Why you won't go to heaven when you die

Mon, 22/08/2011 - 13:00

The traditional view is that when Christians die, they go to heaven. This notion is almost as erroneous as the view that the unsaved will be subjected to an eternity of unalloyed suffering in “hell”. Both beliefs are distortions of the biblical perspective and—I modestly propose—should be erased from the Christian consciousness and the popular imagination as soon as possible. They are wrong in themselves, and they contribute to a serious misunderstanding of the identity and purpose of the church.

The New Testament does not teach the departure of a Christian “person”—in any shape or form—to heaven at death. Not even Jesus went to heaven when he died. The New Testament teaches the resurrection of the body, which conceptually presupposes, at one level, the restoration of God’s “new creation” people following judgment, and at a further level, the final restoration of all things.

Jesus went to heaven—by way of the ascension—only after he had been raised from the dead. When the New Testament speaks of others going to be with Christ, who is at the right hand of the Father, the same sequence applies. Those who have fallen asleep, who have died, will be raised from death at the parousia in order to be reunited with the living; then all those who have believed “will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). We find the same argument in 1 Corinthians 15:22-23. Because of our solidarity with Adam we all die; but at the parousia of Jesus, those who died “in Christ” will be made alive—they will be raised from the dead. In a rather different idiom, John relates his vision of the souls of the martyrs who had resisted the idolatry of Rome, who “came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years”. This was the “first resurrection”, preceding the thousand year reign of Christ and the martyrs (Rev. 20:4-5).

Nothing in these texts suggests a conscious intermediate state. People die in Adam; they are raised to life at the coming of Jesus.

Three passages from the Gospels that are sometimes adduced as evidence for the continuing existence of the soul after death are examined elsewhere: the destruction of body and soul in gehenna; the story of the rich man and Lazarus; and Jesus’ promise that the penitent “thief” would be with him in paradise. My view is essentially that they have to be understood in the context of the narrative of judgment against Israel and the hope of national restoration. They should not be used to construct a generalized account of what happens to people when they die.

Largely on the basis of Philippians 1:23, however, Tom Wright argues that between death and resurrection the believer is somehow consciously in the presence of Jesus. Here are three quotations in order of increasing scholarly weight:

We know that we will be with God and with Christ, resting and being refreshed. Paul writes that it will be conscious, but compared with being bodily alive, it will be like being asleep.1

Had Paul thought that, I very much doubt that he would have described life immediately after death as ‘being with Christ, which is far better’. Rather, ‘sleep’ here means that the body is ‘asleep’ in the sense of ‘dead’, while the real person—however we want to describe him or her—continues.2

What we have here, therefore, is a reinforcement of what we saw in 1 Thessalonians 4: between death and resurrection, Christians are ‘with the Messiah’. Paul describes this in such glowing terms (‘better by far’) that it is impossible to suppose that he envisaged it as an unconscious state. He looks forward to being personally present with the one who loved him and whose love will not let him go.3

Actually, Paul does not say in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 that dead Christians are “with the Messiah”—rather the dead must be raised first if they are to be with the Lord. Nevertheless, Paul expresses the conviction that he and the apostles have been called to imitate Christ in an exceptional way, and it is in this context that we find statements about dying or departing to be with Christ in a more immediate sense.

In Philippians 3:10-11 he expresses a driving apostolic ambition—that “I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead”. This is not abstract theologizing: it reflects the extreme circumstances of his ministry.

Similarly, the statement about being “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8) belongs to an extended passage about the ministry of the apostles, who are “always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal bodies” (2 Cor. 4:11). Paul does not speak on behalf of all Christians here. He speaks on behalf of that particular group that finds itself led in triumphal procession (2:14), that has a ministry that surpasses the ministry of Moses (3:7-18), that “has this treasure in jars of clay” (4:7), that is afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, that carries in the body the dying of Jesus (4:8-10), that would love to relinquish the “outer self” or put on over it a new resurrected body (4:16-5:5).

Even then, it is not so obvious that when Paul speaks in such an exceptional context and quite realistically of dying and being with the Lord, his words are in tension with the resurrection statements. Arguably, the death-resurrection sequence has simply been compressed under the weight of the overwhelming personal experience: his desire is to depart life now—not least because it is so painful—and be with Christ when he is raised at the parousia.

