What Happens After Death?

When one considers the Biblical teaching of Luke 16:19-31 and factors into this the words of Jesus to the thief on the cross (Luke 23:42,43), then he knows there is an intermediate, ethereal place of the dead. By “intermediate” is meant a place of existence between physical life and the resurrection. By “ethereal place” is meant a location other than this plane. By “dead” I mean discarnate or disembodied spirits. The Bible calls this place “Sheol” in the Old Testament and “Hades” in the New Testament. Although the details and circumstances of the NT Testament Hades are much more developed than the OT Sheol, it can be safely said that these are, in essence, one and the same. Although it is true that both of these terms are sometimes used to denote just the grave, they both generally had the broader meaning of the intermediate dwelling place of discarnate spirits.

The Hebrews did not use the term “spirit” to refer to the entities dwelling in Sheol. Instead, they used the term rephaim or “shades.” To conclude, as some do, that the Hebrews did not believe that man’s personality survived beyond the grave because they did not use the term “spirit” is to commit the “fallacy of non sequitur” (i.e., the conclusion does not follow). Instead, the Hebrews usually just used different terms to refer to disembodied spirits. For example, when the witch of Endor spoke of Samuel, who had clearly been dead for some time, she said, “I saw a spirit [elohim] ascending out of the earth” (1 Sam. 28:13). That Samuel was quite comfortable in Sheol or Hades is demonstrated by his question in verse 15, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Furthermore, the historical narrative is clear in pointing out (see v. 19) that Saul and his sons, who were going to die the following day, and therefore go to Sheol/Hades, would join Samuel where he was.

This demonstrates that the Hebrews recognized a continuity of existence between the living and the dead. In other words, even though Samuel is dead, he is still Samuel, not someone or something else. It also demonstrates that the Hebrews did not believe that death was just some sort of suspended animation. Although the occurrence mentioned above is especially unique, Samuel had already experienced death, but nevertheless was able to engage in a number of acts of conscious communication, and all this while his body, which included his brain (but not his mind), remained buried at Ramah (cf. 1 Sam. 28:3). (In further consideration of the Hebrews’ belief in life after death, consider Psalms 16:10, 49:15, and 139:8, and also the teaching found in Acts 23:8 concerning the resurrection.)

Therefore, Sheol/Hades is not, as some suppose, the Gehenna/Hell to which the wicked are condemned, and from which the Lord’s faithful are spared (cf. Matt. 10:28). It is unfortunate that the King James translators decided to render Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus as “Hell.” Sheol/Hades is the dwelling place of the disembodied spirits of the dead, whether good or evil. Those who died in covenant relationship with God are in a comfortable place called “Abraham’s bosom” (Lk. 16:22) and “Paradise” (Lk. 23:43). On the other hand, those who died outside covenant relationship with God exist in a place of “torments” (Lk. 16:23) called “Tartarus” (2 Pet. 2:4), if angels, who are spirits, go to the same place that discarnate spirits go. Within the confines of Sheol/Hades is a “great gulf” (megas chasma = “very large void”) that prevents those who occupy either compartment from going to the other side (Lk. 16:26).

What Happens After Death?
A Depiction Of What Happens After Death

When one passes from the state of being alive to the state of being dead, he has arrived in Hades, and although he has yet to experience the judgment, nevertheless, his fate is now sealed. Whether one will eventually spend an eternity in “Heaven” or “Hell” is now a foregone conclusion. In their disembodied state, these discarnate or incorporeal spirits are experiencing either comfort or torment. Someone is tempted to ask, “Are these not already in Heaven or Hell?” Absolutely not! “Well,” he continues, “What’s the difference?” The difference is that Hades is neither Heaven nor Hell. Instead, it is an intermediate place between this world and the next. Man, who is both body and soul, is not complete or whole in Hades. Remember, sin affects the whole man, both body and soul. Spiritual and physical death are both a result of sin. Without the washing away of one’s sins through the blood of Christ, one will spend an eternity, body and soul, in a devil’s Hell (cf. Matt. 10:28, 25:46; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; Rev 21:8). On the other hand, redemption also affects the whole man and those who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ will spend an eternity, both body and soul, in Heaven (cf. Matt. 25:46; Rom. 8:23).

