Where Is Satan?

Many people, including many Christians, regard Satan as a mythical being. It is right to say that Satan is not mentioned often in the Bible. Should he be? Need he be? The Bible makes us aware that such a being exists, but it is not about him. Satan is not the equivalent of God. Satan is a thinking, powerful, personal being–not just the personification of evil. Satan is the originator of rebellion within God’s creation. He is created by God as well. Both Jesus and the Gospel writers refer to Satan. Where is he now and what is his impact on our eternity?

We first see Satan in the Garden of Eden, which was on Earth. He tempts Eve, then Adam to question the honesty of God, and floats the idea that being like God was achievable for humans. That was the bait that sank the hook. The hook was the vast alteration of humans and all creation by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It seems mythy (my word–so you can’t use it for Scrabble), but Jesus does not cast doubt on the book of Genesis, so I will accept it as historical. Could it be real? Why not? An being of advanced being of great knowledge and power could create the means to genetically alter two human beings with direct contact. That we can almost do. How he manages to alter the rest of creation is more of a mystery.

Satan had access to Earth, now he held dominion over it. Evil and death would be the norm. In the rest of the Old Testament, you only see Satan twice for sure and possible two more times. In Job and in Zechariah you see Satan in Heaven as an accuser. In Job, he also has access to Earth as a disrupter and tempter. Two other “maybe it’s Satan” passages tell his backstory. Isaiah 14:9-16 and Ezekiel 28:14-19 do not refer to Satan directly, but rather the king of Babylon and the King of Tyre. The descriptions seem too much for a human. Could these men have been possessed by Satan himself or even been incarnations of Satan? If so, we learn that Satan is a cherubim/seraphim and that his downfall was essentially pride and wanting to be God. Sound familiar?

The arrival of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, changes things. Satan was still the dominate spiritual force on Earth, but he is no match against the Son of God, except perhaps in the fact that Jesus has human flesh. The goal of Jesus is to fulfill God’s law for all of humanity and to suffer the required punishment for sin, at least the demand for God to forsake (remove from His presence entirely), all humanity. The counter move for Satan must have been to get Jesus to fail or quit. Killing Jesus was attempted via King Herod, via Jesus himself during Jesus’ formal temptation, and lastly through the crucifixion. Did Satan understand that killing Jesus at the crucifixion was playing right into God’s hands? I think he figured it out, but too late.

Revelation speaks of Satan being driven from Heaven. This is somehow connected to Jesus’ work on Earth and likely Jesus’ death:

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Revelation 12:7-9 (ESV)

So Satan no longer has access to Heaven. Why would he in the first place? It doesn’t say, but I would surmise that it had something to do with Satan knowing that God wanted to save humans and Satan using that as leverage to delay is own judgment.

Satan is cast to Earth. Again, why? It seems that at least some of Satan’s angelic followers are thrown into “prison” :

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell[a] and committed them to chains[b] of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

2 Peter 2:4 (ESV)

I left the footnote annotation in this quote because it matters. Both the ESV and KJV choose the word “hell”, but the Greek word is different from any other in the Bible. I think “Gehenna” refers to what we think of as Hell–the post-Judgment Day place of eternal punishment. This is not “Sheol or Hades” either. They refer to the post death, pre-Judgment Day destination for human condemnation. This word is “Tartarus”, which is borrowed from Greek mythology. It was a prison for souls or specifically for the Titans. Here Peter uses it for a place that is possibly equated to the “abyss” found in Luke 8:31. Why isn’t Satan there? Instead, it appears that he is here with us.

Revelation 20:1-3 holds out this information:

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit (Abyss) and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Revelation 20:1-3 (ESV)

The timing of this is greatly debated and beyond the scope of this blog. It would appear that Satan himself or at least some aspect of his power or following is still at work influencing the affairs of mankind. How much of the evil in this world is our own doing and how much can we say, “The Devil made me do it?” is unknown.

