Saturday, September 24, 2016

Anachronic Anastasis: The Lost Art of Teaching Christ's Powerful Promise to Resurrect the Dead

Edit: The following article is a collection of views obtained from reading Luther, Stott, Hughes and other conservative evangelicals. It is offered as a caution to those with a tendency for dogmatism regarding last things.

The resurrection of the dead is a subject of intense interest to every rational mind. Life is short. The grave lies open before us. Every adult has at least once asked, “If someone dies, will they live again?” (Job 14:14). When we gather for a funeral of a love one, we ask ourselves “Will we see them again?—Is there a resurrection of the dead?”

Every Bible-believing Christian says, "Yes, there is a resurrection of the dead."

Yet that same Christian will most likely tell you that their loved one is already in heaven and is enjoying life, waiting for us to join them in heaven. Dead Christians who already enjoy the fruits of the resurrected life before the resurrection, is like a team crowned Super Bowl champion before the game is even played.

Anachronic anastasis, the title of this article, means a discrepancy in the timing of the resurrection. When the timing of the resurrection is missed, the power of the resurrection is lost.

Jesus said:
"Do not marvel this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the graves will hear My voice and come out, those who did good to the resurrection (anastasis) of life, and those who did evil to the resurrection (anastasis) of judgment" (John 5:28-29). 
Most Christians would say the general resurrection that Jesus describes in the above two verses has not yet happened (and I would agree). Yet most Christians also believe that dead Christians are now in heaven enjoying life?

How can this be?

If the dead have not yet been raised, how can those who die in Christ enjoy "standing up again" - the literal meaning of anastasis - if they still remain in their graves?

Martin Luther, the Great Reformer who gave us the 95 Theses and helped restore the biblical truth of justification by grace through faith, would not be comfortable with modern evangelical funerals. As he would listen to pastors extol the blessings that the departed are now enjoying, he would think that these pastors have missed the timing of the resurrected life.

Lutheran scholar Dr. Taito A. Kantonen (1900 -1993) describes Luther's position on death and the resurrection with these words:
Luther, with a greater emphasis on the resurrection, preferred to concentrate on the scriptural metaphor of sleep in reference to death. For just as one who falls asleep and reaches morning unexpectedly when he awakes, without knowing what has happened to him, Luther believed, "we shall suddenly rise on the last day without knowing how we have come into death and through death." At death, ''We shall sleep, until He comes and knocks on the little grave and says, 'Doctor Martin, get up! Then I shall rise in a moment, and be with Him forever.'"
Why do contemporary evangelical Christians, contrary to Luther, believe that people who die continue to live uninterrupted, without yet experiencing Christ's promise to raise the dead (anastasis)? Answer: Because many Christians assume (wrongly) that the Bible teaches man is naturally and inherently immortal.

Definitions of Immortal

Immortal - "Exempt from death; never to die; never-ending; perpetual" - Johnson's Dictionary.
Immortal - "Exempt from death; able never to die; perpetual" - London Encyclopedia
Immortal - "That which lasts to all eternity, having in it no principle of corruption" Brittanica
Immortal - "The condition of being not subject to death." Popular Encyclopedia

Immortality by definition means the state or quality of not being subject to death. The translators of Scripture used the word immortality to translate the Greek terms athanasia, which means  "deathlessness," and aphtharsia, which means "incorruptibility."

Do you remember the birthday candles placed on your cake as a practical joke, candles that no matter how hard you tried to blow them out, you couldn't extinguish them? Christians who believe in natural immortality believe death can't extinguish life.

But Luther and other evangelicals have believed the Scriptures teach differently.

They see the Bible to teach clearly that God alone has immortality (1 Timothy 6:16). They feel the Scriptures declare that immortality is something that is to be sought (Romans 2:7). Immortality seems to be brought to man by the Good News of Jesus Christ appearance on earth (2 Timothy 1:10). Scripture seems to teach that a man can gain immortality when he receives the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). And finally, Luther and others believed that immortality is put on at the last trumpet when the resurrection (anastasis) occurs for those who have died with faith in Christ (1 Cor. 15:53).

Not so, say other Christians.  God made man naturally and inherently immortal. Therefore, a man must live forever, not only beyond death but also beyond the second death, for ever and ever -  because you can't snuff out a man's life.

Martin Luther believed the Scriptures taught immortality was conditional, and could only be received as a gift from God, and that it was not natural to any man, even Adam and Eve in the beginning. The "Tree of Life" which gave mortal man immortality was eaten of daily, but after Adam and Eve sinned, they were barred from the "Tree of Life" lest "he reach out his hand and take from the tree of life and eat, and live forever" (Genesis 3:22).

Luther felt that if a Christian believes man is inherently immortal, then you believe man is exempt from death, just as God is exempt from death. And, of course, if a man dies but continues to live, then he has not actually died.

