THE DESTINIES OF THE DEAD
by Norman Manzon
Since the first edition of The Shofar in October of 2005, we have been studying the biblical underpinnings of the AMC's What We Believe statement. We have examined: The Scriptures, The Tri-Unity (Trinity), Satan and Demons, Angels, Man, Salvation, The Body of Messiah, The Gifts and Present Day Ministry of the Holy Spirit, Israel (which included a four part Anti-Semitism series), and The Believer and the Law of Moses.
Shall we take a breath? There is yet
one major topic that we need to cover: Last
Things. Most likely, this topic will be
covered in four articles beginning in this Shofar
with The Destinies of the Dead, and with
three more in subsequent Shofars: The Rapture,
The Great Tribulation, and The Messianic
Kingdom and Eternal Ages in the following
three Shofars. So let us gird
up the loins of [our] minds (1 Peter
1:13, KJV) and see the race through to the end.
Hebrews 9:27 declares, It is appointed for men to
die once and after this comes judgment.
In 1 Corinthians 12:2-4, Paul states that he had been taken up into the third heaven. The first heaven in Scripture is the atmosphere, where the birds fly and the clouds hover, as in Genesis 1:20. The second is outer space, where the sun, moon and stars and other “heavenly bodies” are located, as in Genesis 1:14-17. The third heaven, the Heaven of note in this study, is not part of the natural world as we know it, but is the dwelling place of God, which can be seen in Revelation 11:13 and numerous other passages.
We will now examine a number of
scriptures and establishing a few points.
The passage describes the rich man
as being in Hades,
a place of torment,
and Abraham and Lazarus being in a place of comfort.
Relative to Lazarus, the place of comfort was
called Abraham’s bosom,
a term denoting closeness of relationship and
security (John 13:23). Between the two places there is a great chasm
fixed. It would seem from the
passage that Abraham and Lazarus were not in Hades.
Nevertheless, on the basis of Psalm 89:48, which
we've just looked at, we can conclude that all
three were in Hades.
How can that be? New York City is in New York
State. The Hades
that the rich man was in is like New York City.
Some may find the similarity striking, but it is
strictly coincidental; and the Hades that all
three were in is like New York State, the
so to speak, with Abraham and Lazarus living
comfortably out in the suburbs or in some other
pleasant part of the State beyond the City.
To summarize some essentials,
2. Heaven is the place where God dwells, and is the final destination of the saints of all of Earth's ages.
3. Paradise denotes a place of great pleasantness, and is used in Scripture of both Abraham's Bosom and Heaven (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7).
From the Ephesians passage especially, and others that we will examine, we learn that our Lord’s Ascension marked a significant dividing line in regard to the destinies of saints.
In the two passages just noted, Yeshua descended into the lower parts of the earth, the heart of the earth. We can thereby tell for certain that He descended into the greater Hades. But into which section? Luke 23:24 makes that clear: Yeshua said to the thief on the cross, today you shall be with Me in Paradise (Luke 23:24). It was the comfort section, Abraham's Bosom, to which He descended. In addition, from such passages as Matthew 27:60 and Mark 15:43-45, which describe the handling and burial of Yeshua's corpse, we see that it was only His spirit that descended into Abraham's Bosom, not His body.
Yeshua was no ordinary man. He was God. Why, then, did He go to Abraham's Bosom, and not to Heaven until it was time for His resurrection? Perhaps the answer lies in this: The sacrifices that the pre-Ascension saints had offered for their sins merely covered their sins and qualified them for entry into Abraham's Bosom, but not Heaven (which explains why they are called captives in the passage, though they were in a place of comfort); but now that the Lamb of God had offered Himself as the true sacrifice, they could now be welcomed into Heaven. Apparently, Jesus descended into Abraham's Bosom to announce to the pre-Ascension saints that He had prepared the way for them to enter Heaven and that He was shortly to escort them there. On the third day, His spirit rose from Abraham's Bosom to join His body, and He was resurrected. Upon His Ascension to Heaven forty days later, He escorted the souls of the pre-Ascension saints with Him into the presence of God in Heaven, leaving the unrighteous in the Pit. (Other passages that we will address indicate that the resurrection of the bodies of the pre-Ascension saints is for a future time.)
was emptied of pre-Ascension saints upon
Yeshua's Ascension, but we can deduce that the
souls of the pre-Ascension unrighteous are still
in the Pit
portion of Hades,
and that the souls of the post-Ascension
unrighteous who die right up to the end of the
Millennium will go there, because Revelation
20:14 tells us that, at the end of the
[will be] thrown into
the lake of fire.
From these passages, we see that the souls of saints who die between the Ascension and the Rapture - the period of time in which Paul made the declarations, and in which we live - enter immediately into the presence of God in Heaven to join the souls of the pre-Ascension saints, whom Yeshua escorted there.
