Why did Abraham the nomadic “father of faith” pay so much for a tomb for his wife Sarah? What’s the connection between Abraham’s and King David’s picking a certain son as the successor over other, older sons? Are does the symbol of a well in the account of Yitzkhak marrying Rivkah and in Yeshua’s encounter with the Samaritan woman teach us about the Mashiakh’s work of bringing new life out of death? These are questions tackled in this discussion of the Torah portion חיי שרה Chayei Sarah (“life of Sarah”), covering Genesis 23-25.
In preparation for Passover, we consider the theme of Psalms 22, 23, 40 and 88 is not death but the willingness to die despite one’s fear of death. Our greatest enemy is death, not the Devil. We know that Yeshua feared God because He knew God’s awesome power. He wasn’t afraid of the Devil. He triumphed over the Devil at the temptation. He cast demons from many people. He had no fear of the Devil, yet He was afraid of death. Yeshua prayed to the point of bleeding drops of blood as He prayed to ask God if He could avoid death.
Guest speaker’s note: I am indebted to John Schoenheit for his study on this topic, available at www.truthortradition.com. This study comes from a chapter in his book called “Is there death after life?” This chapter was a blessing, and I want to share it with you.
A vital principle of Bible interpretation that must be upheld in handling any subject in God’s Word is that any verses that are harder to understand must be analyzed in light of clear verses on the subject. Clear verses are not just those that agree with one’s theological position. They are those that seem to be straightforward and literal statements of fact. The basic facts of salvation are crystal clear. Those positions we often argue over are “majoring in the minors.”
Figurative expressions that seem to be contradictory can best be handled after the literal, factual position is determined. The Bible should be accepted literally whenever possible. When verses seem to contradict previously establish facts, one is justified in exploring other possible meanings that are consistent with the whole Bible.
Most people don’t believe the same things they believed 10 years ago. As believers in Yeshua, we are called to continually grow in knowledge with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The solid, straightforward, Biblical foundation is that death is the total absence of life, that there is no part of a person that “goes to heaven” when he dies and that the dead are actually dead and sleeping in Sheol until Christ’s appearing. We now turn our attention to some sections of Scripture commonly misconstrued to indicate otherwise. Let’s remember that they must harmonize with those parts of God’s Word.
The first text we will evaluate is the story commonly knowns as the “Witch” of Endor in 1st Samuel 28. We are told that the woman of Endor conjured up “Samuel” from the dead for King Saul. Note Saul’s original request: “Seek me a woman that has a familiar spirit.” (1 Sam. 28:7)
The context shows us that she did in fact perform this spiritual phenomenon through “familiar spirits.” These are evil spirits that manipulated her and impersonated Samuel, with whom they were “familiar.” How do we know the spirit of “Samuel” was not real? The key is in 1 Sam. 28:12-13.
In verse 13, the Hebrew word for “gods” is Elohim, a word used in various ways in the TaNaKh (Torah, Prophets and Writings, i.e. the “Old Testament”). Here it refers to an evil spirit the woman saw, one that was impersonating Samuel. We see in this story that the spirit of “Samuel” never directly addresses Saul but only the woman. 1 Sam. 28:6 tells us that God refused to speak further to Saul so the only one who could have been speaking to Saul was the evil one.
1 Chr. 10:13 proves decisively that this spirit had nothing to do with Samuel when the writer says, “So Saul did from his transgression which he committed against the Lord, even against the word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit to inquire of it.”
1 Kings 2:9-18 tells us that Elijah “went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” This phrase in no way indicates that Elijah was taken to a place of everlasting life called heaven. The world heaven has several usages in Scripture. Phrases such as “the dew of heaven,” “the stars of heaven,” and “the birds of heaven” simply means the sky above the earth. Elijah was simply moved from one place to another, similar to what He did later with Philip in Acts as recorded in Acts 8:39-40.
Elijah was a human being and eventually died and is awaiting the resurrection of the just.
Another text to look at is Matt. 17:1-9, which is the story of the Mount of Transfiguration. It shows Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah. God was preparing jesus for the challenge of his upcoming suffering. This scene was not a literal reality but what Jesus plainly said was a vision. Yeshua tells the disciples who witnessed this scene, “…Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.”
