Soulbook: What Happens to the Soul After Death? @Enwrightened

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Soulbook: What Happens to the Soul After Death?  @Enwrightened

This is the twenty-first excerpt from Soulbook. Order Soulbook from Enwrightened Publications or Amazon.

Eternal Punishment From the Believer’s Perspective

Some believe that, while all people do possess a soul, only the faithful child of God has an immortal nature. In other words, the souls of those who die outside of Christ are not immortal and, thus, perish when the body dies, while the soul of the Christian goes to Heaven. In the July 1852 issue of Christian Magazine, a popular preacher from Nashville, Tennessee, by the name of Jesse B. Ferguson, asked: “Is Hell a dungeon dug by Almighty hands before man was born, into which the wicked are to be plunged? And is the salvation upon the preacher’s lips a salvation from such a Hell? For ourself, we rejoice to say it, we never believed, and upon the evidence so far offered, never can believe it.” In his book, The Fire That Consumes, Edward W. Fudge taught the same concept when he wrote: “The wicked, following whatever degree and duration of pain that God may justly inflict, will finally and truly die, perish and become extinct forever and ever.” The pervading idea is that God loves us and could not possibly punish someone eternally. The idea of Hell is so repugnant to people that they will do and say almost anything to get around it. We do this type of thing in our lives all the time. Consider how people sometimes rationalize hot topics like the death penalty or abortion. Some who advocate abortion, for instance, claim that the “thing” inside the wombs of “its” mother is not human and therefore has no rights. But, a DNA test and an ultrasound prove differently. The same goes for Hell. The truth of God’s Word portrays Hell as a real place with eternal characteristics. No matter how inconvenient or unpalatable this truth may be, it still is truth.

One of the attempts to get around the idea of Hell is to look at it as a non-existent state, called annihilation. Annihilation is defined as the complete destruction of the Soul, rendering it non-existent forever. Author F. LaGard Smith strenuously argued that God will “destroy it [referring to the soul]. Not punish it. Not dangle it. Not torture it. Destroy it!” (1988). Three years later, in October 1991, Wayne Jackson (as editor of the Christian Courier) wrote LaGard Smith to ask him about his position on the destiny of the souls of the wicked. Within a week, Smith replied via a five-page, handwritten letter in which he admitted that he believed in “the possibility that part of the ultimate punishment of the wicked is total destruction of their souls.” In December 1986, Alan Pickering spoke at the Central Church of Christ in Stockton, California and advocated the view that the souls of the wicked, after a limited period of punishment, will cease to exist. As he had done with LaGard Smith, Wayne Jackson (who lives in Stockton) wrote Pickering to inquire if the material available on audio tape from his lectures did, in fact, accurately represent his views. In a telephone conversation a few days later, Mr. Pickering acknowledged that it did, and even went so far as to state that the concept of eternal conscious punishment for the wicked was a “slap in the face of God.” He then challenged Wayne to a public debate on the matter—a challenge he later retracted when his offer was accepted. If souls are simply destroyed after death, how do we account for the eternal nature of God (Father, Son, and Spirit) and the angels? What about Satan and his angels? Are we to believe that they will be annihilated too? Logic and, most of all, Scripture dictate otherwise. Why would one soul be any more or less eternal than another? What power could annihilate a soul and why? What would the purpose be? Obviously, the logic attached to the nature of God and the souls He has formed overwhelms the question of annihilation.

Of course, the easiest way to dispel all of the questions is not though philosophical debate, but through the truth of God’s Word. What does the Bible teach concerning the destiny of the soul? First, the Soul of the righteous lives on in Heaven. When David’s son (born as a result of his adultery with Bathsheba) died shortly after birth, he said: “While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, “Who knows whether Jehovah will not be gracious to me, that the child may live?” But now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:22-23). Job said: “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last He will stand upon the earth: And after my skin, even this body, is destroyed, then without my flesh shall I see God; Whom I, even I, shall see, on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger” (Job 19:25-27). Jesus said: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes on Me, though he die, yet shall he live; and whosoever lives and believes on Me shall never die” (John 11:25-27). It’s a comfort to understand that there is a soul life that will carry on after this body life is over. Actually, the soul life is the one we live now and have had since our souls were formed and joined to our bodies. We merely perceive this life as physical because the physicality of it obscures our view into the spiritual. What a wonder it will be when all of this physicality is dissolved and we will experience true life in the spirit with a soul that has been cleansed of the universe. Heaven will be discussed in depth later in the book, but it’s an amazing thing to consider. Since our souls are the center of us, it seems that talking about our souls should be the center of life and more so talking about God, Whose image they are formed from, should be the greatest object of understanding and focus. Once again, it’s about the Soul, not the Face.

