What Happens After Death : State of the Dead Bible Study - William H Shea

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Below is  a transcript of a bible study on what happens after  death or State of the Dead conducted by International renowned Theologian and Archaeologist, William H Shea.

Our topic this afternoon is about the state of the dead. Maybe we should add to that title and call it the state of the dead after they were dead. There's an awful lot of material in the Bible on this subject. Let me get to the place where we're coming from. We have so far been studying the basics of our faith. Because of our church's name we started by studying about the Sabbath and then we studied the doctrine of the Advent of Christ. Now we are studying about the State of the Dead.

Well. I can think of hardly anything more basic than asking where am I going to go when I die. And so it's an appropriate topic to deal with the very very basic question. 

A year ago I gave a Bible study to a family in Southwestern Manassas. They were very intelligent people and very self-sufficient. They raised all kinds of stuff there themselves. The gentleman was a beekeeper besides a big important government job.

There was however one problem that the wife could not get over and that was the state of the dead. She had to believe that her father who had died recently was up in heaven and that was the hurdle that she couldn't get over. So you know different people have different stumbling blocks. 

I traveled with the Ministerial Secretary down in Georgia and he said well we can get them over the Sabbath that's no problem but when we tell them hell ain't going to burn forever, that they don't like. 
Dr William H Shea, Theologian
But in order to know about what happens to a person when they die. We need to go back to look at what happened when a person was created and that is found in Genesis chapter 2:7. Genesis 2:7 is the story of the creation of Adam and as you know he was made out of two elements. "Then the Lord God formed man of the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And he became a living being". 

This translation uses the word 'being' but the word is soul. He became a living soul. So you don't have a living soul inside you, you are a living soul. This is what happened at the time of creation. 

Now let's go to the correspondence of what happens when you die. Let's look at a Ecclesiastes chapter 12:6 "Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed;". 

Everything in this verse is broken. All four items mentioned above are broken because that's when you die.  Verse seven, "then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it". So the Spirit is simply the breath of life. The Ruach Elohim the breath of God which brings life. 

Now there are many many texts which discuss the state of a person in death. And you remember the story back in Genesis where Eve is tempted by the serpent at the tree of life. And let's look back at that story and see the promulgation of the first lie. And it came from of all people, Satan. Wouldn't you expect it from Satan? 

You know the instructions about staying away from the tree were given to Adam but it's obvious that Eve had received that instruction too either directly from God or from her husband. And so we have the conversation between Eve and the serpent. 

Well here's the instruction from God when he places man in the garden. Gen 2:16 & 17 "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."  

Doesn't mean you're going to die that moment. This is a Hebrew construction which puts an infinitive in front of the finite verb. And it simply emphasizes the verbal action you'll really die. So he knows you're really going to die. That's what God said to him. 

And so then we have the story of the fall in the next chapter. This from verse two in chapter three. The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die."You will not certainly die," the serpent said to the woman

So we have two opposing views. One who says you eat this and you're going to die. The other says you eat of it you're not going to die. So who is right? Adam and Eve both prove God was right. Because they died. Adam lived 930 years and he died. 

So here's the sentence which was passed upon him as found in verse nineteen. "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.". 

And then comes the interesting part about obstructing the way to the tree of life. Because if they had been able to eat of the tree of life they would have become immortal sinners. And so God sent him out from the Garden of Eden. He drove the man out. 

And he stationed the Cherubim to guard the way to the tree of life. And the reason for this is given back into verse twenty two, "Behold a man has become like one of us knowing good and evil. And now lest he stretch out his hand and take from the tree of life and live forever". 

So that means immortal immortality was never in the province of man after the fall and after he and she were expelled from the garden. 

Now let's go to a very famous text that you probably know well. First Timothy chapter six in verse sixteen talking about Gods says "who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen". And then if you go back to chapter one of that same letter to Timothy the reference is verse seventeen, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen". 

