164 Theology 3 – Conditional Immortality


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In this lecture, you’ll learn about anthropology–the bible’s view of humanity. In particular, we’ll focus on the two ends of the spectrum: creation and death. We’ll see how the biblical view of humanity is rather exalted since we are made in God’s image. We’ll examine what the bible teaches about death and resurrection and how the intermediate state is regularly labeled sleep.

—— Notes ——

Why start here? it’s where the bible starts (creation)

anthropology: your understanding of humanity

where do humans come from?

  • two typical answers
    • unguided natural processes based on huge amounts of time and inconceivably unlikely chance events (evolution)
    • God made the first people (imago dei)
  • Genesis account

Gen 2.7: God personally creates humans

  • with heavenly bodies God says, “let there be”
  • with plants God says, “let there be”
  • with animals (air, land, or sea) God says, “let there be”
  • with humankind God stoops down
    • he forms us; he shapes us from dust, like clay
  • he breaths into our nostrils the breath of life
    • sounds like mouth to mouth
  • animals have the breath of life, but not such a tender description

consider God’s human design

  • 22 square feet of skin
  • 206 bones
  • 25 feet of intestines
  • 45 miles of nerves
  • 100,000 miles of blood vessels
  • can live from hottest equatorial climates to the frigid polar caps
  • skin provides
    • waterproof barrier
    • temperature regulation
    • sensory input
  • fingers are both finely tuned (painting) and strong (boxers)
  • wrists enjoy 160 degrees of motion
    • throw frisbee
    • ride a motorcycle
  • ball and socket shoulder joint allows
    • 360 degrees of motion
    • lift an object from the ground over our heads in one fluid motion
  • hearts pump 2,000 gallons of blood each day
    • never rest
  • stomachs produce hydrochloric acid powerful enough to digest solid metal
  • biped design allows for ridiculous range of activities
    • climb trees
    • run marathons
    • ballet
  • ears pick up incredible range of sounds
    • soft sounds
    • rock concerts
  • voices can whisper, speak, yell, sing
  • eyes allow for nearly 180 degrees of horizontal vision
    • three dimensions
  • brains process everything effortlessly
    • and assemble a realistic perception of the external world
    • capable of thinking abstractly (what’s better courage or integrity?)
    • can imagine future possibilities
    • mental simulator to run through plans
    • art, science, relationships, sports, etc.
  • people are capable of incredible creations
    • Shakespeare
    • your favorite song
    • Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai (more than a half mile high)
    • Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge in China (more than 100 miles)
    • bicycles, performance cars, submarines, airplanes, and spaceships
  • we are discoverers
    • charted a billion stars
    • catalogued over a million animals species
  • we are producers
    • 130 million books
    • over 28 million songs
    • more than 2 million movies
  • we peer into space far away and examine the minute DNA within the microscopic world
  • you gotta admit, that God did a pretty amazing job making us!

God’s creation was good (7x)

  • significant b/c it means God made the universe and people the way he wanted
    • it wasn’t some accident (Gnostics)
  • was God’s original plan for humans to live forever?
    • how do you know?
    • Gen 2.9; 3.22-24
  • something went wrong
    • our first parents rebelled
  • what was the consequence?
    • Gen 3.19

What is death?

  • simple definition: the absence of life
    • whatever death means it can’t be the same as being alive
  • you can use the bible to support any view of death you have
    • options include
      • heaven (be a star like Lion King, float on a cloud, stare at God forever)
      • purgatory (tortured for a little while before going to heaven)
      • hell (tortured forever)
      • reincarnation (turn into a bear)
      • annihilation
      • ghosts, spirits that haunt buildings (6th sense)
      • asleep until the resurrection
    • the question is: where does the preponderance of the evidence lie?
    • what is the dominant phrase people use to talk about death?
      • so-and-so “passed away”
      • doesn’t that assume that they went somewhere?

