Jan 27th, 2019
Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 10 of The Berean Manifesto, brought to you by The Ekklesian House. This is Pastor Bill and over the next 10 minutes or so we are going to start a new series that’s going to ruffle some feathers and challenge some preconceived ideas, and that’s OK. First, we have to lay some groundwork on the afterlife pre revelation of The Life, who is Christ, and piecing together from scripture what Jesus was up to from the point of His death on the cross until He sat down at the right hand of The Father in heaven over a month later.
The modern Western Church’s view of death is one where when we die our spirit leaves our body with an instant destination of either Heaven or Hell and we leave behind an empty shell. In Biblical reality, we find death described as a kind of sleep in which the sleeper can wake from. It’s recorded in Matthew 5 and Luke 8 that Jesus told the dead girls family that she was sleeping. Jesus tells the Disciples the same thing in John 11, that Lazarus is sleeping, and when they don’t understand what He means he resorts to using the word dead. We also have the event in 1 Samuel 28 where Saul has a witch summon the ghost of Samuel and the first words out of his mouth are roughly, “Who disturbs my slumber.”
Now, if you’re thinking all these references are before Christ died and His resurrection changed the nature of death, that’s good, it’s good that you’re thinking. So let’s consider Daniel 12:1-2 where we find a prophecy about the return of the Messiah, at the event we’ve coined as rapture, it says, “At that time Michael, the great prince who stands watch over your people, will rise up. There will be a time of distress such as never has occurred since nations came into being until that time. But at that time all your people who are found written in the book will escape. Many who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, and some to disgrace and eternal contempt.” They wake to eternal live or disgrace and eternal contempt. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 echo this sentiment, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
So death is sleep. Yet, sleepers dream, and in this dreaming, before Christ, everyone was deaths captive. Before moving forward we need a bit of a vocabulary primer. The Old Testament calls the afterlife Sheol, and the New Testament calls it Hades. It’s the same place, the same concept only translated into English from two different source languages. Also, in this next passage trees are people. As near as I can tell, the trees of Eden are the patriarchs of the Old Testament, Lebanon is the Gentiles, and the well-watered trees are the descendants of Abraham. It is Ezekiel 31:15-17, it says, “‘This is what the Lord God says: I caused grieving on the day the cedar went down to Sheol. I closed off the underground deep because of it: I held back the rivers of the deep, and its abundant water was restrained. I made Lebanon mourn on account of it, and all the trees of the field fainted because of it. I made the nations quake at the sound of its downfall, when I threw it down to Sheol to be with those who descend to the Pit. Then all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all the well-watered trees, were comforted in the underworld. They too descended with it to Sheol, to those slain by the sword. As its allies they had lived in its shade among the nations.” So Ezekiel here is delivering a word from the Lord and in it the Lord says everybody is going to Sheol. Everybody when you die, you’re all going. Whether you are the trees of Eden, the best of Lebanon, the well-watered trees, no matter who you are, it doesn’t matter. Pre Christ, everyone went to Sheol.
When people died before Christ angels would come and escort them to Sheol showing them the way to one side of a gorge or the other. The one reserved for the righteous was a peaceful place of contentment and bliss was known as Abraham’s Bosom, The Fields of Elysium, or Paradise, while the other side, The Abyss or Tartarus, was an unyielding fire where demons, or shades as the Hebrews called them, would torment the denizens. In Luke 16:19-24 we read, ““There was a rich man who would dress in purple and fine linen, feasting lavishly every day. But a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, was lying at his gate. He longed to be filled with what fell from the rich man’s table, but instead the dogs would come and lick his sores. One day the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torment in Hades, he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with Lazarus at his side. ‘Father Abraham! ’ he called out, ‘Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame! ’”
There with Abraham, is what Jesus was referring to on the cross as Paradise in Luke 23 when the thief asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” We know, for a fact, that Jesus wasn’t talking about Heaven there, Acts 2:27 it tells us that Christ did, in fact, proceed next down to Hades. Lets read it. Acts 2:22-27 says, ““Fellow Israelites, listen to these words: This Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through him, just as you yourselves know. Though he was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him. God raised him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death. For David says of him: I saw the Lord ever before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices. Moreover, my flesh will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me in Hades or allow your holy one to see decay.” David there was talking about the time that the Holy One, that Jesus, that The Messiah would spend after His death in Hades. That God wouldn’t abandon Him there, that He wouldn’t leave Him there. That He wouldn’t allow Him to stay dead long enough for His body to see decay.
Not to leave you hanging, but our format is 10-minute episodes in order to give you bite-sized chunks to process and assimilate. So take these scriptures, look them up to make sure they read the way I’ve said that they do and let the Holy Spirit work in your heart to have the scriptures inform your theology instead of what tradition and misguided teachings may have created in you. Next week we’ll pick up right here and find out what Jesus was up to during that time after his death on through to his ascension into Heaven.
This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”