In previous posts, Can We Talk to the Dead? Parts 1 & 2, and Grave Errors about Death, we discovered that:
- The Bible forbids all attempts to communicate with dead people (see Deuteronomy 18:11)
- Demonic spirits are deceptively at work around the world (see Revelation 16:14) that can easily impersonate those who have died.
- Communication with dead people is impossible because those who have died are dead. They lie unconscious, asleep in their graves, awaiting the resurrection (see Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Psalm 6:5; 13:3; 115:17; 146:4; John 5:28, 29; 6:39, 40, 44, 54: 11:11-14; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
Twenty-six years ago I learned this Bible truth: Jesus Christ died for my sins, was buried in Joseph’s tomb, and rose from the grave (see 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4). To Christians, these facts should be non-negotiable. As I have continued studying my Bible, I have also come to believe that when human beings die, they are dead, asleep in their graves, waiting for “the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24). Death, burial and resurrection, this is what God’s Book says.
I realize that many other God-fearing Christians don’t quite view everything as I do. Most believe that when we die, only our bodies disintegrate to dust, whereas our souls instantly enter the presence of Jesus. Personally, I don’t believe this. If we disagree, can we do it respectfully? I hope so. In the next few posts of this series I will closely examine some well-known Bible texts normally used to support the “we go to Heaven immediately at death” doctrine. Much is at stake here. Please consider my arguments, and then come to your own conclusions.
Absent from the body, present with the Lord? (2 Cor. 5:8): This is probably the main Scripture used to support the common view. The exact text reads, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Paul is clearly talking about a transition from this sinful “body” to being “present with the Lord.” There is no question about this. But notice carefully that in this verse Paul doesn’t specifically say when this transition occurs. Most assume he meant at death. Did he? Could he have meant on Resurrection Day when Jesus Christ returns? Amazingly, we don’t have to guess, for the following verses make Paul’s meaning plain.
Four verses earlier Paul said this transition occurs when “mortality” is “swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4). When is that? If we back up a few chapters to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, the answer is obvious. Notice carefully:
Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:51-55)
Here Paul is writing about the climactic return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of God’s saints. Paul called death “sleep” (verse 51). He also said we are currently “mortal” (verse 53). Finally, he clarified that when “the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised… then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (verses 52-54). Add 2 + 2. In 2 Corinthians 5:4 and 5:8, Paul said the transition from this sinful “body” to being “present with the Lord” occurs when “mortality is swallowed up by life.” In 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, he clarified that this “mortal” will “put on immortality” and that death will be “swallowed up in victory” at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Beyond this, did Paul clarify anywhere else at what point believers will be “present with the Lord”? Yes indeed. Once again, notice carefully:
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
These verses parallel 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, which explain 2 Corinthians 5:4-8. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17, when will believers get to be “present with the Lord”? Answer: When Jesus Christ comes crashing into our polluted atmosphere with a shout, a voice, and the ear splitting trumpet of God! That trumpet will be so loud it will pierce the slumbering ears of those who have died trusting the Crucified and Resurrected One. They will burst out of their clammy graves. How awesome! Then those of us who are still living (I hope to be among this group) will be “caught up” into the greatest space ride humans have ever experienced. And then? Don’t miss it: “so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
This is the Word of God. Hallelujah!
To be continued…