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"I can't thank you enough for your article about Shepherd's Chapel." What Happens When We Die?

The Question/Comment:

----- Original Message -----
From: Name and Address Withheld
To: <> (Paul Stringini)
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2008 11:58 PM
Subject: Thank you for your article

Dear Paul (?)
I can't thank you enough for your article about Shepherd's Chapel.  You saved me so much time - not to mention money!  (I previously ordered 4 CDs -- Preexistence, 3 world ages, etc).  I was even feeling bad because I wasn't "getting it" and was about to get more CDs, or books... to try to figure it out.  I kept reading my bibles (have 3).. and kept thinking that it just didn't say what Murray said it  said.
Being only a new "student" - about 3 months, it was  becoming more and more confusing to me.  I started studying the Bible two years ago,  a short time with Jehovah's  Witnesses, then on my own.  They don't believe in the Trinity or Rapture - (I don't either)...But I thought all  other Christians did....  So,  I would like to know about your church if you have one.  
I love studying the Bible - but have some confusion on what happens when we die (does our spirit return to God and our soul sleep until the resurrection), and what happens during  the Millennium - will we be spiritual bodies on earth or in heaven, etc.  What happens to people who aren't Christians, and the many who have been mislead by false teaching?  Any help or feedback you can give me will be appreciated.
Anyway, thank you again.  Your article was wonderful and although I learned some things useful from listening to Dr. Murray, my time can now be spent on learning God's word in more depth - without all the confusion.

My Response:

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, April 25, 2008 7:37 PM
Subject: Re: Thank you for your article

Hi XXXXXX, sorry this was so long in coming,
"but have some confusion on what happens when we die (does our spirit return to God and our
soul sleep until the resurrection), "
That is what I have come to believe.  It used to seem to me that it was "more right" or "better" to imagine my loved ones with the Lord.  But there are many scriptures which make that idea impossible.  There are a few that give people the idea that people are "in heaven" when they die. (And I will show you all of them).  But the problem is that one or the other has to be true.
In the Gospel of John Jesus says this:
John5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 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.

Which immediately begs the question: If they are already in heaven why raise them?  Jesus certainly talks like the dead are in the ground.

Here also is the word of an Apostle, a very very clear word:

Acts 2:29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. 30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; 31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.

34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,

David is not in heaven. But he will be raised from the dead, that is the promise of Christianity. Notice it says Jesus' soul was not "left in hell," this will become important later, but from the time Jesus dies till the time he rose again he was "in hell"  which indicates the Grave.  (there is more than one type of "hell" in the bible, one being simply the Grave)

1Thess4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

The resurrection of the dead is a prophetic event. It does not happen 20-30 times per second whenever someone dies. Notice that the dead are said to "sleep."  This idiom does not make much sense if they are walking around in a city up in heaven.

Those are the basics of the resurrection.  They probably seem pretty clear.
Now, what about the scriptures that cause people to believe otherwise?
First lets look at Lazarus and the Rich Man. The Parable of "Lazarus and the Rich Man" is not a "true story." It is a mistake to believe that every parable that Jesus told had to be literally true and must have happened somewhere, that isn't how those kinds of stories work.   Lazarus and the Rich Man is a parable about false doctrine that should not be taken literally.

There are several good reasons for this, the first being the scriptures I mentioned above.  The next reason is the formula, in the same chapter that we find "lazarus and the Rich Man" we find this:

"Luke 16:1 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods."

The way we can tell this is a parable, is that Jesus uses the exact same formula to start about Lazarus and the Rich Man as he does to start "The Unjust Steward."

"Luke 16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day"

That saying, "There was a certain..." is a formula Jesus frequently used to indicate the start of a parable.

The next problem with this parable being taken literally is the fact that it is so completely untrue compared to the doctrine of the dead established all over scripture. If taken as a literal story, it is contradictory the scriptures. I believe that this is part of the point Jesus is making with this story.  There is irony here.  The context of the story and the things which are being portrayed as real events are actually Jewish traditions, contrary to what the Law of Moses and the Prophets say is true about the dead.

3 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. 4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

That is clear, there is, of course, more:

I know this is a repetition, but remember: Acts 2:29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. 34 For David is not ascended into the heavens:  That is pretty clear too.

Eccles 5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.

I think the idea that the dead are unconscious is accurate and clear. Remember what Jesus said:

John 5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 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.

I don't think that day has come just yet, so the dead are clearly in their "graves." And not with "Abraham."

Today, the popular (and pagan inspired) view of death is that people make a transition from one plane of existence to another at death, I don't see that taught anywhere in the bible. I used to think otherwise, but I have come to acknowledge that this was wishful thinking, and that the scriptures teach that the dead sleep a dreamless sleep. There is supposed to be a resurrection of the dead, if the transition of existences was true then the resurrection would be unnecessary.

Another common objection is this:.

