Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Did the Messiah Ever Offer Heaven As a Reward of the Faithful?
No one except the Messiah has gone to heaven. "They all died NOT having received the promise" (Hebrews 11:13, 39) of inheriting the land of promise (v. 9), the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God ON earth. Resurrection is the ONLY event which brings those of us of Israel back from death to life. This is made CLEAR in scores of New Testament verses.
by HOIM Staff
Rethinking our understanding of the Bible is painful but very necessary if we are to gain the hearty approval of Yeshua the Messiah and hear those exciting words: "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter your master's joy" (Matthew 25:23; Luke 19:17).
One of the most extensively CONFIRMED errors of modern churchgoers, based on centuries of MISLEADING instruction, is the notion that when we die, we go as a soul without a body straight to heaven or hell. "Heaven" holds its vice-like grip on our minds because of indoctrination, from sermon and hymn, from teachers perceived as reliable witnesses. This has happened for many from very early youth. But neither YEHOVAH God nor the Messiah EVER offered "heaven" as the reward of the faithful. They spoke of the land/earth and the Kingdom as the Christian hope (Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37; Matthew 5:5; Revelation 5:10; Luke 6:20).
There is a MASS of clear teaching from commentary on the history of doctrine and commentary on the text of the Bible which CONFIRMS what has been said by countless scholars of the Bible: "Heaven in the Bible is NEVER used for the destination of the dying" (Dr. J. A. T. Robinson of Cambridge). "NO biblical text authorizes the statement that the soul [i.e. as a disembodied conscious person] is separated from the body at the moment of death" (Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 1, p. 802). "NO passage speaks of any immortality of the soul, which is NOT a biblical doctrine at all" (Dr. Norman Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament, p. 89).
To examine the issue thoroughly some of our readers would find of great interest the two fine volumes by Edwin Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers. Especially if one is teaching on these essential framework doctrines of the Christian faith, some good reading is essential. For others it will, I hope, be sufficient to point out the simplicity of what YEHOVAH God has graciously revealed in scripture about our human condition the moment we die. I take it for granted that HONEST seekers for truth will not be persuaded by the fantastic, imaginative accounts of "journeys to heaven or hell" or of tunnels of light or welcoming angels, as reported by some, who make GOOD MONEY writing books about their own firsthand experience of what they call "life after death." The issue, however, is this: Were they really dead? Have they reckoned with the amazing tricks of Satan or of the brain when put into extreme conditions? And most importantly, do these popular accounts of "life after death" contradict the Bible? Or are they REALLY just a legacy of our PAGANIZED forms of faith?
I suggest that the Bible is CONTRADICTED when it is maintained that either the Messiah (for three days) or the dead are now conscious, i.e., alive when dead!! I also WARN that if one has been long a proponent of instant life in heaven the moment we die, if one has actually preached funeral sermons advocating the conscious existence of a post-mortem soul, then a change of mind will be a CHALLENGE indeed. I know this from countless correspondents who have expressed how hard it was for them to give up the PLATONISM of the immortal soul surviving death and come on board with the Messiah and his very DIFFERENT understanding of what happens when we die.
Imagine that the Messiah might ask: What did you understand by Hebrew Scripture (on which, of course, the Messiah was raised from childhood, Luke 24:44) when it announced this very simple proposition to you?
"This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. FOR THE LIVING KNOW THAT THEY WILL DIE, BUT THE DEAD KNOW NOTHING, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already PERISHED, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun...Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun...Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol [the grave], to which you are going" (Ecclesiastes 9:3-10).
How starkly different this is from the popular preaching that the dead are now "polishing rainbows" in heaven or "tending heavenly gardens."
This passage from Ecclesiastes expresses exactly the view of death found throughout the Hebrew Bible. It is a state of non-consciousness and the dead are all in Sheol (Greek Hades -- the grave), the unseen world of the dead. A famous prophecy in Daniel 12:2 describes where the dead are and from where they emerge when the great resurrection day, the day of the Messiah's appearance on the earth, dawns. Daniel 12:2 tells us with magnificent clarity and simplicity that the dead will be SLEEPING in the dust of the ground. Note that it says that dead people are doing this, not just their bodies. Bodies don't sleep; people do. The Messiah gave a striking confirmation of this view when he said "Lazarus is dead" and "Lazarus is sleeping." He then proposed to wake Lazarus up from his sleep of death (John 11:11, 14). The mind of a child, recommended by the Messiah, accepts this priceless truth.
The proper method for establishing the truth of the Bible is to build one's base in the HEBREW BIBLE (the Old Testament). It is this insight which enables Bible readers to see that the expected Messiah was NEVER in the Old Testament said to be a second member of a Trinity. The Trinity was NOWHERE to be found in the Hebrew Bible, since none of its thousands of occurrences of the words for "God" ever meant a biune or triune God.
Yes, there are New Testament teachings which remained veiled until the Greek New Testament scripture came into existence, but the doctrine of the nature of man and what happens to him when he dies is not one of those. The doctrine of the state of the dead is clearly stated in the verses we have just read and with equal clarity in Psalm 115:17: "The dead do not praise the LORD, nor any who go down into silence." Man's "spirit departs; he returns to the earth ["to dust you will return"]. In that day his thoughts perish" (Psalms 146:4).