This brings us, quite naturally, to the subject of the resurrection, which will occur at the second coming of Jesus Christ. We’ll be discussing this in the next post.

An Homage To Not Just Preaching The Word, But To All Those Hardheaded Preachers Who Faithfully Do It

In 2 Timothy 4:2-5, the apostle Paul charged Timothy to:

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (NKJV).

Paul did not say that God’s Word must be accommodated to every new concept that comes along. What he said was “Preach the word.” Consequently, There is something very suspicious about a group of Christians who turn their sail to every wind that blows. Such will be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, [who] in cunning craftiness…lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14). Enamored with “Positive Thinking” a la Napoleon Hill, W. Clement Stone, Og Mandino, Norman Vincent Peale et al., some have accommodated certain scriptures to the idea of positive thinking. Space does not permit me to list these, but we ought to carefully consider their proof-texts. In doing so, we’ll discover they are nothing more than pretexts for unscriptural teaching. The false concept that “anything the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve,” although it is well accepted in modern parlance, is in fact silliness gone to seed. An even more descriptive term for this doctrine may be found in Paul’s use of the word “rubbish” (NKJV) or “dung” (KJV) to describe the things he considered to be worthless in Philippians 3:8, and no matter how you translate it, skubala is a very strong word.

As Christians, we have been provided with “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). Consequently, the Christian is called upon to out-live, out-think, and out-die the pagans and secularists around about him. The Christian’s mind, a mind that is renewed, pure, prepared, spiritually sensitive, and self-controlled, is the complete antithesis of a worldly mind (cf. Rom. 12:1-2). What is the key to all this? Simply this: The Christian’s mind does not trust in its own powers, but in the power of God (cf. Pro. 3:5-6). As more and more Christians clamor for “Positive Christianity,” it becomes increasingly more difficult for preachers attempting to preach the whole counsel of God to maintain their integrity. It is much easier to go with the flow of opinions, values and fads of the masses. But thank God for hardheaded preachers who, like the prophets of old, will not bow or bend to the totems of this world. In Ezekial 3:8-9, the prophet, who has been sent by God to address a rebellious people, was told by God:

Behold I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house (NKJV).

Thank God for hardheaded preachers who do not have to test the winds of public sentiment be- fore they decide what they are going to preach. Thank God for hardheaded preachers who will “Preach the word!” Thank God for hardheaded preachers who will “be ready in season and out of season.” Thank God for hardheaded preachers who will “convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” Thank God for hardheaded preachers who, with God’s help, will save not only themselves, but those that hear them (cf. 1 Tim. 4:16).

Josiah Holland, who lived in the 19th century, prayed:

God give us men. A time like this demands strong minds, great hearts, true faith, and ready hands; men whom the lust of office cannot buy; men who will not lie; men who will stand before a demagogue and damn his treacherous flatteries without winking; tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog in public duty and private thinking.

Real men are, of course, hard to find today. But this has always been the case. It has been reported that in order to emphasize the difficulty of finding a man of integrity in ancient Athens, the Greek philosopher Diogenes lighted a lamp in the daylight and went about the streets of Athens in search of an honest man. But years before this alleged event, Jerusalem could have been saved if one man of integrity could have been found within its walls (cf. Jer. 5:1). Even the apostle Paul recognized the difficulty of finding a real man when he said, “For all seek their own, and not the things which are Jesus Christ’s (Php. 2:21).

It is my prayer that God will continue to bless us with hardheaded preachers who won’t shy away from using “great plainness of speech” in their preaching and teaching (2 Cor 3:12). However, it must be remembered that this is a two-way street, for if we ever becomes like those who delight in slaying all God’s plain speakers, even when we can only do it one preacher at a time, then we can be sure that God will eventually send his hardheaded preachers elsewhere. May God bless us all, collectively and individually, as we do His will His way.

