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Jesus in the Grave

When Jesus was in the grave, what was He doing? Did His soul go somewhere else? There is a popular belief that somehow man is conscious in death, contradicting the very definition of death. We can learn something about the end of life by looking at its beginning. Consider when the first human was given life:

"And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Gen 2:7)

A way to show this is:

dust + breath of life = a living soul

The reverse of this "birth" is:

Living soul - breath of life = a dead body
This is chapter 3 of the book Light on the Dark Side of God. If you have not read chapter 2, you might want to do that first and consider the question What Does God Look Like?"

This dead body returns to dust as we are told:

"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." (Gen 3:19)

Two easy illustrations of this are:

  1. bulb + electricity = light
  2. boards + nails = a box

Take away the electricity or the nails and what happens to the light or the box? They simply cease to exist - they do not go anywhere.

There are, of course, many passages that cause confusion. These will be addressed on other pages. We'll consider one example here:

"No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." (John 10:18)

How could Jesus have consciously "taken" anything while He was dead?

"For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten." (Eccl 9:5)

Of course, "the memory of them is forgotten" is referring to their ability to remember anything because, obviously, we remember the dead. God can give life and we can only "take" in the sense that it is given to us as life was given to us originally - we did not take life from anyone when we were born. Note that, in the verse above, the words "take" and "received" are both translated from the same Greek word "lambano" (Strong's #2983). The more common translation of "lambano" is "receive."

This brief introduction to the subject of the state of the dead will help us to understand the condition of Jesus in the grave and answer the question of where He went when He died. Now, let's go to chapter 3 of Light on the Dark Side of God and see how this topic is connected to eth character of God.


Chapter 3

Where Did Jesus Go When He Died?

"All who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." John 5:28, 29

The evangelist stood at the lectern, pleading with the overflow crowd spread out before him in the huge auditorium, to surrender to the claims of the cross and come to God. He reached forth in entreaty; his voice rose with fervor, as he implored his listeners to cease resisting the promptings of the Holy Spirit, to stop rebelling against heaven, and to yield to the love of the One who died on Calvary's cross to redeem them.

"You will spend eternity somewhere," he said. "You choose where you will spend it, in heaven or in the realms of the lost." He couldn't seem to bring himself to utter the words, in the fires of the damned. Nonetheless, the message was clear. "Turn or burn." Respond to the love of God, or this loving God will burn you eternally. And it will be your fault, not His.

Throughout the cavernous assembly hall, listeners, moved by his oratory, stood to their feet and began stepping out into the isles. Quickly the lines thickened and lengthened, until a great sea of humanity, stretching far back toward the auditorium's darkened lobby, eagerly made its way down the wide stairs and toward the altar in front. Handkerchiefs and tissues flew from pockets and purses, as tears streamed down the faces of both those newly coming to Christ and those who had perhaps prayed for this day, when loved ones would take their stand for God. What was the deep motive moving the hearts of the people there that day? Did they commit because the love of Christ constrained them? Or to escape an eternity of the tortures of the damned?

To all appearances it was a great day of victory for the gospel. But appearances can deceive. True, a multitude of people received Christ on that day. But how many more have turned away from Christ, turned off to God, because Christendom has not yet resolved its disquieting questions, those questions which well-intentioned advocates of the gospel, such as the evangelist that day, continue to ignore? Compare the crowd in that auditorium with the untold millions throughout time who cannot relate to Christianity's God.

The theory seems to be, If the version of the gospel which depicts God as all-loving on one hand and utterly cruel and vengeful on the other still has power to gain some adherents, that's good enough for us. We will continue to present Him in that way in spite of the fact that in many ways it doesn't make sense, and it turns off more people than it turns on. It says Christianity's God does not have the mature, integrated, consistent character expected of even well-adjusted humans.

"The path of the just is as a shining sun [footnote: "light"] that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18). Where is that expanding ray of light? Where is the heightened illumination on those issues that honest men and women, in and out of the church, have questioned from time immemorial? In actual fact, Scripture offers very clear answers to these questions, and they begin to be answered in the Person of the uplifted Christ, hanging upon the cross for the sins of the world.