But I will also make the point again that this whole argument about the resurrection of the dead in Christ at the parousia needs to be framed historically. It has reference to a particular state of affairs—the intensifying persecution of the churches and the anticipated victory of Jesus over aggressive, idolatrous pagan imperialism.

Paul’s personal conviction that having suffered with Christ he will be raised and vindicated with Christ sits right at the heart of this eschatology and gives it much of its immediacy and poignancy. It is in the fierce cauldron of suffering that the belief that nothing—not even death—can separate him from his Lord is generated. But I don’t think this disrupts the basic schema, which, to my mind, is that the suffering communities of Jesus would be raised in conjunction with the victory of Jesus over Greek-Roman paganism and would reign with him throughout the coming ages as a “reward” for their faithfulness unto death.

Then, as John has it, the rest of the dead are raised—a second resurrection of all the dead—to face a final judgment; and those whose names are not written in the book of life are thrown into the lake of fire, which is the second death (Rev. 20:12-15).

Comments

Andrew -

What about the passages in Revelation (6:9; 20:4) that speak of the souls of the martyred at the altar/throne?

And I am not sure I understood the next to last paragraph. Are you suggesting there was a first resurrection that already took place of the suffering/martyred community once Jesus' reign had been made evident over and above that of the pagan gods? Now we await our resurrection, the second resurrection, when the full new creation comes?

Scott, I mentioned Revelation 20:4 in the post. Revelation 6:9 has the “souls” martyrs under the altar crying out for vindication. They are told to rest a little longer “until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been”. Given the apocalyptic genre I don’t think we are bound to interpret this as evidence for an intermediate existence, but it does reinforce the point that a particular period of persecution is in view.

Here’s how I see the sequence at the end of Revelation working: the persecution of the churches → defeat of pagan Rome → first resurrection of the martyrs, the vindication of the suffering church → the coming ages when Christ reigns over the people of God → second resurrection → final judgment → new creation.

John’s “first resurrection” corresponds to the resurrection of the dead in Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, though the focus is a little different. We find ourselves now between the defeat of Roman paganism and the establishment of Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords, in place of Caesar, and the final renewal of all things.

The question, of course, is: In what sense did this resurrection actually take place? I would answer that, first, with another question: In what sense did the resurrection of Daniel 12:2-3 take place? Or the resurrection of Matthew 27:52-53? I would also point out that this belief in a first resurrection of the martyrs is constructed looking forwards rather than looking backwards. It expresses in theologically necessary terms the conviction that those who were bound to suffer with Christ would also be raised with Christ. To what extent we are able to or need to share the apocalyptic outlook of the early church in anything like a literal sense is another matter.

So, where do believers reside after the resurrection and judgment? The new earth?

That would be my understanding, though it’s odd that John makes the point negatively: “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15). We also need to deal with the fact that this is a final judgment of the dead “according to what they had done” (20:12). The distinction between Christian and non-Christian does not come into it—at least, not explicitly.

If one is going to view Rev 20 as a literal description of THE final judgment, then what does one do with 14:9-11?  Is it a "lake of fire" that those not found written in the book are thrown into?  Or is it into "fire and sulfur?"  Are the "fire and sulfur" and the "lake of fire" the same thing?  If not, then which will it be:  fire and sulfur or a lake of fire?  If we are to understand them to be the same thing, and if we are to understand them, once again, as a literal description of THE final judgment, then shouldn't we also understand the lake of fire to be in the presence of the angels and the Lamb?  Wouldn't that create difficulties?  Too, if literally understood, how is it that "Death and Hades" would be thrown into the lake of fire?

I agree with what you're trying to say overall.  I think your use of Revelation doesn't work here.   

Joey, I would avoid using the word “literally” in this context. The judgment described in Revelation 20 could, I suppose, be said to be “literally” final—as compared to the judgment of the nations in Matthew 25:31-46. But it is not a “literal description” of the final judgment. The language is symbolic, as it is also in Revelation 14:9-11. The significance of the lake of fire in Revelation 20 is that everything that is hostile to the activity of the creator God is finally destroyed, including the last enemy “death”.

But my view is that the earlier passage is not the same judgment as Revelation 20:11-15. I think it uses similar imagery to describe a judgment on Rome as the arch persecutor of the people of God. It is a judgment in the presence of the angels because it belongs to a “warfare” context (unlike Revelation 20:11-15), and in the presence of the Lamb because Jesus is the one who has been given authority to rule over the nations.

