Jewish History

Death: Jewish History

Segment Two, Part One

Jewish History gives us the beliefs of two schools of thought (Pharisees and Sadducees) and how they viewed death. We see this in Acts 23:7 and 8: “And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.” The Sadducees tended to be agnostics with no sound spiritual awareness and the Pharisees believed the OT scriptures including its spiritual applications. Thus, many of the prominent Jewish leaders were divided as to what would happen at death.

The teaching of Jesus was radical to the Sadducees and intriguing to the Pharisees. Neither group could understand the spiritual act of rebirth. Nor could they grasp the idea that death was a separation act or action of spiritual and physical significance. They could not understand his teaching and resisted the truth of Jesus being sent from God. The Pharisees were immersed in temple worship and the physical activities connected with the Temple and any spiritual significance was only loosely connected.

With Jesus teaching of repentance, baptism, and rebirth, it seemed quite foreign to the Pharisees. To them the traditional beliefs were ingrained and Jesus’ teaching did not stress traditional interpretations and customs. The Pharisees found it difficult to see the spiritual connections with death and the consequences that followed. Thus, the Pharisees found the spiritual teaching of Jesus to be difficult to swallow.

Death: Jewish History

Segment Two, Part Two

In segment one, part one, we promised to expand upon the three different ways the Bible uses death in reference to human beings. In the next several posts we will take them one at a time and review relevant scriptures for support. Spiritual death will be our first way in which we can understand its meaning.

Spiritual death is separation from God because of sin. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul gives us these words: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;” In this passage, the KJV word “quickened” means to be alive or sensitive. Since the passage points out to us that we were “dead,” however, since we have become believers, we have now been made alive and spiritually sensitive. We know this is the intent because of what Paul wrote in verse 19 of the previous chapter. He is talking to the Ephesians and reminding them about their salvation and what they first believed. He is reminding them that they are no longer spiritually dead.

Jesus also taught this same thing as we see in John 5:24. When you hear the Gospel and respond to it, you “passed from death unto life.” Again, this death is a spiritual condition and you are made spiritually alive.

Paul again writing to the Church at Colossae reminds them also of this passing from death unto life. (Colossians 2:13) Paul’s intent was to teach these gentile Christians that spiritual death is not like physical death but must be understood as a spiritual principle. Without the Gospel, unbelievers are spiritually dead. When they accept the Gospel and believe, they are then made alive spiritually. In our next post, we will look at physical death and how it is used in various scriptures.

Death: Jewish History

Segment Two, Part Three

In our part two post, we wrote about spiritual death and how the spirit leaves the body at death. In physical death, the spirit or soul has departed. What is left is a body, with organs that stop functioning, the heart is motionless, and the blood has stopped flowing. Without blood flow, there is no oxygen and metabolism ceases. as the dictionary defines it: “a permanent cessation of all vital functions” has occurred.

We see a couple of scriptures that give us insight to physical death. We see a description of Jacob’s wife, Rachel, who died in childbirth: “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died)…” (Genesis 35:18) This verse gives a clear picture of the spirit of Rachel leaving as she died. We see this same picture in another verse in Ecclesiastes: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7) These are not the only verses that show this process at death, but we do not have space here to list all of them.

We also see this same idea in the NT. James writes: “For as the body without the spirit is dead…” (James 2:26a) The prophet Elisha also gives us some insight into physical death. “And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed.” (2 Kings 4:32) This story tells us that the child died and his spirit had left his body, but Elisha knew that God had everything under control. By prayer and an act of faith, Elisha knew that God would return the boy’s spirit to his body and he would live.

We see two things in these illustrations: 1) when the body ceases to function, death occurs, 2) when death occurs, the person’s spirit departs. This gives us a fact that when the spirit is in the body, a person is living, but when the spirit leaves the body it is a part of the death process and the spirit departs. When physical death occurs, the body stops and the spirit goes to its final resting place.

Although these illustrations are factual and pictured in scripture, there is also another concept that scripture supports. In the next post, we will see how the Bible also gives us the thought that death is also a journey. Where does one’s spirit go at death?     esus also taught this same thing as we see in John 5:24. When you hear the Gospel and respond to it, you “passed from death unto life.” Again, this death is a spiritual condition and you are made spiritually alive.