So who has immortality at this present moment? God alone has immortality. Now breath, spirit, wind are all the same word in Hebrew and the parallel word in Greek. And the word for soul is nephesh in Hebrew and psuche in Greek.  

All of those references for soul taken together occur one thousand six hundred times in the Bible. And not once, I mean we're talking zero, zero out of sixteen hundred is the adjective or adverb immortal as you wish to call it connected with any of those words. 

There is no immortal soul anywhere else in the Bible other than the person of God that we have just read about. Until as we will read later in first Corinthians fifteen when we put on immortality. At the present time we are not immortal. We are mortal. That means we die. 

Now what is our state in death. Well I'm not going to read all these text to you but there's a there's a lot of them. So here's James 4:14 a New Testament text, "Our life is like a vapor, just floats away". Psalm 78:39, "we are but flesh which is like a wind that passes but does not return". 

Let's look at Job fourteen. We are looking now believe it or not at the earliest book of the Bible. There are three important verses here. You want to be careful with the Book of Job. I've heard sermons preached from the arguments by Job's friends taking them as truth so you need to be careful. This is by job himself and Eliphaz his friend occurs in chapter fifteen. 

Let's read the first two verses of Job 14 "man who is born of woman is short lived and full of turmoil. Like a flower he comes forth and withers, He also flees like a shadow and does not remain". So here's the state of nothingness to which we go when we die. And verse ten down to twelve. "But a man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more.11 As the water of a lake dries up or a riverbed becomes parched and dry, 12 so he lies down and does not rise; till the heavens are no more, people will not awake nor be roused from their sleep". 

But Job actually does give us an answer here. If you read vs fourteen and fifteen we have an echo of the resurrection. "If a man dies will he live again?" That's a rhetorical question. And a rhetorical question is one in which the answer is implied. And The implied answer is yes. Man will live again. 

"All the days of my struggle I will wait until my change come. Thou will call and I will answer thee. Thou will long for the work of thy hands". God will long for the work of his hands which is men and women. 

And so you have an interesting collection of three passages right here in this one chapter. First chapter death is a sleep. You're basically nothing when you're dead. Second section, same thing. Third Section, ah but you're going to live again. 

Death As A Sleep: The Case of The Kings of Israel

Well there are a lot more of verses of this nature of death is a sleep. You can find that with every king of Israel and every king of Judah. And there is a stock phrase, a formula there, and so and so died and slept with this fathers and was buried in the city of Jerusalem or if he is in northern kingdom he's buried there. 

There were 35 kings to which the phrase above applied but let me just give you a few. 1 Kings chapter 2:10, "David slept with his fathers and was buried in Jerusalem". 

1 Kings 11:43 "Solomon died and he slept with his fathers and was buried in Jerusalem". 

Then in 1 Kings chapter 14:20 is about Jeroboam of the northern kingdom, "slept with his fathers" and was buried in Jerusalem. Then we have Abijam, chapter fifteen verse eight. Then you can go to Jehoshaphat, he's in second Chronicles chapter twenty one verse one, "Jehoshaphat slept with his father's and was buried in Jerusalem".

Then 2 Chronicles chapter 26, we have two right right next to each other. Uzziah, he is the leper king you may remember. Also had a name of Azariah. And he died and slept with this fathers in Jerusalem. And his son Jotham. It's in the next chapter. That's chapter twenty six.  Second Chronicles 26:23 for Uzziah and Second Chronicles twenty seven verse nine for Jotham. And he slept with this father's and was buried in Jerusalem.

David in Psalm thirteen three talks about lest I sleep the sleep of death.

Acts 7:60. Here we have Stephen. You may remember the long long story of Stephen's sermon. They didn't like it. They took him out and they stoned him. He had a vision of Christ at the right hand of the throne of  just before he dies. And then. Does it say that Stephen after he was killed went up to be with Christ right by that throne? No it says Stephen fell asleep.

Animals and men die the same way. Wait a minute. If we have a soul and it flips to heaven like the immortality theory says and the animals don't have a soul and the so they obviously would not flip to heaven how can we die the same. So that's in Jeremiah fifty one.