“Church And State” And The Lordship Of Jesus Christ

The New Testament depicts church and state as separate entities (Matt. 22:17-21) — both of which are accountable to the One who has been given “all authority…in heaven and on earth” by the Father (Matt 28:18). Not only is Jesus the “head of the church” (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18), but as the book of Revelation points out, He is also the “ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev 1:5). Therefore, both church and state must respect God’s authority, upholding Righteousness and Justice in the process. Failure to do so results in the removal of the candlestick for the church (Rev. 2:5) and the rod of iron for the nation (Rev. 12:5). Although it is true that under the Old Testament the kingdom of Israel was a theocracy (or blend of church and state), under the New Testament there is to be a separation of these two entities.

The role of the church under Christ is presented as one of spiritual warfare (2 Cor. 10:3-5). On the other hand, Caesar (i.e., the state or civil government) is given a physical sword (viz., the penalty of death) to aid in its physical warfare against evildoers (Rom. 13:4). Unlike Israel of old, the church today is not in the business of taking human life. This is, however, the prerogative of the state (Rom. 13:1-7). But in doing so, the state is not free to arbitrarily and capriciously exercise itself, but must do so consistent with the principle of Righteousness and Justice taught in the Bible. The government is, therefore, duty bound to protect the law-abiding and punish the evildoers. If a government consistently fails to meet its obligation “under God,” which would be evidence it had become a Revelation 13 government, then there can be no real Justice. Under such a government, the law-abiding become the prey of not just evildoers, but the government itself. When this happens, such a government, along with its society, experiences the fiery wrath of the Lord’s righteous indignation (i.e., His judgment).

Christians are to be praying for the government so that it will meet its obligation to maintain order in the society (1 Tim. 2:1-2). In addition, they will dutifully pay their taxes to support the government, and they will always be found obeying the laws of the land as long as such do not breach God’s word. But, and this is most important, the government has no authority to tell the church what to do in spiritual matters. It cannot “under God” tell the church when, or when not, to pray; when to preach or not to preach; when to worship or not to worship. In these matters, the church takes its orders only from Christ, not government. In purely secular matters, the church is obligated to respect and obey the laws of the land. This, however, is the extent of the state’s authority and the church’s obligation to obey. If, and when, the state seeks to dictate to the church spiritually, the church is obligated to engage in holy disobedience (cf. Acts 5:29).
On the other hand, the church, as “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) is obligated to preach the truth whenever, wherever, and to whomever it applies. It must do so without respect of persons. This may involve telling Caesar he is wrong on some moral or spiritual issue. The Truth must always be preached without fear or favor (i.e., not “having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage” [Jude 16]). So although the state is separate from the church, both of these entities have roles to play “under God” — one spiritual, the other physical. As such, the state is no less accountable to the Lord’s principle of Righteousness and Justice than is the church. Truth is, the state is subject to Christ and will answer to His “rod of iron” if its policies are contrary to the Lord’s principles, and this is true whether the state likes it or not. In fact, the degree to which a government finds such things offensive is a good indicator of just how far down the path towards a Revelation 13 government it has traveled.

So, I said all that to say this: If Christians are not being salt and light, they are sinning, and these sins, if unrepented of, will not only damn their souls, but serve to place yet another nail in the nation’s coffin. Remember, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psa. 9:17).

Suffering And Trusting God

The skeptic may ask, “Is it not unreasonable to think that a good God would so order His universe so as to make his subjects happy?” And maybe the thought is not really unreasonable, even for a Christian. How can free-will worship possibly be worth the excessive amount of evil that exists in the world? We just do not really know. But, if the loving, kind, merciful, and all-wise God of the universe thinks there are more important ends to be gained from this fallen world than our unbroken enjoyment of life on this earth, then we will have to either trust Him or rebel. But if there is one event in all of history that is true and unmistakably clear in its message, it is the CROSS OF CHRIST: the true image, imprinted indelibly in our hearts, of the all-good, all-powerful Creator of the universe, in the form of a defeated man, dying contemptibly in the shadows of one dark afternoon some twenty centuries ago, because…He loved us. Thank You, God, for everything You’ve done for us. Help us to always glorify You in our pain and suffering. Again, from the bottom of our hearts, thank You!…Thank You!!…Thank You!!!

