The September/October Glad tidings has the first article on this subject wherein was stated the toxic effects of Hellenism upon Christianity. After the death of the original apostles in the latter part of the first century and the centuries following, the “church fathers,” considered eminent theologians, started to change the doctrine set forth in the Scriptures. Many of these men were adherents of the Greek philosophers and introduced various wrong doctrines that are still believed today by mainstream Christianity. In the previous article, we explored the topic of the immortality of the soul.
In the writing and preaching about the immortality of the soul, the early church fathers used as their resource Plato and not the Scriptures. Tertullian (155-240), a prolific and esteemed early Christian author, is an example of the views that were shared by many church fathers. He openly referenced Plato in his writings, basing his belief for the doctrine not on the Holy Scripture, but on the pagan Greek philosopher. He wrote, “for some things are known even by nature: the immortality of the soul, for instance, is held by many: the knowledge of our God is possessed by all. I may use, therefore, the opinion of a Plato, when he declares, ‘Every soul is immortal’.” For more information on the subject, view the previous article.
Another wrong doctrine widely embraced yet unknowingly founded upon Plato is that the holy spirit given to the believer at the point of new birth lives on eternally in heaven after death. Jesus gives a detailed description of the holy spirit at the last supper recorded in John 13-16. The spirit of truth is our helper, teacher, replacement for Christ, Christ living in us, equips us to be just like Jesus, provides a oneness relationship with him and the Father, and so on. He nor his apostles after him connect the spirit with everlasting life. Jesus specifically states that the spirit will be with us until the end of the age. A verse in his last supper teaching has been misunderstood and needs clarification.
John 14:16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever [aion]
Since some have been tempted to conclude more than is intended by the word “forever,” it is valuable to understand that “forever” is translated from the Greek word “aion.” This could and mostly should be translated as “age” (meaning a period of time). Our Lord’s original intention for the spirit was that it would be with his followers until the end of the age when he returns and begins a new age. The spirit is a token or earnest of what is to come when Christ returns. It implies that which is available now is only a very small part of that which is to come. When he returns, that which is in part shall be done away.
Some teach that Adam and Eve lost their spirit when they sinned and thus lost eternal life. The Genesis record says nothing about their losing their spirit. That which afforded them eternal life was outside themselves and found in the tree of life.
Genesis 3:22-24 Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever "--
Therefore, the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So, He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
Neither the spirit nor the soul is designated for eternal life, nor are they floating around in heaven until they rejoin with the body. These convoluted assumptions and false doctrines have their roots in Plato and not in Scripture.
In Plato’s last and longest dialogue called The Laws, he writes the following: "That the gods not only exist, but that they are good, and honor and reward justice far more than men do.” He gives prominence also to the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments. “At death, by an inevitable law of its own being, as well as by the appointment of God, every soul goes to its own place. The evil gravitating to the evil, and the good rising to the supreme good. When they come before their judge, perhaps after a long series of transmigrations, each of which is the reward or punishment of the preceding, those who have lived virtuous and holy lives, and those who have not, are separated from each other.” (Transmigration is the movement of a soul into another body after death. This transmigration nonsense corresponds with the belief in reincarnation.)
His reasonings are the underpinning and perhaps the origin of the dogma regarding heaven, hell, and the Roman Catholic’s purgatory. Plato thought the wicked whose sins are curable are subjected to sufferings in the lower world, which are more or less severe and more or less prolonged according to their recompences. The incurably wicked are hurled down to Tartarus, whence they never go out, where they are punished forever as a spectacle and warning to others. Those, on the other hand, who have lived virtuously and piously, especially those who have purified their hearts and lives by philosophy, will live without bodies with the gods and in places that are bright and beautiful beyond description. Plato apparently thought of himself as one going to the better place due to his involvement in philosophy.
In the previous article, we say that no one ascends into heaven or descends into hell immediately after death. Now we examine what the Scriptures teach about eternity.
