Sudden Death is not Sudden Glory

Al Martin’s little book Grieving, Hope, and Solace (Cruciform, 2011) teaches an instant consciousness after death for Christians and a trip to heaven, all without a body. From the phrase in James, “the body apart from the spirit is dead”, Martin infers that “the spirit apart from the body is alive.”

John 5: 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, as many as hear my word and believe him who sent me has the life of the age to come.. They do not come into judgment, but have passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the graves will hear his voice 29 and come out…

Al Martin sounds very much like the Roman Catholic tradition in his reading of the intermediate state. Instead of recognizing from Genesis 2 that “souls” are “living beings”, he begins with the idea that “souls” are non-material spirits with consciousness that can nevertheless be seen and heard (Martin becomes “literal” when he gets to “souls under the altar” in Revelation 6). Thus he reads John 5 as saying that it’s only the bodies which will come out the graves. It can’t be the persons, he thinks, because he thinks he already knows that the “souls” went straight to heaven.

I Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

We will not precede them. They will rise first. This is NOT about “never-dying souls” of dead Christians getting into heaven before we do. Leave your dead body behind. Do not pass go. Get a new body in heaven now, as soon as you die, and before they even bury your old body. No, none of that is the hope. Nor is our hope some experience of disembodied consciousness (like The Matrix) where we can engage in uninterrupted worship. That is a stoic hope for those who fear human emotions so much that they think mainly of control. Duty and law become so important to them that they entertain a gnostic hope for a triumphal worship before and without
1 Christ’s second coming
2 the resurrection
3 the judgement
4 the old body raised and given immortality

I Thessalonians 4: We will not precede them because they will be raised first. Not because they go to heaven first, but because they will be raised first.

Human persons, elect and non-elect, justified and condemned, will not be left in the graves. But now they wait in the graves, and then the elect will be changed in the twinkling of an eye and clothed with immortality. Then “the dead in Christ will rise first. Only then, at His coming will those saints who are alive and remain be caught up together with dead saints [all at one time, at the same time)] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air as He comes to earth. This meeting is not to go back to heaven, but the coming of heaven to earth. Thus “we shall always be with the Lord.”

The non-elect will also be raised on that day but only to come into judgment, and then to perish in the second death. But the justified elect will be raised and “shall not come into judgment” but will from then on, in the age to come, be with the risen Christ with bodies like his glorious body.

Al Martin’s Roman Catholic anthropology causes him to translate “those who have fallen asleep” as “those bodies which sleep”, because he thinks he already knows that “perfected souls” are already ascended to heaven and now worship 24/7 without sleep. Martin makes no reference to John 3:13

John 3: 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that as many as believe in him shall have the life OF THE AGE TO COME. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that as many as believe in him should not perish but have the life of the age to come.

Al Martin presumes that all the saints who have died the first death have only died in their bodies and that their “souls” have already ascended to heaven. ( He does not teach that these “souls” were pre-existent and descended from heaven.) So presumably the promise of “not perish” is only about the bodies, because presumably “souls” can never perish, no matter what God did in giving His Son, no matter what Christ did in being lifted up on the cross.

Of course Al Martin does agree that this hope for instant bliss in heaven is not the primary hope taught by the Bible. p 24–“The Christian’s hope is always used in reference to the ultimate state of glorification, when our souls will be joined permanently to new deathless bodies.”

But what Al Martin (along with Calvin and the pope) refuses to see is that his idea of a secondary intermediate hope of conscious souls in heaven immediately at death is not taught by the Bible, but is indeed contradicted by what the Bible teaches in defining “living being” (Genesis 2:7) or describing the death of Christ (“pouring out his soul, Isaiah 53).

One paragraph after agreeing that the Bible only refers to the resurrection as the Christian’s hope of glorification, Al Martin takes it all back by informing us that “it is this information about the intermediate state that largely accounts for our ability to grieve unlike those who have no hope.” (p 25)

So even though he knows that the Bible speaks of the hope of resurrection, Al Martin continues to insist that his false ideas about “an immediate sequel” are “largely” the difference between despair and courage. The Bible says, wait and be patient. Al Martin says instead: the people left living behind wait, but the dead Christians don’t want, but get right away to conscious worship (until presumably all that is interrupted by them needing to go with Christ to earth for earthly things, like resurrection, judgment, other Christians, and bodies.)

Al Martin builds his doctrine of “immediate perfection of souls” on a phrase taken out of context from Hebrews 12–“the spirits of just men made perfect”. Of course he has not defined “souls” in reference to what the Bible says about “spirits”, but he needs to presume that identity and does so.

Hebrews 12: 18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Al Martin ignores the “ye have come” for the sake of what he thinks will happen in the future as soon as we die. p 32–“first comes the perfecting of our souls when we die”. Martin ignores the “enrolled in heaven” for the sake of his tradition that says that “souls” never die but can be seen and heard now in heaven. I doubt that he thinks the “blood that speaks” (be it that of Abel or Christ) is literal, but Martin seems sure that disembodied “souls” are now not only conscious but already perfected and glorified. I doubt that Martin takes “consuming fire” in a literal way, but one wonders if he thinks a “soul” is not a “thing that has been made”. Does this mean that our bodies can be shaken (being created) but that our “spirits” (souls) cannot be shaken?

p 34–“God will put forth upon that soul that has left the body a concentration of his sanctifying grace and power that will immediately complete the work of conforming the soul to the moral likeness of Christ.” This conclusion is based on Martin’s previous reading of Romans 6, in which he ignores the forensic (Christ died under the law, we died with Him, we are not under the law) meaning of that chapter and displaces it with his own idea of some “definitive” regeneration in which we don’t sin (much) anymore (like we used to). Besides having to be read into Romans 6, that view cannot account for the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ had no need for the Spirit to conform him to the pattern of Christ. And our death with Christ to the guilt of the law is also not brought about by our conformity to Christ.

But Martin does not allow Bible texts to get in the way of his theology: “In an instant, her spirit was purged of every last vestige of remaining sin, and she was endowed with the moral perfection of Christ.” (p 36) I certainly agree that dead people do not sin anymore. Indeed, I doubt very much that even the non-elect will continue to sin after their second death, even though they most certainly will sin as they gnash their teeth at the judgment which has not yet come. But agreeing that dead Christians no longer sin has nothing to do with proving that their conscious spirits are now in worship in heaven. This Martin wants to assume.

One very much unanswered question—who is the dead person? Presumably, the dead person is not the body, because according to tradition the body is merely only something the person has. Is the “immortal conscious soul” the person? Or does the person also “have a soul”? If so, what is the person who “has a soul”? And where is that person, when the body sleeps and the “soul” worships?

In a book filled with unbiblical and stoic nonsense, the most foolish quotation in the book (p 46) is from Spurgeon talking about John 17: “You bend your knee in prayer and say ‘Father I will that thy saints be with me where I am.’ Christ says, ‘Father I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.’ Thus the disciple is at cross-purposes with His Lord. The soul cannot be at both places; the beloved cannot be with Christ and with you too….You would give up your prayer for your loved one’s life, if you could realize the thoughts that Christ is praying in the opposite direction.”

One barely knows where to start in refutation! What does “realize the thoughts” mean? If we could only agree with the logic of what Spurgeon is saying, even though it has no logic? We would stop taking our children to the doctor, because that might be in “cross-purposes” with what Jesus wants? Or should we only think this way, after our loved ones die, but not before they die? Why? Why would that timing matter? And to repeat my previous question–are we praying for their “souls” to be with us, or is it our desire for them as persons to be with us? Is Christ praying for their persons or only for their “souls”?

I suppose the most basic falsehood about the Spurgeon soundbite is its presumption that the way to be “with Christ” is “instantly at death”. Certainly Al Martin evades any sense of the resurrection being the hope which is “far better” in Philippians 1 or II Corinthians 5. He rejects any idea of a time-lag between “departure” and conscious life with Christ at the resurrection. Even though Martin knows that “nakedness” is not the way that the Bible speaks of glorification, he still assures us that our comfort is “largely” based on a desire for instant conscious nakedness before God as soon as we die.

Christ said: “to be with me where I am”. Al Martin presumes that means heaven, and ignores the hope of Christ coming to earth to be with His (then resurrected) people. Al Martin also ignores the wait involved in hope, so that no Christian gets to glory before another Christian, so that we not precede each other. Al Martin presumes that the “sleep” of I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4 is not about the real us (our persons), but only about the “bodies we have”.

Martin assumes that Stephen’s prayer (Acts 7) to “receive my spirit” means that Stephen the person never really died. Martin does concede, however, that “we have no biblical ground to expect that we shall be given a vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God”, p 47, but for Martin this only means that vision won’t happen before we die, while “our bodies” are dying. But Martin expects to have that vision after he dies, and argues for this based on a vision Stephen had before Stephen died. Why this expectation? Because Stephen prayed, “receive my spirit”. And this Martin assumes means that Stephen had a never dying spirit. Stephen the person didn’t really die. Only his body did.

The Lord Jesus prayed, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. (Luke 23:46, Psalm 31:5). Does this mean that Jesus the real Divine-human person never died either, but only his “human body”? I certainly do not begin to understand the incarnation or the mystery of Christ’s death, which is why I am not about to explain it on the basis of a “never-dying soul” so as to prove that Christ didn’t really die.

Al Martin writes (p 56): ” I do not know how disembodied spirits recognize and communicate with each other. It seems to me that Scripture is virtually silent on this matter. ” Since the Bible is silent in even claiming that disembodied human spirits communicate with each other, one only wonders what the difference between “virtual silence” and “silence” is. But Al Martin has not let something like biblical silence stop him up to this point. He takes certain phrases of Revelation 6 as literal and therefore “hints”. Presumably when the “souls under the altar” are told to “rest for a while yet”, that does not mean sleep or lack of consciousness, because despite their instant perfection at death, and despite their 24/7 conscious worship, nevertheless these souls are not yet at peace or at rest, and still have much more growing to do yet. Does this mean that heaven itself is a capitalist colony, in which there will always be “more and more” work and progress? How long before we ultimately become patient?

Make me patient. Today. Right now.

Al Martin does indicate that he doesn’t think the “marriage supper of the lamb” will happen until Jesus comes to earth again, but in the meanwhile, he thinks of death as the enemy of only the non-elect, and acts as if death is the friend of Christ and His elect, doing instantly for us what can never be done on earth in our bodies. Martin favors this anthem: ” Thou hast made death glorious and triumphant/ For through its portals we enter into the presence of the living God.”

But that cannot be, because we have not yet put on immortality and shall not until Resurrection day, and if that day does not come, we will perish. This is what I Corinthians 15 teaches. Also I Timothy 6

13 “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and lasting dominion. Amen.”

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31 Comments on “Sudden Death is not Sudden Glory”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Bavinck, Last Things, p 133—“The resurrection of the dead is primarily a judicial act of God.”

    Daniel 12 “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt

    the justified elect will not be found “naked” on that day, will not be like Adam after his first sin

    II Corinthians 5—to be found “clothed” in two ways

    1. to be found resurrected (a body from heaven, not a body always to be in heaven)

    2. to be found righteous before God, justified

    but here’s the point

    if found resurrected, then also found justified, no point to a future judgment after that

    if clothed with resurrection, then clothed with Christ’s righteousness

    the resurrection itself is the reward of Christ’s righteousness

    Galatians 5:5
    For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness

    this does not mean that we now hope for righteousness
    this means that we hope because we are already now counted righteous

    even so, on resurrection day,
    we won’t be hoping to be justified at the judgment
    our justification will already be visible to all

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Revelation 3: 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen,

    Revelation 6: 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)

    Revelation 19: “Hallelujah!
    For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
    Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
    for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
    it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—
    for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

    dressed in his righteousness now, at the second coming–dressed in his resurrection

    Many Bible passages speak of God rewarding his people while many others call such redeemed individuals sinners. When you consider who we are by nature (sinners), and who God is in his nature (holy, righteous, just), it seems a little presumptuous – perhaps even delusional? – to speak of God “rewarding” us. Jesus came to save sinners, but does he give such people rewards for their works? Impossible! Or, if it is true, maybe it would be best not to discuss too much. Hence the shortage of books on the topics of good works and rewards.

    In North American circles especially, I have noticed that Christians (even pastors) tend to be squeamish about the topic of rewards. There are likely many reasons for this phenomenon such as the fear of appearing Roman Catholic, legalistic, or self-dependent. As a result, we can approach passages that are talking about sanctification and read them in the hope of finding the doctrine of justification.

    I want to provide an example of this in some recent literature, which I will be highlighting in a forthcoming volume on good works and rewards. Professor J.V. Fesko at Westminster Seminary California has written some good stuff and I commend his book on the Westminster Assembly. But I was a little surprised in one of his recent publications to see him find justification in Professor G.K. Beale’s work where Beale was speaking clearly of sanctification.

  3. Joe Says:

    Howdy Marc,
    Didn’t Paul compare his body to a tent he would soon be leaving? I also recall him saying that he desired to depart so he could be with the Lord. When Jesus raised the girl from the dead “her spirit returned to her, and the thief was in paradise while his lifeless body still hung on the cross. It seems to me the Biblical evidence for a soul–a soul which is distinct from the body–is vast. It is possible I am misunderstanding all those passages, but it would take a great deal of convincing for me to see things differently. Wasn’t Abraham still alive at the mount of transfiguration, and Moses too?

    • markmcculley Says:

      II Corinthinas 5 is the “tent” reference. He clearly doesn’t want “nakedness”. He wants the body from heaven, which is the resurrection body. And Paul’s not going to get it until that body until Jesus comes again. If Jesus does not come again, if there is no resurrection, then we would all perish. This is what I Corinthians 15 says. Until that day comes, dead Christians sleep, which means that they are dead. It doesn’t mean that only their bodies are dead, because their minds are also dead until resurrection. Genesis 2:7 teaches that dust plus breath (life from God) results in a “living soul” ( a living person).