sleep is the dominant metaphor the bible uses to talk about death

  • 1 Kings 2.10 David slept with his fathers
  • 1 Kings 11.43 Solomon slept with his fathers
  • 1 Kings 14.20 Jeroboam slept with his fathers
  • Job 3.11-14 death is lying down, quietly in sleep, and at rest
  • Ecclesiastes 9.5-6 the dead know nothing; they are clueless about what happens under the sun
  • Ecclesiastes 9.10 no work, thought, knowledge, or wisdom in the grave (clearly teaches dead are unconscious)
  • Psalm 6.4-5 in death/the grave people have no remembrance or praise of God
  • Psalm 13.3 help me or else I’ll sleep the sleep of death
  • Psalm 115.17 the dead do not praise the LORD
  • Psalm 146.3-4 breath [ruach/spirit] departs, return to earth, plans perish
  • John 11.11-14 Jesus calls Lazarus asleep when he is dead
  • Acts 2.29, 34 David died, was buried, and did not ascend into heaven
  • Acts 7.60 Stephen cried out and then fell asleep
  • 1 Corinthians 15.6 some of the 500 who saw Jesus have fallen asleep

death is like time travel

  • ex 1: fall asleep in car and wake up a couple of hours later
  • ex 2: getting wisdom teeth removed (Ruth: “How was it” me: “They didn’t do it yet”)
  • two perspectives
    • from one point of view king David has waited in the grave for 3,000 years
    • from David’s perspective he instantaneously goes from his last breath to the resurrection

resurrection is the key to immortality

  • this is how someone escapes death and acquires immortality
  • Daniel 12.2
  • John 5.28-29
  • 1 Cor 15.51-55

resurrection happens at the coming of Jesus on the “last day” at the “last trump”

  • 1 Cor 15.17-24
  • John 6.39-40, 44, 54
  • 1 Thes 4.13-17

dangers of believing in conscious intermediate state

  • opens the door for spiritualism
  • Lev 20.6 people whoring after mediums and necromancers will be cut off
  • Lev 20.27 any medium/necromancer will be put to death
  • Deut 18.9-13 abominable practice, a reason why Canaanites were expelled

advantages of the sleep of the dead

  • comfort to know loved one is just resting in peace (RIP)
  • would be really weird if they watched everything you do
  • don’t need to pray for them a million times hoping to change God’s mind
  • avoid abuses by church (sale of indulgences)

conditional immortality: immortality is conditioned on God giving it at resurrection, rather than innate

why are most Christians confused about this?

  • ancient Egyptians believed in the kingdom of the dead and built huge tombs (Pyramids)
  • Plato famously defended immortality of the soul in his Phaedo (talking about Socrates’ death)
    • Socrates: Do we believe that there is such a thing as death?

      Simmias: To be sure, replied Simmias.

      Socrates: Is it not the separation of soul and body? And to be dead is the completion of this; when the soul exists in herself, and is released from the body and the body is released from the soul, what is this but death?

      Simmias: Just so, he replied.

the biblical idea was hard for people without a Jewish background to swallow

two unique ideas

  1. the dead are asleep until resurrection (Jewish)
  2. souls escape their bodies at death (Pagan)
  3. hybrid view: bodies sleep while soul enjoys heaven until resurrection when it reunites with the body (“Christian”)
    • contradicts all the scripture that says people sleep (not just their bodies, see also John 11.34; 20.15)
    • makes the resurrection an awkward leftover
      1. why would you want to become restricted by your body after you had lived as pure energy in heaven
      2. what about Lazarus getting torn out of heavenly bliss to inhabit his body?
    • eclipses the real hope by putting heaven-at-death

doctrines are interconnected

  • CI leads to a proper understanding of Christ
  • CI leads to a proper understanding of the atonement
  • CI leads to a proper understanding of the kingdom
  • CI leads to a proper understanding of hell

this one is really good to start with when talking to Christian friends

  • it doesn’t seem all that threatening
  • it’s so easy to show from so many verses

—— Links ——

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