by haRold Smith
a citizen of the Commonwealth
"Behold, the eye of YHVH is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love, that He may deliver their nephesh from death..." Psalm 33:18-19
After the last article, Where Is Heaven? (click on highlighted words to view content), Bobbie wrote to ask, "My question is where does our spirit go when we die? Your teaching... helped me a lot in understanding Ephesians 6:12, but you did not mention where the spirit goes when it leaves the body. I will be 86 years old next month, and I look forward to the day when I shall see my Savior. I know that I have the kingdom of God abiding in me. I fellowship with the Lord. I abide in Him, and His Word abides in me. If, as some say, our spirit goes to Sheol when we die to await the resurrection what happens to the Kingdom of God abiding in us?"
There is no Hebrew thought in the Original Writings of a person's soul or spirit being separated from the rest of what it means to be human. The division of man into "body-mind-soul" is a thoroughly Greek invention elaborated on by the Greek philosopher, Plato, in his book "the New Republic". The Hebrew word, nephesh has been translated into the English "soul" because of the influence of the Greek word psyche introduced into the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Tanakh (OT) known as the LXX). In the Hebraic perspective, however, human beings are one homogenized entity - the person, the nephesh. When the Hebrew Sha'ul (Paul) cites the Hebrew Habakkuk 2:4 in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11, he is not speaking as if the soul could be saved but the body could not. Paul is speaking about the entire person, the nephesh.
Just as the verse in Habakkuk suggests, it is not a soul that is "puffed up", it is an entire way of being in the world that involves everything about a person - thoughts, choices, feelings, will and consequent actions. Compounding this doctrinal error is the unscriptural belief that humans possess an immortal soul. To this day, sophisticated scholars within Christendom teach that, at death, the soul goes to a place called "heaven" for doing well, or to purgatory or "hell" for committing various degrees of evil. This concept of the immortality of the soul being something apart from the rest of a man only began appearing into what became "Christian" theology some 200 to 250 years after the Resurrection of Yeshua when the writings of Ignatius, Marcion and Origen began the process of syncretism (the merging or fusion of different systems of thought or belief). However, the scriptures themselves do not teach the immortality of the soul; rather, they reveal, "...it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment; so Yeshua, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to rescue from death those who are eagerly waiting for Him." (Hebrews 9:27, Matthew 16:27). Neither do the scriptures reveal that when one dies, the soul goes to heaven or hell leaving the body behind. Rather, it clearly shows that when one dies they await the resurrection of the dead - both of the righteous and of the wicked (Daniel 12:2, John 5:25-29, 1Corinthians 15:24-28, Revelation 20:14-15, Revelation 21:8). The apostles were witnesses that Yeshua was resurrected from the dead, fulfilling the promise of YHVH that is vital to others within His Family having the hope of also being raised from the dead just as He was.
Yeshua tells us that YHVH's Kingdom is within or among the faithful. The faithful are those who keep the Words of YHVH - just as Yeshua did (John 8:28, Deuteronomy 7:9). The Kingdom of YHVH is not a place somewhere inside of us. It is the righteous themselves who comprise the Kingdom of heaven where YHVH's throne abides - living stones who are now His Temple. Most believe eternity begins when they die; however, as seen in Isaiah 57:15 YHVH abides, occupies, dwells, and lives in eternity. Eternity accompanies YHVH's throne. YHVH's throne sits in the midst of His Kingdom. Thus, since the Kingdom of YHVH exists in eternity, those who comprise His Kingdom become eternal as well. This is why Yeshua says that to know, to become intimately acquainted with the Nature of Spirit IS eternal life. To understand Spirit, therefore, is to first come to a Hebrew understanding of eternity. Revelation 22:13, Isaiah 44:6, and Isaiah 48:12 tell us that, with YHVH, there is no beginning and there is no end. He IS the Alpha and the Omega; He IS the beginning and the end. Without a beginning and without an ending - there is only right now. If we are to abide in YHVH's Kingdom, we must abide in the same dimension that He occupies which is eternal - right now, right now, right now. Yeshua's admonition to take no thought for tomorrow was a comment about abiding in the Nature of Spirit today. With YHVH there is no future and there is no past - only now. Time is a man-made system of measurement from one cyclical event to another. If there is no beginning and there is no ending, there can be no cyclical event from which to take a measurement from nor an ending to calculate the measurement between the two events - hence, there is no time in eternity. Even though Hebrew words have been translated into the English paradigm as "time" - there is no specific word for "time" as we know it in Hebrew. The Hebrew words translated as the English "time" have meanings relating to a general "day" (yom), an appointed meeting (mo'ad), an event ('ad), a second event (sha'ne), a footstep (pah'am), in that case or place ('az), etc. Our concept of time was invented in 1847 to serve the purposes of the British Rail System. Obviously, this "railway time" (as it was called) was needed to coordinate the management of the trains traveling through each town across Britain - but it did not interfere with the "local" time kept in those towns. It wasn't until 1929 that the world adopted the 24 hour global time measurement. Although we imagine that time "zones" have always been part of life, this is not true. They are less than 100 years old - and they are entirely artificial, determined only by the agreement of various nations to divide the globe into roughly 15 degree longitudes.