John R.W. Stott and Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, two contemporary conservative evangelicals and authors, have both written in opposition to inherent immortality. Like Luther, these two men believed the Bible teaches conditional immortality.  Stott expressed hesitation in placing his views on conditional immortality in writing because:
"I have great respect for long standing tradition which claims to be a true interpretation of Scripture, and do not lightly set it aside, and partly because the unity of the world-wide evangelical constituency has always meant much to me." (Evangelical Essentials, Stott, p. 319).
In other words, though Stott believed the Scriptures teach conditional immortality, he refrained from writing a great deal on his views because modern evangelicals almost universally believe in inherent immortality, and Stott did not wish to upset the proverbial apple-cart.

Philip Hughes, who lectured at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, and who also served as one of the editors of Westminster Theological Journal, had no similar hesitations in making his views known. According to John Wenham, Hughes believed that:
"It would be hard to imagine a concept more confusing than that of death which means existing endlessly without the power of dying."
Wenham also said Dr. Hughes wrote him a letter where he stated he had '"long been of this judgment and common Christian candour compelled me to state my position" in writing.

Drs. Stott and Hughes are not alone in their belief that conditional immortality is a biblical truth. Scholar William Reed Huntington (1838-1909), in his book (available online) entitled Conditional Immortality: Plain Sermons on a Top of Present Interest, gives a manuscript of a message he preached based on two texts:

"...What shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God?" (I Peter 4:17)
"...That they shall be destroyed forever" (Psalm 42:7). 

In this message, Huntington speaks clearly on his belief in conditional immortality:
"Search the Scriptures through and through, my friends, and point, if you can, to a single sentence in which it is directly asserted that man is a being who will inevitably exist forever. Strong statements to the effect that man is naturally mortal are strewn with melancholy frequency over those pages, but nowhere is he declared to be immortal apart from the quickening power of Him who only hath immortality to give." (pages 102-103)
English Baptist pastor and theologian Henry Hamlet (H.H.) Dobney (1809-1883) wrote a book entitled The Scripture Doctrine of Future Punishment where he writes:
"The Scriptures attach greatly more importance to the glorious fact of a resurrection from the dead, than the majority of evangelical Christians of the present day are wont to do...The Scriptures nowhere represent any of the human race as consciously existent in a perfectly disembodied state, as naked spirits ... there is no intimation (in Scripture) of a disembodied state." (pages 128-129). 
Greek scholar Charles Frederick Hudson (1821-1867) wrote Christ Our Life, and in this thoroughly biblical book he said:
"The Scriptures speak a thousand times of God's being immortal, but never of man's immortality" (p. 21). 
When one reads the gospels and the writings of the early apostles, the emphasis of the Good News was on the resurrection of the dead. Author Hugh T. Kerr in  Preaching in the Early Church has observed that the resurrection is "the trumpet note of Apostolic preaching." (p. 38).

Jesse Witherspoon in Sent Forth to Preach explains why the resurrection was central to the early apostles:
"They saw triumph in the Resurrection. It was the Resurrection that revealed the triumph of the cross; it proclaimed the Redeemer in the horizon of his glorious Divine Sonship. It proved his power over the last enemy-- death .... They preached a Christ who was Conqueror, and his face alive and glorious was never absent from a single sermon. All their preaching was in the key of the Resurrection. The decisive battle was already won" (p. 99).
The Apostle Paul stated "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23).

Jesus Christ, the Creator of all things, has made an incredible promise to resurrect both the wicked and the good. He will call every person by name on the day of the general resurrection, and those who know Him will be made to stand up to receive immortality as a gift, and those who don't know Him will be made to stand up to be judged for their works.

Judgment for those without Christ will vary according to the deeds done in this life. Punitive justice will be far more severe for the very wicked than it will be for others. When punitive justice has been meted out by God, the unrighteous will be handed over to die a second time, an event the Scripture calls "the second death" (Revelation 20:14).

At the resurrection, the righteous will be gifted with immortality (eternal life). The Apostle Paul wrote:
"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory'" (1 Cor. 15:51-54).
Paul makes it clear that God does not bestow immortality upon the believer at death, but at the resurrection. It is then that "this mortal" shall "put on immortality." While John writes that we are chosen to receive the gift of eternal life when we believe on Jesus Christ (1 John 5:11-13), the actual realization of this gift takes place when the last trumpet sounds and Christ returns to "raise the dead."

Those who believe in conditional immortality understand that to die in this life does not mean a cessation of existence. Physical death is only a state of temporary unconsciousness until the resurrection that Christ promised (John 5:28-29). The Bible repeatedly calls this intermediate state between death and the resurrection "sleep" (see I Kings 2:10; II Chronicles 21:1; Job 14:10-12; Psalm 13:3; Jeremiah 51:39; Daniel 12:2; I Corinthians 15:51-52; I Thessalonians 4:13-17; II Peter 3:4 as examples).

