Thursday, June 23, 2005always learning...
I've finally figured something out a couple of months ago. It probably won't be much of a surprise to some of you, but it was something that I hadn't worked out thoroughly. My epiphany? When a believer breathes his last, his soul is whisked to Heaven, in the presence of the Lord!
Now I know what some of you are thinking:
-Uh...duh! Rand! the Lord told the thief on the cross: "And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
The problem is that "paradise" in the above verse isn't Heaven. How do I know that? Because that day, Jesus wasn't going to Heaven; he was going to Sheol/Hades:
"For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the HEART OF THE EARTH." (Matthew 12:40)
"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached UNTO THE SPIRITS IN PRISON; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water." (1 Peter 3:18-20)
Jesus and the thief would meet in Abraham's bosom, the place where Old Testament saints rested in peace, as seen in Luke 16:19-31. If you thought this was a parable, you are mistaken. The Lord identified his parables. In the account of the rich man and Lazarus, no mention is made of it being a parable.
So there I was, for years, believing that we Christians also went to Abraham's bosom when we died, awaiting the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), where we would join the Lord Jesus Christ and be taken into Heaven. Well, I no longer believe this. After a careful study of Scripture, here's what I came up with:
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Hebrews 2:14-15)
What is this power of death that the devil had? Well, death is separation. When someone dies physically, he is separated from those who are physically alive. The same is applicable to spiritual death. Those who die spiritually are separated from eternal life, because they are separated from God. And there's the key! Christ didn't destroy the power of physical death (we will all die physically one day - Hebrews 9:27), rather, Christ destroyed the power of spiritual death (separation from God) towards God's elect. The devil can no longer keep God's people under the bondage of Sheol/Hades/Abraham's bosom because of the guilt of their sin... it's been paid for! This is why we read:
"Wherefore he saith, WHEN HE ASCENDED UP ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVITY CAPTIVE, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)" (Ephesians 4:8-10)
So there you have it brothers and sisters in the Lord! When a saint dies, his soul is taken directly up to Heaven to be with the Lord. So, as Peter put it, let us pass the time of our sojourning here in fear (1 Peter 1:17), and look forward to our reward in Heaven... which is literally, in my case, just a few decades away!