What happens between death and the resurection?

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Dec 17, 2017
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The bible makes it clear that only one has been to heaven, the OT implies that the righteous are gathered into Abraham's Bosom in Paradise and there is a wide gulf that separates them from the unrighteous, the NT echos this and says that the righteous in Paradise await the Resurrection in Heaven and the unrighteous await the Lake of Fire.
Jesus said that the thief and himself are going to Paradise although it's clear that he did go to Sheol or the realm of the dead for 3 days... so how could he be in "hell" and be in paradise at the same time?
I believe that "sleep" means bodily inaction (waiting for resurrection) but that the spirit or soul consciousness is very much alive albeit not having any earthly knowledge of linier timelines but totally in place actively with loved ones in Paradise in the lords presence waiting for the resurrection or activity in despair in tartarus awaiting the second death the lake of fire..
I see no evidence of soul sleep no evidence that we pass judgment and go straight to heaven or hell upon death.. Unless of course the dead are judged outside of time and space at that moment and the rest of the world just waits for that day of rapture.
It still conflicts that the dead will be raised first and then those alive to be gathered.
Do you believe in a waiting room for the righteous where we rejoice and commune with loved ones? And the unrighteous wait in despair and gnashing of teeth for the second death?
I believe this to be scriptural but I find it odd that it is never taught this way.
What are your views Pastor?
Jan 18, 2018
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The Lord be with you

The question of what is the status of people after physical death and prior to the Second Coming of Jesus is a tricky one. That is because the Scriptures focus us on the time after the Second Coming. Whatever our status prior to that is preliminary and God wants us to focus on the fulfillment. Still, I will give it my best shot.

Because you have not provided any biblical references, I cannot be sure I’m responding with the exact verses you have in mind. The comment about only one having been to heaven, I’m guessing, has passages like Luke 10:22 behind it. “All things have been handed over to me [Jesus] by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Perhaps you have the ascension in mind (Luke 24:50-53; Revelation 4-5f). If so, then you are thinking of Christ as the “one.” To balance that, we should remember the souls under the altar in Revelation 6:9, and someone like Enoch (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5). We might also put the experience Paul reports in 2 Corinthians 12:3.

The Old Testament fully supports the reality of eternal life. Just think of passages like Psalm 23:6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” David clearly believes he will be with the Lord “forever,” that is, for all eternity. These “forever” passages could be piled up. There are so many that I can’t even guess what passage you have in mind to reference to belief in eternal life being taught in the OT.

The “Lake of Fire” is referred to only in the book of Revelation (19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; 21:8). In Revelation it is equated with “the second death.” Jesus refers to “Gehenna,” which many equate with the Lake of Fire. In the NT the RSV uniformly renders the word as Hell (Matthew 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6). It was an actual place. In the OT the Jews offered their children as sacrifices to Molech there (2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31; 19:2-6). By the time of Jesus it was a garbage dump where the bodies of criminals, dead animals, and all forms of trash, were burned. The fire never went out. This is how it came to represent everlasting punishment and destruction.

Clearly you have Luke 23:43 in mind with Jesus promising the thief to meet him in paradise. This word also appears in 2 Corinthians 12:3 and Revelation 2:7. The word itself is a lone-word from Persian, and in that language referred to a lavish garden at a royal palace. You then say that Jesus went to “Sheol” for three days and you describe Sheol as “the realm of the dead.” It is helpful to remember that OT Hebrew has a remarkably limited vocabulary. One word often has many possible understandings. Sheol falls into this group of words. It may mean “the realm of the dead.” It also may mean simply “the grave,” meaning about the same things as we mean when we say a person is dead and buried. It also may mean “hell.” This has caused some translations to simply transliterate the word and allow the reader to make up his/her own mind.

Tartarus is referred to only once in the NT (2 Peter 2:4). The ESV translates it as “Hell.” It is where the fallen angels are cast. It is a lone-word from Greek mythology, but should not be equated to the Greek myths. In the Septuagint (a BC Greek translation of the OT) “Tartarus” is used only once in the Protestant OT and there it translates Sheol (Proverbs 30:16).

For those who support “soul sleep” passages like 1 Kings 1:21; 2:10; 11:21; etc. are used.

As far as judgment goes, there seems to be a preliminary judgment and then a public judgment. The preliminary judgment happens when a person dies (Hebrews 9:27). This is entrance into the presence of God or being barred from his presence and is based solely on grace through faith. The second judgment is public and happens at the Second Coming of Jesus. There all will know that those who trusted in Christ were the wise ones and those who ridiculed the believers were the fools (Matthew 7:21-23).

You seem to believe in the “rapture.” I find no support for this idea in the Bible and it did not appear in Christian thought until the 1800s. The passages typically used to support it are actually referring to the Second Coming of Jesus. There is no secret Second Coming followed by a public Second Coming (which would actually be a Third Coming).

So this is how it all lays out in my mind. The Bible (and therefore God) presents our hope as being focused on the Second Coming and beyond. At that time we will be raised physically and enter a new and perfect reality in the presence of God, whom we will see face to face. This reality is so grand that we cannot imagine it with our fallen and corrupt minds, so scripture paints pictures. Sometimes it is a garden. Sometime it is a city. Sometimes it is mountains. Sometimes it is a heavenly worship service. Sometimes it is a banquet. All are correct as far as they go, but they cannot go far enough because of our sin-induced limitations.

Hell is the same thing, only in reverse. At the Second Coming the damned will be raised physically and sent to hell. It is worse than anything we can imagine. The best description is being cut off completely from God. It is described as outer darkness, fire, eternally falling, being eternally alone, always being consumed by maggots, and so forth. All are correct, as far as they go, but the pictures cannot go far enough because of our sin-induced limitations.

After our physical death, and before our physical resurrection at the Second Coming, the faithful are in the presence of God and the unrepentant are barred from his presence. Being in the presence of God is a state of bliss and being barred is a state of torment. If one “sleeps” prior to the Second Coming, they are still in these states and are aware of it. However the weight of evidence seems to indicate people are not “sleeping.” (Remember, for example, the souls under the altar in Revelation are actually asking a question.)

With such limited information about this time and state, it is unwise to establish one view or another as doctrine. In my branch of Lutheranism we say it takes at least two or three clear passages to establish doctrine. We lack this foundation for the state of people/souls between physical death and physical resurrection. Therefore we leave it as an “open question.”

I hope this has provided some clarity, though as I re-read it I’m not sure. Maybe there is more heat here than light.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert
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