"Jesus, when He had cried out again with a loud voice, yielded up His spirit" (Matt. 27:50. See also Luke 23:46 and John 19:30). Where did Jesus go when He died? In order to be correctly understood, every truth of God's word must be studied in the light that streamed from His cross that day. Just as Christ experienced life as a human, He shared our human experience in death. In fact, His death was the sinner's death. The brazen serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness represented Christ, the Sin-bearer. Did Christ's spirit leave His body at death and go to a place of eternal torment?

Everything about our understanding of God revolves around this question. Everything hinges upon the example Christ gave of how God deals with the lost. The truth about death reveals the character of our Creator as it can be revealed in no other way.

The crowd in that huge auditorium no doubt felt very "mainstream" as a great sea of converts pressed toward the altar that day. But if human eyes could have been opened to the surging tide of refugees running from Christianity's God throughout time, what a contrast would have been seen between the number of converts in that hall and the number through time who have rejected a God who inconsistently says He loves but then burns his enemies.

The Surprising Biblical Picture of Death

A talented and well-known singer/actress, speaking on a television talk show, expressed a view commonly held today. She stated she believed in "life after life", not "life after death." In other words, she and, may I add, multitudes of others, do not believe death is really death. Representing the majority view, this lady spoke of someone she knew who had "made his transition." Within virtually every philosophy known among humans today, including Christianity, the belief exists that death is not death at all but a transition to a different form of life. In few places other than the pages of the Holy Bible do we find death depicted according to the dictionary definition as, "permanent ending of all life in a person, animal or plant." That's what death is, folks, and no amount of tweaking the perception can change the reality.

In order to convey a clear picture of how God destroys, it is necessary to take a journey through the controversial topic of what death is in the first place. Without correct knowledge regarding the nature of death, it is impossible to understand God's role in it, so closely tied are these two elements of truth, so firmly does truth on one point become the foundation for higher truth.

Keep in mind, we are using the Holy Bible as our text and guide for the entire journey. Therefore, we must search the Scriptures for information on death, in order to understand, as well, God's character. Where better for the Christian than Scripture to find truth on any spiritual topic? Where better but in the words of Christ Himself can we validate our beliefs? We may have confidence regarding the nature of death on the authority of the following words of our Lord Jesus Christ:

"I have come that they may have life" (John 10:10, emphasis supplied).

If everyone already has life by virtue of an indestructible "spirit" or "soul" that goes somewhere when the body dies, why would Jesus say this? No, he does not say, I came to give the body life. Rather, He came in order that humans may live beyond the grave. Although this flies in the face of the beliefs of virtually everyone, although it contradicts the sensory experience of multitudes, although almost no one wants to believe it, yet it is the Bible picture. Death is the cessation of life. The atheist is right on this point, at least. Words mean what they appear to mean.

Obviously, the Bible has a great deal more to say about it. Here are just a few quotes:

  1. For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun. . . . Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10).
  2. Jesus said, "'Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.' Then His disciples said, 'Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.' However, Jesus spoke of his death. . . . Then Jesus said to them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead'" (John 11:11). [Note: Death is like unconscious sleep.]
  3. In death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks (Psalm 6:5). [Note: If the dead cannot remember God or give Him thanks, how can they be conscious??]
  4. Trust not in princes - in a son of man, for he hath no deliverance. His spirit ["breath", James 2:26, KJV, margin] goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, in that day have his thoughts perished [(Psalm 146:3,4, YLT) Note: The "spirit" often spoken of as leaving the body at death is simply the God-given breath, which enables the body to live and symbolizes the life or personality. Don't miss the point that on the day of death, the thoughts perish.]

These quotations constitute only a small portion of what Scripture has to say on this subject, supporting the view that death is the cessation of life. Others have written comprehensively on the topic of death, and you will find reviews and bibliographies of some of them in the back of this book (See Appendix B). Thoughtful men and women who sincerely seek truth, like careful shoppers, examine the range of choices before making their selection. Sweeping back the layers of theological "goods" that have virtually erased the idea that death is "soul sleep" (as some call it), we uncover a centuries-old (though minority) view known within theological circles as "conditional immortality."

When the "Dead" Appear

No doubt many readers are asking at this point, but what about . . . ? Yes, what about all those experiences? A ghostly figure was seen which looked exactly like old uncle Ned. Footsteps were heard; voices from an antechamber. . . .