And let's look at Jeremiah 51 verse 57 first "I will make her princes and her wise men drunk, Her governors, her prefects and her mighty men, That they may sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake up," Declares the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts".

Now if you go back to verse thirty seven this is where Babylon will become a heap of ruins. And he talks about the animals here. And so there's the young lions. There's the jackals. And there's the lion cubs. And he uses the same words and I will make them drunk that they me become jubilant and may sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake up.

And in the same chapter in verse thirty nine, the animals sleep the perpetual sleep and in verse fifty seven the humans sleep the same perpetual sleep. So the text indicates we all die the same way. Living creatures all die the same way.

And second Peter chapter three verse four is where the cynics are talking against God. And they say all things continue as they were since our fathers fell asleep.

And then there's three different passages in the book of Ecclesiastes. We read one already in chapter three verses nineteen to twenty one, "their thoughts perish, the dead do not praise God. And in chapter nine versus five six and ten, "the dead know not anything".

Then there are passages in Psalms. Psalm 115 verse seventeen  "the dead do not praise God". and so forth.

Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead

So we have the interesting story in the gospel of John about Lazarus. And that's chapter eleven let's look at that. Jesus is off some other place with his disciples and Jesus says we should go to Lazarus because he sleeps. And they said well if he is sleeping that's a good thing.

John chapter eleven verse eleven,"This He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep." Well that sounds nice I'd like to sleep a little boy each morning. You are supposed to be able to do that when you're retired.

The disciples therefore said to Him, "Lord, If he's fallen asleep he'll recover." That's good, that's what people need when they're sick. More rest. Now following this is John's comment, "Now Jesus had spoken of his death. But they thought he was speaking of a literal sleep".

And then in John 11:14 Jesus has to lay it on the line and make it clear to them. Then Jesus said to them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And so you know the story.

Then when they arrive there, Jesus says to Martha, your brother shall rise again. Sounds good. Martha acknowledges that, she knows that, she says, I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. That's not what Jesus is talking about. And then Jesus responds, "I am the resurrection and the life".

And so then we come down to the Jews consoling her in verse thirty one. And then Mary comes in she says, "Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died", which would have been true. Verse thirty seven, "but some of them said could not this man who opened the eyes of him who was blind have kept this man also from dying".

And so they approach the grave and they say they don't want him to open the grave because he's been dead for four days and there's a stench. And Jesus says to her in John eleven verse forty, "did not I say to you if you believe you will see the glory of God". And then verse forty three, "Lazarus come forth" and in verse forty four he who had died came forth. A resurrection had taken place.

Now this is not a permanent resurrection. He did not go to heaven. At this time he had to go back through the grave. But Lazarus leads the great procession into Bethlehem on the Sunday before the crucifixion.

And so we have another interesting verse in Matthew chapter twenty seven. This is after Jesus' resurrection. Matthew 27:51 "And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split". Matthew 27:52 "The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised."

And so here's another resurrection performed by Jesus. These were not immortal souls that had to come down from heaven to take up a body. These were dead people in the grave who came out of the grave because the price of redemption had now been paid for them.

So we could go on and on about this but as you can see the Bible is quite clear about this. We have looked at the composition of human beings, dust of the earth and breath of life. We have also looked at what happens when a person dies. Dust returns to earth and the breath or spirit returns to God who gave it. The breath is simply the biological energy for life and when it leaves you you're dead.

So you have first, creation, second, death as uncreation and then the state of death. Unanimously Old Testament and New Testament texts say that on the day you die your thoughts perish. You don't know what happens to your sons or daughters or relatives. You're not conscious of it. You don't praise God. You don't participate in human activities again. You're not in heaven observing what's going on down here. Only two human beings as you know have ascended to heaven that is Enoch before the flood and Elijah after the flood in the 9th century.

