Thursday, May 1, 2014

Life After Death, Part 1

What happens to us when we die? Do we lie there moldering in our graves? Do we head off to Heaven to live a disembodied eternity with God? Are we conscious or do we "soul sleep" until the resurrection?

As the Apostle Paul said in the scripture I posted Sunday (1st Letter to the Corinthians chapter 15 verses 22 - 24), whatever it is that happens to us, it will be the same thing that happened to Jesus when he died. Followers of Jesus live "in Christ," bonded together with him. Like him we will die and be resurrected; only the timing is different. As the Messiah, he went first, and we will all follow him by being bodily resurrected when it's our turn -- "when Christ comes again."

Jesus' younger brother once wrote, "A person’s body that does not have a spirit is dead." Christ's body, we know, died and was buried in a tomb for 3 days, but what about his spirit? Where was the spirit of the Son of God during what the Christian Movement has long called "Holy Saturday" -- the time between his burial and resurrection?

Wherever it was, or whatever condition Jesus' spirit existed in, our spirits will experience the same thing between our deaths and resurrections -- with one important caveat: the universe was altered on a cosmic scale with the death and resurrection of the Messiah. That was sort of the point, after all: "The Son of God came for this: to destroy the devil’s work," (1st Letter of John chapter 3 verse 8, ERV). So conditions may have changed even in the world of the dead since those epic 3 days, but the overall situation of those who will be resurrected remains.

 It's never been our main topic of conversation (that, of course, would be the announcement of the arrival of the Lord Messiah and his Kingdom) and we never fleshed it out as much as you and I might like, but the early Christian Movement was aware of where Jesus was, and where we go, between death and resurrection.

So this will begin a series of posts on the after life. The scholar N.T. Wright famously calls being resurrected "life after life after death," something Jesus and his Apostles were much more interested in. But we won't go quite that far for now. We'll be looking at what they taught about what comes before that: "Life After Death."

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