Though the notion that a human being is not naturally immortal may sound strange to modern evangelical ears, the major question that should be asked is "Does the Bible teach conditional immortality rather than natural immortality?"

If, as one concludes that the Bible does indeed teach conditional immortality, then the second question Christians often ask is, "Are there other Christians throughout the centuries who have believed the Scriptures teach conditional immortality?"

The answer is a yes.

Conditional immortality has been believed by many Bible-believing Lutherans, Anglicans, Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Methodists and other Christians throughout the centuries.

Some of these Christians include Martin Luther, William Tyndale, John Frith, George Wishart, Robert Overton, Samuel Richardson, John Milton, George Wither, John Jackson, John Canne, Archbishop John Tillotson, Dr. Isaac Barrow, Dr. William Coward, Henry Layton, Joseph N. Scott, M.D., Dr. Joseph Priestly, Peter Pecard, Archdeacon Francis Blackburne, Bishop William Warburton, Samuel Bourn, Dr. William Whiston, Dr. John Tottie, Prof. Henry Dodwell, Bishop Timothy Kendrick, Dr. William Thomson, Dr. Edward White, Dr. John Thomas, H.H. Dobney; Archbishop Richard Whately; Dean Henry Alford, James Panton Ham, Charles F. Hudson, Dr. Robert W. Dale, Dean Frederick W. Farrar, Hermann Olshausen, Canon Henry Constable, William Gladstone, Joseph Parker, Bishop John J.S. Perowne, Sir George G. Stokes, Dr. W.A. Brown, Dr. J. Agar Beet, Dr. R.F. Weymouth, Dr. Lyman Abbott, Dr. Edward Beecher, Dr. Emmanuel Petavel-Olliff, Dr. Franz Delitzsch, Bishop Charles J. Ellicott, Dr. George Dana Boardman, J.H. Pettingell; twentieth century—Canon William H.M. Hay Aitken, Eric Lewis, Dr. William Temple, Dr. Gerardus van der Leeuw, Dr. Aubrey R. Vine, Dr. Martin J. Heinecken, David R. Davies, Dr. Basil F.C. Atkinson, Dr. Emil Brunner, Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, Dr. T.A. Kantonen,  and Dr. D.R.G. Owen.

It would be well worth your time to Google any of the names above and read their writings online. It is very unwise to accept the teaching of someone else without critically examining the issue for yourself. "We are to search the Scriptures," we are told, "for in them we will see testimony of Christ." Your life - in it's essence, existence, and sustenance - rests in the power and authority of Jesus Christ. He holds the "keys of life and death" (Revelation 1:18).

I close with a few applicable truths that precede from a belief in conditional immortality:
1. The resurrection from the dead is the "Christian hope." If resurrection occurs at the same time for all those who died in Christ during all generations, then everyone is raised from the dead at the same time. That means our loved ones will be raised by the power of Christ - to enjoy the blessings of Christ - on the same day we are raised from the dead (or) on the same day we "are caught up to be with Christ" (I Thessalonians 4:17) if we're alive when He comes. 
2. When you close your eyes in death, the next conscious thought you have - a thought which is instantaneous to final closing of your eyes - is the hearing of Christ's voice (John 5:28-29) when He  calls your name to raise you from my grave. It's like going to sleep before surgery. You close your eyes and the next thing you know is you are awakened. From your perspective, the awakening is instantaneous to the closing of your eyes, regardless of how much time has passed.
3.  When the bestowal of the gift of life eternal is tied to the resurrection, then the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the first fruits of all those who rise in Him to becomes the center of Christian teaching. It is the resurrection to eternal life that was the preaching of the apostles and the early church (see I Corinthians 15). Without the resurrection, our faith is in vain.
4. It is only with an understanding of conditional immortality that one can comprehend that the rewards of Christ are received equally by all those who are raised in Him (e.g. "for we are co-heirs of Jesus Christ" Romans 8:17), while the punishments of the wicked will vary accordingly and proportionally to the evil the wicked have done in this life.
5. "But the wicked will be utterly destroyed" (Psalm 37:38), and "the righteous will walk on the ashes of the wicked in that day" (Malachi 4:3). Conditional immortality allows for the judgment of the wicked to vary according to their sins - sins which will be exposed and punished by a righteous God who takes vengeance on evil doers punitively, personally, and proportionally. In the end, after judicial punishment, the wicked will be handed over to "the second death."

Whether you agree with Luther, Stott, Hughes and other evangelicals who teach that immortality is conditional, my prayer is that the anastasis of the dead will become central in your preaching and teaching, and you will not succumb to the common error of assigning immortal life to people without the vivifying and sustaining grace and power of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Bill said...

What about the theif on the cross and the promise the today he would be in paradise with Jesus at their deaths .

