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Beyond the Curtain

One of the greatest mysteries in life is death, the final curtain one one act play that is our lives. William Shakespeare once wrote:

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”

The monologue concludes with the words:

“Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion . . .

Mere oblivion, but what is really after that final curtain has fallen on our part in the great drama of this civilisation? People have asked questions many times about this subject, and different people have differing views as to what happens and where our spirit goes. It is always comforting to think that when we die our soul travels directly into Heaven and is greeted by St Peter, welcomed by Jesus and all of our friends and family that have passed before us. In this study we will attempt to find out exactly what the Bible says about our crossing from this physical world into what ever lies beyond the curtain.

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There are two certain things in this life, taxes and death, and nothing makes us consider our mortality, and what comes afterwards, than the loss of a loved one. Atheists believe that this is all there is, we die and we are gone, our life force returns to the cosmos. Job was the first recorded asking the question, “If a man dies, shall he live again?“ [Job 14:14] Almost every religion that has been around on this Earth is based on the continuance of life in some form after death, it seems that no one can face life ending at death. Statements like, “is this all there is?” have been asked since Adam, but it's only in the last couple of centuries that a view has become widespread that this is indeed all there is. Fortunately all of those faith systems were right on one thing, because there is the promise of life after death, for those who are God's people.

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If there is no existence after death, then our faith is a total lie, hundreds of people have been martyred for nothing, Jesus died for nothing and billions of people over thousands of years have been deluded. Paul tells us that God cannot lie and that our hope of eternal life is true [Titus 1:2] and there is plentiful evidence that God exists. He makes that promise abundantly clear, that the whole purpose of what Jesus did was to gain life after death for us, and not condemn us to perish [John 3:16-17]. Here we see a difference, between the two words, 'death' and 'perish', perish is translated from the Greek word, 'apollymi', which literally means 'to destroy fully'. The word translated as death is the Greek word 'thanatos' which, according to Strong's, means the separation of the body from the soul by which life on Earth is ended; that's quite a difference.

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How then does this work? Our physical bodies certainly decay or are cremated through death or thanatos,but our soul has been separated from our bodies at the point of death. Paul again tells us that flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of God, nor can our decayed bodies, he says that we will not all sleep but we will all be changed, possible our resurrection bodies. Those sleeping in the Lord will be raised in the twinkling of an eye with their new bodies at the sound of the last trumpet [1 Corinthians 15:50-54]. This passage also gives us a clue as to what happens to us between our physical death and resurrection, it says, “We shall not all sleep” indicating that we will indeed sleep in the Lord. One Corinthians chapter fifteen is known as the "resurrection chapter" because it gives us so much information about our future.

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We actually have at least four witnesses that this is possible, witnesses that wrote down what they saw and learned. Those statements are called 'The Gospels', and those four people actually witnessed their friend Jesus die, and gain a new body after death, an incorruptible body that could do all the things we can do, talk, eat, walk, everything [Luke 24:41-43 Luke 24:13-31.] As if that was not enough thousands of people saw Jesus during that time and who knows how many witnessed His ascension [Acts 1:6-11]. All of this we can take as reliable evidence of the possibility, the hope, of resurrection and eternal life.

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What happens at, or just after the point of death? The Bible gives us ample information about what happens at this point, in fact the Bible compares death to being asleep more that fifty times. It can maybe compared to being under anaesthesia, if anyone has experienced major surgery, where our eyes seem to close and the open again several hours later. We are no aware of the passing of time, nor do we dream or know anything of what is happening around us. Therefore, if we die before the second coming, it will be like being transported directly to the resurrection. The Bible seems to confirm this when it tells us that everyone knows they will dies but that the dead know nothing [ Ecclesiastes 9:5]. It tells us that all our thought and plans will end [Psalm 146:4] and we do not hear anything, we do not even praise the Lord [Psalm 115:17]. When we read about the raising of Lazarus, who was dead for three days, he had nothing to share about the experience, because there was nothing to share. He simply slept in the tomb.

