Heaven, Hell, the Resurrection, and Personal Eschatology

When you think of the afterlife and the moment at which you die, what do you think happens?

                       

When I do a funeral and I preach about heaven, the Second Coming, the resurrection, the Millennial Kingdom of Christ, and eternity I can see people’s heads spinning.  I’ve had people come up to me afterwards and say, “Wait a minute, are you saying we will go to heaven and then our physical bodies will be resurrected when Jesus returns?”

Yes.  As crazy as it sounds, this is the belief held by many theologians for the last two thousand years concerning what happens to you personally when you die.  It’s called Personal Eschatology.

There are several views that theologians hold about what happens and how it happens.  The view I hold is the last view mentioned in this post. 

One view is called Amillennialism: In this view the Kingdom of God already exists here on earth through the Church.  Jesus is King and is reigning and ruling from heaven and in the hearts of the people through His Spirit.  In this view Jesus will not return literally, rather what happens in Revelation 19-20 is more symbolic and will happen in the spiritual realm.  While this might be a valid interpretation of Scripture, the problem is this view tends to spiritualize many Scriptures, which seem to be intended to be taken literally.

Another view is called Post-Millennialism: In this view it is the role of the Church to lead the entire world to Christ so that Christ will literally return to set up His Kingdom.  The idea is once the world becomes Christian then Christ will come as King to His Kingdom.  This might be a valid interpretation of Scripture, the problem is this view tends to place too much emphasis on us Christians bringing about His Kingdom.  Another problem is it takes certain verses in Scripture out of sequence and re-arranges them to fit together (e.g., Matthew 24:1-31 doesn’t seem to go with Revelation 13 and 19-20).  Another problem with this view is it has been the theological basis to justify the Crusades, Christendom, and Colonialism.

Another view is called Historic Pre-Millennialism: If you hold a pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation perspective then this is your view.  The idea is there will be a tribulation (Matthew 24:1-31) and a resurrection / rapture of the church (1 Thess. 4:13-20) and that this will take place in conjunction with the last trumpet blast and the Second Coming of Christ to set up His Kingdom (Revelation 19-20).  There will be a Millennial Reign of Christ and Judgment Day (Revelation 20) culminating in the Jesus sending the condemned to the Lake of Fire and those in Christ will experience and inherit the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 20:11-21:8).

So what happens in the intermediate time? Some believe in soul sleep – the idea that when we die we sleep spiritually until the resurrection.  The problem with this is Jesus said Lazarus went to be by Abraham’s side immediately after death (Luke 16:22).  Also, Jesus said to the thief on the cross when he repented that he would be with Jesus in paradise that day (Luke 23:43).

So where did we get this idea that we simply go to heaven and that there is no resurrection? This comes more from culture and Greek philosophy than from Scripture.  Think of the Loony Tunes when Wiley coyote when he gets hit with an anvil and his spirit floats to the clouds where he starts playing the harp in heaven.  A pastor friend of mine said this was his perspective until he read the Bible.

In Greek Philosophy, Plato taught that spirit is good and body is bad.  Therefore the goal of this life is to be good and be released from this body into the spiritual realm to achieve immortality of the soul. The Greeks thought it was ludicrous for the body to be redeemed with the soul.  Hence why it was laughable that Christians claimed Jesus was raised from the dead (Acts 17:32 and 1 Corinthians 15).

But for Judaism the perspective from the beginning is that God made everything good (see Genesis 1 and what God said at the end of each day).  But the world was subjected to decay as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin and is waiting for the day of redemption to be liberated (Romans 8:18-25; cf. Genesis 3).  This liberation begins with you believing in Jesus, you being born again, and you being spiritually saved (Romans 10:9-10).  The result will be that you will be transformed, redeemed in this life (2 Cor. 5:17 & Gal. 2:20) and in the life to come, including your bodily resurrection at Christ’s Second Coming when He recreates all things (1 Thess. 4:13-18; revelation 20-21; 1 Corinthians 15).

To some this still seems laughable.  But it is what the Bible teaches.  You might not believe it, but if Jesus was raised from the dead, then it is true and all people will be judged by Him at Judgment Day (Philippians 2:9-11 & Revelation 20:11-15).  And so I plead with you now, be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.

If you have been saved please indicate so by commenting below.

GODSPEED