Bill said...

Great subject that I at 69 years of age have begun to think about more often.Are you saying that the soul actually stays with the body at death and if not where does it go? So Christians that died 2000 years ago are asleep in their graves? What about cremated or otherwise destroyed in some way Christians? Where are they? If we take the scriptures literally that yo mentioned then we must assume the dead are asleep in their graves.

Wade Burleson said...

A study of the original Greek text of the thief's words is revealing. The following is the Greek with a literal English translation:

lego. . . "to you I am saying"

semeron . . . "today"

met emou . . . "with me"

ese . . . "you will be"

en to paradeiso . . . "in the paradise."

"To you I am saying today with me you will be in the paradise."

You will notice that it reads "saying today," rather than "you will be today in the paradise." In other words, Jesus told the dying thief that day: "You will be with me in paradise" (the future kingdom). Thus, Rotherham's Emphasized Bible renders this verse:

And he said unto him, Verily I say unto thee this day: With me shalt thou be in paradise.

The Concordant Literal New Testament reads:

And Jesus said to him, "Verily, to you am I saying today, with me shall you be in paradise."

The phrase to you I am saying today may sound strange to our ears today. However, there were many occasions in the Scriptures when today or this day was used to emphasize a noteworthy day. For example, Moses told Israel:

See I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God. . . (Deut. 30:15, 16)

The Companion Bible agrees in its notation on Luke 23:43

To day. Connect this with "I say," to emphasize the solemnity of the occasion; not with "shalt thou be."

Wade Burleson said...


Life is in the flesh. The dead go to their graves. Christ raises the dead by His power.

twilight said...

I have a question...what about the verses in
Revelation 6:9-11 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?
Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been."

This book of the Bible is most confusing, but it seems to say that many are given robes and are waiting for others to be killed as they have for their faith in Christ. Do not know if you remember the event, but I always think of Cassie Bernall who was killed for her faith in Christ in Littleton Colorado school shooting when I read these verses. That she is asking Christ when she will be avenged. This to me seems to say already some are no longer in the grave as they are crying out to be avenged.
You mentioned to another "Christ raises the dead by his power" can He not have the power to raise people from the grave at different times?? I mean he gave a donkey coice and all through Job He declares some of the stuff he can do. Surely He can have the power to raise people at different times if he choses to.
I mean He created the human race from the dust of the Earth.

Just thoughts.

Rex Ray said...


You say you’re 69…ah to be young again. You see, in March I’ll meet Wade for the first time on a tour of Israel when I’m 85…Lord willing. We have agreed and disagreed on his post for years. :)

Some times he reminds me of myself when my father told me: “You are always right, but when you’re wrong; you’re dead wrong.”

I believe this post is one of those ‘dead wrong posts’.

A lot of times to understand a verse, the previous verse should be studied. In this case the verse is:

“Then he [thief] said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

Jews thought the Messiah would have an earthly Kingdom. Also, the Apostles probably thought that at one time.

But here this thief is; knowing that he and Jesus were going to die, believed the Kingdom of Jesus was heaven, which Jesus in the next verse calls “paradise”.

“And Jesus replied, I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43 NLT)

But, Wade puts the cart before the horse by saying: “Jesus told the dying thief that day: “You will be with me in paradise.” (the future kingdom).”

In other words, Wade believes the soul of the thief will stay in the grave thousands of years after his body has turned to dirt

“But now, as to whether the dead will be raised—haven’t you ever read about this in the writing of Moses, in the story of the burning bush? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said to Moses, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. So he is the God of the Living, not the dead. You [Wade :)] have made a serious error.” (Mark 12:26-27 NLT)

Wade, it seems Moses and Elijah had pretty good bodies and souls in “Matthew 17:3 NLT) “Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.”

At one time Paul was left for dead. He wrote: “…I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.” (2 Corinthians 12:4 NLT)

He wrote: “…we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we WILL be at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8 NLT)

Wade, how did Paul go to paradise when you believe Earth is going to be heaven? What do you think about many people seeing heaven after they died but were revived?

Many years before I was born, the 5 year old daughter of my missionary Uncle, Rex Ray, died in China. They told her she was going to be with Jesus. Her last words: “Mama, which one is our house?” “In my Father’s house ARE many mansions…” (John 14:2 KJ)

Wade, does that “are” mean in thousands of years?

Wade Burleson said...


From the perspective of the person who dies, they are immediately in the presence of the Lord.

The point of Luther is that Scripture knows no person who exists as a disembodied spirit.

Bill said...

Rex,I think I can see it both ways.The way Wade explaines it and what your points are also.Could this be another subject that cannot be nailed down securely by either explanation. To me this is somewhat akin to the faith plus works plan of salvation vs the saved by faith only plan. Maybe a good lawyer could successfully argue either side and win his case in court.There are verses that support both positions.We just don't know for sure what happens when we take our last breath of air.