Solution to Death: Resurrection

Now then, well this is a problem. We've got all these dead people sleeping in the grave. The whole human race other than these few tiny exceptions and Moses and those who were raised at the time of Jesus crucifixion. So how are we going to solve the problem? We solve the problem with the resurrection. And so the resurrection is mentioned in a number of places. Some of them are in the Old Testament.

Old Testament Texts on the Resurrection.

And let's look at a few of these old testament texts. We looked at one already job chapter fourteen verses thirteen to fifteen. Let's look at Job 19 verses twenty five to twenty seven. And as for me I know that my redeemer lives, And at the last day he will stand upon the earth. Even after my skin is fled yet without my flesh. I should say yet from, is the Hebrew proposition, my flesh I shall see God whom I myself shall behold. With whom my eyes will see and not another.

Job lived before two thousand B C. He's a patriarchal type person matches with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He lived back in that era and he died four thousand years ago. How is he going to see God?With his own eyes and behold him. It takes a resurrection. He's not going to see him when he flips off to heaven. He's going to see him at the resurrection.

I met an interesting lady when I was doing the little door to door missionary work in my hometown of Ontario California. This lady had an interesting interpretation. You know it says in my flesh I will see God and she was what we would call a pantheist. And a pantheist believe there's a God in everything, there's God in this desk, there's a God in that refrigerator, there's a God in me. And so she looked at me and said And I will see God in my flesh.

That's not what job is talking about, Job is not a pantheist. He is a theist and a theist who believes in the God of the resurrection. So there's the two texts from job.

Let's look at Psalm forty nine. There are some in Psalms where there are hints of the resurrection. It's not spelled out in elaborate detail in the Old Testament. Psalm 49:14-15 "And their form shall be for sheol to consume" Sheol, the grave, that's what consumes us. We go down into the grave, sheol. "But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol. He will receive me". How can he receive you without bringing you up out of sheol? That's what he does in the resurrection.

Psalm seventy three verse twenty four, "With thy counsel thou will guide me". That's what happens, goes on, during this life, God guides us. "And afterward receive me to glory". And he receives us to glory at the time of the Second Advent.

Now there's a couple of famous ones that you cannot miss and that's Isaiah twenty six. This is called The Apocalypse of Isaiah and included here is a resurrection. Reference to the resurrection. Isaiah twenty six verse nineteen, "Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits". Now the dead in the grave so to speak.

And of course Daniel twelve. You know the reference to the resurrection in Daniel chapter twelve, "At that time Michael will arise". This is the end time, the time of the end. And what happens in verse two "and many of those who sleep in the dust of the of the earth will awake. Some to everlasting life and others to disgrace and everlasting contempt".

Here's the division at the time of the resurrection. You can refer this also to a special resurrection. So these. These are some of the more famous Old Testament references to the resurrection. Isaiah chapter twenty six and Daniel chapter twelve where it is spelled out. We do have some references in Psalms as well.

Let's ask one more question before we look to the major resurrection texts in the New Testament. Why is this important? Why is it important to know about the state of the dead? And the answer is spiritism.

And I'll give you three references. Leviticus 19:31 and Leviticus 20:27 which is even worse where you're supposed to stone these people that have been familiar spirits. It's repeated in Deuteronomy 18:9-14.

And again, let's look at the one in Isaiah because this is sometimes used for other purposes which is legitimate but what is it really speaking directly about? Isaiah 8:20 but let's go back to verse nineteen the verse which precedes it. As Elder Bradford used to commonly say a text without a context is a pretext. So let's look at the context.

"And when they say to you consult the mediums and the wizards who peep and mutter, should not a people consult their God? Should we consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law in the testimony! If they don't not speak according to this word is because they have no light in them or no dawn".

So you see the reason we don't consult mediums and wizards is because they don't have the truth. Because, as you know, we have the charge against them in verse nineteen and we have us pointed to the truth in verse twenty. This is what this text is about.

You know we commonly read only verse twenty in evangelistic meetings. To the law and to the testimonies if they speak not according to this word they have no light in them or they have no dawn. And so we use that to urge people to study the Bible carefully.

