I read on a Catholic website that “today, Saturday November 2nd is All Souls Day, the day after All Saints Day, which was preceded by Halloween, the eve or vigil of All Saints Day.
“All Souls Day is a solemn feast commemorating those who have died and are now in Purgatory. The site went on to say that:
“The All Souls Day indulgence is a wonderful way to show your love for a friend or family member who has died. In less than an hour on All Souls Day, you can release a soul from Purgatory. Why not gain the indulgence for your loved one?”
How different that concept is for me from what I read in Scripture. As Bishop Wright once put it, we have “our Man in court,” Jesus. Jesus and what He has done for us is what the gospel is about. He not only died for us but we are told in Hebrews 7:25 that he lives to intercede for us. Jesus is both our Intercessor and our Judge. “He is our Man in court.” We can’t fail when we put our trust in him!
Being in purgatory or already in heaven of course depend on human beings having immortal souls. Which brings me to something else I read on the Internet this week. I admit I was quite troubled by what I read.
Dr Timothy George “teaches church history and doctrine and serves as executive editor for Christianity Today. He is on the editorial advisory boards of The Harvard Theological Review, Christian History and Books & Culture. On his website he writes: “If there is one thing the commercial side of American religion understands, it is supply and demand.
“The late Jerry Falwell is often credited with launching the current ‘Hell House’ craze with his Scare Mare program back in 1972. But the demand for “sanctified” haunted houses has grown over the years. Providing resources for the thousands of churches that sponsor such events has become a minor industry.”
A ‘how-too’ kit can be obtained by pastors and youth ministers “who want to put a little scare-mongering into their teen evangelism program.” The ‘Hell-House’ kit, is said to be available in the 50 states as well as 26 countries around the world.
It seems that Halloween is an annual evangelistic event in the US to describe and dramatise the horrors of Hell to frighten young people into accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. I couldn’t help thinking what a terrible depiction that gives of God. If you don’t accept me and what I have done for you I will burn you in hell forever!
The idea of purgatory and hell requires that the Bible teach that at creation God gave our first parents immortal souls! But that is not what we read in Genesis 2:7. It also requires that we ignore what God said in Genesis 2:17 and Genesis 3:22-24.
It also requires that judgment comes when we die instead of at the Coming of Jesus and the resurrection. As it says in Hebrews 9: 27-28, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” There is the Advent idea in that verse, not going to be with the Lord at death, but “those who are eagerly waiting for him” to return.
The Bible tells us that immortality is a gift from God in Christ that comes at the Second Coming of Jesus. We read in 1 Corinthians 15:51-54:
“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
There is the basis for the Christian faith and hope; it is in the resurrection of Jesus; as He was raised we will be raised too when Jesus comes at His Second Coming. That is the meaning of ‘Adventist’. Adventists believe in the resurrection of the whole person at the Second Coming of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
Besides Adventists there are many Christian leaders of renown, past and present, who put their emphasis on the hope of the resurrection while rejecting the teaching of the immortal soul doctrine.
There are blogs like this one on the Internet that bring together different people who believe in our future being conditional on the Second Coming and the resurrection from the dead. They don’t call themselves Adventists of course. They call themselves Conditionalists. Living eternally after death is conditional on a relationship with Jesus (John 14:6).
It says in 1 John 5:12 that “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” In John 6: 40 Jesus told his followers, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” That is when we are given immortality (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).
Genesis 2:7 provides a clear biblical definition of the term, ‘soul’. It says there, “the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostril the breath of life and man became a living soul” (or “living being”).
Adam became a ‘living soul’ when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life – and only then did man become a “living soul”. The same Hebrew phrase is used in Genesis 1:24 where animals are called “living creatures.” Genesis 2:7 doesn’t say God breathed into the man’s nostrils a living soul, it says he “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man become a living soul”.
It is the combination of earth’s compounds with the breath and spark of life from God that creates a soul. Without the breath of life from God there is no ‘living soul’. So when the body dies the reverse takes place. Ecclesiastes 12:7 tells us “the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit (which is the same word for breath) returns to God who gave it.”