      Her spirit returned to her means her life returned to her. Of course in the case of the girl raised from the dead (like Lazarus) she died again (first death) and now waits for the Resurrection Day with all other dead people.

      No, the thief asked to be remembered (favored) on the last day, in paradise. But Jesus promised him that very day, that the thief would enter the kingdom on that day. It’s not only a matter of “moving the comma” but a matter of remembering where Jesus was when Jesus died that day. Acts 2 clearly tells us that Jesus was in Hades (Sheol, the grave), and so we need to think about what the thief asked and what Jesus answered. No, Abraham and Moses were not alive at the mount—if they were, then there would be no need for Jesus to come again or for them to be raised from the dead! Just think about what you are saying—are you saying that Abraham and Moses didn’t have bodies but they could be seen by the disciples? Was it a vision, or was it a resurrection so that Abraham and Moses do not have to wait for that day with the rest of us? (read Hebrews 11:39-40)

  4. markmcculley Says:

    n one sense, no human being really dies, for God is not the God of the dead but the living.

    mark: That sure doesn’t sound like Luther. Luther knew that death was a real enemy. Luther knew that the world is now full of s—-. Luther would not ever say that death is real, even if he did later agree to not disagree with Calvin about some kind of “intermediate access” for dead saints in heaven now. But early on, Luther saw through the Platonism of the Romanist “immortality of the soul” which says that “no human really dies.”

    I can’t think of anything more in antithesis to the gospel.

    If no human ever really dies, and if Jesus is really human (which is what we seem to be really talking about, is Jesus still human, or is Jesus now something which is not completely human, not in a place, not there instead of here, not coming again but always here), if Jesus is really human and humans don’t really die, then Jesus did not die, then we have no gospel and no hope. But then again, if humans don’t really die, then there is no real enemy Death, and no need for a gospel…

    Nathan: no human being really dies, for God is not the God of the dead but the living.

    mark: again, the antithesis of the gospel, because it’s a denial of the resurrection, a denial of even the need for the resurrection. Because if no human really dies, then no human ever needs to be resurrected. In context, God is God of the living is not at all about Abraham never dying. it’s about God raising Abraham from the dead

    Matthew 22: 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

    When Nathan denies that humans really die, that is “triumphalism” of the worst sort, the most dreadful kind of “theology of glory”. Instead of calling a spade, (see Forde vs Longfellow, On Being a Theologian of the Cross), Nathan is for “sacramental” reasons (ie, Christological tradition) leaves out the hope of the justified elect, that we are “children of the resurrection”,

    Romans 6: For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin would be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

    Romans 8: 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

    I Corinthians 15: 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    the elect are not justified as soon as they are elected, and the justified are not given immortality as soon as they are justified. After our justification, our future sins not charged to us. So when we “confess our sins”, we call them sins but we do not say that they are still charged to us. We confess that they are already forgiven.

    But, even though we are justified, we still die, we still are mortal, we have not yet been given immortality. So what gives with that time gap? Not all the blessings which follow from justification have now been given to the justified elect.

    Romans 8:10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

    If sin is no longer imputed to us, how then the body be dead because of sin?

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Wendell Berry Christianity and the Survival of Creation:

    “The formula given in Genesis 2:7 is not man equals body plus soul; the formula there is soul equals dust plus breath. According to this verse, God did not make a body and put a soul into it, like a letter into an envelope. He formed man of dust; then, by breathing His breath into it, He made the dust live. The dust, formed as man and made to live, did not embody a soul, it became a soul-that is, a whole creature. Humanity is thus presented to us, in Adam, not as a creature of two discrete parts temporarily glued together but as a single mystery.”

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Philippians 3: 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

    the body of our humiliation

    our humiliating body

  8. markmcculley Says:

    1 Corinthians 15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

    1 Corinthians 15:23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

    2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

    James 1:18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

    Revelation 14:4. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb,

  9. markmcculley Says:

    Calvin—the conclusion usually drawn is, that believing souls were shut up in an intermediate state or prison, because Christ says that, by his ascension into heaven, the place will be prepared. But the answer is easy. This place is said to be prepared for the day of the resurrection; for by nature mankind are banished from the kingdom of God…. we will not enjoy this great blessing, until he come from heaven the second time. The condition of the fathers after death, therefore, is not here distinguished from ours; because Christ has prepared both for them and for us a place, into which he will receive us all at the last day.

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Mike Horton—We have gone from having funerals to memorial services to “celebrations,” not realizing that this is a fatal index of our inability to face the music, whether we’re talking about the tragedy of sin itself or the suffering, death, and ultimate condemnation that it brings in its wake.

    Why is it that in our churches-in the preaching that avoids sin, suffering, the cross, and death, in the music that is always upbeat and seems so alien to the “blue note” that one finds in the Psalms, and in the “celebrations” that cannot seem to come to grips with the tragedy of death and the common curse that has invoked it-we seem to follow the world in refusing to face the music?

    We aren’t morbid when we take sin, suffering, and death seriously as Christians. Rather, we can face these tough realities head-on because we know that they have been decisively confronted by our captain. They have not lost their power to harm, but they have lost their power to destroy us. This biblical piety is not morbid because it doesn’t end at the cross, but it also doesn’t avoid it. It goes through the cross to the Resurrection.

    Lazarus, along with his sisters, was a close friend of Jesus, we learn especially from verses 1-16. I’ve walked that short distance between Bethany and Jerusalem in roughly an hour. We might say that it was the ancient equivalent of a suburb, and Mary, Martha, and Lazarus had made their home a base for Jesus’ Jerusalem-area mission. “It was that Mary who anointed the Lord”- that is, the prostitute who met the only person whose love was greater than her sin. Jesus was entreated to come to his ill friend’s side when Mary identified him to Jesus as “he whom you love” (v. 2). The assumption here is that Jesus and Lazarus are so close that all Jesus needed was an announcement of his condition. Surely Jesus would come running.

    Their plea for Jesus was not wrong, but short-sighted in its motivation. They were appealing to him for the healing of Lazarus, while Jesus anticipates using his friend’s death as an opportunity to signify his person and work. It is not about Lazarus, but about Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life.” Again we think of the difference between the theology of glory and the theology of the cross. It is not wrong to anticipate glory-both God’s and our own participation in it, but the problem comes when we think that our own immediate concerns are ultimate. God must provide for us or our loved ones in such and such a manner if he is really our friend.

    Mary and Martha knew that Jesus could heal their failing brother, and simply assumed that, given his love for Lazarus, Jesus would want to. Here we return to that conundrum: Is God both sovereign (able to heal) and good (willing to heal)? If the healing doesn’t occur, one of those affirmations comes into question, we reason. If Jesus really loves Lazarus, he’ll come quickly. “God, if you really care about me __________ “-fill in your own blank. In the thick of trouble, this is not so bad a response. In fact, it is a sign of faith on their part: God can and will heal. Rather, the problem is in the timing and the terms. “It is for the glory of God,” says Jesus, “so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (v. 4).

