THE BOOK OF 1 THESSALONIANS
J. Deering, AncientPath.net
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The Believer's Intermediate State After Death
The Words of Jesus
Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Jesus is saying to the disciples that if the religious leaders would accuse Him of acting by the power of demons they would also accuse the disciples of the same. If they were killed as believers they should not worry about their eternal destination. Humans were created after the image an likeness of God and is more than just a body - being a combination of both body and soul.
Scripture consistently teaches that the two are separated at death:
And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
2 Corinthians 5:1-10
The individual - incomplete without final resurrection body
The individual - incomplete without putting on immortality
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
To Depart and be with Christ
But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.
The above verses settle the argument of annihilation of the body and soul.
The Living saw the bodily dead - yet spiritually alive and recognizable
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.
Demonstrates that conscious existence follows death.
Moses and Elijah talked with Jesus about His coming death.
who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Nothing here indicates that they had actual bodies when they appeared; God's servants throughout Old Testament times apparently had some consciousness of God's presence even after they died and remained in a disembodies state. While perhaps not in a physical body they were recognizable (apparently revealed). The dead are conscious of the living.
No human is ever really "dead."
‘ I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
In the Matthew passage God does not say He WAS the God of the living but He IS the God of the living. God would have said he WAS the God of the dead if there was no afterlife.
Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees believed that God is the God of the patriarchs, they are by implication alive after their death (even though the Sadducees, being inconsistent, did not believe in either afterlife or resurrection).
A clear statement of life after death.
With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory.
The Patriarch Abraham believed in resurrection.
Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
Jesus' story concerning the conscious dead
Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘ Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.
Parable or fact? Regardless of one's approach to the narrative the reader must face the question, "If Jesus did not want people to think they would remain conscious after death, why would He choose to tell a story that hinges on that notion?" The most natural interpretation of the passage would be that it refers to the intermediate state between death and resurrection."
"But now, immediately after the death of both - this respects the intermediate state between the death of the body and the resurrection of it, is clear, from what the wicked man petitioned, [it] shows the state of men before the resurrection, and as taking place immediately upon death." [internal quote, John Gill - Doctrinal Divinity].
Mal couch offers these lessons about the story: "(1) There is consciousness after death, (2) there is a bliss for the righteous and torment for the wicked, (3) there is regret for what is done in life, (4) great spiritual consequences follow after death, (5) the die is cast in this life, with no 'second chance' in view, and (6) the witness of the prophets is sufficient so that one can know the truth." [Internal quote, Mal Couch - The Gospel of Luke].
The Two Thieves
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The natural reading of this verse places the comma as you see it above. "Today" means "this very day," and "with Me" means a beautiful place associated with genuine, close fellowship with Christ. "Not only would he have a place in the kingdom, whenever that would be established, but that very day he would enter Paradise. "Paradise" is the Septuagint translation of "garden" in Genesis 2:8 and 13:10, and it eventually came to refer in Jewish theology to the residence of the righteous dead or heaven." [Internal quote, Paul J. Achtemeier, Harper's Bible Dictionary.'
The Stoning of Stephen
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Stephen said he saw Jesus at the right hand of God the Father. At the point of his death Stephen said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." He did not say, "Lord I'll see you in a few thousand years." He did not say, "Lord, receive my body, Heaven is no place for a dead corpse.
2 Corinthians 5:1-8
Paul's own testimony #1
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Clark says, "As all human souls are made for this glory, therefore all are considered, while here, to be absent from their own country." [Internal quote: Adam Clarke, Second Corinthians].
Paul's own testimony #2
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
"Only death can give us the gift of eternity, death escorts us into the presence of God, Death might temporarily take our friends from us, but only to that land in which there are not good-byes." [internal quote: Lutzer, One Minute after you Die].
Paul is viewing the intermediate state as one in which there is no interruption in Paul's relationship with Christ but an enriching of it. It is clear that the state into which Paul will enter at death is far better, bringing with it a greater closeness of communion with Christ. [Internal quote: Hawthrone, Philippians].
1 Thessalonians 4:14
For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
The Thessalonians apparently believed that those friends and relatives bodies (believing) would not be resurrected to share in the glorious reign of Jesus Christ. Paul corrects them and states that God, Jesus, will come to the air, bringing the spirits of those already earthly dead to be reunited with their resurrection bodies. Their resurrection bodies would not be left behind. Paul teaches that the sould lives in heaven till the resurrection of the body, and that sould and body would be reunited at the resurrection...
 Condensation of Bibliotheca Sacra 169 (July - September, 2012); 283-303
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