Is Death a State of Annihilation?

We are continuing our meditation on eternal things and specifically thinking of the topic of Hell. Some say that Hell is a place where a person who rejects God’s free pardon for sin is annihilated. The word annihilation means “to reduce to utter ruin or nonexistence; to destroy utterly.” Three times in the passage we looked at yesterday (Scroll down for Matthew 25:41-46), though, Jesus used the same Greek word to describe the bliss of His followers, i.e. the word aiōnios, which means “Eternal, perpetual. When referring to eternal life, it means the life which is God’s and, hence, not affected by the limitation of time.”[1] That does not sound like annihilation. It is the clear teaching of Jesus that someone who rejects the gospel and continues in his sin, at the end of his life, will suffer eternal punishment.

Svetlana Stalin, the daughter of Josef Stalin, leader of Russia from 1922-1953, accompanied her father at death’s door and said that she would never sit alongside an unbeliever who was dying again. She said that he went into Hell kicking and screaming. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Voltaire was said to have died crying out in torment, as was King Charles the ninth of France, David Hume, and Thomas Pain. Speaking for those who do know God, C.M. Ward said, “No Christian has ever been known to recant on his death bed.”

Why would a loving God send anyone to Hell? How bad does a person have to be to be sent to Hell? Is there a line that a person crosses?

16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:16-18).

The creator God has established the way for salvation. The situation is that the entire human race is in the same boat. We have all fallen short of God’s ideal for living. None of us can say we have never sinned. If you have only sinned once, then it is enough to make you a sinner. We all suffer with the same disease. Sin is what eternally separates us from God. James puts it this way, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). If there could have been another way for God to get you to heaven, apart from sending His Son to die a cruel and torturous death, don’t you think He would have taken it? He has given man the gift of free will, but His justice demands that rebellion has to be penalized. A holy God cannot allow sin to be in His presence: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing” (Habakkuk 1:13). So, He honors the choices that a rebel who refuses to repent has made.

In His love for the human race, He initiated a rescue plan. The Son of God would take on human form and be a substitute to take the place of guilty man, taking the punishment upon Himself.  In that way, His justice would be satisfied, and He can reach out in love to save all who will turn their lives over to Him and walk in obedience to Him. When we repent and receive Christ, the Spirit of God gives us power to live for Christ. We also hold the answer for others, and the Holy Spirit gives us the power and boldness to speak to people about God’s rescue plan for the human race. We damage Satan’s kingdom when we speak the truth of God’s Word, and release precious people from his control. The church today is on the attack, breaking down every defense that Satan has raised against the kingdom of God. We are told that the gates of Hades (Hell) will not overcome the Church (Matthew 16:18). God has told us what happens in the end, and guess what, those that belong to Christ win!

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

[1] Key Word Study Bible, New Lexical Study Aids, AMG Publishers, page 1580.

We Shall Be Changed

We are continuing to meditate on 1 Corinthians 15, the topic of the Resurrection Body (scroll down for other meditations), exploring as to what it will be like. When that Day comes, that which God has been shaping us to be on the inside by His Spirit, will be revealed. It won’t be the same as our old nature; Paul says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (Verse 50). It will no longer be perishable but imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:53). We won’t all sleep; (not all Christians will die and be separated from their bodies). Those who are still alive at the coming of Christ will be transformed instantly without going through the experience of death. When Christ comes, in a flash, in the wink of an eye’s time, we will be changed from having a perishable body to being clothed with an imperishable body (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Paul the apostle writes in a different place about this transformation of our bodies:

…the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21).

This word that is translated transform is the Greek word Metaschēmatizō. It is a construction of two Greek words. Meta means a change of place or condition, and schēma means shape, or outward form. To transform, change the outward form or appearance of something, refashion, reshape.[1]

An imperishable body means that it won’t age or get sick. Our new bodies will be glorious all of the time. You will always have youthful strength and be radiantly beautiful with God’s glory radiating from you. I believe that just as Jesus walked through walls into the upper room where the door was locked for fear of the Jews (John 20:19), we will also be able to pass through walls and travel instantaneously, not bound by the physical realm. Our new bodies will not be limited to only one sphere of existence. We cannot comprehend this now, as we are limited to this dimension on earth,  but just as a huge, sprawling oak tree could not be compared to the seed from which it grows, our spiritual bodies will transcend what we can imagine. We do not have anything to compare it to.

Paul says that our new body will be like Christ’s glorious body (Philippians 3:20). This radiance that accompanies us will be both authoritative and beautiful. Jesus said that, “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father (Matthew 13:43. Emphasis mine). Those that are Christ’s will command respect, a respect that is born of wisdom that is from above. There will be a kindness and joy that will be ours. It will also be a powerful body (1 Corinthians 15:43). I don’t think that this speaks only of strength, although that certainly will be part of it. I think that there will be a power and authority to work the miraculous just as Jesus did and still does. We will participate with Him to not only worship Him, but to do His will. Our bodies will be raised and we will see His face and be transformed into His image. Daniel the prophet also speaks of that time in this way:

1“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. 2Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:1-3).

Daniel says that this will happen at a time when there will be a time of distress such as never before. But at that time everyone whose name is written in God’s book–will be delivered. I believe that what Daniel is talking about is the rapture of the saints at some time during the tribulation or time of distress. Daniel says that those who invest their lives to touch others for Christ, will be like the stars for ever and ever. I cannot comprehend what it would mean to shine like a star, but it sure sounds like a reward that would be wonderful, worth my effort and devotion to Christ in this life! That which God has been doing on the inside of you and through you will be made known and it will be glorious, the chrysalis of this old decaying body will put on an immortal body, just like our Lord’s. It will be time to go home! Graduation day at last! Far from being the end that we see when we look at the death of an earthly body, there will be a glorious new beginning which one day will manifest physically in a body like His own glorious resurrection body, for He is the First Fruit, and we shall be like Him. May you be found in Him in that day, and worship with us.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas

[1] Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, Page 1651.