Resurrection is the ONLY event which brings us back from death to life. This is made CLEAR in scores of New Testament verses also. Paul made every effort to explain how and when we get to be "with the LORD." It should be obvious that until that moment comes, we are NOT literally with the LORD. You cannot be with the LORD and not with the LORD at the same time! Here is the teaching of Paul:
"But we do not want to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep [= Dan. 12:21], that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, [YEHOVAH] God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the LORD, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the LORD, will not precede those who are sleeping. [The Greek implies that they are still asleep.] For the LORD himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together [the so-called "rapture"] with them in the clouds to meet the LORD in the air, and so we will always be with the LORD. Therefore encourage one another with these words" (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Paul describes how it is that YEHOVAH God brings the saints with Him. Not a word is said about bringing them with Him from heaven! Paul states here as everywhere else that he is talking about THE DEAD WHO ARE SLEEPING. How is YEHOVAH God going to have them accompany Him? He explains: "The LORD will descend. The dead in Christ will rise first." Note that he does NOT say that the dead are coming down from heaven. Yes, YEHOVAH God is going to lead them in triumph. They are going to accompany Him but only after they, sleeping dead persons, rise first. They come up first from the grave and go up to meet the descending YEHOVAH God in order to accompany the descending YEHOVAH who will be on His way to the earth. Distinguished visitors are welcomed by their devotees in this way.
Paul concludes his important discourse by pointing out that it is "in this manner," "by this procedure" that we will always be with YEHOVAH God. By NO other means can eternal life be achieved. It is very unwise to contradict Paul here and the rest of the Bible by making him say that the dead are coming from heaven before being resurrected from their sleep of death.
Luke is equally clear that the faithful will be rewarded. When? "At the resurrection of the just," "when the upright come back from the dead" (Luke 14:14, BBE). That is crystal clear. A golden text. Luke says the same thing in 20:35-36 where the faithful are sons or products of the future resurrection which will introduce them to "that [well-known] age." There are NO rewards BEFORE the resurrection of the dead -- no rewards before YEHOVAH God and the Messiah come back. The Messiah brings his rewards with him: "Behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me, to render to every man according to what he has done" (Revelation 22:12).
To imagine a person in a blessed conscious state in "heaven" before the coming of the Messiah is to sabotage YEHOVAH's clear program for immortality. In Hebrew, not Greek pagan ways of thinking, the WHOLE man dies and the WHOLE man comes back from death. To advocate the Platonic idea that we are bipartite and contain within us a "part" which is immortal and cannot die, is to succumb to a dangerous element of PAGANISM, found in many of the world religions. It also crept into what we know as Christianity. The SAME Platonic influence promoted the conscious existence of pre-existing souls and eventually ALTERED the whole biblical point of view on the human Messiah who was, after Bible times, imagined as pre-existing before Genesis and later as pre-existing from eternity. The SAME paganism which RUINED the clear doctrine of YEHOVAH God and the Messiah also interfered with Christian hope and what we are to believe about the future and our destiny.
No one except the Messiah has gone to heaven. "They all died not having received the promise" (Hebrews 11:13, 39) of inheriting the land of promise (v. 9), the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God ON earth. This will happen when YEHOVAH God and the Messiah come "to grant rest along with us to you who are undergoing afflictions, [when?] at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power, when he comes to be glorified among his holy ones and to be marveled at on that day among all who have believed, for our testimony to you was believed" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).
That is clear enough. The great day of resurrection and the coming of YEHOVAH God and His Messiah are the moments of glory marked out for the future of the faithful. It is unwise to deflect attention in any way from those stupendous moments.
The Messiah was in the grave or as graphically described as the region of the dead, in "the heart of the earth" (certainly NOT in heaven, so he did NOT go immediately to heaven at death). He was put to death on the Preparation Day for the weekly Sabbath and rose three days later on the First Day of the Week (the Hebrews used inclusive counting). It was on that "third day" from the Preparation Day that the disciples hoped he would reappear (Luke 24:21). The First Day of the Week was indeed the third day since the crucifixion, which was the topic of discussion in that passage in Luke 24. Luke had earlier described events from the Preparation Day for the Sabbath, from the Sabbath and from the First Day of the Week (see Luke 23:54-24:1).
Peter takes up the same story in I Peter 3:18: "Jesus was put to death in the flesh [as a HUMAN MORTAL PERSON], and made alive in the spirit." If one has been taught the Platonic scheme, one may imagine that being "made alive in the spirit" refers to a disembodied condition the moment he died. This is positively NOT the case! One has only to do a little word study on the phrase "made alive" to see that it refers invariably to resurrection, the return of the WHOLE man to life as a resurrected person (I Corinthians 15:22, 36; John 5:21; Romans 4:17; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Psalm 71:20; Revelation 20:5). The Messiah was dead for three days, INACTIVE as are all dead persons, including Mary and so-called "saints." In his new resurrection condition the Messiah went and announced his triumph to demonic spirits (spirits are not human persons) who were disobedient at the time leading up to the flood (see Genesis 6:1-6, Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4).
Finally we see "beheaded" people and others sitting on thrones active in the future Kingdom in which they are given "power over the nations" (Revelation 2:26; 5:10; Daniel 7:18, 22, 17). We note that at that future time, at the seventh trumpet which will mark the resurrection (I Corinthians 15:52; I Thessalonians 4:13-17), these persons "come to life and begin to reign" (Revelation 20:4). It is perfectly obvious that they CANNOT come to life if they are already alive!
This should put to rest the very confusing teaching that human persons are already alive as "souls," either in heaven or hell. Antedating the REAL coming to life of the dead is a blight on the clear system and program YEHOVAH God has revealed to us. And of course the one "parable" in Luke 16 about Lazarus and the rich man should never be used to overturn the remainder of the evidence. Lazarus and the rich man do not appear in the picture as disembodied souls, and so the story lends no support at all to any teaching about a conscious "intermediate" state at the moment of death.
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Preparing the Way for the Return of YEHOVAH God and His Messiah!
Hope of Israel Ministries
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