The context is the contrast between wizards, mediums, diviners and the true living God who speaks through His prophets. And so this is one of those cases. So we have two passages in Leviticus, one in Deuteronomy and one in Isaiah.

I was working in an emergency room at Melrose Wakefield hospital in Massachusetts. And there was a very nice pleasant nurse who was a Catholic. And it occurred to me as rather strange because she is not only a Catholic but she was also one who went to mediums. Everett Massachusetts is known as being a town where all the mediums congregate so she would go to the mediums in Everett Massachusetts and get her future.

And she told me some stories of what these people would say. She and her husband were planning a vacation and they went to the medium to find out if this was good and so on and so forth and where they were going. They told her where they were going and she said no you're not going there. You're going to a place with a long tree shaded driveway and then a big house and she described the house. And she says you'll meet so and so there and so forth. They got all this from the medium.

And they did that vacation. They went to that house on that tree shaded drive and so forth. So she was very impressed that this medium has the truth. So I said well do you know what the Bible says about that. So I said go home and read Deuteronomy eighteen. I saw are a few weeks later in the emergency room and I said to her did you read Deuteronomy eighteen? She said yes I did but not till after I went to the medium. So I guess I didn't convince her or Deuteronomy eighteen did not convince her.

Some New Testament Passages on The Resurrection.

All right now we have some useful passages in the book of John about the resurrection, the last resurrection. We need to look at these passages in John chapter five and John chapter six. John chapter five verse twenty eight and twenty nine, Jesus talking now, "do not marvel at this for the hour is coming in which all who are in the Tombs shall hear his voice and shall come forth, those who did good deeds to the resurrection of life and those who committed evil deeds....." It just says good and evil the word "deeds" is supplied, "to a resurrection of judgment". Or you can translate that to a resurrection of sentence. Resurrection of executing a sentence.

So here we have the beginning of the inkling about the two resurrections. But you wouldn't know yet that they are separated. So let's go to chapter six, the bread of life sermon and this is Jesus preaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. And there are three texts, now let me read you the middle text. "Truly truly I say to you", this is Jesus preaching now, "he who believes has eternal life".

Well if we got eternal life we are immortal right? Our immortal soul will drift off. But wait, there are two parallel passages that say the same thing but add something further.

What I just read was verse forty seven. Now verse forty, "this is the will of my father that everyone who behold the son and believes in him may have eternal life and I myself will raise him up on the last day". So you have eternal life as a spiritual possession here and now but it is not realized in physical existence until the last day.

And he says that again in verse fifty four, "he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. And I will raise him up at the last day". So you see the mere fact that you have eternal life as a spiritual possession now does not mean that when you die you go to heaven. It means when you have eternal life as a spiritual possession now for making Jesus your Lord and Savior. You will receive it then in finality at the last day the when Christ comes.

So that's John chapter five and six. And we've looked even this morning at first Thessalonians. Read the resurrection passage when Jesus comes. We read first Corinthians 15:51-54 and that is that the great resurrection passage in the New Testament.to the end of the chapter if you please.

Now, we have four steps, Creation i.e putting dust and breath together to make a created being or soul. And then we have the undoing of it in death when the dust goes to the dust and the breath goes back to God who gave it. Then we have the unconscious state of man in death, men and women in death.

And now we have the answer to it (death). And incidentally that state is taught both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. And now we have the answer to it with the resurrection. And so we've looked at some other resurrection texts. We've already read in the morning service first Thessalonians four and first Corinthians fifteen.

Now if this be true there are certain few problems and I want to deal with the problems. First of all. What is there about unquenchable or eternal fire. Well let me give you seven texts, Jude chapter one verse seven is about Sodom and Gomorrah suffering eternal fire or unquenchable fire.

And so the obvious question is are Sodom and Gomorrah still burning today? No they are not. In fact archaeologists have been puzzling exactly where they are. There was recently  an article arguing the northern view of the of the cities of the plane. And the more traditional view has been the southern cities of the plane.

