Psalm 2:12). That's right. Eternal life (e.g. immortality) comes as a gift (not a reward) to sinners. That life eternal begins the moment Christ is embraced. Along the sinner's journey of faith in Christ during this life, many enemies will be faced (e.g. sin and death, Romans 8:2)). Christ empowers the sinner to conquer his enemies, including the last enemy of physical death (I Corinthians 15:26).

Christ will resurrect every sinner from the grave. That's right, there is coming a general resurrection of all human beings who have died. The Creator will raise people from death. After this resurrection, those who have embraced Him will be gifted with immortality.

The resurrection of the dead is the unique doctrine of Christianity, taught by Jesus and His Apostles, and it is clearly articulated in both the Old and New Testaments. Other religions refute the Christian doctrine of the resurrection. For example, spiritualists speak of spirits leaving the body and continuing to live even after people die, denying the necessity of personal resurrection. Some religionists refer to the reincarnation of life forms into various and sundry other life forms after death, so that a person today may be a tree tomorrow. Atheists believe in nothingness after death.

But Jesus Christ teaches the resurrection from the dead of individual human beings. 

Resurrection is the apex of Christian doctrine. Resurrection is the future of every human being, whether or not they know of Jesus Christ. Resurrection is at the very heart of Christian teaching.
"If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ is not raised from the dead, our preaching is worthless and so is your faith." (I Corinthians 15:13, 14). 
Scripture teaches us that at the return of Christ every person who has died will be raised up. The Old Testament clearly speaks of it in Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:2. The New Testament contains more abundant proof of it, John 5:25-29; 6:39, 40, 44; 11:24, 25; I Corinthians 15; I Thessalonians 4:13-17; Revelation 20:13

The Bible's focus on human resurrection from the dead leads right into the Bible's teaching of the final judgment of human beings:
  1. The Judge will be Jesus Christ (see Matthew 25:31-32; John 5:27; Acts 10:42; Philippians 2:10).
  2. Those who will be judged by Christ are those who are not "in Christ" or whose names are not found in "The Book of Life" (see Revelation 20:12). In other words, those who are not in union with Christ, a union that is evidenced by their faith in Him and/or the Spirit's work within them while alive on earth (see Matthew 12:36-37; Revelation 20:12), will be judged by Christ from the record He keeps of what they have done in this life. Those in Christ are not part of this final judgment, having been rescued from "this coming wrath" by Jesus (I Thessalonians 1:9-10). When you read the word "wrath" in the Bible in relation to Christ's judgment, don't think of your drunk uncle at a family reunion. Christ's wrath is holy, just and warranted; it's as much a part of His Person as His love, and both are good attributes. You want a Judge who is angry with evil, not a judge who laughs at it.
  3. This final judgment occurs after the resurrection of the dead, a resurrection that encompasses every human being (see John 5:28; Revelation 20:12-13).
  4. Christ judges those who are not "in Him" according to their deeds on earth. His judgment will be just, and the punishment Christ dispenses for selfish, harmful, and unloving acts on earth will be personal and proportional (see Matthew 10:15). The final end every person judged by Jesus Christ at the final judgment will be "the second death" (see Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6, 14; Revelation 21:8) where there is no hope of resurrection or immortal life.
  5. The gift for those who die "in Christ" is immortal life through the obedience of Jesus Christ and our faith in Him (Romans 6:23).
The Good News of Jesus Christ is that He came to meet the standard of immortality for sinners. He came to live the life that has immortality as the reward. In Him was no implanted sin of the original Adam, for He was born of a virgin. In Him was no outward sin, because He lived His life in perfect obedience to the Father. The Bible says of the Messiah:
"He was tempted in all ways just like we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). 
Yet without sin. Amazing. The wages of sin is death, but Jesus never sinned. Yet He died. Why? He died fulfilling the law regarding sin. He died in the place of sinners. That's what is called "Christ's passive obedience on the cross." But it's through His life that we obtain deliverance from death, that is immortality. The reward for Christ's perfect obedience as a human being is immortal life. This is what is called Christ's active obedience.  eJesus lived His life on earth perfectly for us. Amazing.

This is Good News.