Satan’s final disposition is most relevant to the topic of this blog. In Revelation 20:7-10, we get the end of it:

 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Revelation 20:7-10 (ESV)

Cartoons and even great works of art can depict Satan as the ruler of Hell, joyfully tormenting the damned of mankind. That is not the case. Satan suffers with the damned. To be forsaken by God is a torment even for God’s first and greatest enemy.

Satan is on a misery loves company campaign. God is still saving people with the Gospel, and Satan is still opposing it using every avenue at his disposal. There is no need for you to share his fate.

Approaching Uselessness

We all need some sense of purpose. While we are still a part of this life, we will find purpose in many things: being a parent, having a job, even just entertaining ourselves. As we approach death and sometimes even before, a person can lose their sense of purpose. Things like a job loss, the death of a loved one or a steep decline in our own health will do that.

If one is facing death with no hope in Christ to have life after death with God, then you have a double downer. Death offers nothing but a false sense of relief and life offers nothing because it is a struggle to feel useful and there is no pleasure in living.

I have met people in this position. It’s the worst. I propose that you never have to be there. What God promises us by a connection to Jesus is real. It is not wishful thinking to make us feel better as we face our mortality. The evidence includes prophecies about Jesus, the miracles of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, eyewitnesses who willing faced death, critics who came to faith, the persistent survival of the Gospel message despite various forms of persecution, people who have had Near Death Experiences, and our own ability to see God at work in us.

When we have a connection to Jesus (just trust the promise of forgiveness and be baptized) then faith can grow to absolute certainty about what comes next. We can approach our own death with expectant joy. It like anticipating the best day ever.

We can also deal with our own physical decline in a new way. A critical Bible passage about living is Ephesians 2:10:

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

Two assurances pop out of this passage. First, that we are an ongoing project of God. God is shaping us through learning, positive experiences, and even negative experiences. This shaping continues right up to the end of this life. Why? Because there is more to come. Our negative, end-of-life experiences are not useless experiences. Second, that God has a wide array of purposes for us that also continue to the end of this life.

We may lose certain forms of usefulness along the way: we retire, our kids grow up, we have a stroke and can’t speak, etc. Purpose doesn’t end, it just shifts. Even if all we can do is pray, we have a powerfully influential tool in our hands. Use it.

What if our brain gets so demented that we can’t pray? I’m not sure this happens, but if so, our presence may fulfill God’s purpose in some way. When we are finally done, then we are out of here. We don’t need to unnaturally extend our stay here.

Is eternal life like a perpetual vacation? There are clues to ongoing, productive purpose in eternity as well. I expect there is a great deal of leisure and partying, however. Never boredom. Never uselessness. I can’t say the same for the damned.

If you are struggling with the purpose of your life or if you know somebody like this, share this article. I know that it is hard to see past your immediate loss or situation. There is hope–most excellent hope. There is also a new way to look at life and it isn’t a game.

Unprepared

Typically, when we say that somebody is prepared to die, we mean they are aware that their death is imminent; they have said their goodbyes, they have put their financial affairs in order, and they are just waiting. That is a very superficial way of thinking about death. From all that I have written about in this blog, being prepared is actually having a saving connection to Jesus. When you have Jesus, you may not wish to die, but you are ready.

If we think about our own mortality at all, we expect to die in the distant future. Even some people who are very advanced in years think of death as distant. They expect to have more time. Is this smart?

Think about how death can come unplanned. There was yet another senseless mass shooting in our country this weekend. People gunned down at a parade. It happens often enough that we become numb to the news. If we didn’t see it in person, it seems surreal. This is real. You will die. I have known people in seemingly great health die suddenly–a triple A (arterial aortic aneurysm), also known as the “widow-maker”. It may or may not be when you are old and welcome the departure. It may or may not be when you are prepared. It is best to always be prepared.