Now we need to see the flip side of the eternality of the righteous soul. What happens to the unrighteous? What did Christ mean when He warned: “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28)? As D.M. Lake observed, at the very least this “does imply a transcendental reality that is in some cases independent of the body. This seems to be the force of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 10:28” (1976, 5:497). The “destruction” of which Jesus spoke was described by the apostle John as the “second death.” The devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night forever and ever. And they were judged every man according to their works. And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10-14). In Matthew 25:46, Jesus said that the wicked would “go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” In his second epistle to the Christians at Thessalonica, Paul wrote specifically of “them that know not God” and “obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” as those “who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His might” (1:8-9). Wayne Jackson wrote: “There is, however, no punishment, or suffering, apart from consciousness. And yet, consciousness (knowledge, awareness) is a characteristic of the spirit (1 Cor. 2:11). One must necessarily infer, therefore, that the spirit (or soul) of man will exist in an eternal conscious state. Jesus once said, regarding the traitor Judas, that it would have been better for that man had he never been born (Mark 14:21). If Judas did not exist before his earthly life, and yet was to be annihilated eventually, how does the Lord’s statement make sense? How is non-existence better than existence?” While we might not like the idea that people will consciously experience Hell for eternity, it is important to realize that people make a conscious choice for Hell over Heaven in this life and, thereby, choose Hell by rejecting God. Ultimately, Hell is a choice a person makes. God gives us what we want, whether He wants it for us or not. “He is not willing that anyone should perish” (2 Peter 3:9). In the end analysis, it becomes obvious that, while God does not want us to go into eternal punishment, He loves us enough to allow us to choose. For, without choice there is no love. Our choices not only define who we are, but our eternal destiny. Who you are really has very little, if nothing at all, to do with your physical being. All of you is wrapped up in who you truly are, and who you truly are is your soul. Proverbs 27:19 depicts this very well: “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.” Is it the Face you see when you look at yourself and others, or is it the Soul?

People will continue to reject the idea of Hell regardless of the proof from logic and Scripture. Hell and the afterlife, in general, carry with them the connotation of personal volition. With this concept in tow, many people do not want to be ultimately responsible for their ultimate end and, therefore, will try to avoid the idea that there is an eternal place of punishment or rest. The idea of a Creator is simply too much for some people to entrust their existence to and, therefore, they balk at the thought. Unfortunately, many human beings simply want to have control with no responsibility, leading them to reject a Creator who endowed them with that very freedom to choose to reject Him. When this happens, imagine the hurt God must feel, not for Himself, but for the Soul He loves. Yet, the separation remains, as does the love.

Some believers will continue to try to reconcile God’s love with Hell, but Hell is not a result of a lack of perfect love from God. In fact, God shows us perfect love by giving us the choice and further shows us perfect love through Jesus and His sacrifice for us all. Not only did humans have the chance and the choice to remain in a perfect relationship with God from the beginning, they had everything provided to them for life and goodness in this universe. When the wrong choice was made by the original human beings God created, this chance and choice was removed, at least to some degree. Jesus’ sacrifice brought that gift back to the human race. We will cover that fact later in the book. Jesus is the whole cure for the disease of sin. The love and choice that He brings is more than humanity could have ever hoped for or imagined.

Your soul has an eternal nature that guarantees you a post-physical existence of some sort. The life you live within your physical manifestation will orient your soul toward an eternal existence in either Heaven or Hell. Therefore, as you might be manifested in physical form here and now, you still must live a spiritual life in this reality in order to orient yourself properly for your eternal destiny. The most intense and amazing characteristic of this understanding of life is the fact that you don’t have to live perfectly, but instead, you must live in perfection. That is to say, you cannot be perfect enough yourself to get yourself to an eternity of rest, but through Someone perfect, through whom you have completion and cleansing, you can be steered toward and, ultimately, locked-into that existence. On the converse, you can also steer your own existence any direction you wish and be locked into an eternity of destruction. Overall, the end of the matter rests on a choice.

The clear answer to existence after your physical manifestation is complete is that Heaven and Hell are real, eternal existences. There is a temptation to refer to these abodes as “places”, however, as they are not physical realms, this description would be inaccurate. Heaven and Hell could, perhaps, be described more as states of being, one that is pleasant and is joined with the life giving God and one that is completely the opposite since it is infinitely removed from that joined state. The characterization of a time of existence in either of these two realities is inappropriate, as well as the nature of eternity carries with it timelessness. As hard as it is for us as physical, time-constrained beings to understand this concept, when we are no longer fettered by this existence, the properties of such a place will be completely evident to us, while still amazing and new.

The Fatherless: Much Is Required

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Last Thanksgiving, I was allowed to present a lesson before the Dalraida church of Christ concerning orphaned and fatherless children. The lesson was written and presented specifically for the Thanksgiving Appeal for the work at Childhaven. The final area I covered in the lesson was how much is required to care for orphans/fatherless.

When I talk to Dr. Moore from Mt. Dora and Dr. Wright from Childhaven, they beam when they talk about the children. They love them so much and they are so grateful to God and us for allowing them to care for the children entrusted to them. But their faces become grave when they tell me they have had to close group homes or that they couldn’t afford to bring another single mother and children into the home.

Much is required to keep these children safe and cared for and much is required from us to help these works. But, most of all, consider Luke 12:48 Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. And tie this back to Deut 24:21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.