So they're not burning today because if they're burning today it would be a good marker for the archaeologists to find them with. Now this morning we read Jeremiah 17 and said that Jerusalem will burn with an quenching unquenchable fire. Is Jerusalem burning today? No Jerusalem is not burning today. Jerusalem is a built up modern city.

Now what happens to the wicked? They are destroyed. They are not left burning in the lake of fire forever and ever. For example, 2 Peter 3:7 the destruction of ungodly men. Two cases in Thessalonians where eternal destruction is for the wicked. Second Thessalonians one verse eight, second Thessalonians two verse eight, second Thessalonians two verse eight says that the Lord  will slay the wicked one. When he comes he will slay him then with the word of his mouth and so forth.

First Thessalonians five verse two and three. Destruction comes to the wicked at the Second Advent. So we have destruction destruction destruction. Again in Philippians Three verse nineteen, the end of the wicked is destruction.

So we have the fate of the wicked according to the predominance of the New Testament texts is destruction, destruction, destruction, destruction, destruction. It is not burning of everlasting hell.

So in Acts 13:46 Paul's preaching at the Pisidian Antioch and in his sermon he says. Those wicked ones are unworthy of eternal life. They will not receive eternal life, To burn in everlasting burning hell is to receive eternal life. And they don't get it Paul says. All right well that's enough on unquenchable and eternal. 

Now Paul has an interesting statement that has puzzled some people. Let's look at it Philippians chapter one verse 21 and this is the interesting statement by Paul, "for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Ok if I'm going to die a martyr I'll die as a witness to Jesus Christ but if I am to live in the flesh this will mean fruitful labor for me. And I don't not know which to choose.

All right. So if he lives in the flesh fruitful labor, win more souls, encourage the Philippians and so forth. But he has a choice. "But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith",

Now my understanding of this passage is what Paul had was an opportunity like Elijah and Enoch had to ascend to heaven. Wouldn't that be wonderful! Wouldn't you like to have that offered to you today. But Paul is so noble and so caught up in the cause of Christ to win souls for Christ and to encourage the Philippians that he's going to stay on in this world to his death. And of course he died as a martyr as you know so well from second Timothy four. Now some confuse this thinking he wants to die so that he can go to heaven as an immortal soul. Not so.

Turn over to Philippians chapter three verse 7, "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ". Verse nine to 11, "and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead,"

Clearly this is not saying the same thing as Chapter one. In chapter one he actually had an opportunity. Think what the Philippians would have said, "oh we have to stay here and suffer but he didn't". Think what Peter would have said. Peter was crucified upside down in Rome. He would have said "well Paul got out of this but I didn't".

So you can see one of the many reasons why he believed it was necessary to stay on and work. And finally he died by having his head chopped off. But he died not in the faith of immediate translation to heaven but in the faith of the resurrection and the power of the resurrection. "That I may attain to the resurrection from the dead". So Paul is very clear on this and do not be confused and make Philippians chapter one say something different from Philippians chapter three. 

How about the Parable of the Rich Man And Lazarus Doesn't it prove Immortality of the Soul and Everlasting Fire of Hell?

Then there's the old bugaboo about the rich man and Lazarus. Luke chapter eleven. I want you to notice this carefully. And I was interested that Brother Ford when he gave the morning prayer he concentrated quite a bit about the problem of money in this world. And this is what Jesus is dealing with here. 

Now once again the saying is that a text without a context is a pretext. And so if you only read the story of the rich man Lazarus. You think that Lazarus went to heaven and the rich man went to hell. But you need to notice how Luke 16 starts. Remember our proverb about the context. Jesus starts this chapter with a parable about the rich man. Not Lazarus but a steward. 

And this steward is a little bit of a crook. And so you know he knows he owes the master a lot. He has been wasting his masters possessions. And then the rich man has reported to him that he has a steward who is squandering his possessions. So he calls him and says Give an account. 

