Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
A Little Leaven...and We All Go to Heaven?
It is not difficult to see that the influence of Platonic philosophy has penetrated to the very heart of Christian theology and the consequences of this are devastating. Therefore, it would be wise to heed the warning of Jesus and his apostles and to “beware the leaven” of the religious teachers, always being sure to search the Scriptures and “examine everything carefully, holding fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
by Bethany Reise
When Jesus taught his disciples, he gave them an important admonition:
“Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6).
Leaven, in this case, refers to the teachings of the religious leaders of the day. It is of utmost importance to heed Jesus’ [Yeshua's] warning, because as Galatians 5:9 cautions, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” False teachings and Greek philosophies have crept into the Church and metastasized [spread or grow like a cancer], leading multitudes astray.
One common deception found in the Church today concerns what happens to a person after he/she dies. The majority of Christians believe that after death, one either goes directly to heaven to praise [YEHOVAH] God ceaselessly, or straight to a fearsome, fiery place called hell, where they are eternally tormented. This “little bit of leaven,” namely the Greek philosophical belief in the immortal soul, directly impacts many foundational Christian beliefs, ultimately corrupting the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of salvation about the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14, 15; Matthew 13:19; Luke 4:43; Acts 28:23, 31).
For many Christians today, what happens after you die is quite simple. After death, immediately the righteous will go to live in heaven forever and the wicked will be eternally tormented in hell.
Evangelical Pastor Erwin Lutzer sums up this common belief well in his article titled One Minute After You Die. He writes:
“Those who find themselves in heaven will be surrounded with friends whom they have known on earth. Friendships, once rudely interrupted by death, will continue where they left off. Every description of heaven they have ever heard will pale in the light of reality. All this, forever.
"Others -- indeed many others -- will be shrouded in darkness, a region of deprivation and unending regret. There, with their memories and feelings fully intact, images of their life on earth will return to haunt them. They will think back to their friends, family and relatives; they will brood over opportunities they squandered and intuitively know that their future is both hopeless and unending. For them, death will be far worse than they imagined.” 
The majority of Christians today will see nothing wrong with this view and probably affirm Lutzer’s statement. They, like Lutzer, are looking forward to life in the heavenly realms, while perhaps feeling a sense of sorrow for the poor souls who are destined to be eternally tormented and tortured in the fires of hell. However, this common understanding of life after death is completely unbiblical. It masquerades as Christian but is not derived from Scripture.
This belief has its roots in Platonic philosophy, which was later adopted into the Christian faith by early “church fathers.” According to Platonic thought, the soul is a separate entity from the body and immortal by nature. Author of The Moral Quest, Stanley J. Grenz writes that the Platonists believed that “the real person is the immortal, immaterial soul.” He goes on to explain that the “soul simply uses the body that houses it for a time, while longing for the great day when it casts the body aside.”  Greek philosophy began working its subtle way into the Church as early as the third century. Many of the “church fathers” of this era supported and expounded upon the Platonic understanding of the immortal soul, including Origen, Tertullian, and Augustine.  These Platonic philosophical beliefs quickly fused with Christian doctrines and over time, they began to overshadow, suppress and replace biblical truth. In his work titled De Principiis, Origen writes:
“The soul, having a substance and life of its own, shall after its departure from the world, be rewarded according to its deserts, being destined to obtain either an inheritance of eternal life and blessedness, if its actions shall have procured this for it, or to be delivered up to eternal fire and punishments, if the guilt of its crimes shall have brought it down to this.” 
The writings of these early “church fathers,” such as Origen’s De Principiis, provide numerous examples of how philosophy insinuated itself into Christian thought and laid the foundation for false doctrines like the immortality of the soul. The Apostles cautioned believers about the dangers of false teachers and about philosophy and implored them to test what they heard by the Scriptures and to cling resolutely to sound doctrine. But despite these warnings, deceitful and unbiblical teachings made their way into the Church. And so it has remained to this day.