Whether we like it or not, arguments about the age of the universe may be irreconcilable. There is evidence both for a recent creation and for an ancient universe. It is our stereotypical thinking about the nature of time that causes a problem. We view time as an absolute - as a single dimension measured by a fixed master clock. In reality, time is multidimensional but, because of the separation away from the Eternal One, we are trapped in one-dimensional linear time and extrapolate our limited understanding across the ages from a narrowness of vision. To be able to see the broader perspective of eternity requires our vision to undergo some stretching beyond what has been traditionally handed down to us (Mark 7:6-8). The Messianic Writings announce that all men in their natural state are "...dead through trespasses and sins…following the course of this world…the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:1-2). Sin is merely a separation from the Nature of the Source of Life, YHVH by disobedience to His Words - and IS the definition of death, which prevents an entry into the Kingdom of YHVH (Matthew 7:21, John 3:3). People need rescue because they are dead in their sins (see what it means scripturally to be Born Again).
So, then, if our traditional concepts of heaven and an immortal soul are not in accordance with scripture - just what is the promise we are given to hope for? What does it mean to be risen from the dead? What is the hope of glory found in Yeshua? A promise is not realized until it is fulfilled. It is we who try to overlay a man-made concept of time upon someone who abides in a place where time is non-existent. The Hebrews of the Messianic Writings understood that when a person dies - they just die (Mark 9:9-10). The reason Yeshua was the "firstborn among many brethren", was to example before us what waiting on that promise was about (Romans 8:29). When Yeshua was in that tomb - He was dead. He did not go anywhere - He was in the grave. Many point to the passage from 1Peter 3:18-20, however, to refute that statement - but let's see what those words actually say:
|For Yeshua also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to YHVH, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit of YHVH: by which Spirit also He (YHVH) went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which some time were disobedient, just as when once the long-suffering of YHVH waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water." 1Peter 3:18-20|
Words mean things - but the absence of words in scripture does not call for assumptive speculation. In the same way the Church and Lucifer (click on highlighted words to view content). have been found not to be scriptural entities through the way they have been traditionally presented, the phrase "He descended into hell" originated with the Roman Catholic Church and is found in the Apostles' Creed - but has only been known since the third century. This phrase was evidently derived from an unusually-worded portion of Peter's First Epistle above. However, the first thing to note in this passage from Peter is that the Greek word "Hades" (translated as "hell") does not actually appear. "Hades" is the underworld god of Greek mythology and, even though it is mentioned as "hell" in the Creed (and elsewhere in both OT and NT Greek translations), it does not appear in the Original Hebrew Writings - particularly not appearing as a holding place of permanent punishment of those utterly lost forever (previously noted in the article Defining Enemies). These words of Peter describing whatever kind of preaching took place - were not in hell. They were given in the world of men and, evidently, in the world of those who lived prior to the flood known as the Antediluvians. The "spirits in prison" are simply those who are separated from the eternal, timeless Nature of Spirit - and they exist in all generations of men (Psalm 24:3-10, see the King of Glory for a scriptural understanding of a generation). The passage itself confirms this fact as there were only eight righteous souls who were delivered from that Antediluvian period because they listened to that preaching and acted on it. We get indignant at the mention of purgatory, knowing that’s not found in scripture but, our popular concepts of an immortal soul come from the same place as does purgatory - a traditional Roman Catholic theology of an afterlife of immortality under-girded by Greek mythology and philosophy.
Some of the material in this article is excerpted from Skip Moen's daily exegesis of biblical texts. You may read his studies by going to www.skipmoen.com and searching for the verse reference.
Part One: Where Is Heaven?
Part Two: Is There A Hell?
Part Three: The Immortal Soul
|"Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:10|
Please feel free to email me at email@example.com. While not claiming to have all the answers, it would be an honor to partake with you of what the Spirit is uncovering.