So the man is puzzled the steward who is dishonest is puzzled and so he summons each one of the master's debtors. And you know he says to the first one well how much do you owe my master? And he says eight hundred gallons of olive oil. He say ok take your bill and sit down and quickly write four hundred. And then he says to the next one this is verse seven, how much do you owe and he says one thousand bushels of wheat. And he says Take your bill and write eight hundred. 

So he's discounting the debt to the master. And by doing this he's making friends. Wouldn't you like to walk into a store and you want to buy something for hundred dollars and they say just take it for fifty. Or it costs eighty dollars and it costs one hundred and they'll knock off twenty dollars for you. So this is about money which we prayed about this morning. 

Well go back to verse eight. "And his master praised unrighteous steward. Because he'd acted shrewdly". It's not because he's honest it's because he's clever. "The sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light. "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings". 

And the lesson is he who is faithful in little is faithful in much. He who is unrighteous in little like this man unrighteous in much. If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon or money. Who will entrust you with riches? 

And the second lesson is no man can serve two masters for either he will hate the one and love the other. Or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon. 

So there are several lessons here but the lesson is about money. And how you handle your money. And then there's a little teaching for about five verses where the Pharisees ask him some questions in verse fourteen. "Now the Pharisees who were lovers of money heard all these things were scoffing". And so then Jesus talks them a little bit for four or five verses and then he gives them another parable. 

The context of this Luke 16 is parables about money and who has money. The rich man has money. And who doesn't have money. Lazarus doesn't have money. Now notice this parable is only in the book of Luke. Not in the other three gospels. Luke is said to be the gospel addressed to the Gentiles. And this is couched in the language of the Gentiles. 

Well you know the story. The the rich man pays no attention to Lazarus who is begging at the gate. Then they both die. Verse 22 "now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels". To where? Who is going to carry him to heaven? Angels carry him to Abraham's bosom. 

"And the rich man died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes being in torment and saw Abraham far away. And Lazarus in his bosom". Never in this parable does it say that Lazarus was carried to heaven. It says he's carried to Abraham's bosom. 

Who is Abraham. Abraham is the ultimate Jew. He's the first person in the Bible, Genesis twelve, who is called a Hebrew. And Abraham therefore knows who is righteous and unrighteous among the Jews and knows that this poor beggar has been abused. Because the rich man living in the house right inside the gate where the beggar is begging will give him nothing. 

And so you'll notice the other place, hell. Now the standard word for hell and the grave is the sheol or Gehenna. Gehenna which comes from the Valley of Hinnom which was where the refuse from the city of Jerusalem was burnt. And that's made to represent the flames of the destruction. And so notice the word he uses. He uses the word hades which is a Greek word. And so here never does it mention the standard Hebrew words for heaven or hell. If you please. 

It's never mentions going to God  It gives you the contrast that a Gentile would think of and uses a gentile word for what the Gentiles knew it to being hades. And so of course we do not have heaven and hell so close together even in the final burning hell so that he's going to look up and see. At the time of the parable when this is told as having already occurred heaven and hell are not that close together,

However in this parable the rich man  in hell could see Abraham in heaven and see Lazarus in his bosom and then he cries. "Father Abraham have mercy on me and Abraham says well I can't because heaven and hell are separated. Verse twenty six, And besides all this between us and you there is a great gulf fixed. And then he said I beg you father that you send to my father's house to the living. Sent to them a message. Send them a warning. I have five brothers and so forth and warn them lest they also come to this place of torment but Abraham said. They have Moses and the prophets let them hear them. But he said no father Abraham but if someone goes to them from the dead they will repent. But he said to them if they do not listen to Moses and the prophets neither will they be persuaded. If someone rises from the dead. This is a paraphrase of John chapter five verses forty five to forty seven. 

And so a parable is not meant to stand on all fours. That is to say a parable does not give all exact factual positions on which to draw the lesson. The point of the parable however you tell it with the story is to draw out a lesson. And the lesson is first of all about money. 

