Reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
“The public are turning to psychics in droves” (Noel O’Hare). Instead, we must listen to God’s Word (Isa. 8:19-20, 1Thess 4:1-5).
People today are confused. Why?
- Many do not listen to Scripture.
- Christian tradition itself is confused and contradictory.
The Bible itself is not confused. But we must read carefully.
- Always take the context fully into account.
- Distinguish carefully between what passage definitely teaches and what it might – or might not – be saying.
- Be aware of our own preconceived ideas.
The State of Death
Biblically, death is a state of total inactivity and unconciousness.
Most common metaphor: “sleep”.
The comfort Paul offers is, not that the dead are already in Heaven with Christ, but that they will be raised to be with him at his return (1Thess 4:13-1 8).
What about Luke 16:19-31?
- A parable, not a literal history. Distinguish what it says from what it teaches.
- Jesus is using a piece of current folk-lore well-known to His hearers. “The general motif of this story found it’s way (from an Egyptian folk-tale) into Jewish lore, and it is attested in some seven versions” (I.H. Marshall). This is “probably … a parable which made use of current Jewish thinking and is not intended to teach anything about the state of the dead” (G.E. Ladd).
- As it stands, it contrasts with Biblical teaching elsewhere. Judgement always occurs at Christ’s return, not immediately at death. And “Hades”, like it’s O.T. equivalent “Sheol”, is not a place of conscious torment, but “means simply death or the realm of death” (E. Earle Ellis), and “is never hell but the place of the dead awaiting judgement” (E. Schweizer).
Jesus is using a story His hearers would have relished, to convict them of the very greed and heartlessness the story depicts (compare WI 415).
What of Luke 23:39-43?
- The criminal is asking, not about life after death, but about salvation when Jesus comes as King.
- “Paradise” can indeed refer to the new creation following resurrection (Rev 2 and 22).
- “Today” emphasises that, contrary to appearances, the cross itself is the foundation of the Kingdom and the way to the coming glory (Compare Luke 22:69).
What of 2 Cor 5:1-10?
- Verses 1.5 are exactly parallel to 1Cor. 15:53-54 and Rom. 8:18-25, and clearly refers to the resurrection state.
- So does 2 cor 4:13-14, 5:10!
- In verses 69, the “body” referred to is this present earthly body (as in v.10).
As in Phil 1″23, Paul simply ignores the period between death and resurrection, precisely because nothing happens then: we are “asleep” (1Thess 4:13-18).
The Fate of the Lost
Biblically, it is death (Rom 6:23).
What of Revelation 14:9-11?
- The “cup” parallels Jer. 25 and Obadiah 16 (Rev 18:6), an annihilating judgement.
- The other images all come from Isaiah 34 and, again, imply ultimate obliteration (Isaiah 34:12).
- All this language is paralleled in Rev 18:1-9, where again, it refers to a judgment ending in obliteration (18:21).
- In Rev. 19:19-21 and 20:7-15, the “lake of fire” is explained as “the second death”. An absolute end – even to death itself (compare 1Cor.15:26).
Listen for the quotes from John Stott (Essentais, London, I986, p318) and Michael Green (I Believe in Satan’s Downfall, Grand Rapids, 1981, p218)!
God will be “all in all” (1Cor 15:28), there will be only righteousness (2 Pet 3), the whole universe will be reconciled to God in Chnst (Eph 1:10) and “the former things” will have “passed away”!