Photo credit: Oscar Burriel
How can we have eternal life and die? (I know some believe that when they die they go into the ground until Christ's return.)
Last week's post described that the Bible speaks of the body housing the soul as a "tent." When we die, the soul enters spiritual realms while the body remains behind. On a day in the future, the bodies of both righteous and condemned are resurrected and reunited with the soul for judgment. (John 5:28-29)
Innumerable people have reported credible experiences of dying and leaving their bodies, briefly glimpsing the spiritual world, and then being revived. Among the common elements many people describe is visiting a place of inexplicable beauty and profound peace, where they meet angels and / or loved ones who have already died.
A few people report a place not of beauty and loved ones, but of great torment. Jesus likewise describes such a place when He tells of Lazarus and the rich man. (Unlike other stories Jesus told, this account in Luke 16:19-31 is not called a parable, and appears to be an actual event.)
For the condemned soul, the Bible mentions the following places of torment in spiritual realms:
• Hades (Greek name; called Sheol in Hebrew) –
the place of torment before final judgment; the OT sometimes speaks euphemistically of suffering with the word Sheol, in the same way we might describe our circumstances as "going through Hell"
• Gehenna (possibly the same as the "lake of fire" mentioned in Revelation and the Hebrew Abaddon) –
the place of everlasting fire and punishment for the condemned, in their resurrected bodies after the judgment, where "their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:43-48)
• Tartarus (Greek tartaroō); appears to be the same as "the abyss" (Greek abussos, also called "bottomless pit") –
deepest abyss of Hades; a place for demons
• Great Chasm (Greek megas chasma) –
impassable gulf separating Hades and Paradise mentioned in Luke 16:26
These places are only spoken of as a destination for the condemned. Those souls who trust in the Lord and obtain forgiveness of sins through Christ's blood experience no torment after the body dies.
The dying thief on the cross expressed faith in Jesus, and Jesus assured the man he would be in Paradise the same day. Paul was among those who glimpsed Paradise (perhaps after he was stoned and left for dead). He explained that after Christians die, "we shall always be with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
The soul given to Jesus does not experience death (John 11:25-26).
The soul given to Jesus knows no separation from God's love:
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~ Romans 8:38-39 (NKJV)
Next week: Pursue this world or the next?
: : :
What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com.
© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.