Besides Christianity's belief in heaven and hell, other religions offer alternate views of what lies "on the other side." A well-known journalist and television personality says she believes totally in reincarnation. She knows it's true, because it has been scientifically researched, and all those people couldn't be lying.

The evidence is almost overwhelming that there is something out there. Channelers convey information purported as coming from ancient Tibetan llamas before or after their death. The evidence is so convincing to the human mind. We cannot fathom how these things could occur, unless they come from those who have "made their transition" and now seek to contact the world of the living.

Christianity itself, abandoning its tether in the word of God (on this point at least) joins right in, preaching the deceased straight to the rainbow-circled throne on high. Have you ever noticed how few are, conversely, preached straight into the eternal hell fires of damnation, regardless of the tone of their moral life on earth? No. That's not considered good form toward the bereaved. But let no mistake be made, in Christianity's view, if the righteous go directly to their eternal heavenly reward, there must be a hell for the souls who "didn't make it."

Eternal hell fire. What a fine piece of work this would be coming from the hand of an infinitely loving God! Folks, it doesn't make sense. And believe me, every piece of Scripture you can produce to prove it's true, I can put within my model where it looks quite different and does make perfect sense. God never asks us to leave our reason behind in order to understand His word.

Conditional Immortality

"Natural immortality" says that a spirit or soul, the essence of the individual, goes somewhere the moment of death. "Conditional immortality" says No; death means cessation of life. Mainstream Christianity joins with pagan religions throughout time in believing "natural immortality." However, throughout history, including today, there have always been believers in conditional immortality.

I've been to some funerals. Not uncommonly, I'm sure, I've sat through services where the speaker presented thoughts with which I did not agree. But in deference to the memory of the deceased, I, like some of you perhaps, set my teeth a bit and kept my mouth closed. I've listened to preachers seeking to comfort the living, saying the deceased was at that moment enjoying the companionship of heavenly angels, of God, and of loved ones who've gone before.

Yet a Bible text runs through my mind at such times, "Behold I am coming quickly," Jesus says, "and my reward is with me" (Revelation 22:12; emphasis supplied). This is the consistent statement of Scripture. Jesus brings reward at His second coming, which is yet future. Consider the following text:

I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.
For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; emphasis supplied).

Can anyone fail to see that this is speaking of resurrection of the righteous at the second coming of Christ? With these words we are to comfort the grieving friends and relatives of those who have died. If the righteous are already in heaven, enjoying their reward, why not direct that they be comforted with that thought? And why resurrection? Certainly not merely to reclaim the body, because nothing corrupt will enter heaven; Christ returns to reclaim the person and the first "reward" is a new, incorruptible body (1 Corinthians 15:51-55). It is in this that the Christian takes hope. Eternal life in God's kingdom of glory is on the conditions laid out in the word of God. Resurrection solved the problem of the death of Christ our Lord. It was an event modern Christians find worthy of celebration. Why? Because when Jesus died on Calvary's cross, He ceased to exist. He did not, because He could not, go anywhere. Without resurrection, which is both figuratively and literally God's call, neither Christ nor humans can experience life beyond the grave.

A Biblical Litmus Test

If you find none of this convincing, Scripture contains a story that may yet give you pause. Eve stood before the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan, disguised as a serpent in the tree, responded to her statement. She said God had warned that if she ate the fruit of the tree she would die. "You will not surely die," said he. "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:4,5).

God said they would die. Satan declared they would not only live but enter upon a higher plane of existence. Both could not be telling the truth. Who lied, God or Satan?

This story is confusing to millions, because popular culture and religion, including mainstream Christianity, have received and promoted the idea that death is not death at all but the doorway to a higher form of life. These believers in the natural immortality of the soul have to conclude that Satan told the truth here, and God lied!

But Scripture is clear, Satan is the father of lying; he invented it (John 8:44). It is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6: 18). And all liars will have a part in that final "lake that burns with fire" (Revelation 21:8), which will be explained in a later chapter.

The entire dilemma resolves, if we conclude that God told the truth here, and Satan lied - a picture entirely consistent with the concept of conditional immortality. Death is death. At the close of life, life closes.

Resurrection and Judgment

In his thorough and wonderful book, Daring To Differ: Adventures In Conditional Immortality, the late Sidney Hatch, Th.M., a Baptist minister, makes this observation: "The Athenians listened to him [the apostle Paul] until he mentioned the resurrection of the dead. Then, we read, 'some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter [Acts 17:32].'