Wade Burleson said...


You make a good point about "both ways."

Ultimately, the question, "Is man naturally immortal, or is immortality a gift?" becomes the launching pad.

How that question is answered - based on Scripture and not man's reasoning - will determine the answers to the other questions.

Wade Burleson said...

So... Bill,

It can't be "both ways" when it comes to immortality. It's either one way or the other.

Christians who believe the Bible disagree on this subject, but I think it's so significant, both sides should express humility in seeking answers.

Paul Burleson said...

When there are "good" [by whatever definition suits you] people on both sides of an issue, I've learned to hold WHATEVER I'm thinking about it all very lightly. But this I do know, and will climb down off the fence that I've obviously straddled up to this point, to stand on, "I will never leave you nor forsake you!" That's good enough for me and I believe I'll be alright whichever winds up being the "correct" one. [Or even if there is another side yet unseen.]

I will also climb down from that straddled fence to say, what a great and challenging article written by a gutsy theologian.

Wade Burleson said...

Either gutsy or stupid! :)

Thanks for the kind words.

Bill said...

Wade I agree. It has to be one or the other but who can really figure it out decisively? What about to be absent from the body is to be present with the lord?Dont recall if that statement is from scripture but it does lend credence to the heaven or hell argument at the moment of death.

Bill said...

What about the saints rejoicing in heaven when one is saved?Who could these saints be except Christians saved and being with Christ now?

Bill said...

2 Corinthians 5.8 is referring to the earlier comment I made.

David Tinker said...

Thank you for posting this. This narrows the focus of several things I have thought and wondered about for many years now, namely, how can our departed loved ones be in a state of existence in heaven, when Scripture clearly teaches that they will be resurrected when Christ returns? I have long thought that they (their spirits, the essence of their being) must exist outside of time because God Himself exists outside of time, and therefore there will be no (conscious) lapse between their death and being reunited with us in the resurrection. There is one passage that gives me pause that I have not seen addressed, and that is the passage about the rich man and Lazarus, and Lazarus's being in Abraham's bosom, and the rich man's existence in Hell, and all of this prior to resurrection and judgement. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Unknown said...

Wade, Have not commented in a while but read all your posts and love them. I am now picking myself off the floor. In part, because this is a subject that has intrigued me and the Lord know I have been searching for truth on thisrecently. Now, forgive my denseness, but are you saying that the wicked will actually perish after the judgment? I have come to almost embrace this view. And, is the disembodied believer in a state of soul sleep until the resurrection? I am sorry to be so inquisitive when you have written such a masterful work, but this is new to this 45 year old believer. (45 years saved)

Wade Burleson said...


Check this article out as a possible answer to your question.

Wade Burleson said...


I remember Spurgeon's sermon on the Rich Man and Lazarus. He was very clear that no theology of the afterlife should be drawn from this "parable." I'm probably even stronger in my opinion and have written an article on what Jesus was teaching in regards to the Rich Man and Lazarus (it is one of my favorite pieces of all time).

Wade Burleson said...


Thanks for the kind words.

I am saying that Luther, Tyndale, Stott, Hughes and others (including me) all leaned toward believing the wicked are punitively, proportionally, and personally punished by a righteous and holy God and then are turned over to "the second death" and are utterly destroyed. This article I wrote two years ago might shed more light on the subject.

Also, when one believes in "conditional immortality" (as Luther did), there is no such thing as a "disembodied believer" because no human ever exists "disembodied." We live, we die, and to become immortal we must receive the gift of perfect righteousness through Jesus Christ and be sustained by the grace of God with eternal life. This "immortality" is the "crown of life" and is received at the resurrection during the Final Judgment when Jesus judges the wicked and rewards His people with immortality.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the reference to the other article. This comes at such a great time in my life as I was distressed by the traditional view held by most evangelicals. I appreciate your quest for truth on such a controversial subject. Count me in as one who embraces Scripture,s teaching and your biblical explanation. Perhaps after the judgment, God will wipe away our tears for being heartbroken that the lost will never have everlasting life to enjoy like the elect.

Bill said...

Wade, thanks for the references and article.So you believe that the unsaved do not suffer in a conscious state eternally but are destroyed as a result of their unbelief.I personally hold to that position.The subject at hand though still remains somewhat foggy as I understand it.

Wade Burleson said...


Since human beings are not inherently and naturally immortal according to Scripture, I believe the wicked are punished according to their sins and after their punishment, they will ultimately die again ("the second death") because God does not grant them the gift of immortality.

Rex Ray said...


You wrote: “…have written an article on what Jesus was teaching in regards to the Rich Man and Lazarus…”

It was one of your posts, but I can’t find it. If I remember right, you said it was not a parable but an actual event…with the Rich Man being a high priest. I have a copy of what RRR wrote about it in the comments dated March 17, 7:09 2016.