Please allow me to make a plea that you do not pick over your vineyards. Leave something for those who are fatherless and need it so much. Obey God’s command to take care of children as Jesus did when he said “Let the little children come to me”. And, taking care of these little children, be blessed by God financially, emotionally, and most of all spiritually by the God of love and protection. If you have not obeyed God’s command, but have marginalized or failed to help those who are less fortunate than you, or if you want to begin a new life where you are a Baptized, saved, new Creation who can experience God’s richness in Heaven through giving from your heart and soul come to God through Jesus today and be adopted yourself into God’s family.

Soulbook: What Happens to the Soul After Death? (Intro) @Enwrightened

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Soulbook: What Happens to the Soul After Death? (Intro) @Enwrightened

This is the twentieth excerpt from Soulbook. Order Soulbook from Enwrightened Publications or Amazon.

A man was once told by God to gather himself, his wife, and all he owned in this world and to move away from his father, mother, and everything he ever knew. This man had no idea what was ahead. All he knew was that he trusted God to bring him to a new and amazing place. He trusted God to provide the perfect place for him. If you have ever read the book of Genesis, you know that this story is about Abraham. But, have you ever thought about the fact that death is much like what Abraham was called to do with his life? We are all going to leave this place one day and leave behind everything we know and are comfortable with here. Even the body we inhabit will be left behind, never to be seen again. It’s a scary prospect. Thoughts like this have led many people to place the fear of death at the top of their list of fears. After all, what do we really know about what happens after we die? Where do we go? What do we do? There may be more answers than we realize, actually.

As mentioned in the previous lesson, some believe that evil souls will simply be annihilated or cease to exist after death, leaving only the good souls to live eternally in Heaven. This idea is another way of trying to diminish the idea of Hell as a place of eternal punishment. Before we look at what the Bible says about such a view, let’s look at a few common objections to the idea of Hell. The idea of Hell is “monstrously, inordinately, unquestionably unjust and evil” (Anthony Flew). “This idea of hell was born of ignorance, brutality, fear, cowardice, and revenge” (Robert G. Ingersoll). “I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture…” (Bertrand Russell). Some of these objections, at first glance, may seem somewhat reasonable. Why would a loving and perfect God do such a thing? However, all of these objections are predicated on an emotional response to truth. Just because one doesn’t like it, doesn’t make it false. Herein lies the key to understanding the truth behind the idea of the afterlife and the beginning of accepting the truth itself, thereby avoiding the undesirable outcome.

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The Fatherless: Our Duty

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Last Thanksgiving, I was allowed to present a lesson before the Dalraida church of Christ concerning orphaned and fatherless children. The lesson was written and presented specifically for the Thanksgiving Appeal for the work at Childhaven. The third area I covered in the lesson was our duty to orphans/fatherless.

 

Yes, we have a duty, based on command, the same as we have a duty based on the command to love, teach, spread the Gospel, and worship.Look at how the nation of Israel included the lonely in their culture: Deut 16:14-15 “You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.” God’s people should accept the fatherless as Family…do not deny them love, affection, and physical needs. Love them with God’s great love! We will “be altogether joyful” if we do this. This is because we are truly family when we show the love and compassion God shows to the fatherless, widow, and those who have been marginalized by society.

In 2 Samuel chapter 9, David shows us a perfect example of what it means to love and care for the orphan. After he became king over Israel, David asked if there was a surviving member of Jonathan’s family to whom he could show his love. Most of the people probably already knew there was only one person left; Mephibosheth. He was a crippled man, most likely shunned by his fellow Israelites since he was not only considered worthless as a man, but reviled as a member of Saul’s house. But, when David heard about Mephibosheth, he took him in with no thought of how Mephibosheth could benefit him. In fact, Mephibosheth was crippled and probably required more care than most would. It’s the kindness and love we should exhibit to children who need families.

Zechariah 7:9-11goes further toward the call for love, justice, and mercy toward the fatherless. “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” We have a duty to render true judgments – don’t misjudge or prejudge a situation. Don’t presume to know about someone’s situation before knowing the facts. Have mercy on the lonely. Be kind and let them know they are loved and cared for by God’s people. Only then can we say we are truly fulfilling this command.

The next passage will probably penetrate your breastbone deeply as it does mine. Deut 24:21 “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.” This may be an indictment on most Americans – How often do we look at our paycheck and say, “I’m going to buy this and this and this” When we should not go over our vineyards again and again, but leave some of it for those who truly need it? God always reminds us that we were once slaves to sin and therefore we should share what He has given us with those who are still “aliens” lost in the wilderness.

Finally, James gives us the core statement we must seek to understand and abide by in 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Do you want true religion? If you do, this is it, folks. This is where you need to focus your hearts. Worship, baptism, prayer, and every other item we focus on as Christians are absolutely necessary and important, but taking care of orphans and widows is DEFINED as True Religion. If you want your religion to be true, take care of widows and orphans. Of course, keep yourself unstained from the world. And I believe that this goes right along with caring for those who are weaker, because what does the world say? “Step on whoever to get to where you want to be! Don’t give that extra money to help the less fortunate, use it for what you want! Don’t trust God to provide for your needs, He will leave you high and dry!” Don’t listen to those lies, God’s people. Have courage and love and practice true religion!