Again, I am unconcerned as to whether you have a will or burial plans. I am talking about Jesus. Don’t just expect that death will go well for all. The toughest news to accept from the Bible is the revelation that for most, death will not go well.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)

“Life” in this passage means eternal existence with God, the Creator of all good things. “Destruction” is actually worse than is sounds. It doesn’t mean ceasing to exist. It means existence forsaken by God. It is unthinkable. So we don’t think about it.

Perhaps Jesus has a special way to deal with people who never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel. Let us hope that this is true. The clear message of the Bible is that we need Jesus, because all of us are sinners. We need Him now, because neither life nor death is predictable. We don’t want to be unprepared.

I realize that this article is quite a downer. It doesn’t have to be, not entirely. I don’t fret about dying. I’m more upset about getting old. I want to do much more in this life and accomplish much more for the Kingdom of God. I am willingly to stick it out as long as God can use me and in whatever condition. But if death comes early, I am very happy about what God has promised me. I am excited to see what God has promised. I am satisfied with what God has accomplished through me to this point. If there is no more, that’s fine. It is very liberating to be prepared. Understanding life after death (what it is like, why we can have it or not) is very empowering.

Why not be prepared?

Making the Most of This Life

One criticism that gets launched at Christianity is that Christianity moves your focus to life after death and neglects this life. While individuals may do this, true disciples of Jesus know this is certainly not true. This relatively short period of our existence, that we give the misnomer “life”, is important for its own unique purpose; and you would do well to understand what it is all about. It is having eternal life as a promise from God that makes effort in this life meaningful. Without it we are just chasing the wind.

The most important thing to realize is that our purpose in life is not trying to earn a place in Heaven and the New Earth. All our efforts will be so feeble in comparison to the glory God wants to give us that trying to merit eternal life is a fool’s errand. Eternal life has to be a gift and Jesus is the giver. Once you are connected to Jesus then what? God doesn’t move Christians immediately to Heaven because there is work to do. Jesus wants to work primarily through us. Maximizing this relationship is making the most of our lives.

You could pick a different purpose for life. You could see life as a time to amass wealth or power. You could make your goal travel. You could even seek to make a scientific or technological breakthrough. These things will end up as meaningless. Solomon found that out. (Ecclesiastes) Don’t worry about what people will think of you when you are gone or if they even remember your name. Care about God’s evaluation. There are things that God does care about. If you work with God and do things His way, not only will your accomplishments leave a big positive impact on other people, they will be honored with some type of eternal reward by God. Again, it is important to stress that entry into eternal life is the work of Jesus and a gift to you; responding to that gift with a fruitful life pleases God and adds to your future existence in some way.

So, what matters to God? God wants to save people from a necessary eternal damnation and bring them to eternal life. He does this by the power of the Holy Spirit working through story of Jesus and its associated promise of forgiveness and eternal life (the Gospel). First on the list of what we can do is to disseminate information about Jesus. Only God can make a believer, but we are part of the process via words and example. Everybody can do this.

Next, God wants more than people who believe Him. He wants disciples. He wants people who will learn and multiply the process. You can maximize your life by teaching your children, teaching others, and by financially and prayerfully backing others who do so. These two things are the main thrust of what cares about but not all.

God also wants kindness and care for others to flow from His people. Visit and care for the sick. Feed the hungry. Encourage the imprisoned. Help them to reintegrate into society. Fight injustice. Propagate the truth. Provide whatever kind of care that love requires. There are millions of opportunities to do these things.

God also includes us in spiritual warfare. Satan and his associates are real and present. They influence the minds of sinful people. Counteract their actions when you see it. Pray against the power of the evil one.

God also cares about our “normal” vocations in life. You have a job? Do it as one who is working for God. As long as the job is not illicit, it can be done for God’s glory.

Being a spouse or a parent or grandparent can also be done in a godly way that benefits your own family. God cares about this.

Got neighbors? Be neighborly. Help them. Get to know them. Pray for them.

