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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Do We Depart to Heaven When We Die, or Do We Sleep Until His Return?

     From the very beginning of our youth (and even to this very day), we have been taught the belief of going to heaven after death for being a good person who believes in God, as opposed to going to Hell for being an unbelieving bad person. This heavenly-minded concept has been taught in Sunday schools throughout the world. We have been taught that bad people go to Hell and good people will go to heaven. In the evangelical community, especially, it is widely accepted that if you turn your life over to Jesus Christ, and accept Him as Lord and Savior, you will not go to Hell, regardless of being a bad person, because Jesus paid the price for all of our sins. Consequently, the believer has been saved by grace and stands to inherit entry to the Kingdom of God and ultimately goes up to heaven.
     There is much truth to this belief, to say the least. But are believers truly destined to spend any time up in heaven, much less an eternity? Is heaven the final resting place of the Christian? The answer is yes and no. The answer is yes, in the sense that God is presently in heaven (wherever its exact location may be) and our ultimate desire is to be reunited with Him. But, the author believes the scriptures say that the answer is no, in the sense that believers do not ever go up to that heavenly dwelling (after death or during any so-called Rapture to Heaven journey); but rather, that heavenly dwelling comes to earth, for eternity! Isn't it interesting that the most well known, most oft repeated prayer in the disciple's arsenal calls for this to happen?
     Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen, (Matthew 6:9-13 ) KJV
     I would venture to say that 95% of Bible-believing Christians are adamant in their belief that a person goes to heaven the moment they pass away, and they quote that “being absent from the body means to be present with the Lord in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).” They back that premise by also quoting the other passage (Philippians 1:21-23) that ostensibly proves that once Christians die they immediately go up to heaven to be with Jesus? Let’s examine these verses very carefully:
     Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord, (2 Corinthians 5:6-8, NIV). [Bold by the author, solely for emphasis]
     This same theme is found in Philippians 1:21 through 23, which reads:
     For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, (Philippians 1:21- 23, NIV). [Bold by the author, for emphasis]
     The reader will notice in these verses that Paul prefers to be away from his body and at home with the Lord, but nowhere in the Bible does it state that that is exactly what happens the moment a person dies. To get a more clear understanding of what Paul is truly saying here, let’s first examine the word home, which is used twice in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8. The first mention of home in verse 6 is represented by the Greek word endemeo. Here is what W. E. Vine says in page 558 of his book, An Expository Dictionary Of Biblical Words, about the word home:
     HOME: Endemeo “lit.” To be among one's people" (en, "in," demos, "people;" endemos, "one who is in his own place or land"), is used metaphorically of the life on earth of believers, 2 Cor. 5:6, "at home (in the body);" in 2 Cor. 5:8 of the life in Heaven of the spirits of believers, after their decease, "at home (with the Lord)," RV (AV, "present"); in 2 Cor. 5:9, "at home" (AV, "present") refers again to the life on earth. In each verse the verb is contrasted with ekdemeo, "to be away from home, to be absent;" in ver. 6, "we are absent," i.e., away from "home" (from the Lord); in ver. 8, "to be absent" (i.e., away from the "home" of the body); so in ver. 9, "absent." The implication in being "at home with the Lord" after death is a testimony against the doctrine of the unconsciousness of the spirit, when freed from the natural body. (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary Of Biblical Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, page 558) [Bold is by the author, solely for emphasis. Parenthesis “at home (with the Lord)” is by Vine]
     Far be it from this author to repudiate the great scholarly works of W. E. Vine, a Christian academician whose Greek translations and Bible academics the author has used with great confidence throughout the writing of this book. However, Vine’s inference, where he parenthetically implies in the above statement that "at home (with the Lord)" means that after death the Christian immediately goes to be with the Lord, in (or out of) heaven, needs to be examined more closely. First of all, Vine does not claim that the word endemeo specifically connotes a heavenly picture, he says it "implies." No Greek scholar makes such a claim!
