Sunday, January 18, 2009

Life After Death: Part B

Part B:

With all of the aforementioned things in mind, let’s move to Jesus on the cross.

He is hanging, crucified, with a convicted thief on each side of him, who are also crucified. He tells the dude on one side of him that “today,” he “will be with” him “in paradise.” Notice that Jesus doesn’t say: “Today, you’ll be with me at my Father’s side.” Or “Today, we’ll be together in heaven.” He specifically says: “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” He is basically promising to the robber: “today, with me.” Not that he would be entering into heaven, but that he would be in Jesus’ presence. So I don’t think Jesus was promising the thief anything different than what the rest of humans had experienced after death up until that point. (King David, in Psalm 139, basically talks about the fact that we can’t remove ourselves from the presence of God: “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.” God is everywhere—in life and death.) I feel like Jesus was simply comforting the thief, letting him know that nothing could separate him from the love and presence of God.

So Jesus dies and crazy stuff starts happening. Matthew 27:52-53 says that tombs broke open, holy people were raised to life and started walking around. ZOMBIES? IN THE BIBLE? ZOMBIES? REALLY? Where did these people come from? I would suggest that certainly weren’t in their final place of existence. It would suck be in some form of heaven and yanked out of it to starting walking around on earth again. (How could you die, be judged, sent to heaven, pulled out of it and returned to earth to live a while? You’re gonna die again. Are you re-judged at that point? Anyway…) I would also suggest that since they weren’t in their final place of existence, they were in some temporary state and were pulled from it to return to the land of living. Does this mean our location in death isn’t necessarily final? Is this a first and only event?

CS Lewis, in his book “The Great Divorce,” talks about a resident of hell that gets to take a bus tour to heaven. Lewis stated the story was allegorical, but he was obviously making some suggestions about rethinking what comes after our lives on earth.

So, once again, Jesus dies. He was in the grave for 3(ish) days. Then he rose from the grave. What happened in those 3(ish) days? Nothing? Something?

1 Peter 3:18-20 says that after his bodily death, he “went and preached to the spirits in prison.” The “he” is Jesus. The “spirits” and “prison” part aren’t so clear. Are the spirits the fallen angels alluded to in Genesis 6:1-4, Jude 1:6 and 2 Peter 2:4? Maybe. Are they humans waiting in torment with the rich man from Luke 16? Are they just humans who are waiting in Sheol? Maybe. All we know is that there were spirits in prison, and Jesus went to preach to them. Then what happened?

In Ephesians 4:8-10, Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 and gives his own little commentary on the verses. He basically asks: how did the he in the verse go up unless he also first went down? So it would seem that Paul is suggesting that Jesus went to the “prison,” preached to them there and set some of them free. Does this follow along with the idea that in Sheol we are not necessarily stuck in one of its divisions? If Judgment has not occurred, the final resurrection has not taken place, the New Heaven and New Earth have not been created, and souls are still in some intermediate state—then anyone that was “set free” would have remained in Sheol, just in a different part. NT Wright points out that Paul is very clear that Jesus has been raised from the dead but no one else has yet.

So Jesus came, lived and paid the sin debt. He’s resurrected and conquered the grave. He’s walked 40 days more on earth to give his followers hope and tell them to spread the good news. Now what?

Part 3: coming soon!

Tell me what you think so far. I'd appreciate the comments.


Justin Guest said...

It's certainly thought provoking, nothing really to agree or argue with since nothing too concrete is being said. This is a subject I've often thought about but never dug into it too much.

What is interesting to me in Eph 4:8-10 is that when Jesus goes "down" it is referred to as being "into the earth." I visualize it as dead/tormented down in earth, Christians "ascended" in the presence of Jesus. (though not neccesarily heaven yet)

Thanks for taking the time to research it. Looking forward to part 3.

JD said...

Part 3 will definitely be interesting--if I haven't peaked your interest thus far, I will.

I'm thinking I'll do it in two posts, as its a lot of info and I'll probably have people calling me a couple of new labels when I'm done.

Thanks for reading along...

BfH said...

I heard that people go to Florida after they die...

johnperry said...

I can't wait for the new labels.