"What about the thief on the cross?" You may or may not be aware that the punctuation in the bible is an entirely subjective thing, the greek text was unpunctuated. So, instead of reading Jesus response to the thief as being, "I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise," we may rather read it as being, "I say to you today,  you will be with me in paradise."  Just by moving the comma.

And remember, Jesus did not go to Paradise on that day, but he went into the grave/hell. When he rose the third day he declared to Mary Magdalene "I have not yet ascended to my Father."  I'd like to point out that I have listed several very clear scriptures in support of a death that is just as it appears and humans instinctively know it will be, an completely nonconscious state. It seems to me that when something like Lazarus or that thief on the cross seem to contradict this clear teaching, that the latter must be interpreted in light of the former. because they can't be logically interpreted in the reverse. 

I think I ought to say more about Lazarus: the near context of the parable is this:

Luke 16:15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. 16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. 17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. 18 Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. 19 There was a certain rich man,"

In the matter of adultery the Pharisees had accepted a corrupt interpretation of the law, granting divorces very liberally, that is something that is pleasing and esteemed among men. In the matter of the disposition of the dead, the Pharisees had corrupted what was written in the O.T. because of their traditions, again, they did this in a way that pleased men. A Dr. Lightfoot did an analysis of the Pharisee's traditions from their own writings and this parable matched them perfectly. When speaking of one who was recently departed they would say, "this day he sits in Abraham's Bosom." (Lightfoot Works vol xii pp159-163) It is not true. The keystone of the truth of this parable is:

"If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." 

The pharisees were always corrupting what the scriptures (Moses and the Prophets) said because of their traditions.  This parable is making ironic reference to that fact by using the same traditions to make that point.  This is very ironic.  Remember, Jesus himself said that the purpose of his parables was to communicate things in such a way to make it hard to understand unless you have eyes to see the truth.  To be able to see the truth we have to stop looking for what we want to see and just look for that which is true indeed.

Some other things that are wrong with this story are the idea that those in "hell" can communicate with those in "heaven" it cannot be so. For the final disposition of the lost is like this:

2Thes1:8 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" That would not be Paradise with people begging for water within earshot of Abraham, and where you can watch them slowly burn yet never burn up. That is the paradise of the Pharisee's false doctrine. Speaking of death they would say, "this day he sits in Abraham's Bosom." The parable of Lazarus is about false doctrine and the parable of Lazarus contains false imagery in the setting of the story in order to illustrate a point. The Pharisees' doctrine was contrary to Moses and the Prophets so neither would they accept Jesus doctrine, even after he rose from the dead (and even after the real Lazarus rose from the dead). Oddly enough most Christians today accept the Pharisees' heresies over the doctrines of Jesus Christ and His Apostles.

But there is an inescapable fact; while it is true that the Dead "in hell" are punished with "everlasting destruction from the presence" of God; it is also true that the place of Hell is within "walking distance" of the eternal city.

Even as the word declares:

Isa 66:22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.

23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.

24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

You also asked about the spirit returning to God,  Yes the scriptures say that (Ecclesiastes 12)  some people would like to say that that idea indicates that the person is actually "in Heaven"
I refer back to acts, even if David's spirit is in Heaven, the part of David that is "David" the actual "him" is said to be in the ground.  I feel that if it was otherwise the apostle would not use the language he uses.
Eze11:And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:''
God can put a "new spirit" in us, and we will change, but we will not become a separate conscious being, what I'm getting at is that a spirit is not necessarily a person.
and what happens during the millennium - will we be spiritual bodies on earth or in heaven, etc. 
Simply stated, to begin,  The righteous will be transformed into new heavenly bodies at the resurrection, with the dead in Christ.  (As stated before  in 1Thess4)  The rest of the dead will stay not live again until the end of the thousand years.  The people who are left alive in the Earth when the Lord returns will be judged according to "sheep and goats" and those who remain will multiply in the earth and experience long life and the rule of Christ.
Rev 20:4 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. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
Dr. Murray has said, that they will actually be walking around and that this reference to "dead" only means "spiritually dead."  But, give me a break,  THAT MAKES NO SENSE,  It says "lived not again,"  live again means explicitly that they used to have a state of being which is called "alive." If this was a "spiritual life" then they should have risen with the righteous because that life is only in Christ Jesus, but they do not raise with the righteous, they do not live any more, they live not AGAIN until the thousand years are finished.  It is simple plain English they will remain in hell (the grave) until the white throne judgment.  Also the fact the they are "the rest" of the dead proves that dead here cannot refer to "spiritually dead" because the only other "dead that this could refer to are the righteous who participate in the first resurrection who cannot be described as "spiritually dead" even in their graves.  These dead are "conventionally dead," if it were otherwise it would be written so.
Isa4 3 And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem:
4 When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.
5 And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defense.
6 And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.
The sheep and the goats:
Mtt25:33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of
these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
None of these groups are the true Christians, they are all the people in the world who went astray in the great tribulation, they are being judged by the way they treated the saints during that time.
What happens to people who aren't Christians,
In part, it depends.  Some of this answer is going to seem a little shocking, but I believe it is true, unless I want to just give up on Christianity.  I say this because I do not want you to react emotionally before you have a chance to really think it through and consider. (and it isn't because you are a woman, men can be far worse) 
Some will perish in the lake of fire.  Christianity is about mercy, all those who receive it feel unworthy and it is natural for us to want everyone to have it, but it does not work that way.
Rom 9:15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.
God does not owe anything to anyone, he pulled us out of nothing and when we perish we will return to nothing.  We cannot legitimately complain.  If God deems us to be worthy of death and does not send the light of the gospel to us, then we will perish.  There are many ways of understanding this and I would be happy to go into it more for you.  But remember this, love never fails, if God loves us, then we have nothing to fear.
God loves his people, and his love is very strong and very effective, because all the people that God loves get saved. Some say that God loves everyone, I do not believe that is possible (and I can explain the scriptures that give people those ideas).  If God loved everyone then love has failed (or will fail) 
People bring up these awful analogies, like this "Its like he gives you a rope, but you have to take hold of it."  Well, what if a person you love does not see the rope? What if they do not have the strength to try and grab it?  Or what if they are suicidal and do not want the rope?  If someone you loved was about to commit suicide, and it was in your power to stop them, would you? Do you think that interfering with their "freewill choice" would be a loving thing to do?
If you loved someone, and had the power to save them, would you? If you loved someone, and you wanted to save them, and it was in your power to save them, would they get saved? If you had the power to tie the rope around them and drag them unwilling to safety, would you? If you loved them, you would. And that would be true love.