Paul wrote: “…we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we WILL be at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8 NLT)

“…be away from these earthly bodies…” would mean death, but do you think Paul was anxious to die if he thought he would wait thousands of years to be with the Lord? He said he had already been to paradise. It looks like to me he would like to be there again.

Wade Burleson said...

That's corect Rex..

Like I've said, from Paul's perspective, and everyone else's, we enter heaven immediately. No waiting.

Even if thousands of years have passed.

Bill said...

The passing of time to the dead means nothing to them as I now understand it.

Bill said...

I think that this is another one of the subjects that there are scriptures that support the soul sleep position and then scripture that support an immediate transformation to heaven.I personally think it's a take your pick answer and no one can claim with 100% certainty what really happens at the time of our death.Scripture seems to me to support both positions.

Rex Ray said...


I can’t find your post that has RRR’s comment. Has the post been deleted because I believe it's in conflict with your present view of life after death?

RRR said... Wade, Thanks a lot for the in-depth portrayal of so much historical detail related to the times prior to the crucifixion.
Although our Lord could have indeed painted this portrait with the contemporary religious leaders in mind, I see no reason at all for not gleaning much from the insight into life after death. There are many truths given by Christ related to this which is not depicted in other places: - I have heard, and consider, that this is NOT a "parable" but a portrayal of an actual event. The basis for this argument is that in no other "parable" did Jesus refer to the characters by "name". Not sure about this one but it's food for thought.
- We will identify each other as we knew them in this world following death
- We will be aware of those we left behind in the world after we die
- We will not be able to return to the world following death (except, of course, at the Second Coming of Christ)
-Those in heaven will be aware of those who go to hell and vice versa.
- Hell is no place to be. It is a place of unimaginable torment
I agree that there is no clear reference as to the basic failure of the Rich Man that got him into hell or that got Lazarus into heaven. Certainly not because one was rich and the other was poor. For that truth we would need to rely upon other Scripture. Thu Mar 17, 07:09:00 AM 2016

Wade Burleson said...


That's correct. The passage of time means nothing.

No such thing as "soul sleep."

If one believes in conditional immortality, there is life and death; existence and non-existence; mortality and immortality.

Wade Burleson said...


I don't delete posts unless the post has become a chapter in a book that's being written.

If one takes their theology of heaven and hell from the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, then it is certain that one's view of heaven and hell will be in conflict with conditional immortality.

Christiane said...

"From the perspective of the person who dies, they are immediately in the presence of the Lord."

There was once some discussion on evangelical blogs concerning the immortality of the soul. Some thought their 'soul' came to them from Adam and Eve through their parents. Others thought that the soul was given to them directly by God. Those people pointed to the famous Ecclesiastes 12:7 verse: " . . . the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it"

I do not know what the evangelical belief is regarding the immortality of the human soul, nor do I understand what the evangelical teaching is on the implications of the mystery of the Incarnation as to its effects on our human kind, so I cannot begin to imagine what the evangelical beliefs are concerning what some call 'annihilationism'.

There seems to be much in the evangelical world that is changing lately. Following those changes leads in different directions rather than seeming to converge, but that diversity of thinking is likely healthier than a kind of 'lock-step' situation, and attempting to understand what is happening with evangelical thought is always challenging. God Bless.

Rex Ray said...


I’m confused. Have I made a mistake and can’t find the post in question or have you removed it to be put into a book?

If I remember correctly, you said Rich Man and Lazarus was not a parable but an event.


I like your Scripture quote of Ecclesiastes 12:7 “…the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.”

Most English speaking people would conclude these two events happen at the same time refuting Wade’s believing there are thousands of years between the two.

Bill said...

Maybe this subject and the comprehension of it is just something we cannot fully understand. Like your dog might be able to fetch the paper for you but the two of you cannot discuss the front page headlines together.Surely there's much in the scriptures that we just don't understand.

Wade Burleson said...


Press on the link to read the article - The Rich Man and Lazarus.

I've always believed The Rich Man and Lazarus is a parable - which PARALLELS a real life story. However, the PARABLE is a fictional story, not reality. What the PARABLE represents is real.

Christiane said...


you wrote "Most English speaking people would conclude these two events happen at the same time refuting Wade’s believing there are thousands of years between the two."

the truth is 'we' humans perceive everything as happening 'in time', in a temporal setting;
but the things of God are set in 'eternity' where all time is at the same moment (which is the only way we can express 'eternity' in our feeble language) ... we have no 'words' for 'from the ages to the ages' that reflect what eternity IS, because it is not in our ability to conceive 'being' outside of 'time'. Are there two realities, one temporal and one eternal for mankind? No, I don't think so. Not since the Incarnation when God became man and dwelt amongst us.... a Christian begins to live eternally in this life, REX. We have begun our eternal existence in the midst of our temporal one, through our life IN Christ. In Him, with Him, and through Him, we are already living in eternity. Our eternal life is found in our connection to Him. "For you are dead; and your life is hid with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:3)

Maybe this matter of temporal/eternal is not either/or in this case, but 'both/and'?
In any case, much remains in mystery for 'now'. But we are programmed by God to want to know and understand and reach out for what gives meaning to our existence, but in truth, we see 'through a glass darkly' at present.