What was the first parable about? It was about money. What is the second parable about? It's about money. Here's a rich man and a poor man. And so between these two we have the illustration of what the rich men should have done with his money. He should have been generous. He should have helped the poor. He should have helped this poor beggar at his gate.

There is another lesson here from father Abraham. The father of all the Jews the first Hebrew in the Bible. The lesson of Jesus himself as the Messiah. They should accept what Abraham says, "they have Moses and the prophets but the man objects. Well Moses and the prophets are not good enough they won't hear them. They need somebody risen from the dead. From where? From the dead. Not the living dead from the dead dead. From the resurrected one. The resurrection is right in this parable. 

Who is the one risen from the dead who went to give them the message? That's Jesus and Jesus quoted this or this is quoted from Jesus in John five. So we're dealing here with what is clearly a parable. The language it uses fits Gentiles very well. The language it uses doesn't fit the Jews so well. About the contrast and so forth so we have here. Even at the end of this story we have the resurrection of one from the dead. 

So the answer is this is not a parable that we draw the lesson from to say that everybody's immortal. That is not the lesson. You draw one central lesson out of the parable. And the pair of lessons out of the parable are how you handle your money and how you listen to God's messengers. How you listen to Jesus Christ himself. 

And so these three problems of the unquenchable or eternal fire which really is destruction. Not immortal life in hell or Paul's desire to depart and to be with God is responded to by his hope of the resurrection in chapter three. And the rich man and Lazarus is a parable. It is in the context of the parable. It is language of a parable. It is a parable. 

Summary on Course of Human Life and State of the Dead

Now let's go back and emphasize once more what we have found about the course of human existence.  We are created. We consist of certain physical and chemical elements that are common to the dust of the earth and the breath of God which is the energy from God that gives us life. 

And when that breath of God leaves us when we breathe in our last God reserves that energy to be given to you again. But in the meantime you need to sleep the sleep of death. 

And those who are of an opposite view call us soul sleepers. Well I for one am proud to be a soul sleeper. And we can sleep with David. We can sleep with Solomon. We can sleep with all of those kings of the Old Testament. The Bible says in the verses above that they died and slept with their fathers.None of them in heaven. 

In fact in Peter's sermon in Acts chapter two and he's interpreting Psalm sixteen which says you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will let your Holy One see decay. And so Peter says Psalm sixteen is not talking about David because his tomb is still here with us. This Psalm sixteen is a prophecy about the Messiah who lived again on the third day. And Psalm sixteen was fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then we can praise God for that and praise him for that model which he will soon accomplish. For friends and loved ones and any of us if we have to sleep before he comes again.

Where does all this immortality stuff come from?

It does not come from the Bible. It comes from Greek philosophy. According to Greek philosophy the flesh was bad contrary to creation story in Genesis where God says it's good. Greek philosophy says the idea which is within you is what's good. And when you die that's good because when you die the idea within you is liberated and so this idea came to influence the Christian church. 

And you have the famous story of Socrates drinking the hemlock poison. And it said that he did so with a smile on his face. Because now his spirit, his soul within him will be released from this bad material body. 

It's an unchristian unbiblical and Greek philosophy. So that's the contrast we face in the world today. The true biblical teaching about the nature of death and God's answer to it - the resurrection. Or the pseudo answer that we get from Greek philosophy inserted into Christian theology. And so if I be called a soul sleeper so be it. 

And I know of quite a few dear friends of mine who are sleeping in the grave today that I personally will be happy to see on the resurrection morning. May this be your experience. If you need to rest in the grave before you go to your eternal home with Jesus when He comes, that's God's will. So be it. If you live to be among those who live to see Jesus when He comes in the clouds; you'll see them get out of the grave and then together you will go up to meet him in the air. And so will we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4)

Let's close with prayer. Loving heavenly Father, we thank you for the design which you have placed for we fallen human beings, We praise you for your great wisdom. We praise you for your great redemption. And we look forward to the last day when Jesus comes to redeem us all from this earthly veil of tears and take us to your heavenly mansions. May that come soon, we ask in Jesus name. Amen.

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