Death is the cessation of life. Death is not life elsewhere. In John 8:44 Jesus speaks of the devil as a liar from the beginning. Through the first medium Satan used, the serpent, Satan convinced our first parents they would not surely die if they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3: 2-4). But we know all too well that death came to the human race as a result.
And isn’t that the reason for the Gospel as given to us in the Bible? The Bible story tells us that our first parents were made perfect, but that they sinned and forfeited their potential for immortality. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). That is the bad news. The Good News is that God set a plan in motion that gave us fallen beings a second chance. Yes, “The wages of sin is death” but, as the Apostle Paul completes verse 23, “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” If we die, it will not be because God has chosen we should die. It will be our own personal choice not to have accepted Jesus as our Creator and Saviour!
The New Testament is full of promises about the Second Coming of Jesus and the resurrection at the last day. The hope of the New Testament writers was to see Jesus coming again when they would be raised to glory. That is how the Apostle Paul saw his future in 2 Timothy 4:7-8.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
That is what it means to be an Adventist. It means to long for his appearing. That is how Hebrews 11:39-40 described God’s people of Old Testament days (Hebrews 11:13-16, 39-40). As did God’s people down through the ages we live in anticipation of his promised return (John 14:1-3; Matthew 24:14, 30-31; 28:18-20; Acts 1:7-8; Revelation 14: 6-7). And that is what Christians declare every time they participate in the Lord’s Supper, “for when you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11: 26; cf. Matthew 26: 26-30).
The longing for the coming of Jesus is a dominant theme throughout the New Testament. The emphasis on the immortal soul has replaced the New Testament emphasis on the Second Coming and the Resurrection as taught in Scripture.
Because Conditionalists don’t believe in the sufferings of an eternal hell doesn’t mean that the Bible doesn’t teach the idea of a judgment ( Hebrews 9: 27-28). But the judgment follows the Second Coming of Jesus and the Resurrection – that is made quite clear in passages such as Daniel 12:1-3 and in John 5:25-29, and in Revelation 22: 12-16.
In the Immortal Soul teaching judgment or rewards follow immediately at death, either purgatory, heaven or hell, and therefore precede the Second Coming and the Resurrection. This is completely contrary to the teaching of Scripture.
Why invent something you don’t find in Scripture such as Purgatory, as a time of cleansing for the people to be saved and sent to heaven? Doesn’t 1 John 1:9 say that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”?
Introducing the concept of Purgatory denies God is able to cleanse and purify us when we have truly confessed our sins to him directly. As 1 Timothy 2:5 makes clear, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all men -.”
God accepts us as soon as we have accepted Jesus and His goodness and his Lordship over our lives (Romans 10:13). Any good works we have are as a result of receiving our salvation from Jesus. We respond to him because He has saved us, not because we hope he will save us. It is this truth in Jesus that sets us free from superstition and fear of the future?
And there is no saints with additional merits who may help us in the courts of heaven. We have our all-sufficient Saviour there. He doesn’t need any persuading by Mary or Saint to save us. As we read in 1 John 5:12, “He who has the Son has life”. It is present tense, not some future prospect after enduring alleged purgatorial refinements. Said Jesus in verse 3 of his pastoral prayer of John 17, “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Do we know him?
Salvation through Jesus Christ alone is the central truth of the Bible. And that salvation includes the hope of the resurrection to immortality at the Second Coming of Jesus.
There are many passages in the Bible that speak of the Second Coming of Jesus and the Resurrection of the dead. Job gives us a wonderful picture of this hope in Job 19:25-27: “I know my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I and not another. How my heart years within me!” There’s that Christian longing for the day of that appearing again.
That is the ‘All Soul’s Day’ we look forward to. The All Souls day and the All Saints day rolled into one; the resurrection day when all who have loved the Lord will be raised to be with him forever. As the Apostle John put it in Revelation 21: 1-5.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
I have shared much of these thoughts elsewhere on the blog, but it does me a great deal of good to remind myself of the Good News in the Bible and what it has revealed to us. It has a wonderful gospel of hope to share in our troubled world!