Paul again writing to the Church at Colossae reminds them also of this passing from death unto life. (Colossians 2:13) Paul’s intent was to teach these gentile Christians that spiritual death is not like physical death but must be understood as a spiritual principle. Without the Gospel, unbelievers are spiritually dead. When they accept the Gospel and believe, they are then made alive spiritually. In our next post, we will look at physical death and how it is used in various scriptures.

Death: Jewish History

Segment Two, Part Three (cont.)

Some cults and false teachers say that death is a sleep, but according to the Bible, death is a journey. The body sleeps in death, but the spirit of man journeys either to Heaven or to Hell. To support this, we will give examples of each.

The Old Testament teaches us that death is a journey. Our first example is Abraham. When he died, he was “gathered to his people.” (See Genesis 25:8) This cannot refer to his body or the grave, because Abraham’s relatives lived far away where he had left them to travel from Ur and Haran to the Promised Land. Thus, Genesis 25:8 is referring to Abraham’s spirit. His spirit journeyed to Heaven to be with the redeemed.

Another verse describes death as a flying away. We know that it is not the body that flies away, for it descends to the grave. It is the spirit that flies from the body at death. David tells us this in Psalm 90:10 “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength, labor, and sorrow; for it is soon cut-off and we fly away.” Here the psalmist uses the idea of something flying away, since the body is in the grave, it must be the spirit.

In the Genesis passage about Abraham, we see that his spirit journeyed to heaven. Again, we see this in the New Testament which calls the place he journeyed to as “Abraham’s Bosom” and there thousands of years later, we see that Abraham is very much alive and conscious nor is he “sleeping in the grave.” We see this when he appears with Elijah and Jesus on the mountaintop. (Luke 16:22-31) From these scripture examples, that man has a spirit or soul which departs from his body at death and which lives eternally either in Heaven or Hell. We will next look at the third way.

Death: Jewish History

Segment Two, Part Four

The third way in which Jewish history records death events is that of the final, eternal separation of the unsaved from God and life. This third way is called eternal or second death. This event has a definite ring of finality to it. We see this in the four verses in Revelation where the “second death” is referenced.

The first verse in Revelation is where John is giving Jesus’ message to the churches. This message is to the church at Ephesus and John writes: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” (Revelation 2:11)  Believers that stay true and faithful to Jesus will not experience the second death or eternal separation.

Later, John writes this reassuring passage to those who believe: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6) This verse is a sure promise to the believer in Christ.

In that same chapter, John also writes these words to those who are unbelievers. He is describing what will happen after the great white throne judgment: “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14) This verse does not mention the unsaved, but this next verse does. Here John covers those who were not mentioned in the previous verse: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” This picture that John paints with words is graphic and leaves little to the imagination. The next post will summarize what we have learned about this doctrine.

Death: Jewish History

Segment Two, Part Five

Death is not “soul” sleep as some cults and false religions would have us to believe. The body goes to the grave and “sleeps” until the resurrection: “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:” (1 Thessalonians 4:16) This verse gives us an order that will be seen in the resurrection.

We noted the two kinds of definitions: man’s and God’s Word. We see that scripture is more complete. In the Bible, we see death has three ways in which it can be observed. The first is spiritual death, then physical death, and lastly, the eternal or second death. We also read about the Jewish viewpoint and how the teaching of Jesus did not always set well with those in authority. They found their ingrained traditions hard to give up.

Jesus taught us that when you hear the Gospel and respond to it, you “passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24) When you believe you then become spiritually alive and are no longer spiritually dead. How important is this? Give thought to this: Without the Gospel, unbelievers are spiritually dead. That idea should be constantly on the mind of every believer when he meets an unsaved person.  Without hearing the Gospel, the lost will spend eternity in torment.

Paul gives us this graphic warning: “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;” (2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9) Every believer knows where he will spend eternity. He also knows that the unsaved need to hear this warning. Use the following to witness to your unsaved friends: “born once, die twice. Born twice, die once.” This thought is simple and will give your unsaved friends something to think about when they think of death.

 

Death: Introduction