Some say, "you can't have true love without freewill!"  or (In order for it to be true love you have to be able to not love.) Not so.

The truest and greatest love is the kind that operates independent of my will and can even go against it.  That is why they call it "falling" in love, because you do not choose it, it is like an intoxicating and irresistible force.  It is not some "choice" we make, that we could just as easily "choose" to walk away from.  That is not love, that is more like an arranged marriage.   The most powerful kind of love is the kind that you cannot escape or resist. Like the way I love my God,  I can't avoid it, it is just in me to absolutely love this God, I love this truth, it is just absolutely in me to love this truth.  If it were possible for me to not love, or to refuse to love this God, then my love would not be as powerful or true.

My point is that no one will accidentally fall from God's hand, it is all going according to plan, and justice will be served. 

and the many who have been mislead by false teaching? 
Ezek 14:9 And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. 10 And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him;
I should also say that it says this
Eze44:10 And the Levites that are gone away far from me, when Israel went astray, which went astray away from me after their idols; they shall even bear their iniquity. 11 Yet they shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having charge at the gates of the house, and ministering to the house: they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them. 12 Because they ministered unto them before their idols, and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity; therefore have I lifted up mine hand against them, saith the Lord GOD, and they shall bear their iniquity. 13 And they shall not come near unto me, to do the office of a priest unto me, nor to come near to any of my holy things, in the most holy place: but they shall bear their shame, and their abominations which they have committed.
14 But I will make them keepers of the charge of the house, for all the service thereof, and for all that shall be done therein.

I believe that this will all be subject to a "sheep and goats" separation.  I.E. the Catholic minister down the road that fed and clothed the saints in spite of the antichrist will be accepted but the minister next door who turned the saints over to be killed or merely turned a blind eye, will not.  Same goes for the people. (at least this is the current evolution of my opinion on a very sketchy matter)
I would be happy to answer any further questions you may have or provide any further documentation from the scriptures you may require, or clarify any point I have made thus far.  All that is required is that you ask.
PS other letters from people are posted on my website. Some questions may be answered there.

My Additional Response:

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, April 28, 2008 1:54 PM
Subject: a little more
I just thought of another scripture
John3:13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
If you just take that for what it says, you will easily see that there is no human being aside from Jesus currently residing in heaven.
I just thought of Elijah as well (people sometimes bring that up)  I have an explanation, but here is the funny part: you bring up a pretty absolute scripture like that, "no man," and instead of accepting it, people will dismiss it and bring up something less absolute that they think makes those words entirely lose their meaning. 
The scriptures say that Moses was buried by God, his presence on the mount of transfiguration was either a temporary resurrection or a time-warp-type-thingy.  In any case, he was only seen on the Earth.
The taking up of Elijah does not mean that he had to remain in heaven, he may have been brought there for a period of time and then to the mount of transfiguration and then, as with Moses, buried by God.  The above scripture  (john 3:13) obviously means, "ascended up to heaven(to stay)" because many prophets were taken to heaven temporarily.   Even so, on it's face value it is pretty clear in its meaning


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