The Big Question (Part 2)

     In Part One of this article titled The Big Question, we examined the statement of a popular Hebrew and Greek scholar who stated that no man has ever, nor shall ever enter into heaven which is the abode of God and His angels. The belief of many in a state of “soul sleep” after physical death was also held up to scriptural inspection.

   Continuing along the lines of this discussion, it is important to note that one of the heretical teachings gaining momentum today among certain professing Christians is the “Jesus Died Spiritually” (JDS) belief. A brief summary of this blasphemy can be found on line at Wikipedia that states: “Often referred to as JDS, there is a teaching that to atone for sins, Jesus had to die both physically and spiritually. As an outcome of his ‘dying spiritually’, the Word of Faith movement argues Jesus thus needed to be born again, as any other sinner, and that although Jesus Himself was never a sinner, Jesus was forsaken by God just as if He had committed every sin in human history.

      “E.W. Kenyon, a founder of the doctrine that later became known as Word of Faith, was the first to explicitly articulate the doctrine in a number of his works, including What Happened From The Cross To the Throne and Identification: A Romance In Redemption. This doctrine was later supposedly taken up by Hagin, Copeland, and many of their followers. The doctrine asserts that Jesus’ bodily sacrifice was but the beginning of atonement, which continued with Jesus’ suffering in Hell. Copeland claimed that Jesus took on humanity’s ‘satanic nature’ and was ‘born again’ in Hell. Hagin’s teaching was featured in his book The Name of Jesus (1978 edition)” (although his son denied this.)

      A helpful and informative excerpt on this subject is given to us from The Berean Call which states: “Confusion arises because ‘Jesus Died Spiritually (JDS)’ is the label attached to the heresy taught by Hagin, Copeland, and other ‘word-faith teachers’: That our redemption comes not from Christ’s death upon the cross, but from His being tortured by Satan in hell for three days and nights. Copeland, for example, says, ‘He allowed the devil to drag Him into the depths of hell as if He were the most wicked sinner who ever lived. . . . Every demon in hell came down on Him to annihilate Him . . . they tortured Him beyond anything that anybody has ever conceived. . . . In a thunder of spiritual force, the voice of God spoke to the death-whipped, broken, punished spirit of Jesus . . . [in] the pit of destruction and charged the spirit of Jesus with resurrection power! Suddenly His twisted, death-wracked spirit began to fill out and come back to life. . . . He was literally being reborn before the devil’s very eyes. He began to flex His spiritual muscles. . . . Jesus Christ dragged Satan up and down the halls of hell. . . . Jesus . . . was raised up a born-again man. . . . The day I realized that a born-again man had defeated Satan, hell, and death, I got so excited . . . !’ (Believer’s Voice of Victory , Sep. 1991).

      “It is both fanciful nonsense and heresy to teach that our redemption comes through Satan torturing Jesus in hell. That would make Satan our co-redeemer. If he didn’t torture Jesus enough we wouldn’t be saved—and if he did, do we thank him? Blasphemy! Satan isn’t the proprietor of hell. He hasn’t even been there yet. Nor will Satan torture the damned but will himself be tortured with ‘everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Mt 25:41) when death and hell have been ‘cast into the lake of fire’ (Rev 20:14).

      “Before He died, Jesus cried in triumph, ‘It is finished’ (Jn 19:30), indicating that our redemption had been accomplished on the Cross. Christ told the thief on the cross who believed in Him, ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise’ Lk 23:43), not in hell! He said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ (Lk 23:46). Yet Hagin, Copeland, et al. say He ended up, instead, in the hands of Satan in the depths of hell!”

         In these end times doctrinally correct, wise, godly, humble, Spirit-led teachers (and evangelists) are becoming hard to find. Thank God for those men and women of God who have gone on before us: those servants of the Lord whose writings and works remain faithful and true to the spirit and intent of Scripture, and are a guiding light for us who follow. One such teacher, Oswald Chambers, was (in my opinion) one of the greatest thinkers and Bible teachers of all time. He is probably best known for his devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest. On the subject of death he wrote, and I quote, “We are dealing here with the spirit in its freedom from the flesh. We mean by ‘flesh,’ this body we are in, not the ‘mind of the flesh.’ It is possible for the spirit to exist apart altogether from man’s body.

      “‘And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise’ (Luke 23:43; see also Luke 16:25; Hebrews 12:23). These passages refer to the place where the body is not—the unseen. The Bible points out that man’s spirit is immortal, whether or not he is energized by the Spirit of God; that is, spirit never sleeps. Instead of the spirit sleeping at what we call death, at the breaking away of spirit from the body, the spirit is ten thousand-fold more awake. With the majority of us our spirits are half-concealed while we are in this body. Remember, spirit and personality are synonymous, but as long as a man is in the body his personality is obscured. Immediately he dies his spirit is no more obscured, it is absolutely awake; no limitations now, man is face to face with everything else that is of spirit ‘Son, remember….’