So yes, the generic apocalyptic imagery of divine judgment is the same, but the setting in the apocalyptic narrative is different.

Andrew,

I am pretty well convinced of a conscious intermediate state, wherein God is holding us in life until the Resurrection, just as he holds every living thing in life (because everything is contained in him and yet he is uncontainable - I've been dipping into Iranaeus's "Demonstration" in honor of his feast day tomorrow...).  This seems clear to me from two places:

1) In the dispute with the Saducees over whose wife the "widow" of the seven brothers would be, Jesus says that God is the God of the living - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob- not of the dead, implying that AI&J are somehow still alive, which implies consciousness - also that Abraham rejoiced to see his day, which I think is more than simply prophetic.

2) 2Cor 5.6-9, the passage about being absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  How would Paul know he would "present with the Lord" in this more specific way unless he expected to be somehow conscious of it, prior to the putting on of immortality at the Resurrection as the point of being "fully clothed"?

But as to disabusing people of going to another place called "Heaven" or "Hell" before or after the Resurrection, I'm with you.  It's tough, though.  Too much biblicism in the air.

Dana

Dana, I have to say I’m not convinced that Jesus’ argument against the Sadducees means that he thought of the patriarchs as alive at that moment. I’ve looked at the passage in more detail here. I don’t have anything to add on 2 Corinthians 5:6-9 at the moment. But I agree with your comment about biblicism. I worry about falling into the same trap.

Andrew, thanks for a detailed and thoughtful post. I see it as encouraging that more theologians and lay Christians are embracing historic Christian mortalism.

By the way, on an unrelated note I found your article  ‘What Eve did, What Women shouldn’t do’, in Tyndale Bulletin very helpful.

Interesting thoughts, brother. In Hebrews 12.1, is the writer then referring to actual witnesses (listed in chapter 11) or is it merely a theoretical cloud of witnesses found in the Scriptures?

Two main reasons why Christians go to heaven when they die. First, the heart of Christian experience is union with Christ. If death can interrupt this conscious experience, the union is broken. Unlikely from almost every point of view. Second, the resurrection does not begin at some point after we have died. It begins when we believe in Jesus, and receive the Spirit. If death can interrupt the resurrection, then the resurrection is reversed. All the verses supporting continuous conscious experience of life with Christ cluster around these points. I've made them so often on this site, I wonder why the argument continues. Maybe it's just the silly season. This class will remain behind until the lesson has been learnt.

The argument continues because I think that you misunderstand both union with Christ and resurrection. At least as I read the texts, to be united with Jesus in his death and resurrection is to anticipate a future dying and rising with Christ; it does not pre-empt it.

I don’t see how death disrupting the continuity of union with Jesus is a problem at all. God raises to life what has died. To insist on a personal continuity between death and resurrection seems much closer to Greek ideas of the immortality of the soul and Jewish thought.

Besides, Paul seems pretty clear in 1 Thessalonians 4 that for the dead to be with Christ they need to be raised. This is not something that has already happened.

Paulf’s comments on Peter’s Pentecost sermon are also relevant.

I happened to note a review of Joel Green’s book Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible on Jesus Creed, which notes his argument regarding the intermediate state:

There is no clear teaching in scripture of an intermediate state between life and resurrection. Dr. Green argues this point at length – wrestling especially with the writings of Luke. This includes the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, the words of Jesus to the thief on the cross, and the perception of Jesus after the resurrection. I rather expect that this is where many of us may disagree with Dr. Green.

You are among those who would disagree.

No - I agree with what Joel Green appears to be saying here. There is no clear teaching, but only where clear means there is no developed section of teaching where the issue is pursued at length. But the accumulation of all kinds of scriptural evidence, OT and NT, and the logical or philosophical conclusions which arise, make it an unavoidable assumption.

I just alighted on Romans 8:10, which contrasts the current life of Christ in our spirits with the current deadness of our bodies. Clear distinction between body and spirit. Within our spirit is "the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead" - Romans 8:11. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is then promised to the "mortal bodies" of those who have the Spirit, "who lives in you". The body will die, only to be raised later. The spirit lives, because of Christ's resurrection spirit already inhabiting it.