     Endemeo solely means, "To be among one's people," and that word can in no way be specifically defined to mean a heavenly location (although many infer thusly) that "one's people are at home in heaven." While many Bibles use the word home (Gr. endemeo, among one's people) in verse 8 (implying that it means to be at home in heaven with the Lord), many other Bibles use the word present, which is also the Greek word endemeo. Of course, Paul and all Christians want to be present with the Lord, but there is nothing in this Greek word endemeo that is precisely equivalent to mean “at home (in Heaven) with the Lord.” Now, let’s examine the word depart.
     To understand what Paul is telling us in Philippians 1:22-23, we must pray the Holy Spirit gives us the wisdom to discern the different components that make up the total person. It is crucial to know each component of man and to understand the difference between body and spirit and their combination thereof. This issue has been debated for centuries and continues to this very day. The biggest mistake in attempting to solve this conundrum is theorists’ attempts to identify the specific role of three components (body, spirit and soul) when the Bible clearly tells us there are only two components of the human body. In essence, the Bible clearly tells us that the spirit and the body (when the body is still alive) comprise the living soul. However, at physical death, the life-giving spirit (not to be confused with the Holy Spirit), which God breaths into man (making it a “living soul”), becomes separated from the body, it returns back to God (the power source of life) who gives it. The scriptures clearly state that when the life-giving spirit God breathes into each person at birth, at that precise moment a person becomes a living soul, (Genesis 2:7). As soon as a person dies a physical death, that life-giving spirit that God gives man departs back to the Lord after death, as is clearly stated in Ecclesiastes 12:7: Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. The dead physical body then decays back to dust, returning back to the earth from whence it came. Therefore, the physically dead man’s persona (the soul, which is the sentient part of a human being) either succumbs or sleeps in Christ.
     Is this what Paul was telling us in Philippians 1:21-23, that he desired to die so that the life-giving power source (the spirit breath from God) would depart back to Him that giveth? Was Paul even telling us he desired death so that his dead (or sleeping) soul would then go to heaven? Paul was saying neither! Paul is not speaking about dying so that his spirit or soul (or both) could depart his friends and family members and go to heaven at all. Paul is saying something entirely different, which will become extremely evident once we examine the word depart in depth!
     Once again, Ecclesiastes 9:10 states that once a person dies, that’s it, nothing else: for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom, (Ecclesiastes 9:10, NIV). Is this verse speaking about the physical body of the person who just died, or is it speaking about the God-breathed spirit that He employs to ignite life into clay or dust, henceforth becoming a living soul? Scripture states the body turns to dust and the spirit returns to God who gives it; therefore, this verse and many others which discuss life and death issues has to be speaking of the soul, that sentient part of man which is composed of clay and the life-giving, catalytic power source of God’s spirit! Once a person dies a physical death, it’s not their soon-to-decay body that is sentient, nor is it the life-giving spirit, which returns back to the power source, almighty God! Ecclesiastes 9:10 and many other verses are speaking about our souls, not to our (soon to decay flesh) bodies, nor to the life-giving spirit that God gives us at birth. Therefore it is our souls that will remember no more, they either die or they fall asleep in Messiah.