Jesus did not say to the man hanging next to him on the cross. “Today I will see you in heaven.” Rather, he said, "Truly I say to you today, you shall be with Me in paradise." That day, both Jesus and the criminal died and went into the grave. Jesus was dead in the grave, according to Matthew 12:40, for three days and nights - “so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Paradise is not located in heaven, rather here on the earth. Before the fall, Adam and Eve were in paradise. In the end, after the resurrections, the believers will again enjoy eternity in paradise here on the restored earth. The original plan for Adam and Eve was they would live in this perfect environment forever. They were not given wings nor will the resurrected believers in the future.
The believers hope for the future is called the Kingdom of God as the Lord’s Prayer says, “Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Kingdom is here on earth, not in heaven! The OT prophets and the NT apostles all refer to our eternal destiny as the Kingdom of God here on earth. When Jesus returns, the resurrection of the just will occur, then a thousand-year span, followed by the resurrection of the unjust.
Daniel 12:2 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.
John 5:28-29 Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
With the first resurrection of the dead, all the believers from the past ages will rise with a new life that will be everlasting. The believers who are alive when he comes will be transformed simultaneously with the resurrected ones (1 Corinthians 15:51-57). When Jesus was resurrected, he became the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:15 and 18). “Firstborn” implies that none came before but that others will follow. The life he was given when he was raised from the dead is an example of what will be given to those in the resurrection of the just. How exactly this will happen is an untold mystery (1 Corinthians 15:51).
At this time, Jesus will begin to rule God’s Kingdom on earth. He will sit on the throne of David in God’s city, Jerusalem (Isaiah 9:7; 11:1-11; Luke 1:32-33). He will rule the world on God’s behalf, and all the nations will be brought into his subjection. The resurrected saints will reign with him as kings and priests and do so for 1,000 years. During this millennium, Satan will be chained in the bottomless pit, and his influence upon the world will be withheld (Revelation 20:1-6).
This time is called the regeneration (Acts 3:19-21) because there will be a recreation of life (Matthew 19:28; Titus 3:5). The changes are going to be radical, progressive, and encompassing of everyone and everything. The undesirable and unproductive geographic features of the earth will be changed. Valleys will be exalted; mountains will be brought low (Isaiah 40:4). Deserts and wilderness will flourish with water and vegetation (Isaiah 35:7; 41:18 and 19; 43:19).
All war and the thoughts of war will cease (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3). The weapons of war will be burned with fire for the first seven years after Christ returns and molded into tools of agriculture (Ezekiel 39:9). Even the animal kingdom will undergo a drastic change. Animals will be vegetarians and peacefully coexist with each other and mankind (Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:25). All these changes will evolve until, in the end, paradise will be established on earth.
At the end of the 1,000 years, Satan will be loosed for a short time. He will once again deceive many and endeavor to lead an insurrection against Christ’s Kingdom. However, his efforts will be short lived because all those involved will be devoured by fire which comes down out of heaven from God. Then the devil will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where he will be totally annihilated forever (Revelation 20:7-10).
At the same time, the second resurrection — the resurrection of the unjust — will happen. In this resurrection, all unbelievers from the past ages and those in the millennium Kingdom will be judged. Whoever is not written in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire along with death and the grave (Revelation 20:11-15).
After all of this, Jesus the Christ will deliver the Kingdom to his Father. Then God will rule over all and dwell among His people. Mankind will live with Christ and God in a new heaven and new earth. Again, paradise will be established, and man will have access to the tree of life (1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Revelation 21 and 22).
Those who have their names written in the book of life will receive eternal life beginning with the resurrection of the just (Exodus 32:30-35; Psalm 69:28; Daniel 7:9-14; 12:1 and 2; Malachi 3:16; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Revelations 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12-15; 21:27). Those whose names are not written in the book of life or have been erased from the book will forfeit eternity and be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; and 20:12-15).
The case has already been stated that the dead do not ascend into heaven nor descend into hell. However, we have not established what happens to the resurrected unjust. God told Adam that the consequence for his disobedience would be death. Genesis 2:17 - “….for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." The ultimate penalty for sin is death. "In the day" indicates not the time of death, but its inevitability if they were to sin. Throughout the Bible, the consequence of sin is death, and the alternative to eternal life is death and annihilation.
Deuteronomy 30:15 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In the next issue of Glad Tidings, we will look more at the subject of hell and the influence Hellenism has on our understanding.