"The Athenians believed in the immortality of the soul. Luke's account in the Book of Acts indicates that, to them, resurrection from the dead was ridiculous." "Herein lies the tragedy of much of today's preaching and evangelism. It uses the name of Christ to teach a doctrine of ancient pagan philosophy" (pp. 7, 13). Notice, the idea of resurrection appears odd to one who believes that rewards are issued immediately upon death. In that scenario, resurrection serves no obvious purpose.

But no honest Christian, even casually familiar with the Bible, can deny the emphasis Scripture places on the doctrine of resurrection. Yet when is the last time you attended a Christian funeral where the speaker even mentioned resurrection, much less placed on it the same importance one finds within the sacred word?

Here are a few quotations, with comments on them, that show how problematic it is to try to blend natural immortality with the Scriptural picture of life after death, particularly in those areas concerning resurrection and the timing of the judgment .

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:31-34, KJV)

This clearly refers to judgment, when the sheep and goats, the saved and lost, will be separated. It occurs, according to the context, at the time of the second coming of Christ. How can this be true and also be true that individuals receive their reward at death? The world has not yet experienced the second coming of Christ in the glory predicted in Scripture. Therefore, is it fair to say that neither have the sheep and goats yet been separated? That neither saint or sinner has yet received his or her reward?

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).

This text agrees with Christ's words in Matthew 25. Scripture offers a consistent statement regarding judgment, as it does all other doctrines, when humans care enough to search them out. Humans receive reward at judgment, which takes place when Christ returns at the end of the world.

All who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28, 29).

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power (Revelation 20:6).

The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished (Revelation 20:5).

Close attention to the above references reveals there will be two resurrections, one of the righteous and another of the unrighteous. Nothing here suggests an eternally-burning hell for the wicked or immediate entry into heaven for the righteous. Those concepts come from cultural cross-pollination with ancient pagan ideas and from misapplication of Scripture. Rather, from death (compared in Scripture to sleep) both the saved and unsaved will live again as respective groups at specific points in time.

But how do we explain those "occurrences"? Today an epidemic of supernatural events saturates our world. Deceased acquaintances seem to materialize out of a fog, appearing to the living; psychics get what they term messages from beyond, the accuracy often astonishing their clients; multitudes seek information on the future; presidents (or their wives?) consult the stars before making decisions on matters of state; UFO lore goes mainstream. One can hardly pick up a magazine or newspaper or turn on the radio or television today without gratuitous exposure to this phenomenon. Sex, violence and the supernatural sell! So don't expect your favorite TV show to do your homework for you.

Deceived At World's End

Scripture is clear that it is possible to handle the word of God deceitfully (2 Corinthians 4:2). When differences of opinion take place within Christendom, both views can be incorrect, but both cannot be correct. These differences can be honest. They can also be dishonest and, even, deceitful. Be assured, with an eternity at stake, wisdom checks out the matter for itself. How can we know if we are deceived?

Many remember an old television quiz show titled "To Tell the Truth." Three contestants answered the questions of the celebrity panel. Only one was telling the truth. The other contestants could say anything they pleased. At the end of the segment, the host asked the question, "Will the real (whoever) please stand up?" After some fidgeting and false starts, one of the three contestants stood up. He or she was telling the truth.

In like manner, let me ask this question: If you are deceived, please stand up.

An increasing number of Christians believe we are living in earth's last days. In recent years I have fallen into conversation on this subject with a number of them of various backgrounds; therefore, anecdotal data tells me few of them would challenge the belief that Christ's second advent is near. Deceptions have existed throughout history, but at no time will the danger be greater than now, at the end of time, just before Christ's return. Scripture has much to say about this:

When the disciples asked how they might know when His coming was near, Jesus said, "Take heed that no one deceives you." "Many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many." "False prophets will rise up and deceive many. . . . False christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24: 4,5, 11, 24; Mark 13:5,6).

Notice in particular the phrase "show great signs and wonders." The deceptions of the last days will be characterized by them.

Second Thessalonians 2:1-12 is a key Biblical description of the antichrist. Notice verses 3, 9, 10 and 11 in particular.

Let no one deceive you by any means (v. 3); . . . the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception (vss. 9, 10); God will send [permit] them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie (v. 11).