     Is this what Paul longed for, to die and have the life-giving spirit God gave him at birth to depart to heaven to be with the Lord? Or was he yearning to die in order for his soul could depart and sleep in heaven? Of course not! He spoke of neither! Paul knew what happens to a person once they die. He knew that once he died a physical death his (physical flesh) body would decay and that he (his sentient soul) would sleep. He knew it (his soul) would eventually be resurrected at the return of Christ and it would be given this new dwelling (Gr. oikiterion), a new spiritual body, when all called out ones are resurrected at the return of Jesus Christ! This is proven more profoundly so when we examine more closely the word depart used in Philippians 1:23. Let’s examine not only Vine’s definitions of the word depart, but also the definition of depart from another Greek scholar of great renown: E. W. Bullinger. First, Vine’s definition:
     “Depart, Gr. analuo: lit., "to unloose, undo" (ana, "up, or again"), signifies "to depart," in the sense of "departing" from life, Phil. 1:23, a metaphor drawn from loosing moorings preparatory to setting sail, or, according to some, from breaking up an encampment, or from the unyoking of baggage animals. See DEPARTING, No. 1. In Luke 12:36, it has its other meaning, "to return." See RETURN.” (W. E. Vine’s, An Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, page 286) - [Bold and underline portions are by the author, solely for emphasis]
     We checked for the word “RETURN” in Vine’s Greek dictionary and, sure enough, the Greek word analuo is also rendered to return:
     360, analuo,"to depart" in Phil. 1:23, signifies "to return" in Luke 12:36, used in a simile of the "return" of a lord for his servants after a marriage feast (RV). See DEPART, No. 16. .” (W. E. Vine’s, An Expository Dictionary Of Bible Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, page 963) [Please notice carefully that Vine states: the “return” of a Lord for his servants after a marriage feast - Bold and underline portions are by the author, solely for emphasis]
     So, we ask: “Which is it, to depart or the return?” To find a more concise answer, the author turned to E. W. Bullinger for his more expanded definition of analuo, a Greek word that is used only twice in the entire Bible. Not at all due to the author’s lack of confidence in W. E. Vine’s great scholarly achievement, but solely to get a second opinion from another great Bible scholar. The author researched extensively Bullinger’s book, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, to examine his Greek rendering of the word analuo.
     For those who are aware of or ever studied Bullinger’s magnificent works, few can deny he is a Bible scholars’ scholar; although his eschatological conclusions lacked the substance we find in his excellent Greek interpretations. For theology students who have used his material in their studies can attest, especially with figures of speech, numbering systems, and astronomy as they relate to the Bible, Bullinger was one the most prolific Greek scholars, ever, one whose works are revered by so many accomplished theologians and Bible students, alike. Even though Bullinger was one of the prime proponents of Dispensationalism - and vehemently believed in a Pre-Tribulation, heaven-bound Rapture - in his studies, works and published papers and books, he was more than diligent in his research of the Greek language. His academic acumen, especially in his translating of the Greek language, is unparalleled. Therefore, the author has great confidence in Bullinger’s academic astuteness, whose study of the Greek language and his “Figures of Speech” analysis of the New Testament, have withstood the test of time.
     This is what Bullinger says about the Greek word analuo, as it is used in Philippians 1:23:
     Analuo, to loosen again with the idea of coming back to the same place (used of a ship returning home from a foreign part) hence to return, depart and return. Used in the Lxx of returning from a feast (occ. Phil. i.23, where it is unto the return of Christ, for only then and thus shall we be with him, 1 Thes. Iv.17.” (E. W. Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, page 644). [Bold by the author, solely for emphasis]
     Once again, the word analuo is used only twice in the entire Bible. There are two renderings of the definitions Vine writes about; one defined as depart and one as a return. While Vine gives us only a brief definition in his book, Bullinger gives a more concise and in depth definition of Paul’s intent when he stated he would rather depart. Therefore, we are confident that Bullinger’s in depth analysis more concisely defines analuo to mean the return, and more specifically speaks about the return of Christ!
     Bullinger expands on Paul’s more concise meaning of this aspect as he explores Paul’s longing for ‘the return’ of Christ in his book, A Critical Lexicon And Concordance To The English And Greek New Testament (pages 739,740), where he is defining the word straight. Due to the fact that Bullinger uses the actual Greek letter fonts in this particular analysis, the author begs your indulgence in allowing him to omit the actual Greek fonts here (due to the author’s unavailability of same), but allow the author to use the English lettering instead, and allow him to also extract the narrative in English that Bullinger provides. Please feel free to read the book yourself to verify the accuracy of the following. Let’s read these particular scripture verses again to briefly remind us of what issue Bullinger is addressing, and his explanation as to what these verses are actually conveying. The verses, again, read thusly:
     For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far," (Philippians 1:21-23, NIV).” - [Bold and underline portions are by the author, solely for emphasis]
     On page 739 of his book, Bullinger is defining the word “torn” or “straight (he in a)” and, in his narrative, he basically unveils that what Paul was truly saying is that he (Paul) is ‘being pressed betwixt’ the ‘living and dying.’ Bullinger goes on to say that what Paul was struggling with was between the issues of that to live is better because Christ would be magnified, and the disciples would also profit, and that if he died, Christ would still be magnified (it would be gain.) Bullinger concludes his narrative by saying that Paul was also telling the disciples a third thing, as well, that, either way (to be dead or to stay alive), his true longing is for the return (analuo) of Christ: “But, if Christ should “return,” it would be “far better” than either,” states Bullinger.
