Everlasting Life

Most religions teach that there is some part of man which lives on after death. The Bible is clear that this is not so, His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish (Psa.146:4) For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? (Ecc.3:19-21).

Many Christians will argue that this does not apply to them, citing in support such passages as John 11:26, where Christ says to Martha, ...whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? The context however pertains to the resurrection and should not be applied to conditions before Christ's return. Most translations miss out the Greek words 'into the age' which are associated with 'never' (as they also do when it is associated with 'everlasting') - 'the age' being that of the resurrection and bestowal of everlasting life on the redeemed 'in the last day'. Quoting the context from a literal version should make this a little clearer. Lazarus had been dead four days, Then Martha said to Jesus, Lord, if You were here, my brother would not be dead. But even now I know that whatever You may ask God, God will give You. Jesus said to her, Your brother will rise again. Martha said to Him, I know that he will rise again in the resurrection in the last day. Jesus said to her, I am the Resurrection and the Life. The one believing into Me, though he die, he shall live. And everyone living and believing into Me shall not die to the age, never! Do you believe this? She said to Him, Yes, Lord, I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God who comes into the world (Jn. 11:21-27, Literal Translation of The Holy Bible, copyright ©1976-2000 by J. P. Green Snr.) This passage shows that Martha was demonstrating her faith that Jesus was the Messiah who would fulfil all her previously held beliefs. In this exchange The Lord neither contradicted her beliefs nor taught her anything she did not already believe. (He did however, as a witness to His Messiahship and the glory to come, go on to demonstrate the literal promise of the resurrection of the body by raising Lazarus from the dead there and then.)

The belief in a resurrection at the end of days was upheld by the faithful throughout the Old Testament, as the following passages show: -

For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me (Job 19:25-27).

Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead” (Isa 26:19).

And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end... But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days” (Dan 12:9...13).

Hebrews chapter 11 lists many of the faithful Old Testament personages who died in faith and concludes with, And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect (Heb 11:39-40). We are also expressly told in Acts 2 that David is not ascended into the heavens (v34), but that he is dead (v29). In the passage concerning the death of Martha's brother Lazarus, Christ refers to the dead Lazarus as sleeping (Jn. 11:11,13). Thus both Old and New Testament passages establish the figure of 'rest' or 'sleep' for those who have died in the hope of the resurrection.

Paul also uses this figure of sleep in teaching of the resurrection, But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. 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 that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1Th 4:13-17, RV). There can be no conscious passage of time for the dead: the resurrection will be the next thing those 'asleep in Jesus' become aware of. (Paul regarded this a better state to be in than his continuing probationary struggle (Phil 1:23)).

1 Thessalonians 4:17, quoted above, has also been misinterpreted to prove that the faithful are snatched away to be with The Lord Jesus in heaven. There is no definite article attached to the word 'clouds' in the original Greek and 'clouds' in this context has a definite meaning when connected with the faithful - the clouds are the faithful (see for example Heb 12:1). Also, the Greek word translated 'air' means 'atmosphere' which rules out the possibility of the gathering being beyond the atmosphere!

Also, the Bible teaches that Christ's throne will be in Jerusalem, ...He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1:33). This kingdom shall spread worldwide and be administered by the redeemed, Thou [Jesus]art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth (Rev 5:9-10). (See also Psa 2, Isa 2, Dan 2, Acts 2, Rev 22 etc.)

This was the gospel preached by Paul (e.g. 1Cor 15) and The Gospel Preached to Abraham (Gal 3). It was also preached by the early Christian church: Justin Martyr wrote in 'The dialogue with Trypho' (Translations of Christian Literature A. Lokyn Williams S.P.C.K.) For even if you yourselves have ever met with some so-called Christians, who yet do not acknowledge this, but even dare to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, who say too that there is no resurrection of the dead, but that their souls ascend to heaven at the very moment of their death - do not suppose that they are Christians ... (LXXX 4 p.170) But I, and all other entirely orthodox Christians, know that there will be a resurrection of the flesh, and also a thousand years in a Jerusalem built up and adorned and enlarged, as the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah, and all the rest, acknowledge (LXXX - 5 p.171)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live... Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:25...28-29).

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