When a human being who falls short of God's standard in this life trusts in Jesus Christ - the One who actively and perfectly fulfilled the Father's will in the very areas I've failed in mine - then the "perfect righteousness" of Jesus Christ is "credited to my account" by God (Romans 4:20-24). I am gifted with eternal life that Christ has earned for me..
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). 
Christ has obtained for me what I could not attain for myself.

He is my righteousness. He is my reward. He is my salvation. He is my sanctification. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

I want to know Christ.
"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:7-11).
Application for the Christian:

1. Christ is my life, both now and forever.
2. This life of mine will soon become immortal, a gift for Christ's obedience.
3. The last enemy I will face in this life is death.
4. I will rise from the dead at the time of Christ's coming unless I'm alive when He comes.
5. From the perspective of those who have died, the resurrection is immediate at death.
6. From the perspective of those still living, the resurrection is still coming and blessed hope.
7. The resurrection of the wicked should be a source of dread for there is "the wrath to come" which is Christ's holy and just punishment for a person's sins in this life.
8. Since no person is inherently immortal, after the appropriate and proportional punishment given to the wicked for their sins, Christ will turn them over to "the lake of fire" to experience the second death. The wicked are not given the gift of immortal life.
9. A person who is in Christ should never boast about his or her personal holiness because "our righteousness" is like filthy rags. If we are going to boast, let us boast in Christ (II Corinthians 10:17).
10. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have immortal life" (John 3:16).


30 comments:

Anonymous said...

You never see a dog bowing its head in prayer? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSIXoAgLicw

I guess that dog has potential immortality. LOL

Ken

Wade Burleson said...

:)

That's funny.

Christiane said...

KEN, I loved that.

I don't know from theology, but when I TOLD Ft. Bryan after mass that 'Dogs have souls.' He agreed! Now that's not in the Catechism, no, but that doesn't matter. Some things you just know. :)

This was pointed out to me:
(Romans 8:22) We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time."

I think when Our Lord said “Behold, I make all things new", He meant it.
But what really tugs at me is how it is that animals can assist in God's work of the healing of wounded hearts and in bringing comfort to suffering
people, especially the very elderly and small children.
Those qualities of 'patience, long-suffering, love' are not absent from these animals and I know whereof these traits originate. :)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLY52SVoJHw

There is 'something special' about these gentle creatures of God. I would not think of a heaven where they would not be welcomed with love. All skeptics of my theory may you one day be blessed with a therapy animal to care for you when you are in need.

'"But ask the animals, and they will teach you . . . . "

RRR said...

LOTS of information to reflect upon. I would like to have seen a bit more description of "death" in terms of differentiation between physical and spiritual.

Much of what you say in this post is no doubt based on your conclusions regarding a lot of details unaddressed and there may be some debate on those.

For instance, I would say the following, knowing that many would disagree:
-All die physically and a spiritual aspect of all people, even those entering eternity without the coverage of the blood of Christ, continues for eternity. Yet, only followers of Jesus have "life" eternal.
-The opportunity to receive eternal life ends when a person's spiritual-self exits his/her physical body.
-All will be "resurrected" and face final judgment. Some to be judged and condemned unprotected by the blood of Christ and sent to spend an eternity in hell.
-This final judgment comes following the Millennium Age.
-Some of us hold that the return of Christ initiates that Age and that His followers are resurrected in their eternal, glorified bodies at that time.

It is a huge matter for discussion and there is much controversy and debate on the various aspects. I know your post message would really go on for volumes had you addressed all of this.

You did, and almost always do, hit strongly on the "main" thing that really matters, we all need the coverage of the blood of Christ upon us or we are hopeless. For that I am grateful and encouraged.

I sure enjoy the topic. Thanks.

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks for your comment RRR.

You write, "All die physically and a spiritual aspect of (all) people, even those entering eternity without the coverage of the blood of Christ, continues for eternity. Yet, only followers of Jesus have "life" eternal."

I have just a few questions:

a. What would you call "this spiritual aspect" of those without coverage of the blood of Christ which "continues for eternity?"
b. If you would call this "the spirit, or the soul" of a person, then when that spirit or soul continues "for all of eternity" is that spirit or soul actually "living" (does it have "life") or is it dead?
c. If "the spiritual aspect" of that person not covered by the blood of Christ "continues for eternity" as living (e.g. it has "life'), then how can it be said that "only followers of Jesus have "life" eternal?
d. If the answer to (c). is "'Life' eternal is only a quality of life, not life itself" then I would ask you a medical question in response: "Does an invalid, crippled person have "life," or does your definition of "life" (e.g. quality of existence) mean that invalid person doesn't really have 'life'?"
e. Finally, when Jesus says, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28), is that destruction of the soul "death" - as in mortality, or the end of "life" - or is that destruction simply "a loss in the quality of life."