We are also stewards. God considers us to be managers of assets that He puts in our care. This includes our body, our time, money, abilities, the planet, knowledge, relationships and more. Take care of them well. Use these things in a way that honors God.

Your ongoing relationship with God matters too. Communicate through prayer as with a friend. Worship God in sincerity (spirit) and accurately (truth). God seeks this type of interaction.

When you have eternal life through Jesus, your life is heaped with purpose. You will have purpose in eternity as well, but work in this fallen world is unique. All of these things are important to God but it is also important how you do them.

10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Luke 17:10 (ESV)

You can’t do these things with a sense of entitlement. We are saved by grace, so we are not entitled. Humble service gains undeserved rewards. While there are many motives for doing these things, the best is love. Don’t work for reward. Work because you love God and God’s love is in you.

I hope that you can see that our lives can be meaningful to the last moment. Through transition of purpose, suffering, illness, even dementia.

Being mindful of our God-given purpose and pursuing it is living wisely. Maximize your life.

Wrestling with Isaiah 65

The information that we have about God creating a New Earth after Judgment Day is found in a few, large sections: Revelation 21 and 22, a bit in 2 Peter 3, and a rather confusing section of Isaiah 65, and a bit at the end of Isaiah 66. The teaching of a bodily resurrection is found in a couple of places in the Old Testament and is clearly understood by the Jewish people at the time of Jesus. After the death of Lazarus, Jesus tells Mary that her brother will live. She responds, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” They had no expectation of going to Heaven at this point. They knew about the resurrection; but what kind of understanding did they have about life after the resurrection? Isaiah 65 gives a description, but how is it to be understood in light of what further revelation would reveal?

Isaiah 65:17-25 is our particular focus. It starts this way:

“For behold, I create new heavens
    and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
    or come into mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
    in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
    and her people to be a gladness.

Isaiah 65:17-18 (ESV)

This clearly states what the section is about. It is about the New Heavens and New Earth. That is a part of God’s creation after Judgment Day. Revelation establishes that. The description that follows is confusing because it doesn’t seem to correlate with other passages about eternal life.

I will rejoice in Jerusalem
    and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
    and the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it
    an infant who lives but a few days,
    or an old man who does not fill out his days,
for the young man shall die a hundred years old,
    and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.

Isaiah 65:19-20 (ESV)

At the time of Isaiah, people were lucky to reach their mid-fifties. Child mortality was likely sky high. The rest of the Bible speaks, however, about eternal life, not long life. This description leads some to interpret this verse as referring to a 1000-year, pre-Judgment Day period known as the Milennium. That does not jive with verse 17, however.

Critics of the Bible will say this disparity reflects that fact that people are making this up as they go. Future generations sweetened the pot by making it eternal. Neither really knows anything about life after death, if it exists.

It is a bad assumption to expect that God rolled out knowledge about everything all at once. While I am sure that God’s plans were known in detail before the creation of the world, the information He gave humans was in a “as you need to know” fashion. There may even have been elements of God’s plan that were contingent. God, being all-knowing, understood the outcome, but the results still were dependent on something happening successfully in time.

Isaiah’s revelation comes at a time where Jesus has yet to make atonement for sin. Theoretically, He could fail. God knows, however, that He won’t. Still, the Old Testament righteous must wait in Sheol for Jesus to complete atonement. The plan to include humanity in Heaven must wait for Jesus to complete atonement. And the full, glorious details of our post-Judgment Day life must wait for the same.

Isaiah 65 is a taste. It is a bit of a teaser. But it gives hope to those whose lives are pretty grim. So, what can we learn from it?

First of all, the people will be a joy. Today, people are not always a joy. In fact, some places have earned a reputation for being exactly, the opposite. But with sinful nature and the curse gone. People in the New Earth, including hopefully you, will be the opposite. It will be a pleasure to hang out with each other.