After the Ascension, the Rapture
will constitute the next dividing line in the
destiny of the saints. The Rapture is an event
yet future that is alluded to in several
passages, but is described most clearly in 1
Corinthians 15:35-58 and 1 Thessalonians
4:14-18. Some key excerpts:
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:
Unlike the various ages we are considering, the Rapture takes place in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Prior to the Rapture, the bodies of all saints remain somewhere in the natural world; but at the moment of the Rapture, in the twinkling of an eye, the bodies of those saints in Christ will be caught up2 to join their spirits and become alive, resurrected, to always be with the Lord; and those saints who are alive on Earth at that time will not see death, but will be caught up, body and soul, also to always be with the Lord. The bodies of all who are caught up will no longer be the earthly bodies that we are familiar with, subject to decay and death, but will be glorified, transformed into bodies that are imperishable (not subject to decay) and immortal (not subject to death), fit for life in the presence of God in Heaven.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 says, the dead in Christ will rise first. Only those in Christ will be raptured. In Christ, or in Messiah, is a term that is used in Scripture only of believers between Pentecost and the Rapture. Only the church saints, the saints between Pentecost and the Rapture, will be raptured.
It is not the Rapture that signals the beginning of the Great Tribulation, but the signing of the seven-year treaty between Israel and the anti-Christ (Daniel 9:27). If the Rapture and signing occur concurrently, then there will be no interim between the two events. If the signing takes place subsequent to the Rapture, then there will be an interim. If there will be an interim, then the spirits of believers who die during this period will go to Heaven, and their bodies will remain in the natural world. The spirits of nonbelievers who die will be sent to the Pit, and their bodies will remain in the natural world.
The beginning of the Great
Tribulation will be marked by the signing of the
seven-year treaty, and the events leading to its
end will be initiated by the Lord’s Second
Coming (Zechariah 14:1-4; Matthew 24:30-31; Acts
1:11; Jude 14-15).
The harbinger of the Millennium
(meaning, the Thousand Year Period) or Kingdom
Age is the Second Coming of the Lord, and the
end of the Millennium will be marked by the
passing away of our present heaven and Earth
(Revelation 21:1). No doubt the heaven referred
to here refers to the created heavens, the
atmosphere and outer space, for it is the
creation that bears the curse of Genesis 3, not
where God dwells. As it says in Romans 8:22, For we know that the whole
creation groans and suffers the pains of
childbirth together until now.
Isaiah 65:20 makes it clear that
there will be human death during the Kingdom.
There will certainly be no death for those in
their glorified bodies, and surely nonbelievers
will be included among those who die. The
passage also seems to imply that saints in their
natural bodies will die as well, though their
lives will be much longer than ours today.
Virtually all commentators hold to this
position, even the noted Hebrew scholars Keil
and Delitzsch. The bodies of the deceased will
remain in the natural world, and the spirits of
the nonbelievers will be sent to the Pit. Where
will the nonbelievers come from? All who enter
the Kingdom will be believers, but those who are
born in the Kingdom from those in their natural
bodies will still need to exercise faith in
Messiah for salvation. Revelation 20:7-9 informs
us that, after Satan is released from his prison
at the end of the thousand years, he will have
no problem gathering a great multitude (of
nonbelievers, obviously) from all over the Earth
to attack the camp of
the saints and the beloved city.
Where will the spirits of deceased saints go?
Good question! Abraham's
Bosom had been cleared of the
spirits of the pre-Ascension saints, Heaven had been
cleared of the spirits of church saints, and the
Lord Himself will be on Earth. Why, then, should
the spirit of any saint who dies during the
Millennium be sent either to Abraham's Bosom
or to Heaven?!
Perhaps this is an indication that no saint at
all will die during the Millennium!
According to Revelation 21:1-2, after the Great White Throne Judgment, there will be a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God will rest upon the new Earth. It is here that the saints of all ages will dwell, body and soul, in the presence of God for all eternity.
With the exception of those who experience death, resurrection and then death again, or who bypass death and are carried directly into Heaven or cast into the Lake of Fire, the great mass of humanity dies once and, at that time, discovers experientially whether their eternal fate will be one of blessing or of woe.
From Adam until the Great White Throne judgment, the bodies of the unsaved who die will remain in the natural world, and their spirits will be in the Pit portion of Sheol or Hades. They will be resurrected at the Great White Throne Judgment to hear the degrees of punishment that they have earned, and will then be cast alive into the Lake of Fire, to remain there for eternity.
The Pre-Ascension Saints
The Church Saints
All church saints will receive glorified
bodies at the moment of the Rapture and will remain in
Heaven with the
Lord until His Second Coming at the end of the
Tribulation, at which time they will return with
the Lord to Earth for life in the Kingdom.
Saints in the Eternal Ages
1. The entire We Believe statement of the Association of Messianic Congregations may be found at http://www.messianicassociation.org/believe.htm.
2. Caught up. har-pad'-zo (Greek). According to Strong, "From a derivative of [hahee-reh'-om-ahee]; to seize (in various applications): - catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force).
3. Destinies takes an overview of the Earth’s ages. Therefore, a number of statements made herein concerning the future are not supported in detail, but will be examined more thoroughly in future studies of the series.
publications by Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum are
available at Ariel Ministries
in various formats: