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?