Death will not be an issue. No death in childbirth. At 100 years old we would be considered like a youth. This statement is hypothetical and stated only to make a point. Now it is possible, that we might go through cycle of aging in our resurrection bodies–moving from child to maturity and back. We will have to wait for the answer to that. But death won’t happen, because no one will be “accursed”.

They shall build houses and inhabit them;
    they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
    they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
    and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain
    or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
    and their descendants with them.

Isaiah 65:21-23

We will work, and we will eat, and things will not be frustrating or work against us like now. No pests or disease in your plants. No five trips to Home Depot because your project is not working. No raiding bands taking your stuff. These were all very relatable to the people of Isaiah’s time and mostly they still are to us.

Before they call I will answer;
    while they are yet speaking I will hear.

Isaiah 65:24

Our interaction with God will be immediate, unmistakable and wonderfully personal. This is the biggest deal of them all. Even true prayer-warriors hunger for a more tangible interaction with God. This will be accessible no matter where we are.

The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
    the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
    and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
    in all my holy mountain,”
says the Lord

Isaiah 65:25

Some people want to make this into a metaphor. They struggle to believe that nature gets to be a part of eternity. This is no metaphor. Animals of all sorts will be a part of the New Earth and they will be like the fauna of the Garden of Eden. They will be at peace. It will be like a giant petting zoo.

Will it include your animal? You may miss a beloved pet. All I can say is that it might. The argument that animals have no soul because they were not created in the image of God would have an impact on their not being in Heaven. The text doesn’t say if these are resurrected animals or new creations, but they are certainly new in their behaviors. Sin impacted creation, not just people. Jesus reconciled all things, not just people.

Isaiah 65 gives us a few details to contemplate. They are exciting details. Don’t let the odd presentation put you off.

Family In Eternity

I have heard it many times. A person is dying but they are ready. Why? Because they want to see their spouse, child, mother or father. They are eager to see lost family. This is understandable. Our family are usually the people we are closest to and love the most during life. What do we know about the transition to eternal life and family?

One bit of information comes in Matthew 22. The Sadducees are trying to prove logically that the resurrection does not literally exist. They present a scenario where a woman loses her husband without having children. In Jewish law, the brother is to marry the woman and have children. The law served as a social, safety net as there was no government support for widows. In this scenario, the woman survives the death of seven brothers. Surely, the Sadducees argue, the resurrection would create massive family issues as people marry and re-marry during life.

Jesus answers their argument this way:

At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in Heaven.

Matthew 22:30 (ESV)

Some people seize on the wording to say that Jesus is only saying that there won’t be weddings in Heaven. But that loses the context. He is saying that marriages created in this life are only for this life. Other passages support that marriage is a contract that ends with death. That may make you sad or give you relief. No matter how you feel about it, it is a stated fact. That doesn’t mean you won’t know and love the people you know and love now.

We are left to imagine what Jesus means by “they will be like the angels in Heaven”. The implication is that the angels have a very different arrangement than what we have now. Jesus is also talking about “at the resurrection”, so this is post-Judgment Day information and may or may not apply to the period between your death and Judgment Day when you will be exclusively in Heaven.

Some worry that we won’t even recognize each other or remember our former relationships. Here I present you a mixed bag of evidence. The first is Jesus’ resurrected bodily appearances. Sometimes He is not recognizable. Other times He is readily recognizable. Again, this is a resurrected body (so post-JD for us). He is also the Son of God, so this may not even apply to us. Another weird piece of information comes from the story of the Witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28). In this story, Saul utilizes a woman, who knows occultic arts, to raise the Prophet Samuel from Sheol. It works, and Samuel is readily recognizable (and angry).

Near Death Experiences (NDE), for what they are worth, do include at times family who recognize each other and recognize their relationship.

I expect that not only will we recognize our families, but that we will know everyone else as well. Peter, James and John recognized Moses and Elijah without introduction, to our knowledge. I also expect that there will be closeness and relationship that rivals the best family relationships with everyone else. Because of this, the significance of family will fade without the blessing of those who are our family being lessened.