The Pharaoh Of Exodus

(The Bible does not mention the name of the pharaoh of the Exodus, but students of the Bible have always been curious about who he was. Some may be wary of trying to discover something the Bible hasn’t clearly revealed; but in studying this question, one can come away with his faith increased in the Bible as the unerring word of God. For even though the Bible doesn’t specifically name the pharaoh of the Exodus, it does supply enough data for us to be relatively sure who he was.)

 There are two schools of thought concerning the date of the Exodus — the early date (1446-45 B.C.) and late date (1290 B.C.). Proponents of the late date theory are clearly in the majority, but reject clear biblical statements with reference to the date of the Exodus. Therefore, their arguments in favor of a particular pharaoh (viz., Rameses II) will not be considered in this article.

 In I Kings 6:1 the Scriptures say: “And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord” (NKJV). One can readily see that the times for both the Exodus and the beginning of the Temple have been specifically stated in God’s Word. Scholars have identified the fourth year of Solomon’s reign as 966 B.C. (Gleason, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 1974, p. 223). Using this 966 date, we find that the Exodus took place in 1446-45 B.C. Now, if this information is correct, the Exodus occurred in the third year of the reign of the pharaoh Amenhotep II (aka Amenophis II).

 A picture of PharaohBut before we can view Amenhotep II as the likely candidate for the exodus-pharaoh, we’ll will need more evidence (see Amenhotep II statue at left). For example, when comparing Exodus 7:7 with Acts 7:23, we learn that Moses was in Midian approximately forty years. Assuming the pharaohs mentioned in Exodus 1:8, 22 and 2:23 are all the same person, he would have had to reign for over forty years. Amenhotep’s predecessor, Thutmose III, is the only pharaoh within the time specified in I Kings 6:1 who reigned long enough (54 years) to have been on the throne at the time of Moses’ flight and to die shortly before his return to Egypt. This would make Thutmose III the pharaoh of the Oppression and Amenhotep II the pharaoh of the Exodus.

 If Amenhotep II was the exodus-pharaoh, he obviously lived through the the tenth and final plague (cf. Ex. 12:30-31), which means he could /not/ have been “the king’s eldest son,” a title the Egyptians frequently used of pharaoh’s oldest son, who stood in line behind his father as the heir apparent to the throne. And in point of fact, Amenhotep II was not the oldest son of Thutmose III. This is evidenced by an inscription from the Karnak Festival Hall, which dates to the 24th year of the reign of Thutmose II, that identifies Amenemhet, not Amenhotep, as being “the king’s eldest son.” It reads, “. . . appointing the king’s eldest son [Amen]emhet as overseer of cattle” (Peter Der Manuelian, Studies in the Reign of Amenophis II, p. 19, emphasis mine). This points rather convincingly to Amenhotep II as being the pharaoh of the Exodus.

 As one would expect if Amenhotep II was indeed the exodus-pharaoh, history tells us that for several years after 1446-45 B.C. (which was the 9th year of his reign) he was unable to carry out any invasions or extensive military operations. Although this would seem strange behavior for one who would have surely hoped to equal his father’s record of no less than seventeen military campaigns in nineteen years, it is exactly what one would expect from a pharaoh who had lost almost all his cavalry, chariotry, and army at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:23, 27-30).

 But it is just here that a significant problem arises, for it is widely held that, according to the biblical account, the exodus-pharaoh died in the Red Sea, and if so, he could not have been Amenhotep II, who reigned for at least another sixteen years after 1445 B.C. (Donald B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times, 1992, pp. 408-409).

 The argument in favor of the exodus-pharaoh dying in the Red Sea typically goes as follows: After a citation of Exodus 14:28, which says, “Then the waters returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them. Not so much as one of them remained.” This is followed by citing Psalm 106:10-11, which says, “He saved them from the hand of him who hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. The waters covered their enemies; there was not one of them left.” With these passages cited, it is then argued: “Pharaoh was an enemy, right? Therefore, I don’t see any reason to speculate that he survived given the fact that he got his own chariot ready and took his own army with him: ‘So he made ready his chariot and took his people with him. Also, he took six hundred choice chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt with captains over every one of them’ (Ex. 14:6-7).”