Blessings, RRR!

Christiane said...

Thinking about 'death' and 'immortality', and comes to mind this from 'A Litany' by poet John Donne:

" ... come
And re-create me. . . . .
that new-fashioned, I may rise up from death before I'm dead. "




RRR said...

Thank you, Wade, for your response and for allowing me to explain my position.

All people are created in God's image; with a soul/spiritual identity with which they are identified throughout eternity. Adam and Eve were created with the abiding, indwelling presence of God's Holy Spirit, which gives us spiritual "life". When they sinned, this indwelling ceased, thus, they experienced spiritual death in the sense that they no longer possessed the indwelling of God's life-giving Spirit. This does not mean that their soul ceased to "exist", but it no longer had "life". Similar to my computer battery "existing" but with no life until it is charged. Since the first sin, all people are physically born and with a soul, but it is "life"-less.

Jesus told Nicodemus that a person must be "born" into the Kingdom. One must acquire the life-giving presence of God's Holy Spirit into his/her "existing" soul in order to experience spiritual "life". He expanded on this truth to explain that He was referring to that "spiritual" aspect of man. He did not say that man's "spirit" must be born "again", or a second time, because it had not yet been brought to life. Yet Jesus expected Nicodemus to be able to discern these things because he was a "spiritual" being and responsible for being able to discern things of a spiritual nature.

If people were"not" born with a "soul", they would have an "out" on being responsible for responding to the call of God's Spirit to come to Him. God (Spirit) would not be able to communicate His desire to "soulless" people as their Creator God so He creates people with this spiritual identity. (Romans 1:18-20)This soul of people "exists" forever. If a person's soul leaves that person's fleshly body at death and they have not acquired "life"/become a "child" of God through redemption, they enter into eternity unprotected, with the same "life"-less soul with which they were created and continue to be identified. They face and fail God's judgment and spend eternity in hell.

The Gospel message, which you and I love to proclaim more than anything, is that, through the grace of God, He has provided a means for us to receive true "life", which I believe is having a relationship with God with Him being our Father and we being His children, born by His imperishable seed being implanted into our soul. Then, we experience true "life" as God intended, and it brings with it, adoption into the family of God, eternal life, with all the fullness of inheritance as a child of the Most High, living God. Hallelujah! The key on this matter is how we define "life" and "death".

As with so many of the mysterious, still hidden, elements of God, I choose this position because it seems to me to be the most consistent within the context of the fullness of God's Word. The wondrous and comforting thing is that our position on these things does not determine our eternal security as long as we accept Christ as Lord.

Please do provide your thoughts on these things. I would appreciate and seriously consider your propositions.

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks, RRR.

I think there is just some misunderstanding about terminology.

Soul (nephesh in Hebrew; psuche in Greek) is defined "by me" as the total personhood of a man, which includes mind, will, emotions, spirit, attitude, intellect, etc.

Every person is a soul, and every soul is a person.

To be "born again," means that person becomes "alive" to God. It is an awakening of the mind, the senses, the spirit, the emotions, the attitude, the intellect to the presence of God.

So, nobody is saying people are "souless." Quite the contrary, everyone is a soulish person. But some are "dead spiritually" - meaning they have no sense of God. When they are born again, they are alive to God.

Again, thanks for the comment.

Wade Burleson said...

Christiane,

Love that sonnet from Donne!

RRR said...

Wade,

I figured we would be on the same page if we simply had the opportunity to expound on things. Thanks a lot for the "soul" definition.

Tom Ross said...

When we sin, we become candidates for the second death at the time of the Final Judgement, the Great White Throne Judgement found in Revelation 20. Genesis 2:17 tells us that when we sin we will die (mowt) the second death (taamuwt).

If we are prepared to repent of our sins before we physically die, then God will forgive us and redeem us into righteousness with the promise of eternal life at the time of the final judgement.