What about family who rejects Jesus? Jesus is not optional when it comes to receiving eternal life. I expect that we can have our losses. 1 Corinthians 7:14 says:

For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

1 Corinthians 7:14 (ESV)

While I would like to believe that this passage says that we are saved in groups, I don’t believe it says that. It only indicates that our unbelieving family have a special priority and source of the Gospel because of us. Jesus indicates that in many cases a person’s enemies because of the Gospel will come from within their family. This is often seen in conversions from other world religions.

So, would not Heaven be diminished if not ruined by a family member who has rejected salvation? We certainly grieve them while on Earth. It would not surprise me if we would briefly grieve them in Heaven. But I expect that loss and even the memory of it to fade in the midst of the glory and love that will envelope us in Heaven.

Will our grief not be re-opened on Judgment Day? Perhaps, but we have this brief description of being in the New Earth:

The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.

Isaiah 65:17b (ESV)

I cannot guarantee that everyone in my family will be saved. In fact, I would bet against some who have passed. I would love to be surprised on this matter. All I can do is to be sure to share the Gospel while I can. I don’t want to feel like I left critical matters of salvation unspoken. The rest is in God’s hands.

Jesus’ Resurrected Body

One of the promises the Bible makes to those whom God has saved is that we will one day receive a resurrected body. A resurrected body is not necessarily the same as a body that has been raised from the dead. Some of the people raised from the dead in the Bible account (Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, etc.) were merely repaired and revivified. Their bodies still would wear out. They would die again.

“Resurrected” is a nearly complete remake. There will be some retention of what makes us unique persons. Other than that, we are remade to be without sinful nature and many other genetic defects that have arisen along the way. Paul gives a description of a resurrected body:

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

1 Corinthians 15:42-44

Breaking this down, what can we learn? First, it is imperishable. Can a body of flesh and bone be imperishable? It is not too hard to imagine that our genetics could be modified to create systems that would not wear down and cell reproduction that could go on indefinitely. The people who lived before Noah’s flood apparently had genetics that allowed them to live nearly a millennia. God actually modified them down. We could also be given systems that would make us disease free. What about injury? The resurrected body might be self-repairing.

“It is sown in dishonor”, is likely a reference to sinful nature. The genetics that give us a proclivity to sin and resist God will be gone.

“It is raised in power.” This is an exciting description that would suggest higher limitations and new abilities for our resurrected body. How much fun would it be to run faster and farther, to jump and climb, lift and maybe even new stuff like teleport or use telepathy for communication. What will it do for our intellect? As many of us experience the decline of our physical and mental self, due to aging or disease, it is exciting to think or the 2.0 version of ourself that is coming.

“It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” This always baffled me. Now I think it means this. A natural body is one limited to this time-space dimension. A spiritual body is one that can be either here or in the time-space of Heaven or Hell. Paul doesn’t explain, but other places speak of or hint at a Heavenly body (1 Corinthians 15:40, 2 Corinthians 5:1).

The only example of a resurrected body is that of Jesus after His resurrection. Jesus is described as the “first-born of the dead”. This basically means that He is the first to be resurrected with more to come. What can we say of Jesus’ resurrected body? He eats. He is recognizable when He wants to be, and not recognizable when He doesn’t. He moves differently. He doesn’t have to use the door. He still retains the marks of His crucifixion as a badge of honor. That is about it. Do any of these things reflect Him as the Son of God versus a resurrected human? Maybe. Maybe not.

My interest in Jesus’ resurrected body is primarily out of curiosity about what God has planned for me. We have only a little information, but what we do know and the possibilities that flow from that information are exciting. If you are part of a church that says the Apostles’ or Nicene Creeds, I hope that you will think about these things when you say, “I believe in the resurrection of the body” or ” I look for the resurrection of dead and the life of the world to come.”