These verses depict the strength of deception in earth's last days. They harmonize with information from the book of Revelation, the Biblical book of the end. Satan, the power behind and working through antichrist, will deceive the whole world (12:9); he will deceive everyone, except those whose names are written in God's book of life (13:8, 14). Picture it! Will the majority opinion be trustworthy then?

Interestingly, that deception is even identified as coming through "sorcery," or as the dictionary defines it, the use of "an evil supernatural power over people and their affairs" (18:23). Could Satan deceive the majority into believing the "evil" power is benign? Think about it.

Revelation 19:20 tells how antichrist and his cohorts deceive those who receive the evil "mark of the beast." They deceive by the use of "signs." Although we have no further clues in this text as to the nature of these "signs," adding the information together suggests they are of supernatural origin. Revelation 16:13, symbolizing the powers of antichrist as a dragon, a beast and a false prophet, depicts the signs and miracles of earth's last days as the work of demons.

Revelation 20: 3, 8, and 10 describes the fate of Satan for his work of deceiving "the nations," - not a few misguided souls here and there - the nations!

Therefore, let me repeat the question: Will those who are deceived please stand up? Foolish question! It is characteristic of the deceived that they know it not. Who would stand at such a question? No one. But in view of the Biblical picture that the majority will be deceived in earth's last days, that they will be deceived by "sorcery" and "great signs and wonders," and that those miracles are the work of demons, perhaps some who might not stand at such a question, might at least pause to wonder.

Heaven Warns Israel

Scripture says God doesn't change; He is the same "yesterday, today and forever" (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). Just as God doesn't change, truth doesn't change. Different ages may see a change in emphasis or an advance in previously known truth. But God's character embodies truth - absolute, eternal, and saving. As neither God nor truth change, we may expect that His warnings and admonitions to ancient Israel contain valuable information for us today.

During the time Israel tarried at Sinai, they received from God not only the moral law of ten commandments, but additional regulations as well, covering both the spiritual and civil life of the people. Prominently expressed through these statutes was concern over the matter of sorcery, divination and witchcraft. It is interesting to review some of the statements of Scripture regarding these activities.

You shall not permit a sorceress [witch] to live (Exodus 22:18)

Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them; I am the Lord your God. . . . And the person who turns after mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6).

There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft ["divination," KJV], or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).

If these activities were an abomination to the Lord back then, what would He say about the spiritualistic epidemic gripping our world today? Reading horoscopes, consulting tarot cards, calling psychic hot lines seem innocent and harmless. But there is a clear issue of spiritual authority embodied in these activities, which will be discussed in a later chapter. These endeavors, so clearly not of God, invite demon forces into the life, and once in, they are not so easily removed. Individuals who have tampered with "the devil's toys," opening up their lives to evil forces, should repudiate these experiences "in the name of Jesus Christ" and go there no more. Continuing such activities invites progressively darker events, which may eventually cause the human to lose control over his or her own life.

If God didn't like it back then, it seems reasonable that He doesn't approve of these activities today. Someone is promoting these happenings. If it isn't God, it must be someone else. The experiences are real. Something is happening out there. If the dead are sleeping in their graves, if God has nothing to do with today's spiritualist epidemic, then perhaps the Biblical story of a fallen angel named Satan are true. And God's warnings are given for our protection and blessing.

Why It Matters

To the overwhelming abundance of these sensory experiences saturating the media today, the conditionalist says, No. Death is a mere sleep, both to the righteous and to the lost. One falls asleep in death, the next moment - resurrection, like the dawn of a new day. Thus the apostle Paul could say he had a "desire to depart, and to be with Christ" (Philippians 1:23), because no sense of time's passing exists in the tomb. It makes no difference to the dead whether they experience immediate entrance into the presence of God or whether they await the resurrection. It is all the same to them. But is it a question essential to human salvation? After all, many saintly people, whom no one thinks to be lost, have gone to their graves believing in natural immortality (as well as in conditional immortality). Why belabor the question now?

There are several reasons why God would today have us understand the truth of the human condition in death:

1. Natural immortality, as Christianity presents it, requires the existence of an eternally burning place of torment for the lost. This idea, if true, says either: a) God has no power to put out the fire, thus He is not omnipotent, or b) it burns through His decree, which raises questions regarding His loving character. Therefore, our understanding of death reflects our understanding of God.

