Hezekiah's Dread; Paul's Hope
What a difference the knowing and believing makes!

By Jon W. Quinn

When Isaiah informed Hezekiah that he was shortly to die, Hezekiah did not take it very well. He prayed to the Lord for an extended life: "Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. (Isaiah 38:3). The Lord gave Hezekiah fifteen more years of life.

Paul was in prison and facing possible death. His attitude was quite different from that of Hezekiah! He said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21).

It wasn't really Hezekiah's fault he did not face his death with the same grace that Paul faced his. Hezekiah was a man of great faith in God. But God's revelation was incomplete during his lifetime. To Hezekiah, death was a foreboding and dreaded mystery. There would be additional revelation in the coming centuries that would be of great comfort to people of faith. But information available to Hezekiah was relatively quite scant.

Luke 16

Does Luke 16 show that the righteous dead go to the paradise side of Hades? I believe that Luke 16 is true. I do not believe it to be a parable, as some suggest, but that is another topic of study. I believe that it accurately portrayed the state of the righteous dead (albeit with some figurative language) before Christ's own resurrection/ascension. But I also believe that the Bible shows that many things changed with the death, burial & resurrection, and one of those changes is the state of the righteous dead. They're not descending to Hades any longer. Rather they now go to be with Christ.

Think about these two rather “provocative” statements and their ramifications:
1. No New Testament Christian is ever spoken of as being in Hades, or as headed there when he dies, or as ever coming from there, period.
2. Every person mentioned in the New Testament as still being in Hades after the resurrection and ascension of Christ are said to be being 'kept under punishment' awaiting the judgment where they will be 'cast into the lake of fire'.

Until Christ's Resurrection
There is an Old Testament prophecy of Christ's victory over the grave. The Psalmist prophesied of a time when the Lord would lead "captivity captive" (Psalm 68:18). Frankly, I would have no idea what this verse means if not for the announcement in the New Testament explaining its fulfillment. We'll look at that later, except to say it was yet in the Psalmists future.

We recall the account of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:22,23) Here we see Sheol (Hebrew) or Hades (Greek- “unseen place”) and both terms refer to the place of the dead. Jesus plainly talked of two segments of Hades; one was a place of relative comfort, the other of torment

Also, there is the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43). Jesus promised the penitent thief that both He and the thief would be together in paradise that very day. This, too, was before Christ's own resurrection.

But Jesus was not the only one that left paradise and returned to earth on that first day of the week. Other tombs, those of the righteous, were opened as well (Matthew 27:50-54). Jesus brought company with Him when He returned from the dead! The saints who had died also made their appearance at Jerusalem at that time. Where did they come from? Obviously from Hades; specifically from paradise. That is where they had been. Matthew does not tell us where these saints went after their appearances in Jerusalem.

But Paul does later shed more light on the subject (Ephesians 4:8-10). He announces that the prophetic Psalm about the lord “leading captivity captive” was fulfilled and says it was fulfilled at the resurrection and ascension of Christ. So Paul affirms that the "captives were led captive" when Christ was raised. We know from the above passage from Matthew that "many" of the spirits of the saints held in paradise were brought forth from there, and it was by the power of Christ. The word "many" in the Bible can refer to "all" as it does, for example, in Romans 5:19.

After the Resurrection
The Bible teaches that the souls of wicked are still in Hades (torment) (2 Peter 2:9; 1 Peter 3:18,20). There is a prison holding the spirits of the wicked following their departure from this earth.

But what about the souls of the righteous? The souls of the righteous are still awaiting the change (redemption of our bodies) when we will receive our new spiritual bodies (Romans 8:22-24; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54).

In John's vision of the souls of the martyrs (Revelation 6:9-11); those that have “come out of the great tribulation” are described this way: 1) “The ones that have come out of the great tribulation.” 2) “For this reason they are before the throne of God.” 3) “They serve day and night in His temple.” 4) “He who sits on His throne spreads His tabernacle over them.” 5) “They will hunger no more…thirst no more…sun will not beat down upon them.” 6) “The Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd.” 7) “Shall guide them to the springs of the water of life.” 8) “God shall wipe all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:14-17).

Members of the churches of Christ in New Testament times expected to be with Jesus upon their deaths. Stephen requested that the Lord receive his spirit upon his death (Acts 7:59). The Revelation passage above tells us exactly where Stephen went.

The Bible describes two possible states of the righteous: alive and dead. Notice how the two states are contrasted:

Alive>In the body>Absent from the Lord
Dead>Absent from the body>Home with the Lord
(2 Corinthians 5:6,8)

And again:

Alive >live on in the flesh >not with Christ
Dead> depart (leave the body) > Be with Christ
(Philippians 1:21-24)

Is there a “third” state for the righteous? “Absent from the body” and absent from the Lord? No, there is not.
Note also what happens with Hades at the end. “Death and Hades” will be cast into the “lake of fire” (Revelation 20:13-15). This makes sense because only the wicked are there now.

If the souls of the righteous dead are “with Christ”, then what will happen when Christ comes again? They will come with Him when He returns. Jesus will return with: His angels (2 Thessalonians 1:7) and those of His whom have fallen asleep (1 Thessalonians 4:14). These are the “holy ones” who will return with Jesus (1 Thessalonians 3:13; Jude 14). The angels will execute the Lord's judgment (Matthew 13:41-43) while the redeemed will descend, be clothed with new bodies, and rise, to be followed by the righteous living (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Therefore, comfort one another with these words.

From The Bradley Banner 10/22/2006
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway
Bradley, IL 60915


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