      “Soul and body depend upon each other, spirit does not, spirit is immortal. Soul is simply the spirit expressing itself in the body. Immediately the body goes, the soul is gone, but the moment the body is brought back, soul is brought back, and spirit, soul and body will again be together. Spirit has never died, can never die, in the sense in which the body dies; the spirit is immortal, either in immortal life or in immortal death. There is no such thing as annihilation taught in the Bible. The separation of spirit from body and soul is temporary. The resurrection is the resurrection of the body.

      “Our Lord never speaks of the resurrection of spirit—the spirit does not need resurrecting; He speaks of a resurrection body for glorification and a resurrection body for damnation. ‘The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation’ (John 5:28-29). We know what the resurrection body for glorification will be like: it will be like ‘His glorious body’; but all we know about the resurrection of the bad is that Jesus Christ (Who ought to know what He is talking about) says that there will be a resurrection to damnation. The question of eternal punishment is a fearful one, but let no one say that Jesus Christ did not say anything about it. He did. He said it in language we cannot begin to understand and the least thing we can do is to be reverent with what we do not understand.”

      Have you noticed that in nearly every Christian funeral or memorial service two passages of Scripture are usually present in the service, or in the little memorial pamphlet. They are Psalm 23 and John 14:1-3. To quote Jesus in John 14:2, 3, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” We know that Jesus did not go to a place of “soul sleep,” but that He returned to heaven from whence He came. Heaven is where God’s “house” is—a place where no mortal, corruptible man can go at will and dwell. Paul explained, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” 1 Corinthians 15:50. This is in reference to the body, not the soul or the spirit. The place that Jesus is preparing for the redeemed is a spiritual, “suitable” place, not a material, physical “mansion.” When Jesus returns for His people, then “this corruptible [our physical bodies] shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality…” 1 Corinthians 15:54a. [Emphasis added.] Then we shall “ever be with the Lord” 1 Thessalonians 4:17b. At His coming, when we are given a glorified body like unto His, then we shall be “like Him” and able to dwell wherever He dwells, be it on earth, or in heaven. It is interesting that what David wrote in Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” ties in with John 14:2 referring to “God’s house.” [Emphasis added.]

      Concerning immortality, and being in heaven, 2 Corinthians 5:1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 says, “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, [our physical body] we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked…Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” [Emphasis added.] The Apostle Paul’s exclamation in 2 Corinthians 5:8 “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” leaves no room for argument concerning where the saints will be when they are “absent from the body!” Paul wrote the Philippians, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain…For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better; Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” Philippians 1:21, 23, 24 [Emphasis added.] Concerning Paul’s departure, he wrote to Timothy, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand” 2 Timothy 4:6. Paul said his soul was “departing,” not “going to sleep.” James wrote, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” James 2:26. Therefore, it is our physical bodies that die (sleep, if you will) while our spirit goes to abide with Christ if we are saved. If the souls of the dead are unconscious (“sleeping”) then why did Jesus go and preach to the spirits in prison; “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is eight souls were saved by water” 1 Peter 3:19, 20? (See also Ephesians 4:7-10; Zechariah 9:11; Psalm 16:10).

      Like Paul, the Apostle Peter also wrote of his demise using the word “tabernacle” in relation to his physical body. “Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me” 2 Peter 1:14. John Gill writes concerning 1 Peter 1:14, “Which is another reason why the apostle was so pressing in this case, and so much urged the exhortation, and was so diligent in reminding the saints of it, and stirring them to observe it, because he knew he had but a little time to live, and which therefore he was willing to improve for their good. He sets forth his death in a very easy and familiar way, it being not at all terrible and distressing to him; it was but like the putting off of a garment, or unpinning of a tabernacle, or a removing from a tent to a palace. Saints are pilgrims here, they dwell in tents or tabernacles, at death they remove to their own country, and Father’s house. Death is not a destruction of man, an annihilation of him, neither of his soul nor body: the soul is not mortal, it dies not with the body; it only removes from this world to another, from a cottage to a kingdom; and the body though it dies, it is not reduced to nothing, it is only like a tabernacle put off, or taken down, which will be put together again in better order than now it is.” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible)

      Jesus declared to the Sadducees that “He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err” Mark 12:27. He told the Jews, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death” John 8:51. We know that Jesus was not talking about never seeing physical death, but spiritual death. To Martha Jesus declared, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? John 11:25, 26. On the mount of transfiguration there appeared Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. (See Matthew 17:1-7.) How could they be “soul sleeping” until the resurrection if they plainly appeared with Jesus? In 2nd Kings 2:11 we read, “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” [Emphasis added.] Elijah did not cease to be conscious, or fall “asleep!” In fact, what would the point be in God sending a chariot of fire to take Elijah up if he was only going to “soul sleep?” I can well imagine how some of those who cling to “soul sleep” might try to explain how, at some point on his way up in the whirlwind, Elijah went into “soul sleep” and fell out of the chariot to the earth—God knows where…!