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When Peter was speaking to the astounded crowd on the original day of Pentecost, he spoke about King David, that he died and was buried, David's tomb was still with them and known at that time, even he, a great man of God, and ancestor of Jesus, he did not ascend but was committed to the grave [Acts 2:29, 34]. Even someone as great as King David did not escape the grace, nor will we, but David will be resurrected along with all those who have slept in the Lord. Hell is not a crowded place at this time, in fact it is doubtful that Hell even exists, yet. There is a real misconception about Hell, it seems to come from a misunderstanding of the Greek word 'Hades' or the Hebrew word 'she'ol' or 'sheh-ole'', both of these have the duel meaning of 'the grave' or a place of torment, “grave, hell, pit.” “the world/realm of the dead” [Strong's H7585] as in Matthew 11:23. Whether we are good or bad does not matter, and the Bible is clear that we are not judged at the moment of death, but we have to wait for 'Judgement Day' when the dead rise. The Scripture says that the sea, death and Hades ( sheh-ole & the world of the dead) will give up their dead, and they will be judged according to whether their names are in the Book of Life. If there names are not there they will be consigned to the lake of fire, the second death [Revelation 20:13–15]. It is likely that the idea that the bad go to Hell, came from northern European traditions, the word 'Hell', easily confused with Hades, comes from Old Norse (Viking) meaning the 'underworld'. In Norse the word 'Hellir' means cave or cavern, a physical place below ground.

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Exactly the same will apply to going to Heaven, because the New Heaven and the New Earth are yet to come. We cannot enter Heaven, God's abode, unless we have our resurrected bodies, corrupt flesh cannot come into the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 15:35–50 gives a great example about our resurrected bodies through a seed that dies before it produces the new plant, and that the seed, our bodies, is just the husk that contains the core of us. In 1 John 3:2, John assures us that what we will be, has not yet appeared and that we will be like Jesus. Paul also agrees we need to wait to become citizens of Heaven until Jesus returns, he says that Jesus will transform us from, “ lowly body to be like his glorious body”. We have some information about what happens after death but it seems that the New Testament writers were also confused as to the details. Paul admits that he does not know and it seems that there are things that man may not know [2 Corinthians 12:3–4]. The tradition of Heaven being a physical place, up there, above us has a long history, in European religions, high places have always been regarded as sacred. In Britain these places were called, 'tors' or 'henge's', so it is natural to assume that Heaven is opposite to Hell and be above us somewhere.

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There is a huge amount of uncertainty about the terms used in the Bible that speak about death and where we go;

  • Sheol, temporary address of the disembodied souls of dead. It is translated "grave" 31 times, "hell" 31 times, and "pit" 3 times

  • Hades, identical to Sheol (Hebrew). Hades is translated "Hell" 10 times and "grave" once. It is the place for the soul, not the body.

  • Gehenna, Greek, but originally from a Hebrew name) - translated "Hell" all 12 times. It is the permanent place for destruction of the "... soul and body ..." (Matthew 10:28). It is a place of "... fire that never shall be quenched" (Mark 9:45).

  • paradeisos - Paradise. It is translated "paradise" all 3 times by the KJV. "Paradise" is not the English translation of any other Greek word in scripture. First we hear the words of the thief and Jesus Christ on their crosses in Luke 23:42-43, 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7.

  • Abussos (Greek) - Abyss. It is translated "bottomless pit" 5 times, "deep" twice, and "bottomless" twice. Revelation 20:1-3; Revelation 9:1-11; Luke 16:26.

  • chasma (Greek) - a gaping opening, chasm, or gulf, pit Luke 16:26 .

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The Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades are both temporary places of torment for the souls of the wicked. Before Christ's resurrection, the saints (us) resided and were comforted half of Hades, called 'Abraham's Bosom' which is no longer used under Christian theology. The Greek Gehenna, (which comes from a Hebrew name) is the Lake of Fire, the permanent place of torment for the souls of the wicked in their resurrected bodies. Hell is a rather general term that seems to be used to mean either Gehenna or the other side of Hades, both by those who know the basic difference between these two specific places and by those who do not. Because we have reliable witnesses in the form of the disciples, four written statements in the form of the Gospels, supported by many giving up their lives, we have a certain hope. We can therefore rely on what we are told, that Christians will sleep in Christ until Judgement Day and will proceed to the New Heaven and New Earth if our names are in the Book of Life.

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In God's Love

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Replies

  • Brother Blake, I thank you once again for writing a lesson the I realize the Spirit has moved you to wright.  My problem is that I was brought up on the first belief, that when we die we go to Heaven and at the Pearly Gates rejoice at seeing loved ones who've passed on before us.  It is because this belief is so very comforting to me.  However, all I am sure of is however we do it (getting into Heaven)  is where I truly want to be.  GOD Bless you for your efforts in passing on the lessons of the Spirit and caring as others here at CLM do, caring for our very souls.

    • I would draw your attention to the portion on the study where I said that from your soul's/spirit's point of view it will be just like going straight to resurrection day.  It's as if you are under anesthesia, no consciousness of passing time, no dreams, like closing our eyes and opening them as we rise again.  I think that in itself is comforting.

    • I understand now what you are saying Brother Derek it just takes me a while sometimes.  LOL  I can most certainly live to look forward to that concept as well. 

  • Amen good word Thank you

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