Scattered to the Wind

I very common way of disposing of somebody’s earthly remains is to have them cremated and then to dump their ashes in a place that had some significance to them while they were living. Maybe it was a trail on a mountain or at the seashore or just scattered to the wind.

This raises a practical question for one of the things revealed by the Bible–the resurrection of the body. If our remains are scattered or even if they are not, the molecules that made up that body end up as part of the soil and very likely a part of another living being, maybe even another person. Right now, your body could have in it carbon that was a part of an animal, a bug, or possibly several other people. At the resurrection of the dead do we fight for our original molecules?

This is part of a bigger question. What constitutes me? We are not just temporary chemistry with the illusion of having a consciousness. That idea, advanced by hardcore evolutionists, does not match the evidence at all. It feels more like the opposite. That I am a soul that is merely borrowing a body. That idea is common in Eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.) The Bible argues that we are a soul and an earthly body, and I would argue, even a heavenly body.

What is resurrected on Judgment Day, and how can it be me? Throughout our lives we are exchanging atoms with the environment around us. We should not assume personal possession down to the atomic level. What truly distinguishes our physical, earthly self is our DNA. Even our DNA is a flawed blueprint of our earthly being as it contains mutations passed on to us from our original distortion in the Garden of Eden, all our ancestors, and some we have suffered in our lifetime. We are truly not evolving but devolving.

That is why I am skeptical that our resurrection will involve our disposed of remains much or at all. The resurrected body will be raised perfected and indestructible. I expect it will retain many unique qualities that will reflect who we are, but none of the acquired weaknesses and flaws. God retains the design of what we are physically. As Adam was made from the earth, so will we be raised from it. Not necessarily, from the earth of our old bodies, or even in the location. For this reason, choosing a burial place is more a consideration for the living than the dead.

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

1 Corinthians 15:42-44

Assuming that our dead body forms a literal starting point for the resurrected body may be true or may be pushing the biblical analogy of a seed too far. Either way God has the matter in control regardless of where our dead remains end up.

Is It Acceptable to be Cremated?

Cremation has become a very popular choice for dealing with our earthly remains. There are a variety of reasons why people choose cremation: cost, use of space, even environmental reasons. In the past, pastors spoke against cremation. Why? Is it a biblically acceptable choice?

The first thing to consider is the Bible’s teaching about the resurrection of our bodies. At Judgment Day all people, both saved and not, are to be raised in a physically imperishable form. (For one of many articles on this topic see the following) https://wordpress.com/post/afterdeathsite.com/825 This will be good news for those who have a part in God’s New Heaven and New Earth. It will not be so great for those who will be forsaken by God. (Use the search bar for more on all of these topics)

In the past, it was common for people to be cremated either in an attempt to stop their own resurrection or to make a statement that they didn’t believe in a resurrection. In such a context, cremation was unacceptable. That is typically not the motive today.

Another objection sometimes raised against cremation is that the Jews buried their dead and pagans burned their dead. In the case of paganism and Eastern religions, cremation did have a theological significance. These religions saw the body as something evil. Our goal was to be free of the body. Burning the body liberated the soul. Conversely, burying the body had a theological foundation that acknowledged that our body, even after death, was a part of us. We are not a soul renting a body. We are body and soul.

That said, there is no laws against cremation in the Bible. Having examples like that stated above do not create unwritten rules. God has no problem resurrecting a person regardless of how their body was disposed. It is not a given that He will use the very same molecules. You will get a body that is uniquely you that is appropriate for the New Earth or Gehenna.

Cremation sometimes can have a positive or negative psychological effect on a person before they die. Some are distressed by the thought of their bodies burning. Others are distressed at their bodies decaying or being eaten. Both are unnecessary concerns, because you will be unconnected and unaware at the time.

Scattering of ashes in a favorite place is a common practice. This too finds its origin in the idea being freed from the body. It is not the greatest witness but few think of the theological origins of such a practice.