When read without the influence of Greek philosophical thought, the Bible presents a completely different understanding of the human soul. According to Genesis 2:7, “YEHOVAH God formed man dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” The Hebrew word for “soul” is nephesh. The word implies “life-breath” and can be applied to any living creature.  It never implies a body-soul dualism. In fact, in the Hebrew language, there is no separate word for body because there is no differentiation between the body and soul.  Robert C. Pingpank states in his essay Immortality and Resurrection that “For the Hebrews, man is a united organism with many complex parts which draw their life and activity from nephesh, which is not a separable aspect of the body.” 
Clearly, the Hebrew people understood man to be a whole and complete being, a psycho-somatic unity, with no separation between body and soul. They also learned from their Scriptures that man is mortal and that he will not automatically live forever, for God alone is immortal (1 Timothy 6:16). For instance, Psalm 146:3 refers to “mortal man” and Psalm 144:4 says that “man is like a mere breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” According to Ezekiel 18:4, “The soul who sins will die.” This understanding of the soul as the whole being and the belief in the mortality of man directly impacted the Hebrews’ perception of death, and ultimately their understanding of the Gospel. The Greek philosophical view derailed, and derails to this day, a truthful understanding of the Bible.
This leads to the question, If man is mortal and his soul is his whole being and person, what happens to a person after he or she dies?
According to the Bible, the fate of both man and beast is the same: both die and both return to the dust from which they were created, and their breath or life energy returns to YEHOVAH who gave it to them (Psalm 115:17; Ecclesiastes 3:19-20; 12:7).
In the Old Testament, the destination of the dead is a place called Sheol. In the New Testament, the same realm of the dead is known as hades. Hades and sheol are interchangeable and refer simply to the netherworld, the grave, or the pit.  In the grave nothing happens! There is only silence; there is no praise, no love, no hate, no activity or planning (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10). On the day that a man dies, even his very thoughts perish (Psalm 146:4). Psalm 13:3 describes this state of unconsciousness as the “sleep of death” (not “soul sleep,”  which is a pejorative slur phrase!)
The New Testament understanding of death remains the same, consistent with the Old Testament beliefs. When Jesus said that he was going to awaken his friend Lazarus who had been sick, his disciples were confused. They thought Lazarus would get better if he slept and cautioned Jesus against waking him. However “Jesus had spoken of his death, not a literal sleep,” and so “Jesus then said to them plainly, Lazarus is dead’” (John 11:11-14). The Bible is very clear that the resting place of the dead is the grave or the world of the dead, “gravedom,” and that it is the same location for all, both the righteous and the unrighteous.
Contrary to popular belief, the dead are still in their graves, sleeping. Surely, if the righteous were resurrected and go immediately to heaven after death, David would be among them. After all, he is called a man after God’s own heart. However in the book of Acts, Peter clearly says that David “is both dead and buried” and that he has not “ascended into the heavens” (Acts 2:29, 34). According to 1 Corinthians 15:20, “Jesus has been raised from the dead” and is the “firstfruits of those who are sleeping.” Therefore, since Christ is the firstfruits, there is no one who has been resurrected to immortality before him. It is only at [YEHOVAH's and] Christ’s return, at his Parousia, that the righteous will be resurrected to inherit the gift of immortality (Revelation 20:6, 15; 1 Corinthians 15:23).
The grave, the place of all the dead, is not the final destination for the dead in Christ. However, neither is heaven. In his book, In the End, God: A Study of the Christian Doctrine of the Last Things, Cambridge biblical scholar John A.T. Robinson writes that “Heaven in the Bible is nowhere the destination of the dying.” 
Churches seldom pay attention to their scholars! Once again, the influences of Platonic thought invaded Christian theology and contributed to the deception that followers of Christ go to heaven the moment they die. Plato believed that after death, “the immortal soul finds its ultimate fulfillment as it becomes one with an eternal, transcendent realm.”  This notion crept into the church and was domesticated by the early Christian “fathers.” It was ultimately crafted into the belief that after death the righteous go to heaven. This idea has been taught in most Christian denominations ever since. However, according to Scripture, only one man has gone to heaven and that was Jesus. If man were to go to heaven at death, it would be contrary to the promises of God and even the gospel of Christ.