2. Natural immortality makes plausible the infinite number of sensory experiences many are having that seem to indicate "the dead know" something and continue to interact with the living. Conditional immortality views these events as Satanic deceptions. If human magicians can perform feats that baffle our minds, if human actors can portray historical figures so accurately they appear to be channeling their subject, what can demons do? As invisible witnesses to our lives, would they not know everything they needed to know to execute a believable impersonation of our deceased loved ones? These experiences position themselves against the great weight of Biblical evidence that says the dead "know not anything."

3. It affords opportunity for the student of Scripture to make a commitment as to whom he/she believes to be the "liar" in the Eden scenario, God or Satan.

4. Truth builds on truth; it cannot build on error. It is impossible to see a nondestructive God in Scripture, except through the eyes of conditional immortality, which holds that humans are already dead in trespasses and sins. Therefore, in conditional immortality the energy of God need not be expended to remove life from humans; rather, it must be generated to keep them alive. Any time God ceases to support the life of plant, animal or human, that life ceases to exist, as did the pretentious fig tree which Jesus cursed. Without God's presence, good will and life-giving energy, there is no life - human or otherwise. The view of God as a nondestructive Being is the next natural unfolding of the doctrine of conditional immortality.

John Three Sixteen

We repeat the familiar words of John 3:16 without really catching the meaning. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Here again God presents the contrast between our choices inside and outside Himself. What does it mean to "perish"? We have not understood how thoroughly dead we are in trespasses and sins. The enemy has had a field day convincing us otherwise, but Scripture is clear: We have no life outside the hope Jesus brought to the human race in Himself.

Where Did Jesus Go When He Died?

The Scriptural description of death as "sleep" illuminates the cross, just as the cross illuminates our understanding of the fate of the lost. We cannot leave this subject without delving more deeply into what it meant to Jesus to die the sinner's death. Christ's death is often described as the most terrible ever experienced upon this planet. But in what respect was it so? While He endured great physical torture, others have died in pain, perhaps even more physically painful deaths than His. In what respect was His death different and far more terrible? Insights from conditional immortality help answer these questions.

When He cried, "It is finished. Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit" (Luke 23:46; John 19:30), the words were heavy with meaning.

As Jesus hung on the cross that day, the sins of a guilty world fastened upon Him, separating Him from the Father, His one strength and solace in life. Strong emotions horrified Him with the thought that He was saying goodbye to life forever, since that is the sinner's destiny apart from God. Surely Satan, his own fate hanging in the balance, tormented Him with the thought that if He allowed Himself to surrender to death, for Him there would be no awaking. With this great weight of darkness upon Him, our Savior spoke the words of surrender to the will of the Father, releasing into His hand the right to do as He would with the life of His only-begotten Son.

Where did Jesus go when He died? If He, as the Sin-bearer, went to an ever-burning place of eternal torment, I challenge any Bible scholar to show this from the word of God. It isn't there. If He, as the righteous Son of the living God, resorted to the throne of His heavenly Father, Scripture doesn't mention it. On the contrary. After His resurrection He said to Mary, "Do not cling to Me; for I have not yet ascended to my Father" (John 20:17). Scripture doesn't say that Christ went anywhere.

The great weight of Biblical evidence says He went to sleep - forever, if that's what His Father chose for Him. Gethsemane, where He sweat great drops of blood in anticipation of the struggle before Him, demonstrates the reality of His torment. He felt the mental anguish the lost will feel, when they at last see what they have lost and face their own hopeless condition. Yes, He arose from the grave, an outcome left entirely in His Father's hands, but He Himself could not see through the portal of the tomb. Why did He do it? Because there was no other means whereby humans could escape eternal nonexistence. Christ took upon Himself the justice of the universe toward sinners, and we received the mercy.

There are no flaws in the character of God. There are no inconsistencies. He is love. Everything else about His character rests on that foundation.


Chapter three has given us some insights into the truth about the state of the dead and of Jesus in the grave. It has also given a little further insight into the character of God.

In the next chapter we will look at how the Bible explains itself. Increase your Bible understanding in Chapter 4.

 


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The Greek has multiple words for forgiveness? God forgives (charizomai) whether we ask or not. Receiving forgiveness (apheimi) is by our choice.
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