Anonymous said...

Wade, I remain anonymous because I am not ready to "come out" in my church as a believer in conditional immortality. After 40 years of struggle, trying to reconcile my church's belief in eternal suffering I forsook the commentaries and Greek dictionaries and just read the King James version for just what it said. When I did that, accepting that dead meant dead, and perish meant perish my belief was transformed. I now rest assured that God is just. Everything makes a lot more sense.

Wade Burleson said...


I'll be praying for you. I taught an entire series on the subject a couple of years ago (Eternal Reward and Punishments) which you can hear on our church's website.

One of the advantages of being at a church for 25 years is that they get to know you, understand you love Jesus and His Word, and trust your ability to "search the Scriptures" but be gracious and understanding with those who disagree - and not require that they believe the same thing. We have taught our church to be like the Berean Christians, to search things out for themselves.

Too many Christians accept what they are told without even understanding why.

Another example is the "70th Week of Daniel." 1 in 100 Christians know what this is - where it's located in Scripture - yet is is the sole basis for much of eschatology that 99 out of 100 Christians believe to be true today.

Bill said...

Wade you say there is no such thing as soul sleep.I am confused.If it's not soul sleep then what is it?

Bill said...

Wade this has been a great discussion.Conditioned Immortality is the description of the doctrine we are discussing and a search on the Internet will explain it in even greater detail.Accordind to what I read the doctrine is held by a minority of Protestant denomations even today.I personally could never see how a loving God could hold even the worst sinner in a continual state of agony and torment forever and for ever.For someone to be mistaken concerning Christ and his offer of salvation to suffer eternal agony and torment is hard for me to accept.Maybe there is forgiveness for these people also.Christ asked for forgiveness for those who crucified him saying they did not know what they were doing.

Wade Burleson said...

Luther didn't like calling it "soul sleep" because it perpetuated the idea that that the soul and the body can be separated and can exist apart from one another. Luther believed they could not. The soul (nephesh) is the person. It's soul "death" - but it's temporary (thus, the metaphor of sleep) for Christ shall "raise the dead."

The "second death" is the "destruction of soul and body" permanently.

"Fear Him who can destroy both soul and body ..." Jesus said.

This is what Luther believed.

Wade Burleson said...


You write:

"For someone to be mistaken concerning Christ and his offer of salvation to suffer eternal agony and torment is hard for me to accept.Maybe there is forgiveness for these people also."

This hopeful universalism is what Paul Young, Rob Bell, and George McDonald believe. George McDonald was C.S. Lewis' mentor, and C.S. Lewis disagreed with McDonald's view.

So do I.

I do not believe that Scripture, anywhere, teaches hopeful universalism.

I believe Scripture is emphatic that the wicked will be judged for their sins and ultimately destroyed in the second death. They perish.

Romans 9:22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

Psalm 37:38 - But transgressors will be altogether destroyed; The posterity of the wicked will be cut off.

Proverbs 14:11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed, But the tent of the upright will flourish

Psalm 28:5 Because they do not regard the works of the LORD Nor the deeds of His hands, He will tear them down and not build them up.

Psalm 92:7 That when the wicked sprouted up like grass And all who did iniquity flourished, It was only that they might be destroyed forevermore.

Philippians 1:28 In no way alarmed by your opponents--which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God

I Timothy 6:9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction

II Peter 2:12 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed

Jude 1:10 But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.

There are just a few verses that speak of the wicked's destruction in the second death.

Bill said...

Wade you describe all sinners as the wicked.How do degrees of punishment fit into the annihilation theory?

Anonymous said...

Good post and discussion. I've also enjoyed Dr. Fudge's teaching and attitude on this subject:


Rex Ray said...


Thanks for the link but its written June 19, 2014 with a title “The Rich Man and Lazarus: A Warning to Preachers”. Of the 52 comments nearly all were about sermons and preachers.

I made no comments (out of town) but Christiane made two. One stated: “There is a chasm of distance between the young preacher and the mega-church and a million plus dollar home-gated community.”

I believe the identical post written in March 2016 is missing.