 However, the speculation being done by such an argument, or so it seems to me, is by the one who insists these scriptures teach that the exodus-pharaoh died in the Red Sea with the rest of his army. One of the very first thing a fledgling exegete learns is this: “Say everything the text says; say no more, and say no less!” Truth is, there is nothing in Scripture that directly says that the exodus-pharaoh died at the Red Sea, and a survey of the pertinent scriptures, like Exodus 14; Psalms 106; 109; and 136, will bear this out. One may, of course, infer that he did, but such is not a necessary inference. What this means is that this issue is not as serious an impediment to Amenhotep II being identified as the exodus-pharaoh as one might have thought.

 Further evidence in favor of Amenhotep II as the exodus-pharaoh is derived from the Dream Stela of Thutmose IV, who was his son. It says Thutmose IV was not the legitimate successor to the throne (James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near-Eastern Texts, p. 449). This means he was not the firstborn son, who would have been the legitimate heir. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that the firstborn son of Amenhotep II had somehow died prior to taking the throne. This agrees perfectly with Exodus 12:29, which says the exodus-pharaoh’s first-born son died as a result of the tenth plague.

 If the Exodus did take place in 1446-45 B.C. as the Bible indicates, forty years of wilderness wandering would bring us to 1405 for the destruction of Jericho. Interestingly enough, John Garstang, who excavated the site of ancient Jericho (city “D” or “IV” in his survey), came to the conclusion that the destruction of the city took place around 1400 (The Story of Jericho, 1948, p. 122). He also concluded that the walls of the city toppled outward, which would compare favorably with Joshua 6:20. He also found evidence that the city had been burned (cf. Joshua 6:8). Garstang’s work, which was actually done in the 1930s, came into question by work done at the site by Kathleen Kenyon in the 1950s. When her work was finally published thirty years later it caused quite a stir in archaeological circles, with most readily accepting her findings, which boils down to her claim there was no strongly fortified Late Bronze Age city at Jericho for Joshua to conquer. This, of course, conflicts with the biblical account; indeed, it disproves it. But to make a long story short, Kenyon’s published findings permitted her methodology to be critically examined, which biblical archaeologist Bryant G. Wood has convincingly done in his 1990 article “Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho? A New Look at the Archaeological Evidence” in Biblical Archaeology Review. In it, Wood arrived at a date for Jericho that was consistent with Garstang’s original findings, which in turn match the biblical chronology. This article has been reproduced here.

 A depiction of AtenAdditionally, the liberal scholars have been fascinated by a supposed revolutionary religious doctrine which developed shortly after 1446-45 B.C. and threatened to sweep away the theological dogmas of centuries. According to these scholars, Amenhotep IV, the great grandson of Amenhotep II, the exodus-pharaoh, is to be credited with introducing the concept of monotheism with his cult of the Aten. The Aten, supposedly the one and only god, was symbolized as a life-giving solar disk (see the illustration to the right).

 In the process, Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaten, which loosely means, “He who is in service to the Aten.” But instead of being credited with being the founder of monotheism, as the liberal scholars advocate, it seems much more reasonable to believe the descendant of one who had been so mightily influenced by the one true God that Moses proclaimed would instead be trying, in his own pathetic, pagan way, to mimic Moses’ monotheism. Fact is, there is an ever growing body of evidence that traces the cult of the Aten all the way back to the reign of Thutmose IV, the son of Amenhotep II, who so strikingly fits the profile of the exodus-pharaoh. Indeed, it was Thutmose IV’s son, Amenhotep III, who named his royal barge the “Spirit of the Aten.”

 As a former criminal investigator, I find a study of this nature immensely satisfying. But in the end, the most important thing to remember is not who the exodus-pharaoh really WAS, but who the God of the Exodus truly IS – namely, YHWH Elohim, the I AM THAT I AM.

 For those interested in a further study of this fascinating subject, I highly recommend the scholarly work of Douglas Petrovich that may be viewed here and here.