Those who argue against an intermediate state have to face the bizarre contortions of a Christ living in us through his Spirit, through whom we are to be raised from the dead, who then abandons this union, allowing death to reassert its victory, only to resume the union and reassert the victory at a later date. The problem with the latter interpretation is that it flies in the face of everything Paul is saying, especially that "the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead" is now living in us - both for the Romans then, and for all who similarly believe in Christ now.

Likewise, as I've pointed out before, resurrection is described as a current experience for believers before the future resurrection of the body in John 5:24-30 and in Colossians 3:1-4. Both authors, Paul especially, had particular reasons to be using their words carefully, and to avoid misunderstanding about the meaning of their use of resurrection language.

There is a two-stage resurrection for all believers: first, through believing in Christ and receiving his life now, which is what the first part of John and Colossians 3:1 refer to. Second, when the spirit referred to in Romans 8 is clothed with a resurrection body at the final resurrection, which is yet to come. This is referred to in the second part of John and Colossians 3:4.

I've read paulf's argument, and replied to the same points he makes some time ago. This class is dismissed. I'm going home.

Regarding Romans 8:10-11, Dunn writes that “the strong consensus of modern commentators” is that pneuma in verse 10 refers to the Holy Spirit. Paul does not say that our “spirit is alive” but that “the Spirit is life”. The Spirit of Christ in the believer is the source of the new life that he or she experiences. It’s much the same point as in 2 Corinthians 4:11: “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

This experience of new life even in the midst of suffering, because it is the work of the Spirit of God, is also an assurance that they will be raised from the dead in the future: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11; cf. 2 Cor. 4:14).

Spirit (divine) and spirit (human) are described by the same word pneuma, but the existence of the one does remove or replace the other. Rather, the closeness of association of the words suggests the intimacy of their relationship. 

In Paul, spirit is the sphere of operations of the Spirit.  In Romans 8:16 Paul makes the distinction between the two explicit, as well as emphasising the closeness of their relationship: "the Spirit testifies/bears witness with our spirit".

If James Dunn and modern commentators have a consensus of opinion on 8:10, the issue of intimacy, almost to the point of interchangeability, of Spirit and spirit in Paul's usage then comes more to the fore.  This remains an issue in Romans 8:10-11. There is a closeness of identification of Spirit with  spirit, just as there is of Christ with his people (those "in him").

The logic of Romans 8:10-11 is that the old creation body is destined to die, but the new creation spirit (identified explicitly in 8:16) lives on, energised by the Spirit. The resurrection begins with the renewing of the spirit by the Spirit.

The resurrection has already begun in believers (John 5:24-25, Colossians 3:1, etc) and is not, totally illogically, interrupted by the death of the body. The resurrection is completed with a new resurrection body for the already renewed spirits of those who believe in Jesus.

Incidentally, in Acts 2:31, quoting Psalm 16, "soul" (psyche) is distinguished from "body" (sarx), the one being "left/reserved" in Hades (not hell or the grave), and the other being subject to "decay/corruption". Paulf please note.

 

The logic of Romans 8:10-11 is that the old creation body is destined to die, but the new creation spirit (identified explicitly in 8:16) lives on, energised by the Spirit. The resurrection begins with the renewing of the spirit by the Spirit.

I have a hard time following this “logic”, I’m afraid. I just don’t see why the union of the believer with Jesus has to be substantially preserved through death until the moment of resurrection. I’ve noted a couple of times (for example, here) that 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 suggests otherwise. I would argue that the union with Christ is essentially the participation in the narrative of his suffering, death and resurrection. It does not in itself require the metaphysical addition of sustained existence between death and resurrection. The Spirit is given as a ‘downpayment’ or ‘guarantee’ of the resurrection life to come, but the whole point of this is to reassure the believer who must endure suffering and perhaps death—note the context in 2 Cor. 5:5 in particular. The whole argument about the Spirit has to do with the circumstances of believers prior to death who must endure what Jesus endured—hence it is the Spirit of Jesus. I fail to see what logic is at work in these arguments that requires the Platonic idea of a continued spiritual existence.

