This is another concept that was laid on my heart to delve deeper into. As mentioned previously, I tend to have a view of certain concepts within my own mind that wouldn’t make much sense in a discussion, based mainly on the way certain words have been used traditionally. The word “death” has taken on a different meaning as I’ve been drawn closer to Father.
A Brief Recap
As mentioned before, the original Hebrew concept of death/the grave was Sheol, a place where everyone’s spirit ended up—good, bad or indifferent. I believe this to be an important concept to keep in mind when reading through the writings from a culture that was still heavily vested in this idea.
Lately, when I read certain words in our English dialectics, I ask myself whether those words could be referencing the physical, spiritual, or perhaps both. This goes for our English transliterations of sleep, death, grave, or even Hades/hell.
One example, Jesus defeated death by rising from the tomb. The vast majority of Christians know this, yet we still see physical death rampant in our world. If we already have victory over death in Jesus, why do we still die?
Jesus’ physical resurrection was the proof to the Hebrew culture that he had defeated death(Sheol) and the encroaching Greek concept of Hades(hell) (Rev 1:18, 1 Cor 15:55). We have victory over the grave at our physical death. The empty tomb was only the physical evidence to that culture that Sheol and Hades had been conquered—that spiritual death/imprisonment was no longer an issue.
Note that Jesus was already transfigured into a spiritual body at his resurrection. He could make himself unrecognizable to his own followers (Luke 24:15-16) and become intangible/vanish (John 20:19, Luke 24:31).
So now the question that’s been on my mind lately: What’s the point of an insistence on our physical resurrection?
Considering that Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb was more of a proof in our physical realm, why do we look forward to a day of physical resurrection?
To delve even further into this, Paul goes into a multi-verse explanation of the relation of the physical to the spiritual. He compares the physical body to but a seed that must die in order for our spiritual body to be “birthed” (1 Cor 15:36-37). This could go much deeper but would require a post or so of its’ own. In short, it seems God sows us in this physical realm to grow our spiritual body. When viewed from this perspective, what’s the use of the dead seed shell? We would still fully retain our identity grown from the physical seed into the spiritual body.
Consider this—we already profess that our dead loved ones have a new spiritual body in heaven, now. So, why do we insist that God would ever need to dig up the seed fragment to merge it with our, already cultivated, spiritual body? As Paul states, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor 15:50).
This brings up an interesting thought. In the passages of 1 Corinthians above, Paul is speaking of the resurrection of the “dead” at Jesus’ Second Coming. Considering this, Paul is stating that their spirits are still locked in the grave/Sheol (1 Cor 15:52) until the last trumpet.
If Paul is right, only those that Jesus took with him at his ascension are in heaven now (Eph 4:8). Everyone else since is still locked in the grave until a future judgment. All of our claims that our loved ones are in heaven now with Jesus would be wrong in that case.
We can see throughout the Bible, prior to Jesus’ Second Coming, that death is often described as falling asleep (John 11:11-13, Acts 7:60, 1 Cor 15:6, 1 Thes 4:13). This “sleep” would continue until the final trumpet blast. Again, if we are speaking of a future return, it would seem the evidence of the Bible points to the grave still holding dominion of our spirits.
An objection to this may be 2 Cor 5:8. However, this passage isn’t speaking of death, but absence from the body. This only furthers the consideration that no physical resurrection is intended for us as we will have everything and more when our spiritual body is manifested at our physical “passing” (interesting how we lean towards using that word).
A Wide Overview
So where am I going with this?
Daniel speaks of a period of 490 years (I won’t go into all of the specifics in this post). At the 483rd, the Messiah is “cut-off” (Dan 9:25-26). This aligns with the time of Jesus dying, being raised, and ascending. The remaining seven years were “paused.” It would seem that Jesus gave Israel the span of a generation (Matt 24:34, 23:36, 16:27-28) to repent (change their mind) and abandon the Old Covenant for the New Covenant that he had established in his blood (Luke 22:20). Some did, many didn’t. This seemed to be a rather unique time where a choice between two covenants could be made before the old was completely “consummated” (Heb 9:26) at the end of those ages, that is, God’s plan of Jesus’ restoration of all of creation revealed (Col 1:19-20). Those choosing the old would be under the curse because that covenant made no one perfect (Heb 7:19). Comparing Deut 28:15-68 with what transpires in Revelation, we see the payment issued to those insistent on living under the Old Covenant. Then, that kingdom was closed out forever and delivered up to the Father (1 Cor 15:24 – same chapter as above discussing the resurrection and Second Coming). The final 7 years were fulfilled (imo) in the war of 66-73 AD.
During the end of that age, those locked in the grave underwent their spiritual ascension, just as Paul stated. All of the New Testament authors intimated the prevalence of the signs of the Day of the Lord in their generation—the full inception of the spiritual Kingdom that we are free to begin living in now, and the spiritual ascension of those who had been locked in the grave during that interim period.
I know this can go much deeper, but the overall intimation of the Bible, even our own subconscious belief, is that our loved ones, who have gone before us, are already enjoying their spiritual bodies in heaven. If these bodies were cultivated from their physical “seed” in the first place, what point is there to recombine them with a dead and decayed seed fragment in some future age? Just as a butterfly abandons its’ cocoon when it has served the purpose of housing that transformation, so also would we abandon this mortal shell, through physical death. Until then, we have the opportunity to continue in our spiritual transfiguration in this realm.
As always, these are my personal views when considering all of the context of the Bible. This, indeed, can go much deeper, but I tried to hit most of the overarching principles. Feel free to toss all of this aside if it doesn’t work in your personal walk with Jesus.