    In terms of the unfolding plot, Lazarus is a character in Jesus’ story, not vice versa. The glorification of the Son as the Messiah is the real “show” here, as was the case with all of the miracles. They are signs, not ends in themselves.

    Jesus deliberately delays his return to Bethany two more days. What could have been happening in the sisters’ minds during these two agonizing days? They had no idea that Jesus was going to do something far greater than they had asked him to do. With the wisdom and data at their disposal, they could only have been utterly depressed at the apparent lack of response on Jesus’ part. Jesus, of course, had acted promptly before: in the healing of Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8) or in the raising of the widow’s son in the middle of the funeral procession (Luke 7). How callous could he be if he healed perfect strangers but would not rush to the aid of one of his closest friends?

    Out of love for Lazarus and his sisters, Jesus finally decided to go to Bethany. “The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” He tells them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him,” to which the disciples (no doubt concerned about their own safety-see verses 7-16) reply, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” “Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.'” Nobody-the disciples, Lazarus, Mary, or Martha, nobody but Jesus, knew why Jesus had allowed Lazarus to die in the first place, especially if all along he was going to visit him eventually. It was all palpably confusing to their experience. It simply did not make sense.

    Jesus’ cryptic remark, “for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe,” could not be discerned this side of the events in Bethany. It could only be clear to them after the completion of the episode, not within it. This is a crucial point for our own application in such circumstances. From their perspective, in terms of their own experience, the sisters (and Lazarus in his final hours) and the disciples would have logically concluded that Jesus, whom they had seen as perfectly capable of healing, was simply callous. He was uninterested, unconcerned. Their experience was not irrational or illogical, but rather incomplete and so inadequate to sit in judgment upon God’s ways. Just as the disciples could not recognize what God was going to do through the cross, nobody could understand why Jesus had allowed his friend to die.

    Lazarus had to die in order for the greater miracle to occur. There is something more important than the healing of his friend. Jesus knew the great work that he would accomplish in the power of the Spirit when he came finally to Bethany. It is like Elijah pouring water on the fire-pit, just to make sure that God’s glorious power will be manifest. As the greater Elijah, Jesus was engaged in a cosmic contest between Yahweh and the serpent. That was the larger story behind all of these other stories.

    After a four-day interval between Lazarus’ death and Jesus’ arrival in Bethany, Martha displays the sort of frustration that one would not have expected a woman of her day to show toward a man in public, much less a rabbi. Yet after scolding Jesus for his tardiness-“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” she immediately adds, “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (vv. 21-22). Martha’s faith in Jesus is unfailing. He can still turn things around-even after her brother’s entombment: “Even now . . .” (v. 22).

    It is important to see how Martha here reflects that combination of heart-wrenching disappointment and faith that we find in the Psalms. She does not believe that even death has the last say in the presence of Jesus, which is thus far more faith than we have seen in the disciples. Martha’s theology is right: as a Pharisee, she believes in the resurrection of the dead. But it’s like Philip saying to Jesus, “Now show us the Father,” with Jesus’ reply, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:8-14).

    Jesus replies, “Your brother will rise again” (v. 23). “Do you believe this?” Jesus presses her to commit herself not just to the theological question of resurrection of the dead, but to him as the Resurrection and the Life! To claim to be “the Resurrection and the Life,” as “the Way, the Truth and the Life,” is to claim nothing less than equality with the Father. So now the stakes of Martha’s confession are raised considerably. In the presence of witnesses, she is called not only to confess that Jesus can raise the dead-as Elijah had done. Jesus calls upon her to acknowledge that he is himself the God upon whom Elijah called.

    That is a very large step. One of the marvelous clauses here is, “though he may die” (v. 25). It is one thing to halt the processes of decay and death, quite another to bring someone back to life. Jesus declares of himself, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (v. 26).

    Jesus is not simply asking Martha to confess that Lazarus will live, but that those who trust in Jesus Christ-even though they die, will be raised to never die again. It’s no longer about Lazarus per se. Jesus is calling Martha into the circle of that cosmic trial between Yahweh and the serpent, calling her to be a witness (the Greek word for witness being the same for “martyr”). Lazarus’ resurrection will be a sign-proof, in fact-of that reality to be inaugurated with Christ’s own Resurrection from the dead. Even though people will still die despite the arrival of Messiah, they will not remain dead forever but will be raised in the likeness not of Lazarus’ mortal body, still tending toward death, but in the likeness of Christ’s glorified body.

    We recall that many centuries earlier, in the midst of his agony, Job cried out, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in this flesh I shall behold God” (Job 19:25). And on the witness stand Martha, racked with myriad thoughts and feelings of desperation and hope, brought Job’s exclamation up-to-date: “She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world'” (v. 27).

    Mary, who had been sitting in the house, joins Martha at this point (vv. 28-32). Perhaps even more despondent than Martha both at her brother’s death and her beloved Master’s apparent failure either to care enough or to be powerful enough, Mary, the one who had lavished Jesus’ feet with her expensive perfume, has to be called out to the scene by her sister (“The Teacher has come and is calling for you”). Furthermore, upon meeting Jesus she reiterates the charge, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (v. 32). Martha is not to be blamed here, but to be respected for having brought her doubts as well as her faith to the Savior.

    Jesus finds himself one of the mourners. Here he is not simply a miracle worker who walks on the sea and calms the storms, but a man who is suddenly overtaken by troubled emotions. His own love for Lazarus and his hatred for death overwhelmed him even though he knew what he was about to do.

    It is in verses 33-35 that we capture a glimpse of what the writer to the Hebrews meant when he said that Jesus was made like us in every respect:

    Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:14-16)
    And here at his friend’s tomb-even moments before he knew he would raise Lazarus, we see his anguish of soul in the presence of sin’s most gruesome banner: death. He did not come with a cheerful homily on how better off Lazarus was now that he had “slipped the bonds of earth” or “sloughed off his mortal coil,” for these are pagan views .

    There was no “celebration,” where mourning was considered out of place. Already emotionally unhinged by Mary’s weeping at his feet, Jesus came to the tomb, and we read those two words that deserve their own verse: “Jesus wept” (v. 35). The bystanders were not sure what to make of it. “See how he loved him!” said some. “But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?'” (v. 37).
    But let’s pause for a moment at the remarkable report, “Jesus wept.” Jesus here overthrows the various pagan conceptions of life and death that are as prevalent in our day: stoicism and sentimentalism. Some influences are more Stoic in orientation. Famous for the stiff upper lip, the ancient Stoics believed that the best souls were those who were completely free of emotion. Stirred neither by friendship nor treachery, the Stoic aimed at perfect rest. If one depended on others, he or she would soon be disappointed. In order to avoid disappointment, one should resolve never to develop attachments, except to oneself. Utter freedom from desire would make the soul a fortress against distress. For them, as for Greek thought generally, death was a liberation from the body, which was after all the seat of emotion-that weak part of human nature that would drag the soul down into the messiness of the world. By contrast, Westerners such as myself are often astonished to the point of embarrassment to witness Jews and Palestinians mourning their dead with wails and desperate gestures, but this is the culture from which Jesus came and he was not embarrassed by it.