A Righteous Man, if he sins will automatically become a candidate for the second death unless he repents of His sins. Ezekiel 18 tells us this is so.

Because Adam chose to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden, we, who have followed Adam, are all born into sin but God has chosen to draw us all into His loving embrace, those who will repent of their sinful life, by sending His Son to the earth to die for all of the sin in the world, such that if anyone will believe in Him, such that, they will be saved/restored.

Eternal life has always been on the table for everyone, but Adam’s sin removed this possibility for all of us as we are now born into sin, however, God in His love has provided us a means of redemption thereby allowing all those who Love the Lord, to be restored, and become the very person whom God intended from the beginning of time. It is a process, but one that is obtainable by all.

This is our inheritance if we chose to Love the Lord with all of our heart and mind.

Shalom

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Wade,

I am struck not only about what you have written but also what you have left unwritten.

Maybe as another poster suggests it is because you want to keep the main thing...the main thing.
So I will just ask myself because it is something I am wrestling with myself.

If God gifts immortality to those who are in Christ...

and if God judges those who are not in Christ proportionally and fairly in relation to their deeds good and bad...

Once that judgment occurs and reward/punishment is given out, do those individuals who are not in Christ eventually cease to exist?

RRR said...

Again, it seems to me to be a question of the definition of "death" and "life". In references to The Final Judgment in Revelation (perhaps in other Scripture too), Satan and the false prophet are "cast into the lake of fire and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." It goes on to say that all others who had died on earth were resurrected and "whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." I believe, where they remained for eternity, as did Satan and the false prophet.

This says to me that they continue to "exist", but do not have "life".

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Because I prefer clarity over agreement I think I understand your position, RRR.

If I understand you correctly you have stated everyone will spend eternity somewhere.

However there is a difference between "existing" forever in hell and "living" forever in heaven.

Those who are "in Christ" are truly alive and will remain so forever. Those who are not are " spiritually dead" (but with awareness) and will exist in that condition for all of eternity.

I think I have got that.

Wade has not stated that position as clearly as you have in this post( though he may have done so in other places and venues) even in his response to your questions.

I am not trying to be combative, I am just curious. I think I detect something in his post ( maybe it is my own bias or wishful thinking) that opens the door to other possibilities...

I have held ( an continue to do so, albeit rather tenuously) this position ( which is the most widely held orthodox position on this matter) for most of my life and ministry.

Nevertheless at this point in my journey, I am not as confident in it as I once was...I was just wondering if I am all alone in my wavering thoughts.

Wade Burleson said...

Rodney, thank you for your question. You ask, "If God gifts immortality to those who are in Christ... and if God judges those who are not in Christ proportionally and fairly in relation to their deeds good and bad... Once that judgment occurs and reward/punishment is given out, do those individuals who are not in Christ eventually cease to exist?"

Yes. That seems to be the meaning of "perish" and "death" and "destruction" not to mention the dozens of other biblical words used to describe the fate of the wicked. The canon (standard) of truth is Scripture, and if the Bible teaches it, then we must believe it. Yet, to those who would say this view of biblical truth is "unorthodox," I think it best to let Augustine answer that objection:

"If those wretches were offered immortality, on the condition that their misery would be undying, with the alternative that if they refused to live for ever in the same misery they would cease to have any existence at all, and would perish utterly, then they would certainly be overjoyed to choose perpetual misery in preference to complete annihilation." (City of God XI.27, Penguin Classics Edition).

Christiane said...

I expect for God's justice to be far above our understanding, and for His mercy to exceed all expectations in ways we cannot envision.

Perhaps we parse 'what God will do' to 'the others' and in our musings and our pre-judgings, the Good Lord is taking a look at US. :)
I think this may be true. And if it is, a lot of smug people may find themselves in the same situation as the Pharisee in the temple, when it was the Publican who was humble before God who was the one who was 'justified'.

I think God watches when we examine 'the others' thinking we know the mind of God and how He will deal with them on the Day; and He plans accordingly for our own judgement. There are whole denominations devoted to labeling and identifying 'the others' and judging them to hell. But are they failing to factor in that they themselves may be the recipients of what they would have God inflict on 'the others'? Am I wrong to worry about this?

Would it not be so much better for people to point to Christ than to take on the role of judge and jury over 'those other sinners'? Do we realize how much of our own self-righteous pride is offensive to God? That prayer of the Publican in the temple may be the REAL 'Sinner's Prayer' after all.