     As I read Bullinger’s narrative in that particular book, I also looked into his other great book, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, for additional references he makes about the Greek word analuo. In page 492 of the above-cited book, he gives examples of the figure of speech called “Antimereia.” Bullinger says Antimereia “means that one part of a speech is used instead of another: - as a noun for a verb or a verb for a noun, etc.” This author gleaned Bullinger’s book, Figures Of Speech Used in The Bible, to see how he interpreted this aspect in this particular verse (Philippians 1:23), and here is exactly what Bullinger concludes:
     “Phil. i.23. ___”Having a desire unto the return”: i.e., (lit.) unto the return (i.e., the returning of Christ) (analuo), to loosen back again, but always from there to here; hence, to return (not loose back again, but always from there to here; hence, to return not from here to there, which would be to depart). See the only occurrences of the verb: -- Luke xii. 36 Tobit ii. 1. Judith xiii. 1.1 Esd. Iii. 3. Wisd. Ii 1; v.12 Ecclus. Iii. 15. 2 Macc. Viii. 25; ix. 1; xii. 7 xv. 28; and Josephus Ant. Vi. 4. 1. [Bold by the author, solely for emphasis]
     Paul’s dilemma (and also that of many of us disciples) was that he was perplexed about his earthly sojourn, groaning about the sinful state he was born into (see Romans 7:14-25), yet knowing that to continue to labor on earth for Christ would be profitable for the glory of God. Paul recognized that if he were already dead, then he would be that much closer in time to spending an eternity with Christ. The Christian who knows God, who knows His truth, takes very seriously the pain of being alive in this decrepit world, constantly yearning for The Resurrection and the return of the Lord. As John 12:25 clearly points out: The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Paul painfully acknowledged his living would be better for them than his dying, but not better than another thing, which pressed him out of the other two, the return of Christ, which was “far better” than either. See further under Epanalepsis, Resumptio, Pleonasm, etc. (E. W. Bullinger, Figures Of Speech Used In The Bible, page 492) - [Bold by the author, solely for emphasis]
     On page 722, of this same book, Figures of Speech Used In The Bible, Bullinger also writes about another figure of speech, “Anacoluthon,” which means a “breaking off the sequence of thought. Not following, want of sequence or connection in a sentence, the latter part of which does not follow on or correspond with the former part.” This is what Bullinger had to say about 2 Corinthians 5:8:
     “Being confident then always, and conscious that being at home (here) in the body, we are away from home, away from the Lord (for by faith we are walking, not by sight). We are confident, however, and are content rather to be from home (here) out of the body, and to be at home with the Lord (there).”
     These words are usually misquoted “absent from the body, present with the Lord,” as though it meant that the moment we are absent from the body we are present with the Lord. But this is exactly what it does not say: and the Anacoluthon calls our attention to this. The whole subject of resurrection, starting from iv. 14. Our two bodies are contrasted in v.1-5: vis “the earthly house of this tabernacle (i.e., this mortal body)” is contrasted with oikeeterion, our spiritual or resurrection body.” (See Jude 6): vis.: “Our house which is from Heaven, the future body of glory being called a “house,” as compared with the present body in which we groan, which is called a “tabernacle” or a “tent.”
     The argument is that, while we are in this “tabernacle” we cannot have that “house”; and that while we are in this tent we are away from our real eternal home, which is with the Lord.
