Travels of a Generic Christian

A Christian shares the joy of his walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Afterlife

A number of posts ago I promised some more “uncomfortable” texts. Here are a few on the afterlife (all emphases are my own):

1 Thessalonians 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (NKJV)

Again, in the NLT:
For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died.

How is it that those who have died in Christ are to be brought back to the earth with Him if they are simply in a state of soul sleep and their souls are not (or cannot be) separated from their bodies? The Bible clearly says that those who are in Christ are to be brought [back] with Him, in an event that is prior to the resurrection. Taken as is, this verse flies in the face of SDA theology, but I'm thrilled to say that I now have absolutely no problem with it! Ahhh… so freeing to believe the plain and simple word of God without "explanation"! I’m perfectly comfortable with, and totally excited by this wonderful text. It requires no explanation and no theological spinning. Why? Because it's the word of God and it's true!

Parable of rich man and lazarus
Luke 16:19-31 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell[d] from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ 27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”

Why would Jesus use a completely heretical description of the afterlife when it is painfully clear the He need not have done so? Why would He take such an unnecessary risk that might lead so many astray? The answer: He didn’t! He was simply describing the reality of the afterlife. Life is so simple when we approach the Word of God as a little child would! (Yes, Jesus did tell His disciples that they were to be ‘wise as serpents’ (Matt. 10:16), but this was so they would not be destroyed by those wielding theological poison—not because they would need to “explain” their Master’s own statements!)

2 Cor. 5:6-8 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. (NKJV)

Verse 8 in a few different versions…
we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. (NASB)

Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. (NLT)

[Yes] we have confident and hopeful courage and are pleased rather to be away from home out of the body and be at home with the Lord. (AMP)

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (NIV)

We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (KJV)

Whoa! Put on the brakes! I always thought that being “absent from the body” was impossible—whether you were a believer or non-believer! Paul almost seems to be talking about being absent from the body like it’s a foregone conclusion; the real news seems to be that to be absent from the body is, for believers in Jesus, to be present with the Lord! Well that’s good news isn’t it?!—Certainly not an uncomfortable theological hangnail!

Finally, anyone ever notice how the 1844 / investigative judgment doctrine is completely dependent upon the SDA 'soul sleep' state-of-the-dead belief? After all, how can people have been going to heaven or hell (or the good or bad side of ‘Abraham’s bossom’) for millennia if the investigative judgment hadn’t yet started and/or Jesus had not yet ‘turned the page’ to their name in the judgment sequence? These two unbiblical beliefs of Adventism go hand in hand; take out the SDA state-of-the-dead belief and the investigative judgment falls flat on its face—rather like a house of cards.

Postscript: Oh, I almost forgot to address the great SDA proof text on the state of the dead: Ecclesiastes 9:5 --"For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten." (KJV)

If anyone can "prove" the state of the dead from the book of Ecclesiastes, then I can "prove" how Nihilism is a valid, Biblical philosophy that we should all adopt. After all, isn't the 'Teacher' (Solomon) simply describing by first person experience the natural philosophy that (rightly) develops when a person puts anything except God at the center of their life? Besides Ch. 9 vs. 5, how many other Nihilistic statements from Ecclesiastes are we willing to take as absolute, literal descriptions of truth?

Saturday, September 09, 2006


I’m having to re-learn how to give. I used to think that if I gave my tithe then all the rest of my money was mine to do with it what I wanted. Oh, and if I gave a bit of offering on top of that then I was really free to splurge any excess on myself. I learned recently that this kind of thinking is just another way to segregate my spiritual life from my secular life. In the past few months I’ve realized that this is a totally wrong way to go about giving—and living. But since this realization, I have been utterly clueless on how to give.

I think the Lord is starting to teach me…

As part of the process of freely offering gifts of our monetary resources to our brothers and sisters in need, we face the dilemma of how much to give. I think there are three possible points of decision that arise: Point 1) Give as much as you can until it hurts—for the specific purpose of reaching this threshold—to the point where everyone who may see the gift would wonder how it was even possible and be very impressed. Point 2) If you possess great resources, give a lot, but only up to the point where you really don’t feel it. This kind of giving also appears impressive; if no one sees it, at least it is impressive and comforting to our fleshly selves. 3) Give as much as you can up to the threshold of still remaining ashamed that you were able to give so little. (Immediately beyond this threshold of ‘shame-bordering-on-pain’ we reach Point 1.)

Which of these three manners of giving is most appropriate? What does the Bible teach from the story of the widow’s donation of two mites (which was enough money to perhaps buy a single meal at most) found in Mark 12 and Luke 21? Jesus taught from it that we are to contribute not out of our surplus, but “out of our lack and our want, putting in all on which we have to live” (AMP).

How many of us in America actually have “lack” and “want” to compare with this widow? Probably none of us. So how are we to give? Since we do not have lack and want for the necessities of life, are we to literally give away all that we have—even that by which we support our families? If heaven has an economy I’m confident that this is how it will work; but to behave like this on earth—unless specifically called by the Lord to do so—is to behave irresponsibly. (I would suggest that those of us who think the call of our Lord upon the rich young ruler to be a specific, literal call upon all of us, are those who still seek a precise formula for salvation. I cannot state emphatically enough how much salvation, and all that is beyond it, is about relationship, not following a specific formula.)

While we may not lack the necessities of life, all of us have “lack” and “want”; specifically, we lack that which we want. And for most of us, many of the things we want are just on the border of being out of our reach—much as the widow’s next meal was on the border of being out of her reach. We want an IPOD, a spiffy new pair of athletic shoes, a CD changer for our car, etc.

Thus, when the Spirit leads us to give, I would suggest that we, too, are to give out of our “lack” and “want”—giving all that we have that has the potential to fill that which we “lack” and that which we “want”—not towards the end of inflicting pain on ourselves (for the Lord does not desire self-flagellation), but so that we give in humility—still ashamed that we were not able to give more. In this way, our left hand does not know what our right hand does.

For what is more valuable: pain that can lead to pride, or humility that does good without looking back—forever fixing its eyes upon the Savior?