    Far from resisting emotional expression, sentimentalism celebrates it. Ironically, although sentimentalism seems like the opposite of stoicism, they share some intriguing parallels. They both seem intent on avoiding the messiness of life-particularly, the tragic aspect. They want to ignore the bad news, although their solution is different. While the Stoic realizes that to abandon negative emotions one must banish all emotions, the sentimentalist believes in admitting only the good emotions, always looking on the bright side of life.

    One sympathy card I saw has a line from Thoreau: “Every blade in the field, every leaf in the forest, lays down its life in its season as beautifully as it was taken up.” Even more troubling was the maxim of my father’s convalescent hospital that was unfortunately enshrined in giant tapestries hanging in various parts of the complex. With scenes from childhood to old age, walking toward a sunset, it read, “The setting of the sun is as beautiful as its rising.” I wondered at how offensive this must have been to many who were suffering there, as their lot was trivialized.

    Compare for just a moment any experience you might have had with the joy of childbirth, family and friends standing around to celebrate this new life, with the declining years, months, and days of a person’s life. One stage is full of hope in a way that the other simply cannot be made to be. . One attracts visitors, family, and friends who cannot keep themselves from holding and doting on the little ones, while the other draws visits more often than not out of a sense of duty.

    We often hear, “Death is a natural part of life.” This assumes the “cycle of life” approach to reality. According to this picture, life and death are just two sides of the same coin. However, the biblical picture could not be more opposite: life everlasting was the goal of creation in the beginning; death is the curse for human sin. It is part of the Fall imposed on humanity as a result of disobedience, not an inevitable circumstance to be taken in stride. Death stands against God, against the world, against life, against hope, against possibilities.

    So now we return to Jesus as he crumples at his friend’s grave: “Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb” (v. 38). Look at Jesus’ face, hear his scream here. “Deeply moved” hardly captures the emotion of the original language:enebrimesato, meaning to snort like a horse in anger; “troubled,” etaraxen, meaning agitated, confused, disorganized, fearful, surprised, as when Herod was “troubled” by the wise men (Matt. 2:3); or when the disciples were “troubled” and “cried out in fear” when Jesus walked on the sea (Matt. 14:27). Jesus now found himself overtaken by grief. More than grief, in fact: anger. And why not? There he stood face to face with “the last enemy” he would defeat in his crusade against Satan. And he “wept.”

    The marvel in this scene is that Jesus responds thus even though he knows that he will shortly raise Lazarus from the dead. One would expect his countenance to reveal a knowing grin that invites the crowd to anticipate his miracle, but all it shows is anguish. How much more are we allowed to weep when such an interval exists between the death of loved ones and the final Resurrection! Theologically, it is the appropriate response to death-not simply because of our own sense of loss or our mourning for the survivors who are dear to us, but because of the loss to the beloved who has died. We do not grieve “as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13), but we do grieve.

    Death is not a benign passageway to happiness, but a horrible enemy attempting to keep us in the grave. Death’s sting has been removed, but its bite remains. It does not have the last word for believers, but it remains the believer’s antagonist until the Resurrection of the body. The good news is never that one has died, but that death has been ultimately conquered by the Lord of Life.

    Martha trusted Jesus when she moved the stone at his command. Perhaps she had even heard and recalled Jesus’ promise, “For the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come forth” (John 5:28). Jesus’ own Resurrection will be the “first fruits of those who sleep” (1 Cor. 15:20), but this resurrection of Lazarus is in a sense the prelude to that great inauguration of the last day. This is the climactic sign because “the last enemy is death” (1 Cor. 15:26).

    The good news in all of this is that “the last enemy is death.” This means that Jesus accomplished everything in his mission on earth for our complete redemption and glorification. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” That is the bad news. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:56).
    Death is not a portal to life. Death is not a benign friend, but a dreaded foe. It is not a natural part of life, but the most unnatural part of life you could imagine. But in his death and Resurrection, Jesus crushed the serpent’s head, vanquishing the “last enemy” of every believer. This last enemy will one day be overcome for believers in the final resurrection of the dead, but that is because it has already objectively been vanquished in the Resurrection of our Living Head. In Christ, the end has already begun. The Head will not live without his body. The shape of the future is already present.

    Lazarus was raised, but he died. His body thus raised for a time continued where it left off in its surrender to decay and death. One day, mourners would gather again at Lazarus’ tomb, but this time with no expectation of resurrection until the last day. And yet, precisely because of that confidence, precisely because Lazarus’ next funeral occurred this side of Christ’s resurrection, they would not mourn that day as those with no hope. After all, word would have reached them by then-perhaps some of them had even been witnesses-of the greater Resurrection of Jesus himself, which would take a stand against death on its own territory, so that those united to him by faith will not remain dead. Their bodies will be raised to worship in God’s renewed sanctuary.

    Death is still an enemy, not a friend, but it is “the last enemy,” and it is already defeated so that now death is not God’s judgment upon us for our sin but the temporal effects of our participation in Adam’s guilt. And because the guilt and judgment are removed, we can both cry out with our Lord in troubled anger at death and yet also sing with the Apostle, “Where O death is your sting? Where O hell is your victory?” (1 Cor. 15:54-55). What we need again is a church that can sing the blue note in a way that faces the real world honestly and truthfully, recognizing the tragic aspect of life as even more tragic than any nihilist could imagine, while knowing that the one who raised Lazarus is now raised to the right hand of his Father, until all enemies-including death, lie in the rubble beneath his feet.

  11. markmcculley Says:

    mortal means not permanent
    but for Christians
    being impermanent is impermanent
    but our present mortality
    is not unimportant
    the age, what is passing away
    we will not forget
    even after that day
    our previous mortality

  12. markmcculley Says:

    Don Fortner—-We are creatures made in the image and likeness of God. We live in these bodies; but we are living, immortal, undying souls. You are going to spend eternity somewhere, either in everlasting life in heaven or in everlasting death in hell.

    CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory—“there are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal”

    Genesis 1: 20 Then God said, “Let the water swarm with living beings, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the large sea-creatures and every living being that moves and swarms in the water, according to their kinds.

    Genesis 2: 7 Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.

    Matthew 10: 28 Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body

    Mark 8: 36 For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his LIFE ? 37 What can a man give in exchange for his LIFE

  13. I am not usually a fan of N T Wright, but in this essay he says something very “Protestant” against the idea that some believers have attained better status than others at the judgment.

    Wright—“In I Corinthians 3, Paul does not say that the people who have built with gold, silver and precious stones will go straight to heaven, or paradise, still less to the resurrection, while those who have used wood, hay and stubble will be delayed en route by a purgatory in which they will be punished or purged. No: both will be saved. . This is a solemn passage, to be taken very seriously by Christian workers and teachers. But it does not teach a difference of status, or of celestial geography, or of temporal progression, between one category of Christians and another.”

    Wright—“In fact, there are so many things said in the New Testament about the greatest becoming least and the least becoming greatest that we shouldn’t be surprised at this lack of distinction between the post-mortem state of different Christians. There is no reason whatever to say, for instance, that Peter or Paul, James or John, or even, dare I say, the mother of Jesus herself, is more advanced, closer to God, or has achieved more spiritual ‘growth’.

    Wright—“Think about one of Paul’s best-known chapters, often rightly read at funerals. ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ,’ he writes (Romans 8.1). The last great paragraph of the chapter leaves no room to imagine any such thing as the doctrine of purgatory, in any of its forms. ‘Who shall lay any charge against us? … Who shall condemn us? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?… Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor the present nor the future, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!’ And if you think that Paul might have added ‘though of course you’ll probably have to go through purgatory first’, I think with great respect you ought to see, not a theologian, but a therapist.”

    Wright—Dante’s middle volume is the one people most easily relate to. The myth of purgatory is an allegory, a projection, from the present on to the future. The glorious news is that, although during the present life we struggle with sin, and may or may not make small and slight progress towards genuine holiness, our remaining propensity to sin is finished, cut off, done with all at once, in physical death.”

  14. markmcculley Says:

    ne blessing of salvation is glorification but we have not been glorified yet

    which is why I don’t say–Christians don’t fear physical death anymore

    it would be like saying—Christians don’t sin anymore

    let me be straight—it’s not just that I am still a sinner

    I still want to keep living, i still fear death

    now you can say—it’s sin for a Christian to fear death (it’s not a sin for a nonChristian to fear death? no matter–everything a nonChristian does is sin)

    so, doubt is sin, fear of death is sin

    but some say to me—i don’t doubt, i don’t fear death
    why do you?

    assuming that they are not lying,

    why do they go to the doctor?

    you can say you don’t want to live to be really old, but why do you even want to live the rest of the week?

    is it your holiness and piety that hates this world we live in, is that it?

    is your despair, your lack of hope and faith/

    Christians do not fear death
    i fear death
    I am no Christians

    Job said to friends
    please keep on being silent, my friends

    I don’t like it when atheists try to take it easy on me as in “well I don’t want to offend you, I don’t want to shake your faith, since I know you need it”

    so condescending
    so maybe it’s better for people to keep asking me
    why do you fear death?
    why do you want to keep on living for a long time

    and spare me the “for my wife and others” bullshit

    Hebrews 2: 14 Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, in order that through His death He would destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the Devil— 15 and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.

    I Corinthians 15: When this corruptible is clothed
    with incorruptibility,
    and this mortal is clothed
    with immortality,
    then the saying that is written will take place:
    Death has been swallowed up in victory.[o]
    55 Death, where is your victory?
    Death, where is your sting?[p]
    56 Now the sting of death is sin,
    and the power of sin is the law.
    57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
    through our Lord Jesus Christ!

  15. before the throne of God above
    I have a strong and perfect plea

    I know that while in heaven He SITS
    nobody will tell me to leave there
    because I am never going to be there
    except by identification with Him who SITS there

    Only the one who descended from there
    has ascended back over there above
    i am not going up
    He who rose and sits bove is coming down

    It was not the immortal soul of the Savour which went up there
    my Savour died here, made satisfaction here
    my Savour was priest here, finished His death here
    my Savour rose from the dead here
    all that done before ascending there above

    You can’t see Him, but He’s sitting there above
    and now because of what He did here
    He has a righteousness He earned here
    not only righteousness as the Person who always was
    but the finished righteousness of His death

    One with Him I can and have died
    One with Him I have died the death which satisfies God’s law
    and now my life is hid with Christ on High
    until Christ comes back here below

    God brings everything together in Him who sits
    both things in heaven and things on earth united and new
    and He who rose and who now sits above will come down
    to live with us
    when in this ruined age my flesh shall fail
    and mortal life cease
    I shall not go up above behind the veil
    but sleep until He who rose and now sits above come back to earth
    and after Jesus the risen one has come back ten thousand years
    we will still have no less days to sing God’s praise
    than the first day He comes back
    or than we have already right now

    Hebrews 2: 5 For He has not subjected to angels the world to come that we are talking about…. For in subjecting everything to him, He left NOTHING that is not subject to him. As it is, we do not yet see everything subjected to him. 9 But we do see Jesus—made lower than the angels for a short time….crowned with glory and honor because of His death.

  16. Warfield—“the Old Testament never falls into the error of supposing death to concern merely the body. Every soul that departs to Sheol is a dead soul. Quite irrespective of any and everything else that may be true of any and every soul gathered here, this is the fundamental thing that is true of them all–they are all dead. The immense stress that the OT lays on sheol as the place of death is certainly justified in the nature of the case, and its effect was to throw the eyes of the OT saint for his hope, not across the gulf that divides ‘this” from the ‘other’ world, but on into the future. This made the OT faith emphatically eschatological. It is resurrection, not mere immortality, that we long for.

    Donald Macleod–Death is not annihilation but disorganization.

    Charles Hodge—The body is to rise and it is to be the same after the resurrection that it was before, but neither the Bible nor the Church determines wherein that sameness is to consist.

    justification is not equal to ‘the life of the age to come”

    but justification results in “the life of the age to come”

    immortality is not equal to “the life of the age to come’

    but “the life of the age to come” will result in immortality

    Lemke equates regeneration with eternal life On Lemke’s interpretation of key passages which suggest faith precedes regeneration (John 3:16, 36; 6:51, 53-54, 57; 11:25; 20:31), Lemke gets it wrong by assuming he equates regeneration with eternal life. Quoting Schreiner and Caneday, Barrett suggests “eternal life” is not only a present reality but an eschatological reality and “by definition is life of the age to come.” Therefore, Lemke cannot be right. Barrett goes on to suggest some passages would simply not make sense if regeneration were equated with eternal life.

    The point is made clear when one examines other passages (which Lemke does not mention) that use the phrase eternal life to refer to a gift to be received in the age to come (Mark 10:17, 29-30; Romans 2:6-7, 23; Galatians 6:8; 1 Timothy 6:19; Titus 1:2; 3:7; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10).Notice how it sounds if we equate, as Lemke does, eternal life in these passages with regeneration. For example, Jesus, responding to the rich young ruler states, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers…for my sake and the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time…and in the age to come regeneration (eternal life)” (Mark 10:29-30).

    some propositions—Regeneration should not be confused adoption.
    Becoming “Children of God” does not mean “becoming regenerate”
    In order to “receive Christ”, sinners first have to become regenerate, and only when they “receive Christ” do they become “children of God

    John 1: 12 But to all who did receive Him,
    He gave them the right to be children of God,
    to those who believe in His name,
    13 who were born,
    not of blood,
    or of the will of the flesh,
    or of the will of man,
    but of God.

    Galatians 3: 26 for you are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus

    • markmcculley Says:

      An Examination of Tulip. Robert Sumner

      The Word of God teaches that, while man is totally depraved and totally unable to help himself, our Lord draws every man sufficiently and enlightens every man as much as necessary for that individual to make a decision of his own free will. ). Five-point Calvinism erroneously insists that man’s spiritual deadness makes such a voluntary decision impossible short of the actual reception of spiritual life.

      Proponents of this position fondly illustrate by pointing to the total inability of a man physically dead. They argue that such a man cannot speak, cannot hear, cannot move a hand or a foot. cannot do anything at all. Since man is dead in trespasses and sins, they reason, he is hopeless to even hear the Gospel with spiritual perception or move a finger to act upon it.

      The kind of “deadness” they describe is unlike any of the three forms of deadness found in the Bible. The deadness envisioned by the Word of God is a “separation” deadness. For example, physical deadness is simply the separation of the spirit and the soul from the body. James wrote: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). It is true that the dead corpse cannot hear, speak, or move. But the corps is not the man! The man, even though physically dead, is still able to hear, see, move, act and be cognizant of things.

      Our dear Lord certainly gave us ample evidence of this in His story of the rich man and Lazarus, found in Luke 16:19-31 Our Saviour clearly stated that the rich man, after departing this life, was able to lift up his eyes, he saw, he cried, he prayed, and was apparently in full possession of all his faculties. The same is true with spiritual deadness.

      Spiritual death is simply separation from God, Paul was describing this spiritual deadness when he wrote to Timothy, saying, “But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (1Tim.5:6). Those outside of Christ are spiritually dead, yes; but they eat, talk, think, move, act, work, play, sleep and react in every way just as do the saved people who have spiritual life.

      It is no different with the third type of Biblical death, namely, the “second death” so called because it is the second and final form of spiritual death. The second death is simply a complete, final and eternal separation from God in the lake of fire (Gehenna) because of sin and because of rejection of Christ. Sinners in Hell will think, move, act, and otherwise manifest full sense of their faculties.

      So it is a strange sort of deadness; one completely foreign to any type described in the Word of God that the five-point Calvinist describes in his doctrine of total inability. It is certainly true that no sinner can come to Christ unless drawn by the Spirit of God; but the blessed Holy Spirit draws every man (John 12:32), giving man enough light so that he is, as Romans 1 :20 says, “without excuse.” And John says about Jcsus, ‘’That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9).

  17. markmcculley Says:

    the gain part is here IN THE CONTEXT

    Philippians 2: 15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I REJOICE. Yes, and I will REJOICE, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death….

    24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary ON YOUR ACCOUNT. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will REMAIN and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to GLORY IN CHRIST, because of my coming to you again.

  18. markmcculley Says:

    It should be remembered that when Tatian was writing, it was almost universally assumed by the Greek philosophers working in the Platonic tradition that psychic immortality included both the soul’s preexistence before conception as well as its survival after death (a key feature of the Greek view that would get Origen into trouble when he adopted Platonic anthropology too uncritically).

    Against that doctrine, Tatian leveled some very effective orthodox polemic, which Pelikan deftly summarizes here—Man wants to claim pre-existence for his soul because he aspires to immortality; if his soul existed before the brief arc of earthly existence began, it can continue to exist also after that arc has been closed . . . . If the soul does not need an act of the Creator in order to come into existence but pre-existed all along on its own power, then it does not need an act of the Creator to come to life after death but can go on living immortally by its own power.

    Pelikan– In antithesis to the claim that the soul is not capable of dying, Tatian maintains that it is both capable of dying and capable of not dying; which of these destinies awaits it depends upon its relation to God. Not within the soul itself, but in the life-giving Spirit of God resides the power to grant life after death . . . . Like his argument against the pre-existence of the soul, Tatian’s rejection of natural immortality is fundamentally theocentric . . . . Neither for his original birth out of the nothingness of non-being nor for his ultimate rebirth out of the nothingness of death can man take the credit, but it belongs to God’s sovereignty and discretion to create a human being in the first place and to re-create him after he has been annihilated by death.

    That word re-create implies too great a discontinuity between the self on earth and the self before the Judgment Seat of God, which is why almost all later fathers, not to mention church teaching itself, came to a greater appreciation of Platonic/Aristotelian reflection on the substantial immortality of the soul.

    But I think Tatian’s wider point can be granted: “If a man is to find immortality he has to look for it at the source from which his life has originally come, the free and sovereign action of God the Creator,” as Pelikan paraphrases. “Whatever immortality a man may obtain is thus by participation in the immortality and incorruptibility of God.”

    Tatian’s views enjoyed a great revival among certain Protestant divines after World War II, especially in Oscar Cullmann’s influential Immortality of the Soul and Resurrection of the Dead . But the problems the early Church had with Tatian inevitably crop up whenever his views are revived, a point perhaps most succinctly made by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus in his account of his own bout with cancer surgery, As I Lay Dying :

    In Protestant theology of the last century, there has been a sharp reaction against the ancient Greek and later Enlightenment notion of a disembodied mind or soul. Here the turn is not toward materialism¯for, after all, God, the ultimate reality, is Spirit¯but toward the resurrection of the dead . . . . But we may wonder whether it is the case, as some theologians claim, that belief in the resurrection excludes what is suggested by the immortality of the soul, by the experience of a perduring “I” beyond death. At least I, and many others who have been brought to death’s door and back, wonder about that.

  19. markmcculley Says:

    when humans pass away (die), do they go back to nothing (or dust)?
    \when the old earth passes away, will the old earth be destroyed?
    was the world after the flood made out of the world before the flood?
    will the new earth be created out of nothing?
    I Peter 1: 7 You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials 7 so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which PERISHES THOUGH REFINED BY FIRE—will result in praise, glory, and honor AT THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST.
    II Peter 3: 5 Long ago the heavens and the earth were brought about from water and through water by the word of God. 6 Through these waters the world of that time PERISHED when it was flooded. 7 But by the same word, the present heavens and earth are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and DESTRUCTION of ungodly men
    II Peter 3: 10 But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that day the heavens will PASS AWAY with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be DISCLOSED. 11 Since all THESE THINGS things are to be DESTROYED in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in HOLY CONDUCT and godliness
    Malachi 3: 2 But who can endure the day of His coming? And who will be able to stand when He appears? For He will be like a refiner’s fire and like cleansing lye.
    Revelation 21: 4 the previous things have passed away 5 Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.

    Romans 5:19 For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope 21 that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children.

    Acts 3: 21 Heaven must welcome JESUS until the times of the REstoration of all things

  20. markmcculley Says:

    That there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. (Hebrews 12:16–17)

  21. markmcculley Says:

    This guy says that being put out of the garden is on the basis of works, and that staying in the garden is on the basis of works, but that getting back into the garden is not on the basis of works. But he doesn’t give any reason for the contrast he assumes. If you confuse law and mercy at the beginning, there is no reason to stop confusing law and mercy later on.