      Concerning the subject of there being no people in heaven, “past, present or future,” consider Hebrews 12:22, 23, “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” [Emphasis added.] Concerning “the spirits of just men made perfect,” Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Recollect that there are two kinds of perfection which the Christian needs–the perfection of justification in the person of Jesus, and the perfection of sanctification wrought in him by the Holy Spirit. At present, corruption yet remains even in the breasts of the regenerate–experience soon teaches us this.

      “Within us are still lusts and evil imaginations. But I rejoice to know that the day is coming when God shall finish the work which he has begun; and he shall present my soul, not only perfect in Christ, but perfect through the Spirit, without spot or blemish, or any such thing. Can it be true that this poor sinful heart of mine is to become holy even as God is holy? Can it be that this spirit, which often cries, ‘O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this sin and death?’

      “Shall I get rid of sin and death–that I shall have no evil things to vex my ears, and no unholy thoughts to disturb my peace? Oh, happy hour! May it be hastened! When I cross the Jordan, the work of sanctification will be finished; but not till that moment shall I even claim perfection in myself. Then my spirit shall have its last baptism in the Holy Spirit’s fire.

      “Methinks I long to die to receive that last and final purification which shall usher me into heaven. Not an angel more pure than I shall be, for I shall be able to say, in a double sense, ‘I am clean,’ through Jesus’ blood, and through the Spirit’s work. Oh, how should we extol the power of the Holy Ghost in thus making us fit to stand before our Father in heaven!

      “Yet let not the hope of perfection hereafter make us content with imperfection now. If it does this, our hope cannot be genuine; for a good hope is a purifying thing, even now. The work of grace must be abiding in us now or it cannot be perfected then. Let us pray to ‘be filled with the Spirit,’ that we may bring forth increasingly the fruits of righteousness.”

  1. A. Ironside’s commentary on this portion of Scripture (Hebrews 12:22, 23) is unapologetically straightforward, and I quote: “… ‘Unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem’ This is not to be confounded with the earthly city of the great King, which will yet be the joy of the whole earth, for our portion is not to be in this world even when Christ Himself reigns, but we are to reign with Him from the heavenly Jerusalem above. This, of course, is the New Jerusalem, the bride, the Lamb’s wife of Revelation 19 and 21. It embraces all the heavenly saints, that is, all those who have died in faith throughout the centuries, all who in every dispensation believed God and were therefore quickened by His Spirit. The heavenly Jerusalem is preeminently the home of the church and therefore is designated as the bridal city; but saints of all other dispensations who have passed through death and entered into resurrection life will, as one has expressed it, be upon its ‘Burgess roll.’ This heavenly Jerusalem will be the throne seat of the entire universe of God.”

      Concerning the “general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven,” he wrote, “Firstborn here is in the plural in the original. The reference is not to Christ personally, but the entire church is called ‘the church of the firstborn ones,’ as distinguished from other saints to be called out and saved in a later day.” Touching on “the spirits of just men made perfect” Ironside said, “These of course are the conscious spirits of saints of former dispensations. They are not sleeping, as some have imagined; all live unto Him. But until Christ’s death and resurrection they could not be spoken of as perfect, inasmuch as redemption had not yet been accomplished. They were saved, we may say, on credit, God having forgiven them on the basis of the work yet to be accomplished by His blessed Son. That work not having been completed, they with us are perfected in the sense that they rejoice in the complete settlement of the sin question.” (An Ironside Expository Commentary Hebrews, H. A. Ironside, pgs. 120-121.)

      Ask yourself, if the saints “soul sleep” and do not enter heaven when they die—in fact, if the saints will ‘never go to heaven,’ then who were the people John heard in Revelation 19:1, “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God”? [Emphasis added.] If the souls of the saints never enter heaven, then who did John see in Revelation 6:9-11, “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled”? And, again in Revelation 20:4 we read, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man…” Ephesians 4:14-16. [Emphasis added.]

      Paul distinguished between the soul, the spirit, and the body when he wrote, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Thessalonians 5:23. Jesus said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” Matthew 10:28. Quoting from http://www.jesus-is-savior.com, “Revelation 20:13 states, ‘And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.’ Carefully notice that the Bible differentiates between ‘death’ and ‘hell’ here. If soul sleep were true, then there would be no dead coming from hell, only from death. The fact that God differentiates between the sea, death, and hell, I think is further solid evidence that soul sleep is not a Biblical teaching. We read clearly that some of the dead came from hell.”

      Finally, Revelation 7:9-12 once and for all settles the matter of “soul sleep” as we read this thrilling description of what John saw in heaven, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.”

      The “Big Question” remains, will you be there?

[NEXT MONTH we will take a closer look at the heretical JDS (Jesus Died Spiritually) belief, and compare it with what the Bible says concerning the price Jesus paid for our redemption.]