Aussie John said...

Wade,

Great follow-up to your previous words.

It seems to me that we need to move our thoughts to our present time and state to begin to understand the matter of judgment rather than looking to the final sorting of the sheep and goats (Matt.25:31ff).

Jesus was very clear when speaking to Nicodemus,"“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”John 3:14-21 NASV

It seems that the word "condemned" in other versions is better rendered "judged" as in the NASV. "works" of some kind added to the finished work of Christ is, of course negated.
Take note of the tense "He who believes on Him, is not judged;he who does not believe has been judged already".

RRR said...

Wade, I sure hope you will hang on to this long enough to give clarification on one point. I am not disagreeing with your position that those without Christ "cease to exist" yet, but there seems to be a piece missing to the puzzle, at least in my mind, and you can no doubt offer a solution.

There are many references to lost souls existing after physical death. Do you believe that the soul/spirit of those who die (as in physically dying) without Christ, ceases to exist at that time, or do you believe their soul enters into a dimension/realm/continuance such as a spiritual Sheoul, or torment until the final Judgment? Do they cease to exist following the Final Judgment mentioned in Revelation 21? Do you believe in a real hell? I believe you have previously said that you hold the story of "The Poor Man Lazarus and the Rich Ruler" as being a parable, so would probably not hold credence to using that as a model for what occurs following death, i.e., the wicked rich man in hell and Abraham and poor man, Lazarus, in heaven.

Would you hold that those spirits Jesus preached to, as mentioned in 1 Peter, are in Sheoul and will cease to exist at a later Judgment?

Hope you will take time to help me find the pieces missing as I try to assimilate the concept of souls ceasing to exist. That would help me understand your proposal. Thanks.

Ronnie said...

The Lord set an angel to keep Adam and Eve from continuing to eat of the tree of life, "lest they continue to eat of it and live forever".

Wade Burleson said...

Ronnie,

The Bible does seem clear.

We seem to confuse things.

Wade Burleson said...

RRR,

Your question is a good one, and I am about to head out for Sunday morning services, so I can't devote full attention to the answer.

However, in brief, let me just say that "the soul" (in the Bible) is the human. Sure, it's the mind, will, emotions, memories, and internal personhood, but the soul INCLUDES the body, because without the brain, the heart, the blood, etc... there is no soul. "For the life of the man is in the blood."

So the unique teaching of the Bible is "the resurrection" of man. How does God resurrect the Body? Particular since everything goes "back to dust"? I don't know. I just know that resurrection from the dead is the teaching of Scripture, to a real existence outside of time. The proposition of Luther, N.T. Wright, Wycliffe and others (maybe - just maybe me - though I'm not dogmatic) is that there is no "soul" flying (floating?) in space outisde of the body. We are body and soul, never disjointed.

Blessings!

Christiane said...

Ah, the Word and our struggles to grasp its fullness ...

WADE, you wrote, this:
"The Bible does seem clear.

We seem to confuse things."

I had some thoughts about this last week, that in contemplating the incomparable strangeness that God speaks to us in 'human' words, but also in a sacred way that calls us to come to Him Who lives 'in unapproachable light'. No wonder we stumble without the lens of Christ to help open our minds to make sense of the written Word:


'paradox is a witness to me of the mystery of faith revealed in Creation itself

size? small? why not cease to think of ‘small’ as ‘less important’ and begin to understand the incredible complexity of things at the cellular level, the molecular level ???

Our Lord, Creator of the Universe, comes to Earth and is born as a helpless baby and we are somehow drawn to kneel before Him anyway, maybe even BECAUSE of the way He comes to us
. . . . . . maybe people were tired and weary of the ‘God of Wrath’ and needed to kneel before the Christ Child and pray and find peace and respite from fear

the man who is locked into ‘the Bible’ in a way that does not allow for it to impact him with its mystery and beauty, that man is ‘illiterate’ to much of what is sacred in the Bible, much of what lies hidden from the Pharisee who uses the Scriptures to belittle others or the Preacher who finds verses to ‘justify’ abusing others

The Bible as ‘sacred’ is not easily received by them who cannot imagine Christian contemplation on mystery and that is sad, because what is ‘sacred’ about the Bible was meant to help them understand more than what a literal viewpoint can possibly provide alone . . . . . reading the Bible in some dry fundamentalist desert may even be risky to that fundamentalism, because the Scriptures contain the power to override bibliolatry with a turn of a phrase at the right moment and help the poor fundamentalist, in spite of himself, to ‘get past those watchful dragons’ (CS Lewis) and find the treasures that await in abundance'

RRR said...