     There is no thought (here or elsewhere of our being at home, or “with the Lord,” apart from resurrection and our resurrection bodies.” (E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used In The Bible, page 722) - [Bold by the author, solely for emphasis]
     What Bullinger is emphatically stating here is that there is no way we can be present or at home with the Lord unless we have our resurrected bodies, and those glorified bodies do not come about until that which will ensue when Christ returns to earth at The Second Advent. Therefore, when a person experiences a physical death, his body decays and the sentient part (the soul) of that body dies. For the Christian believer, his body also decays; however, the sentient (soul) portion of his persona falls asleep in Christ. The dead believer does not put on a resurrection body immediately upon his physical death. The believer does not receive the eternal dwelling (oikiterion) until The Resurrection!
     The irony! Bullinger in his doctrinal persuasion adopted Dispensationalism and the Pre-Tribulation Rapture; however his excellent scholarly works unwittingly refute his own doctrinal positions. Nevertheless, we are confident in Bullinger’s analysis, primarily because as this author studied Bullinger’s works more concisely, he found Bullinger unveils so much more profoundly the fact that Paul’s statements in his letter to the Philippians was not a heaven-yearning message at all.
     To put a final and explicit scriptural-convincing-closure on this ‘depart or absent from the body means to be present with the Lord in Heaven’ aspect, to confirm that Paul was telling us he knew he would not be going immediately to heaven after he died, one only has to read his remarks in Philippians 2:7 through 11, but primarily verses 10 and 11 to be convinced. Let’s read them:
     But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 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 and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead, (Philippians 2:7 -11, NIV). [Bold by the author, solely for emphasis]
     Does this group of verses sound like Paul wants to go directly to Heaven upon his demise? Absolutely not! Here, Paul is not looking forward to an immediate heaven-bound journey upon his death; he is actually stating he wants to experience the power Christ experienced at His resurrection! Paul wants to and longs for the opportunity “to attain to the resurrection from the dead!”
     Having established a stronger hermeneutical foundation concerning what happens when a Christian dies, it becomes evident that there will be no Pre-tribulation Rapture before Jesus returns at The Resurrection; thereby forcing the Christian to draw closer to God as great tribulation increases to a level they will have no control over, trusting solely on His grace, mercy and loving kindness.
     Unfortunately, much of what has been taught for years and sometimes for centuries, gets lost and transposed by the traditions that begin to grow based on the doctrine of the day, at that time in history, then handed down from one group to another, as the seconds of time go by. Obviously, when many of these traditions were first formulated, we did not have access to the great books and study aids, such as Greek and Hebrew dictionaries, concordances, and other works by writers and hundreds of great Bible scholars like W.E. Vine and E.W. Bullinger. The irony of it all is that scholars like Vine and Bullinger, for the most part believed in the premillennial dispensational doctrine. However, it is to their credit (and to our benefit) that their academic accomplishments (once examined even closer) actually end up refuting their doctrinal persuasion.
     We urge the serious Bible students to access the books by W.E. Vine and E.W. Bullinger and spend much time in researching the references I present here, and ask for Holy Spirit confirmation. Afterwards, one can hopefully walk away feeling they have gained a much clearer picture of what God truly intended to be understood in His word, rather than become swayed by the fad and pop theology that leads God’s children in the opposite direction, and too often into a perilous doctrinal corner that only Jesus can rescue. Study deeper, work more diligently than ever before, to ensure the eternal reward, that crown (Gr. stephanos, a token of honor) He promised His faithful disciples.
     Seek His wisdom in order that we, His faithful disciples, can help His other loved ones as we begin experiencing even greater tribulation; lead them to understand better His eternal plan, based on His sheer grace and mercy, and His End Times Passover! Then soon, yes, we will be present with the Lord, but not UP IN HEAVEN, but here on earth, as co-administrators of His glorious Kingdom, forever!
     In the meantime, let us pick up our cross, continue following Him, become a fisher of men; there is still much work to be done!
     Oh? By the way, isn't it interesting that the most famous prayer in the world, one that disciples are commanded to pray all the time, confirms everything in this blog" Remember it?
     Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen, (Matthew 6:9-13 ) KJV
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