Spiritually speaking, a vision is a spiritual phenomenon in which God causes something to appear to a person either in the mind’s eye or to his physical eyes (2 Kings 6:17; Acts 10:9-20; 2 Cor. 12:1-4).
Moses and Elijah were not making a special guest appearance from heaven where they had been hanging around since leaving earth. Yeshua said that “no man has ascended to heaven” (John 3:13).
In Matt. 22:32, Jesus said that “God is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Some teach that this verse means that there are really no dead as far as God is concerned. The text more accurately reads, “God is not the God of dead people, but of living people.” As Yeshua teaches us, dead people become living people only when Jesus Christ comes to resurrect them.
Psa. 115:17 tells us that the dead do not praise God.
Eccl. 9:5 tells us, “For the living know that they will die but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward; but the memory of them is lost.” There are many other verses that are just as plain-spoken as these texts.
Rom. 14:8-9 says, “For whether we live, we live until the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore or die we are the Lords. For to this end Christ both died and rose and revived that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.”
You can’t base theology on parables and figurative speech but many of our Christian brethren do that all the time. One of the “strongest” arguments many Christians who support the immortality of the soul make is the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.
The punch line of the parable itself shows that the point of the parable has nothing to do with whether one goes to heaven or hell upon death. The point of the parable is that people are already convinced in their own minds about Him. As Yeshua said, if they don’t believe Moses, they won’t believe even if someone is raised from the dead.” That comment was prophetic because when Yeshua raised Lazarus from the dead, his opponents did not give up their opposition and believed in Him. Instead, they were more resolved to kill Him and wipe Him out.
Luke 23:42-43 is often used to each that the penitent theft who was on the cross with Yeshua immediately went to heaven after death, even though the verse reads “paradise.” The theift asked Yeshua to remember when He comes into His Kingdom. Yeshua replies and says, “I tell you the truth today, you will be with me in paradise.” The phrase, “I tell you the truth today….” is a common idiom of the day. Most christian bibles translate this verse incorrectly by inserting the comma in the wrong place to make the verse contradict the clear word of scripture.
The truth of history is that neither Yeshua nor the penitent thief went to paradise that day. Yeshua spent the next three days in the grave. The penitent thief had more understanding of scripture than many Christians exercise when he asks Yeshua to “remember me hen you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) To this day, Yeshua has not come into His Kingdom yet. Those of us who believe in the second coming of Yeshua are still waiting eagerly for Yeshua to come back to earth and establish His Kingdom.
2 Cor. 5:1-9 is often used to teach that to be “absent from the body” in death is to be immediately “in the presence of the Lord” in Heaven. The verse does not say that if Paul were to die that he would immediately go to be with the Lord and it can only be correctly understood in the context of more clear scriptures.
The earthly tent is our physical body. God’s word likens it to a tabernacle. In Old Testament times the tabernacle was not a permanent structure. Neither is the Christian permanently in his earthly body. At death, the earthly tabernacle is given back to the dust. The new body which Christ will give each Christian will be given to us when we are resurrected from the dead, not before.
Paul tells us that the Christian life is difficult and we do not want to be unclothed, which is to die. Death is an enemy and it would not usher him immediately into God’s presence. What did Paul want? He wanted to be clothed, while still living, with his promised new “house” from heaven so he would have immortality without experiencing death at all.
Paul concludes that because of his certainty of life in the age to come and its rewards, he wants to give his utmost for the Lord. Did the repentant thief make it to heaven and was waiting for Yeshua to show up? Because if you believe that the thief immediately went to heaven when he died that is what you would have to believe because the scriptures are clear that Yeshua did not go to heaven to present Himself to the Father until after He was resurrected.
There is little or nothing in these Scriptures that are used frequently to attempt to justify the erroneous theology that the righteous dead go up to heaven to “be with the Lord.” Instead, the word reveals God’s grad theology of the resurrection of the dead to a new life here on earth. Stage one will be at the return of Messiah, and stage two at the end of the glorious Millennium.
Speaker: John Walsh. Summary: Tammy.
The LORD God warns Adam about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and decides that Adam needs a “helper.”