The Christian destiny is to rule with Messiah on a renewed earth (Revelation 5:9, 10; 1 Corinthians 6:2; Matthew 19:28, Daniel 7:18, 22, 27, etc.). According to Scripture, the righteous will inherit the earth. This is the promise which God made to Abraham in Genesis 17, where God appoints Abraham the spiritual father of many nations, and they will all inherit the land. Abraham did not receive the promise during his lifetime though, and neither did his descendants because as Hebrews 11:13 says, “all these died in faith, without receiving the promise.” They have not yet inherited Life or immortality. This includes even Enoch who walked with God, whom God took (Hebrews 11:5), i.e. removed to a place of safety -- not to heaven!
This marvelous promise to Abraham is affirmed throughout both the Old and New Testament. In fact in Psalm 37 alone, the promise that the righteous will inherit the land/earth is mentioned over five times. Jesus confirms this. He speaks of the righteous inheriting the land/earth in his Sermon on the Mount. He says, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). The concept of the righteous inheriting and ruling with Christ on the renewed earth is at the heart of the Gospel which Jesus preached. They will, as Psalm 37 says, dwell in the land forever.
During his ministry, Jesus’ main mission was to preach the Gospel about the Kingdom/land (Luke 4:43).
The message which Jesus proclaimed is summed up in Mark 1:14-15, where Mark reports that Jesus comes into Galilee “preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel [about the Kingdom].’” Jesus taught and preached about the future kingdom on earth which God promises will be fully realized and established from the Second Coming of [YEHOVAH God and] Jesus and the thousand year (millennial) reign. In this Kingdom, the righteous will be “kings and priests” to God and they will “reign upon the earth” (Revelation 5:10). Eventually, in future ages, there will be no more death, no more mourning, pain, or crying, and [YEHOVAH] God will dwell with His people (Revelation 21:4).
Jesus expressed the awesomeness of the final Kingdom of God in one of his parables, where he said, “The kingdom of heaven/God is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44). Paul too understood the incomparable glory of the coming Kingdom when he quoted Isaiah 64:4: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). But God has revealed these things through the spirit. The glorious coming Kingdom of God was the heart of the saving Gospel message which Jesus and Paul preached, and the reason for which Jesus urged all who would hear him to repent and believe that Good News (Mark 1:14, 15).
Paul writes, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). A person must first be renewed through repentance and the acceptance of the word of God, that is, the gospel of the Kingdom of God (1 Peter 1:23-25; Matthew 13:19; Mark 1:14, 15). This is because every man and woman has “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). No immoral person can enter the Kingdom of God when it comes (Ephesians 5:5). Jesus was sacrificed for the sin of the world, and through his blood there is forgiveness of sin and salvation for those who put their faith in him (Colossians 1:14; Ephesians 2:8) and believe and obey him (Hebrews 5:9; John 3:36). According to Hebrews 5:9, Jesus has become “to all those who obey him, the source of eternal [to do with the Age to Come] salvation.” However, those who are disobedient and reject Christ and his teachings will not gain entrance into the Kingdom of God.
The Bible is clear that those who are immoral and do not know God or do not obey the Gospel of Jesus, as preached by him (cp Isaiah 53:11) will not inherit eternal life (the Life of the Age to Come, Daniel 12:2) in the Kingdom of God and will be destroyed. According to 2 Thessalonians 1:9, they “will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” This is a destruction which will happen to those excluded from the Life of the Age to Come in the Kingdom.