There is nothing wrong with saving money. Nor is there anything wrong with being mindful of space or ecology. I would conclude that there is nothing wrong with cremation if that is your preference and not distressing for your relatives.

God is able to take you to the next step no matter what you do. He can even resurrect ashes flung to the wind.

Does Purgatory Exist?

The idea of Purgatory is something that most people associate with the Roman Catholic Church. It might surprise you that there are people outside of Catholicism that support the idea. The concept of Purgatory comes in two flavors: a purgatory where you work off your sins and a purgatory where you are purified to reach your final perfected state. From where do these ideas come? Let’s start with the first one.

The idea that you have to do something additional to what Jesus did for you on the cross is a particularly dangerous idea. It changes the way we are saved from being grace (a gift) to being something you at least partially do yourself. In the book of Galatians, the people of the Galatian church became convinced that they had to obey the law of circumcision in addition to their connection to Jesus’ death. This seemingly small error modifies grace and elevates human action to what Jesus did for us. Paul reacts strongly:

 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Galatians 5:2-4

There is no such thing as hybrid grace. Believing that you add to Jesus in any way nullifies the promise of forgiveness through Christ. This would be likely true for anything–including Purgatory.

Such a doctrine is easily believed because people doubt the Gospel. It seems too good to be true. It also puts all sinners on the same level, which surprises and offends some people. Belief in a purgatory that earns you salvation is clearly the product of someone who is not connected to Christ and could be the cause of someone falling away from grace.

How about the other type? The doctrine of purgatory does not get formulated within the Catholic Church until the 11th century. That seems like a long time ago, but it was already a millennium into the history of the Church. The idea of being purged of sin by some process or place existed long before this in Greek religion. An attraction to Greek thinking and a misunderstanding of a couple passages in Scripture could easily produce this thinking.

One passage that could be misconstrued is what I call the “Three Little Pigs” passage after the children’s story:

 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (ESV)

The purifying Purgatory is seen as a place where fire purifies you of your evil over time. This passage has fire but it is evaluating your deeds in life for the purpose of reward. This happens rapidly at Judgment Day. Verses 10 and 15 show that a person is still saved by grace. This is not a reference to a purgatory.

Another passage that could be misconstrued is Mark 9:47-49:

And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be salted with fire.

Mark 9:47-49 (ESV)

The word translated properly as “Hell” (though it should be capitalized as a proper noun) is the word “Gehenna” which Jesus uses to describe the final post-Judgment Day place of punishment. It is a place of fire. Verse 49 is referring to the passage and process we just read about in 1 Corinthians 3. Again, it is a Judgment Day experience and not a purgatory. This is also what John the Baptist is referring to in Matthew 3:11, “(Jesus) will baptize you with fire.”

The final place of confusion is the nature of Sheol (Hebrew)/Hades (Greek). In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, we get a peek inside Sheol:

2The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 

Luke 16:22-24 (ESV)

Hades/Sheol is also a place of fire. No one is being purified or saved by it. In fact, the rich man is being punished. It is a place of waiting. Lazarus (not to be confused with the Lazarus Jesus raised from the dead) and all of the Old Testament period righteous are waiting for Jesus to accomplish the atonement for their sins. The rich man and all who are damned are awaiting Judgment Day.

The Bible may hold out some vague hope that the Gospel can reach and save those who are damned and in Sheol.

For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

1 Peter 4:6 (ESV)

This passage stands alone in Scripture. It is in the context of Jesus’ “descent into hell” (For more on this topic, Sheol, or other after death topics; use the search box in the right column to find other articles.) Do the fires of Sheol somehow purge a person so that they can receive the Gospel posthumously? There is not enough information to conclusively know this. The one passage often cited against this, Hebrews 9:27, really is misapplied in this case. These passages do not support Purgatory as a place.

While there is plenty of fire fulfilling various purposes in Bible, there is no Purgatory.

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