I would have thought that Psalm 16:10 is an instance of synonymous parallelism: the soul or ‘life’ (nefesh) does not go to Sheol, the place of the dead, the king does not see corruption—both lines are figures for death. When Peter applies this to Jesus, he is saying no more than that Jesus was not held by death but was raised up. ‘Hades’ is simply the grave. I agree with I.Howard Marshall: “the word flesh, which has been taken over from Psalm 16:9, refers to the person of Jesus as a whole, and does not suggest that a flesh/soul dualism is in mind’ (Acts, Tyndale NT Commentary, 77).

As I've already pointed out, Andrew, the resurrection is not simply a future event, but a continuum beginning in a believer's experience now. That is how the language is used in the NT. I think Romans 8:10-11 agrees with what Paul says elsewhere. The Spirit works in the sphere of the spirit, and is not withdrawn on the death of the believer. The union of Spirit with spirit is as profound as the union of Christ with the church, and also the union with the individual believer. If you want to believe that this union is broken on death, only to be restored later, so be it, but it isn't what Paul or John are saying.

It is Paul who makes the distinction between (the human) spirit and flesh/body, so it is he you are accusing of Platonism, not me. I'm inclined probably to agree with Howard Marshall on Psalm 16/Acts 2:31. It's just interesting that the Greek words suggest something slightly different from simple parallelism, and Sheol is not always simply 'the grave' as 'destruction' in the OT. It doesn't really affect the significance of the Psalm as quoted in Acts 2 - as I suggested to paulf some time ago. 

* the resurrection is not simply a future event, but a continuum beginning in a believer’s experience now

* The Spirit works in the sphere of the spirit, and is not withdrawn on the death of the believer

Is this found anywhere in the actual Bible?

Jonathan - you are entering a conversation that has been going on for a very long time, and on various other threads. My keyboard will be worn out if I go through all the verse rereferences again. Take a look a bit earlier in this thread for some of them. Yes - these conclusions are in the bible - even the actual one.

Indeed it has been going on for a long time. I've written a small book tracing the history of the discussion, so I'm quite familiar with the arguments (both historic and current). But like others in this thread, I haven't seen any Bible passages which actually say what you've suggested in the two statements of yours which I quoted. A review of the relevant scholarly literature demonstrates that I'm hardly alone in this regard.

Further to the point, both Christ and Paul are explicit in their description of the resurrection as a future eschatological event, and Paul denounced as heresy the idea that the resurrection had already occurred. It's difficult to see how their statements on the resurrection could be interpreted as a reference to some kind of ongoing process.

Good stuff. I have the same views, although I haven't studied as thoroughly as you have. Is your book available somewhere?

Paul, you're welcome. My book is actually available for purchase at the link I provided, but you can read a lot of the material in it for free, at my blog. The series on mortalism starts here.

Peter,

1. All Romans 8:10-11 says is that the Spirit is in the believer and that God will raise the believer at some point in the future. The Spirit that is in us now is the Spirit by which we will be raised. That is not in any way an argument for a continuum.

2. Romans 6:5 makes the dying with Jesus a past event, but being united with him in a resurrection like his is a future event.

3. Paul certainly thought of the “spirit” as an aspect of personal identity. That’s not Platonism—and it’s very different to the distinctly dualistic idea that something less than the total embodied person survives death.

4. You disregarded the metaphor of the Spirit as a “guarantee” or “downpayment” of future resurrection life in 2 Cor. 5:5, which is very different to your belief in a resurrection that has already happened and that continues beyond death.

5. You also disregarded 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, which makes the being of the dead with Christ a future event that comes about following resurrection from the dead. There is no room in Paul’s argument for the thought that the dead are with Christ before resurrection. If he had believed that to be the case, it would have been an obvious way of comforting those grieving. He doesn’t say, “Don’t worry, they are now in the presence of Jesus.” He says, “Don’t worry, they will be raised from the dead and will be with Jesus.”

6. Paul states quite categorically in 1 Corinthians 15:18-19 that if the dead are not raised, those who have died in Christ have simply perished. There is no suggestion here that those who have died are already somehow alive with Christ.

7. Admittedly, Paul says in Ephesians 2:6 God “raised us up with him”, but he also says that he has “seated us with him in the heavenly places”. Resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of God are metaphors for the new life and authority that believers have received in Christ. There is no real “continuum” between a metaphor and the future resurrection of the believer.

