The Bible and Death

I am a death investigator by trade (oddly enough). As a death investigator, my job begins and ends when a human life’s brain activity ceases and all biological functions stop (that is, unaided by machines). From that point forward the remains of every soul follows a set of physiological and biological changes that can be systematized and understood to point of being able to pinpoint date and time of death and to a degree, some natural disease processes that likely caused the death in question. Truly, the writer of Psalms 139:14 captured a haunting description of this when he/she wrote: “I will praise thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” (KJV). Indeed the human body is wonderfully made. Sadly however, man is cursed by mortality. This harkens back to that old Sunday School story we all learned about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Eve is tempted by the serpent to take and eat of the Tree of Good and Evil, playing upon Eve’s natural desire to stretch beyond her current state of perfect-ignorant-bliss and be as “God knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3: 5–NKJV). Of course we all know where the story goes from there and the end result is that all men die: “…Till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3: 19—NKJV). Sounds pretty clear: man ultimately dies. His/her body degrades to its basic elements and ceases to exist. It follows without saying that Scripture from beginning to end documents the deaths of many hundreds of souls.

Interestingly, nowhere in the Scriptures do we find documentation that anyone went to heaven or for that matter hell or purgatory—with the sole exception of the parable of the “rich man and the beggar Lazarus in Luke 16. (We’ll look at this parable in short order.) But otherwise, every other area of Scripture seems to solidify without any hanging chads of doubts that man’s days end with death and man’s soul returns to the ground from which it came. Ezekiel 18: 20 says: “the soul that sinneth it shall die…” (KJV). Consequently, Paul clarifies for all who may doubt that they fall within the class of people who have sinned because they are now saved by grace through the shed blood of Christ that “…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God…” and “…as by one man’s sin entered into the world and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men for all have sinned…” (Romans 3: 23 and Romans 5: 12—KJV).

So the Bible clearly documents that every person has an appointment with death if the Lord tarries. Why then are we taught in thousands of churches across this nation that Christians who accept the Lord as their personal savior go to heaven when they die while all others face a fiery hell for all eternity? Is that Biblical? I would imagine that the clergy would quickly point to the example of Luke 16 as proof positive that Christians go to heave while the wicked go to hell. If this is so, then man is made up of at least 2 parts—body and soul—right? This teaching in scholarly circles is known as the “dualism” which had its documented origins in ancient Egypt and pagan Babylon and ultimately made its way to ancient Greece and Rome and then into Christianity (noted in a previous blog posting). The pagan origins of dualism suggest that at death the body ceases to function but the soul lives on apart from the body in another plain. As time progressed, this teaching incorporated various elements of the cultures in which it made its home. In terms of Christianity, dualism took on the reward of acceptance and penalty for rejection of the Christian faith which of course had the side benefit of scaring people into the faith. Certainly the Bible does speak of a heaven and a hell. But does the Bible speak of these two places being the eternal abode of men at the time of their deaths? Well, we are probably forced to address the Luke 16 passage at this point.

Knowing that the dualism doctrine had documented pagan origins and that Scripture sorely lacked any true support for the souls of men going to heaven, hell, or purgatory upon the death of a person, I was of course stymied by Luke 16. Come to find out after some research that the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man is quite similar to a popular rabbinic story that predates the time of Jesus in which one individual goes to a place of eternal bliss (i.e., Abraham’s bosom) while the other individual in question goes to a place of eternal torture (i.e., hell) and that this particular parable had standard features of this non-biblical Jewish manmade tradition. That is to say simply: it is not Biblical. However, the tradition touches upon elements of truth that site a time in the future when certain people will find themselves in eternal bliss while others will find themselves in hell (a little more complicated than just simply being tormented for all eternity—let’s explore in a later post). The judgment told here in this old rabbinic tale and in the parable told by Yahshua in Luke must be examined from the perspective of principle and spirit and not from the perspective of dogma. What was Christ trying to get across to the hearers and readers of this parable? It stands to reason from all of the evidence contrary to the teaching of dualism in Scripture that Yahshua was not introducing a brand new doctrine of dualism. What then could He have been trying to get across to us in this parable? Let’s explore this in the next posting. In the meantime: stay on your knees praying unceasingly; seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness; and pray for the peace of Israel. Love and blessings to you all my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

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