    To compare Adam being put out of the garden to somebody being put out of “the church” or out of “the covenant” is to claim that the punishment for sin is “mercy”. To say that God’s mercy keeps you from breaking the law is not to depend on God’s mercy in Christ.

    To say that Adam already had ‘spiritual life” and that Adam could have and would have earned justification by works is to make Christ plan B. There is no reason to deny that Adam ate from the tree of life before he sinned, but there is also no reason to think that the tree of life was the tree of justification.

    Those who assume that all humans will always exist deny that any humans ever really die. So they deny that being separated from the tree of life is the death which is the wages of sin. They only make a distinction between living in the presence of God, or living in “hell where God is not present”. But this guy knows that ‘returning to the dust” does not mean non-existence but something bad like exile or “spiritual death”

    The next time you hear somebody say that “eternal life” is not about continuing to exist in time but about “quality of life”, ask them why “eternal life” cannot be BOTH knowing Christ and knowing Christ in time forever. A false logic gives us false alternatives.

  22. markmcculley Says:

    Have you confused your death with the rapture?

    your sudden death is not the same as Christ’s sudden coming

    at Christ’s second coming, God will make a sudden move

  23. markmcculley Says:

    John 5: 26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted to the Son to have life in Himself. 27 And He has granted Him the right to pass judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come out

    at this point, we know that the confessions must correct the impression given by biblicists—When John refers to all who are in graves, he is not talking about our inner selves, because our inner selves are always existing immortal souls and these souls are our real selves, and we ourselves have these real selves. So really we have two natures, first there’s our souls, and then there’s the us who have the souls. And also we have bodies, but our bodies are not really our nature, our bodies our not our selves . because we either go straight to heaven without any bodies, and straight to torture gehenna without any bodies. long before the judgment because you see God already knows what the judgment will be, it’s a mere formality

    sarcasm alert

    What is the difference between the words exist and live? “Exist” is a word that Mormons use to describe “preexistent souls” before they go into bodies. “Exist” is a word that pagans use to say that eternal existence in torture is death.

    since some who live, are dead in their sins

    this means that dead never really means dead

    since some who live, do not have the life of the age to come

    this means that life is death and death is life, no difference

    Sinclair Ferguson–The doctrine of the general resurrection of the dead, which otherwise must be viewed as some kind of cynical joke in the heart of this All-Righteous God, that he punishes men and women and then raises them from the dead simply to destroy them out of all existence. That’s a little bit like having shot Socrates in the head and taking him to the emergency room in order that he may live to drink the hemlock. And there is something in it that is altogether out of keeping with everything that Scripture says about the utter integrity of God and his dealings with men and women.

  24. markmcculley Says:

    Don Fortner’s false doctrine
    When I have breathed my final breath
    And dropped this robe of flesh in death,
    When my appointed work is done
    And my allotted time is gone,
    Don’t stand around my grave and cry.
    I’ll not be there. I did not die.

    My Savior came to call me home,
    And I with Him to heav’n have gone!
    Now I am free from sin and pain;
    And with the glorified I reign!
    Don’t stand around my grave and cry.
    I’m glorified! I did not die!

    Seated with Jesus on His throne,
    Glorified by what He has done,
    I am a trophy of His grace.
    Rejoicing, I behold His face:
    Don’t stand around my grave and cry.
    I am with Christ! I did not die!

    My body lies beneath the clay
    Until the resurrection day.
    In that day when Christ comes again,
    Body and soul unite again!
    Don’t stand around my grave and cry.
    Rejoice with me! I did not die!

    Don Fortner–So it is with all God’s saints who have left this world. They are not dead, but living

    Mark McCulley—God’s grace does not save Christians from dying, but after Christians are dead, then God saves them from death. First dead, then saved from death.

    God’s grace does not save Christians from repenting from Arminianism. God does not leave justified people in Arminianism. When the elect are still Arminians, they are not justified yet . God gives life to these dead elect and saves them from Arminianism. First Arminian, then justified. Not justified while still Arminian.

    God does not justify Christians but then leave them not yet born again. God will not leave Christians in death. God will not save Christians from dying. God does not ask us to believe that the dead are still living, God by resurrection will save Christians from death, so that they will not be dead anymore.

  25. markmcculley Says:

    3 After this, Job began to speak and cursed the day he was born. 2 He said:

    3 May the day I was born perish,
    and the night when they said,
    “A boy is conceived.”
    4 If only that day had turned to darkness!
    May God above not care about it,
    or light shine on it.
    5 May darkness and gloom reclaim that day,
    and a cloud settle over it.
    May an eclipse of the sun terrify that day.
    6 If only darkness had taken that night away!
    May that day not appear among the days of the year
    or be listed in the calendar.
    7 Yes, may that night be barren;
    may no joyful shout be heard in it.
    8 Let those who curse certain days
    cast a spell on it,
    those who are skilled in rousing Leviathan.
    9 May its morning stars grow dark.
    May it wait for daylight but have none;
    may it not see the breaking of dawn.
    10 For that night did not shut
    the doors of my mother’s womb,
    and hide sorrow from my eyes.

    11 Why was I not stillborn;
    why didn’t I die as I came from the womb?
    12 Why did the knees receive me,
    and why were there breasts for me to nurse?
    13 Now I would certainly be lying down in peace;
    I would be asleep.
    Then I would be at rest
    14 with the kings and counselors of the earth,
    who rebuilt ruined cities for themselves,
    15 or with princes who had gold,
    who filled their houses with silver.
    16 Or why was I not hidden like a miscarried child,
    like infants who never see daylight?
    17 There the wicked cease to make trouble,
    and there the weary find rest.
    18 The captives are completely at ease;
    they do not hear the voice of their oppressor.
    19 Both small and great are there,
    and the slave is set free from his master.

    20 Why is light given to one burdened with grief,
    and life to those whose existence is bitter,
    21 who wait for death, but it does not come,
    and search for it more than for hidden treasure,
    22 who are filled with much joy
    and are glad when they reach the grave?
    23 Why is life given to a man whose path is hidden,
    whom God has hedged in?
    24 I sigh when food is put before me,
    and my groans pour out like water.
    25 For the thing I feared has overtaken me,
    and what I dreaded has happened to me.
    26 I cannot relax or be still;
    I have no rest, for trouble comes.

  26. markmcculley Says:

    I Thessalonians 4: 15 We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

    Will the Christians who have died have an advantage over those who are still alive at the Lord’s coming? Will the Christians who have died not really be dead but living it up in heaven?

    Hebrews 11: 39 All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.

    Romans 14: 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 Christ died and came to life in order to rule over both the dead and the living.

    Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that death (nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation) will NOT be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Jesus, since his incarnation, is not everywhere present in his humanity

    but since His humanity and deity are one person, Jesus as person is in many places

    since the incarnation, his deity has never been separated from his humanity

    Jesus was dead, but now He is risen and His humanity is in heaven, not separated from His person

    but we ourselves are never in more than one place

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