8. The same applies for Colossians 3:1-4. The metaphor of personal resurrection functions in much the same way as the metaphor of corporate resurrection (cf. Hos. 6:1-2). Resurrection here is no more literal than death is (“you have died”). It denotes the new life of the forgiven and healed community. Nothing in Paul’s argument requires the specific thought that the metaphorically raised person somehow continues to exist between death and resurrection.

9. In John 5:24 Jesus says that those Jews who believe in him have already received the life of the age to come—they will not be subject to the judgment that is coming on Israel. The allusion to Daniel 12:2-3 in John 5:29 confirms this. The dead are raised from their tombs—that is, from the state of being dead.

10. If you are right about the resurrection already having happened in some way, there is the further theoretical problem that at death we cease to be embodied. The flesh sees corruption. There can be no “continuum” of resurrection existence because resurrection existence must be an embodied existence.

So I’m sorry for being so bloody-minded about this, but it seems to me that at every point here, while the new life that a believer has in Christ may be spoken of metaphorically as resurrection or as being seated with Christ in heaven, literal resurrection belongs to the future. None of these passages requires the belief that the disembodied dead are with Christ before they are raised. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-17 seems to rule that possibility out completely.

A partial reply to the preceding comments may be found here. On the whole though, evidence for the intermediate state, which is textual and wide-ranging, has been inadequately addressed.

For instance, Romans 6:5 (2.) does not simply mean a future state, in a woodenly literal interpretation. Paul is talking about our lives now, not just in the future. Of course, there will be a physical future resurrection, but that state is, in part, brought into the present - Romans 6:11, where 'alive' means more than survival. In Romans 8:11, it is "the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead (who) is living in you". The argument makes no sense if there is a disconnection between future resurrection and our experience of resurrection life now. This is why the argument in Romans 8:10-11 (1.) is presenting a continuum of experience, not an implausible disruption.

Platonism (3.) has almost nothing to do with argument - I don't know why you introduced it. If 'spirit' is part of Paul's understanding of personality, then you do have at least a dualism, if that's what you want to call it. 

The metaphor of the Spirit as downpayment or guarantee of the future (4.) endorses my argument, rather than refuting it. But it's not part of Paul's argument. Paul uses the metaphor not to prove an intermediate state, but as encouragement that what is received now simply anticipates much more to come, which will of course be completed at the full establishment of the new creation. 

(5.) Paul's argument in 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-17 rests on an understanding of the metaphor "fallen asleep". At the very least, people who have fallen asleep are not dead!

(6.) Paul is speaking very clearly in 1 Corinthians 15 of the physically dead, and that does not alter anything about the resurrection already having begun in Christ, and in those who share in the life of Christ before death.

(7.) and (8.) See the comment on the link above.

(9.) John's description of the raising of the physically dead is bracketed with the current experience of those who believe in Jesus - as part of a two-stage continuum. This is clear in John 5:25 especially, where those who hear the voice of the Son of God now are not simply those like Lazarus who are raised from the dead before the general resurrection, but those who hear the voice, "my word" - 5:24, believe, and receive eternal (new) life (now, before death).

(10.) Is a theoretical problem and requires a theoretical answer. My answer is that the full experience of resurrection is the receiving of a new body. Before then, we do not receive that body. By believing in Jesus, we receive the Spirit, who is frequently directly connected with resurrection. Theoretically, It would be odd to have one experience of the Spirit which was not connected with resurrection, and another experience which was. 

 

 

What is silly is that someone can make assertions without a shred of evidence and then expect everybody to agree with them.

Nobody knows what happens to people after death. It can't be measured or rationally analyzed. Nobody has ever seen a dead soul. Nobody has ever visited the afterworld and come back with pictures of the landscape.

You say the critical point is when we believe in Jesus, making chrisitianity an intellectual assertion of a set of propositions. Why did Jesus tell people how to act? If he came to die for our sins. why not skip the whole teaching part and just die as an infant? And what happened to people who lived before Jesus? Could they go to heaven?

A lot of the bible presumes there is no life after death. Ecclesiastes says the dead know nothing. There is not a single verse that can be rationally explained in context -- there's that darned word again -- that supports the concept of immortality of the soul. Paul discusses resurrection of the unconscious dead, not the return of the living souls. In the early church, orthodox writers said it was the heretics who believed in going to heaven at death.

You are free to believe what you want, but please don't pretend that the answer is obvious or that people should just accept your holy writ.

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