However, in His infinite mercy and love, God has made provision for those who never heard the Gospel and did not reject Him. The Bible is clear that even though many wicked perish at the Parousia [Yeshua's Coming], some will survive the Second Coming [of YEHOVAH God] and live as mortals during the thousand year reign that follows. Isaiah speaks of the millennial period where people will be born and will die (Isaiah 65:17-25). During the thousand year reign [YEHOVAH God], Christ and the immortalized saints will “rule the nations with a rod of iron” and “reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (Revelation 12:5; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Revelation 2:26). The Gospel will go out to all the nations and all those who live on the earth who have not received immortality will have the opportunity to accept the saving Gospel/word of God and learn Kingdom principles and truth.
At the end of the thousand years Satan, who was imprisoned for that period of time, will once again go forth to deceive the nations. He will raise up an army against the saints but will be defeated by fire from God. At this time, the rest of the dead (those not in the first resurrection) will be brought back to life in what is known as the second resurrection. Following that resurrection there will be a great judgment and all whose names are not written in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire and experience what is known as the “second death” (Revelation 21:8).
However, since the wicked do not inherit immortality, this second death does not refer to burning consciously in hell forever. Psalm 37 provides a clear contrast between the fate of the righteous and the wicked when it states that “those blessed by Him will inherit the land, and those cursed by Him will be cut off” (Psalm 37:22). In addition to being “cut off,” it also speaks of the wicked as “withering quickly like the grass,” “fading as the green herb,” and vanishing like smoke and being no more (Psalm 37:2, 10, 20). The wicked will perish and be no more; they are burned up like chaff. There will be no eternal burning or torment.
Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians that if anyone should preach a gospel other than the gospel of Christ he is accursed (Galatians 1:9). However, as a result of the Platonic concept of a separate and immortal soul, a twisted gospel and hope of salvation has emerged and is being preached as truth from the pulpits of many churches today. The message that “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” is not the whole Gospel because it leaves out the Kingdom of God, the heart of the very Gospel which Jesus preached! Instead this “gutted” gospel motivates by fear of eternal torment, distorts God’s character, and provides a false hope of a future life in heaven. This gospel message and the hope it confesses contradict both the Scriptures and promises of God. It even ignores the very words of Jesus! The teachings of Jesus were consistent with the Old Testament: he called people to repent and believe the message about the coming Kingdom of God to be established on the earth, as promised to Abraham and those who are his descendants by faith. The Gospel is the only message which can lead to salvation, so understanding the Gospel as proclaimed by Christ is of the utmost importance.
It is not difficult to see that the influence of Platonic philosophy has penetrated to the very heart of Christian theology and the consequences of this are devastating. Therefore, it would be wise to heed the warning of Jesus and his Apostles and to “beware the leaven” of the religious teachers, always being sure to search the Scriptures and “examine everything carefully, holding fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Canon Goudge said it well, and the alarm is fair:
“When the Greek and Roman mind came to dominate the Church, there occurred a disaster in doctrine and practice from which we have never recovered.” 
 Lutzer, Erwin, One Minute After You Die, Billy Graham Evangelical Association. http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?articleid=809
 Stanley J. Grenz, The Moral Quest, InterVarsity Press, 1997, p. 143.
 Stump, Keith. What Is Man? Church of God Cyber Auxiliary. http://www.cgca.net/pabco/whatisma.htm
 Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 4, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.
 Pingpank, Robert C., Immortality and Resurrection, http://www.philosophy-religion.org/bible/immortalityresurrection.htm.
 Orr, James. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Eerdmans, 1939. http://www.internationalstandardbible.com/
 Pingpank, Immortality and Resurrection.
 Strong, James, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, 2007.
 Although of course the soul, in the biblical sense, as person, does sleep.
 Robinson, John A. T., In the End God: A Study of the Christian Doctrine of the Last Things, James Clarke & Co, 1950.November, 2012 3
 Vlach, Michael J, Platonism’s Influence on Christian Eschatology, Theological Studies. http://theologicalstudies.org/resource-library/47-assortedarticles.pdf
 "The Calling of the Jews," in the collected essays on Judaism and Christianity, cited by H.J. Schonfield in The Politics of God, Hutchinson, 1970, 98.
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