Part 2. The Seed of the Body (Scroll further down for Part 1)

We are continuing in our meditation of what the resurrection body will be like. Paul the apostle wrote using the analogy of a seed and a plant in his first Corinthian letter (1 Corinthians 15:35-57). He wrote about Adam, the first man, being a living seed to bear all of us in his image. He then went on to say that the Last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving spirit (Verse 45). Paul had already written earlier that what happened to Adam happened to us all. He was representative of all of us because he was the federal head of the human race. It may not seem fair for all of his progeny to inherit his sin nature, because the life of that seed, Adam’s sin nature, was passed to all of us. But Christ has come Himself to be the federal head for all who receive His full pardon. In this way, God brings new life through another seed, one that is perfect and free from sin. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22). Just as Adam gave us our physical body, and with it, our sin nature, Christ also gives us this seed of new life planted in our hearts. He came to give us life!

The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:42-49).

The body that is sown in the ground is completely different from the one raised. Our resurrection body will be raised imperishable, which means that it cannot perish. It will not wear out, grow old or ever get sick or diseased. Just as we received life in the physical realm from Adam, our forefather, so Christians receive spiritual life from the last Adam. Christ is called the Last Adam, to say that we should not expect another. As we have put on Adam’s likeness, thanks be to God, we will also put on the likeness of the glory of Christ.

50I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:50-57).

Oh, how I long for that Day to arrive. Death has been conquered by our Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to His glorious name!

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas

The Seed of the Body (Part 1)

We are continuing our thoughts on what the Resurrection body is like that we are given at the coming of Christ (Scroll down for yesterday’s thoughts). The apostles John and Paul wrote about this transformation in this way:

  1. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).
  2. Just as our physical life was inherited from Adam in that we became like him, in the same way we will also be like the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, at the Resurrection: 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:49).
  3. But we all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, that there will be varying degrees of glory between believers that occurs at this change (vv. 38-42). He likens it to differing degrees of brightness between planetary stars and planets. Our physical bodies have been created by God to live in the physical realm, however, this body is to be redeemed and changed into the spiritual and physical body that God has planned for us to put on. Those who are Christ’s will shine with God’s glory according to how much of the character of Christ is in us.

The life that we received from Adam, is not enough for us to enter this heavenly kingdom without this addition of the life we receive from Christ—the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). I believe that God’s plan for redeemed humanity, the Church of the Living God, is for the saints to be able to live in the spiritual realm as well as the physical realm, just as Christ did in the 40 days after His resurrection. Christ Jesus has not left His body on Earth somewhere; He abides in heaven with a physical yet spiritual resurrected body. Isn’t that true of Enoch, the man of God? God enjoyed his company so much that he took him up to heaven in his physical being: “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24).

We are told the same thing of Elijah. He, too, was taken up to heaven still clothed with his physical body (2 Kings 2:11). Some say that Enoch and Elijah are the two witnesses that are mentioned as testifying to the world’s sin as mentioned in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 11:3). These two individuals have yet to die once (Hebrews 9:27), so it is possible that they come from heaven to testify of God’s grace and then are killed. Of course, three and a half days later God raises them from the dead much to the anger of Antichrist’s followers (Revelation 11:11). Spiritual life only comes at the death of the physical seed planted; the Lord Jesus Christ was that heavenly spiritual seed that gave His life for us as a seed:

23Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:23-25).

We’ll carry on this thought of the seed of the body tomorrow.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas

The Life of God Sown in Our Hearts

We are continuing our meditation about the resurrection of the body (scroll down for that meditation). When a person gives their life to Christ, something happens within. They are regenerated or born-again by the Spirit. Jesus said that without this experience of being born again, or born from above, no one can see the kingdom of God: Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3).

The apostle Peter writes, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). A spiritual seed begins to grow in us from that point, slowly transforming us through the word of God, and our trials and life experiences, into the image of Christ:

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).

The characteristic of this living seed is spiritual life but more full, abundant, eternal and imperishable. The Greek word that is translated “life” in the above passage of scripture is the word zōē. It means: “to live.” My Key Word Study Bible says of this word:

“It is a somewhat metaphysical term which denotes the very life force itself, the vital principle which animates living beings. Zōē is used most in connection with eternal life. This life is the very life of God of which believers are made partakers.”[1]

I don’t understand how words can be seeds but I do not doubt the power of words. God spoke His Word and the world was created. Throughout Genesis chapter one, the creation was brought about by God speaking His Word. For instance, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:3). Take a look at how many times the words “And God said” are written. There is great power in the spoken word of God. In our passage in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says that God is the One who determines what the seed will become when it grows up (Verse 38). He says that there are different kinds of physical bodies on planet earth, men, animals, birds and fish. All physical creatures that are born on earth come from seeds. I see Paul making two different analogies when he talks about a seed:

Our resurrection body will be able to be recognized in some way as us. He says, 37“When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else (v.37). Within the seed is the DNA of the physical body. Oranges do not grow from apple seeds. There is a continuity of life shared between the seed and the body it will become. Our heavenly resurrected bodies will be somewhat like the seed of our earthly fleshly body. We will recognize one another in our resurrection bodies, but it will be vastly different from the seed out of which the resurrected body has come. Our frail bodies will be renewed into a powerful transcendent body. That’s good news! Let’s carry on this thought tomorrow.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas

[1] Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, Page 1630.