Thanks for your added comments, Wade. Hope to hear more as worship leading responsibilities for Sunday conclude.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Thanks Wade for your response to my question.

It is strange that I have (as others have) struggled with the idea that those who are "not in Christ" will at some point in eternity (after Judgement, rewards, punishment etc.) cease to exist.

My objection ( and the objection of others) seems to be based on the idea that annihilation is somehow "less severe" and would be a more preferred option(if given a choice) rather than "eternal misery" ( Austustine just turned that thought on its head)

Even as I write those words, I am appalled at the realization of my own calloused cold evaluation of either option!

To think that my objection was based on the idea that eternal misery is more biblical...more in step with the heart of God than proportional limited punishment that ends in annihilation

I have no words...thanks for yours

Christiane said...

'In Christ' may be seen in connection with the Incarnation. If we examine in an expanded way the mystery of the Incarnation, we know that Our Lord took to Himself (assumed) our humanity. Some reflections on this:


"“The Son of God became the Son of Man in order to make us men the sons of God. By grace He lifts up our race to what He is by nature. He gives birth to us from on high in the Holy Spirit, and then straightway leads us into the kingdom of heaven; or rather, He gives us the grace to have this kingdom within us.
We therefore have more than just the hope of entering here; we really possess it as we cry out:
. . . ‘our life is hidden with Christ in God’ (from Col. 3:3)

– St. Symeon the New Theologian

And Bede has written, this:
“. . . through the mystery of the Incarnation, He is become the Way, by which He guides us to our home.”
– Venerable Bede

Something 'changed' in the Incarnation and it has implications for humankind in ways that we may not yet fully comprehend.

RRR said...

Rodney, I'm not Wade, and I know your comment was directed to Wade, but would it be okay for me to share on that thought you mention? It seems that sometimes I find myself slanting my interpretation of Scripture to accommodate what I want it to say.

I would "prefer" that Scripture say that the souls of those who are "lost" and die, "cease to exist", rather than saying that they spend eternity in hell. Would seem to be more merciful to me. But I find the preponderance of Scripture saying the contrary.

I sometimes wonder if our "desire/preference/emotions" influence our interpretation on other controversial issues contrary to what the preponderance of Scripture has to say,
such as:

-Will believers be present in The Great Tribulation
-Will God literally remove this world from existence and replace it with a new heaven and earth
- Will all those who do not surrender their lives exclusively to Jesus Christ alone, go to hell
- What behavior constitutes "sin"

Guess we all must struggle to reach our own conclusions.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

RRR,
Thank you for your thoughts and comments.
I am in agreement that we as human beings have a tendency to interpret scripture "in our image" ( that is to slant meaning towards our own desires, cultural understanding, personal preferences, etc)

I, for one, am grateful for three things:
1. The Holy Spirit who has been given to believers with a promise to help guide us to Truth ( which is a person rather than point of view)
2. God's grace which is poured out on all people in various ways but especially to me because I get a lot a things wrong and frankly various and sundry interpretations on topics found in the Scripture are the least of these.
3. God says " my thoughts not like your thoughts"

I believe "my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness." I believe that both heaven and hell exist. I believe in the authority, infallibility, and sufficiency of Scripture. I believe the Good News found in Jesus Christ is the only hope for true change/transformation within the human condition.

Everything else is up for discussion.

But that is just me.

Take care.

RRR said...

Rodney,
Me too.

Wade Burleson said...

Rodney,

Augustine considered death, destruction, and perishing "more severe" than eternal punishing.

From a logical standpoint, Mother Teresa, a 12-year-old boy, and a Hindu leader who rejected Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, but lived pretty good lives (compared to Adolph Hitler, Mussolini, and a host of other totalitarian sadists) to continue forever in tortuous punishing because of their sins (the same punishment for EVERY sinner according to traditionalists) seems sadistic - but I would believe it true if the Bible taught it. :)

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