I made several comments and RRR said... Wade, Thanks a lot for the in-depth portrayal of so much historical detail related to the times prior to the crucifixion.
Although our Lord could have indeed painted this portrait with the contemporary religious leaders in mind, I see no reason at all for not gleaning much from the insight into life after death. There are many truths given by Christ related to this which is not depicted in other places: - I have heard, and consider, that this is NOT a "parable" but a portrayal of an actual event. The basis for this argument is that in no other "parable" did Jesus refer to the characters by "name".
I agree that there is no clear reference as to the basic failure of the Rich Man that got him into hell or that got Lazarus into heaven. Certainly not because one was rich and the other was poor. For that truth we would need to rely upon other Scripture. Thu Mar 17, 07:09:00 AM 2016

Wade Burleson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wade Burleson said...


"Wade you describe all sinners as the wicked.How do degrees of punishment fit into the annihilation theory?"

I'm not sure how "punishment" and "avenging" varies with sinners - except to say that the 9 year old boy who dies without Christ is not punished the same as Adolph Hitler who dies without Christ. The final end for both is destruction (the second death), but the punishment for their sins varies "according to their deeds."

Edit: Rex - thanks for typo correction.

Rex Ray said...


What typo correction?

On the subject of the 9 year old boy and Hitler; you said, “…Hitler who dies with Christ.”

Is this assuming before Hitler took his last breath he accomplished John 3:16?

If so, we will meet him in Heaven, because his sins are as far as the East is from the West.

I believe in Heaven after our tears are washed away, we will remember nothing bad such as a missing loved but know only the joy that comes from:

“…No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

BTW, Paul described Paradise “…heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words…) (2 Corinthians 12:4)

Bill said...

Wade, I think you describe your religious affiliation as being Southern Baptist.Correct me if I am wrong but most SB would not agree with the conditional immortality position that you adhere to. Just how did you come to the conclusion that conditional immortality is the correct view on the subject? Would most SB consider the view as heresy?

Bill said...

Wade,please disregard my last post.After rereading the article I think you provided adequate reasons for your views.Thanks again for taking on a very difficult and controversial subject.

Wade Burleson said...

I assume Hitler died without Christ, having shot and killed Eva Braum, his girlfriend, and then himself - an act of suicide before the Allied forces arrived in Berlin. So the correction was "without Christ."

My point is, the judgment for the wicked varies according to sins on earth. The blessings of grace and the reward of Christ is the same for those who trust Him. That's why we are called "co-heirs" with Christ and that's why the gift of eternal life is all grace, and the judgment of God is all our works.


Bill said...

I think Hitler only shot himself and not Eva Braum whom he had earlier married.Eva took the cyanide capsule as her way of ending her life.

Wade Burleson said...

Of course. Thank you Bill

Rex Ray said...


Adolf Hitler killed himself by gunshot on 30 April 1945 in his Führerbunker in Berlin. His wife Eva (née Braun) committed suicide with him by taking cyanide.

When I was 17, we had a tour through Hitler’s bunker, and were told how they died.

It’s been said that our purpose on earth is to learn more about God so we can enjoy Him more through eternity.

Bill, I’m glad you made your comment to disregard “Would most SB consider the view as heresy?”

I was going to ask Wade if he thought like I think Paul felt when he was told:

“You know dear brother [Wade]…how many thousands of Jews [Southern Baptist]…all follow the laws of Moses [believe Christians are in Heaven now]…They’ve heard that you [Wade] teach them [SB] not to circumcise their children [not to believe in Heaven now]…What should we [SB] do? They [SB] will certainly hear [Blog] that you [Wade] have come.” (Acts 21:20-22 NLT)

Judy did not like the comparison of Wade with Paul. I told her I thought Wade would think it funny.

Wade Burleson said...

It is funny.

Judy is also wise. :)

Tom Kelley said...

Wade: Luther didn't like calling it "soul sleep" because it perpetuated the idea that that the soul and the body can be separated and can exist apart from one another. Luther believed they could not.

Yet Paul indicated he could be "absent from the body" and be "present with the Lord" Sounds an awful lot like Paul believed differently from Luther.

Wade Burleson said...

Luther believed "absent from the body" did not mean the soul separated from the body, but "absent from this life means eternity with the Lord." He would say Paul agrees with him. I am making no assesessment on accuracy of Luther's conclusions, just staying them.

Wade Burleson said...

"...stating them"

Andrea411 said...

I accepted Conditional Immortality a few years ago. It is Scripturally consistent with God's word and promises. A bride is not engaged to her betrothed bc if she says no, he'd send her into everlasting fire. That's a threat, not an invitation. God invites us to follow Him. Also the concept of soul sleep involves time, we who are in Christ, have become part of Christ are no longer subject to time. God is omnipresent... so the idea of us,waiting on God in death doesn't coincide with God's ever presence. I'm sorry if that sounds confusing but it explains do much to me about how we can be absent from the body and present with the Lord, even though the deceased have not been resurrected until that time. Time itself is a human paradigm. Loved the post. Edward Fudge has a great you tube video online and his book A Consuming Fire addresses the Scriptural references. God bless, andrea