Item printed from The Restored Church of God (rcg.org)
Is this life all that there is? Many religions profess to know what happens at death. Yet they do not agree. Why such confusion about the afterlife? Why such mystery—such disagreement?
This question of life after death has perplexed mankind throughout the ages. Thousands of years ago, the patriarch Job asked, “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14). This question remains today.
Most professing Christians believe that they possess an immortal soul. They have been taught that the dead go to either heaven or hell. Most ministers, evangelists and religionists freely speak of “when we all get to heaven.” They declare this to be the Bible’s teaching. But is this true?
We must not assume. Jesus said, “in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men” (Mark 7:7-8). Men have their own ideas—their own commandments, their own traditions—invariably based on Bible assumptions. If the Bible is the Word of God, we must examine what it actually says, not what people say it says. Be willing to set aside cherished traditions and replace them with scripture.
Then be willing to believe God, not men.
Before answering the question “is there life after death?,” let’s examine what happens at the precise moment of death. Recall, Job asked, “shall he live again?” What did he mean “again”? If the dead are really permanently alive anyway, how can they live again?
If you hold a job, you receive regular paychecks. They represent wages paid to you for work done. What about God? Does He ever pay wages? Notice Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Here, eternal life is contrasted to death—perishing! The wages of sin is death, not life. We will see that this understanding is not compatible with eternal torture in hell.
There is no mystery about the meaning of wages that an employer pays an employee for his work. Why should there be confusion over the meaning of wages God pays a sinner for his works? He pays the wicked a paycheck of death—not life in a place of torment. The Bible says what it means and means what it says. (Read our booklet Bible Authority...Can It Be Proven?)
Consider this! Perhaps the most familiar and often-quoted verse in the Bible is understood by almost no one. John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Millions quote this verse while ignoring one of its key points.
Reread it. Notice that it exactly mirrors Romans 6:23! This time, eternal life is contrasted to perishing—death.
The Greek word translated perish is apollumi and it means, “to destroy fully, to die, lose, perish.” There is no doubt what these words mean. “Perishable” items, such as fruits and vegetables, are those that rot—until they are “fully destroyed” or “lost.” This is not hard to understand when we are talking about anything other than a human being. Those who receive salvation are promised that they “should not perish” but “have everlasting life”! If hell is a place of eternal torture, then the people suffering there have eternal life. But the verse says, “should not perish,” not “should not suffer eternal life in torment.”
How does the word perish relate to the popular teaching about hell? Why did God inspire John to use this word if this is not what He really intended?
The idea of an ever-burning hell is inseparable from the idea that all human beings have immortal souls. Is this what God says? Prepare to be surprised!
Most people do not understand the relationship between physical men and souls. You were probably taught in Sunday school that all human beings are born with an immortal soul. The common belief is that upon death the souls of unrepentant sinners go to hell forever.
But if the wages of sin is death, how is it that the Bible could also teach that people have a soul that is immortal?
Genesis 2:7 states, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” This verse does not say men have souls. It states that they are souls. Adam became a soul—he was not given a soul. Then, almost immediately, God warned him: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die” (vs. 16-17). The Hebrew word here also means “destroy.” When placed together, these verses plainly state that men are souls and souls can die!
The prophet Ezekiel was inspired to write (twice): “The soul that sins, it shall die” (18:4, 20). Death is the absence of life. It is the discontinuance—the cessation—of life. Death is not life in another place. It is not leaving “this life” for “another life”—the “next life.”
In addition, consider Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him [God] which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The Bible says that souls can be destroyed! According to this verse, they can be destroyed just as much as bodies can. No one doubts that all bodies eventually die. When they do, they also decompose and are completely “destroyed” due to the process of natural corruption. Any undertaker recognizes this process. This verse introduces the fact that God does the destroying of souls in hell! Bodies can die and be destroyed in many different ways. However, souls are destroyed in hell by God.
Here is what the prophet Malachi wrote about the final state of the wicked who have been destroyed in hell: “For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear My Name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 4:1-3). Obadiah 16 amplifies this with “…and they shall be as though they had not been.” (Read our booklet The Truth About Hell, to learn much more.)
The dead will be so completely “dead and gone,” it will be as though they had never existed. Surely, if they were roasting in hell forever with millions of others, and other millions “in heaven” witnessing it, this verse could hardly apply.
What about the precise moment of death? Exactly what happens?
Human minds are differentiated from animal brains by intelligent thought. Presumably, if the dead are not dead, but are really still alive, then they must be capable of some kind of intelligent thought. They must at least be conscious of their surroundings. Let’s consider a series of scriptures.
First, notice Psalm 146:3-4: “Put not your trust…in the son of man…his breath goes forth, he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” When people die, their thoughts end immediately—“in that very day.” That is what your Bible says.
This verse is also not compatible with the idea that the dead are either alive in heaven or consciously suffering in a place of torment. We could suppose that, if they were enjoying salvation, they would certainly know that they were! We could also suppose that if they were suffering, they would know that they were. Could the tormented somehow be unaware that they were suffering?
Ask yourself: What would be the point of their suffering, or of their enjoyment of salvation, if they could not know of it? Death (actually life) in hell would have to be as though they were in a coma—completely unaware of what is going on around them—while their sensory nervous system is feeling the excruciatingly painful sensation of burning. How would this work?
Use the following analogy. Before someone undergoes major surgery, he is anesthetized—rendered unconscious—so he will not experience pain. Medical doctors understand this—why don’t theologians and religionists? Why do they deny the plain statements of the Bible?
Some willingly ignore the message of scripture. They allege that only “mortal” thoughts perish, in the sense that the dead leave this earthly realm and experience some mysterious, different, new kind of “thought.” Of course, this is ridiculous, and the Bible does not say it, but we ought to at least examine the idea. Let’s now consider an even more direct verse.
Notice Ecclesiastes 9:5: “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything…” An honest reader cannot misunderstand this!
Solomon also recorded, “For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; even one thing befalls them: as the one dies, so dies the other; yes, they have all one breath; so that a man has no preeminence above a beast…All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (Ecc. 3:19-20).
Now consider Psalm 115:17: “The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence.” Death means “silence.” This certainly does not agree with the popular concepts of millions of the dead wailing and screaming in agony—or immediately receiving eternal life in heaven or anywhere else with millions of others supposedly conversing, singing, playing harps and praising God. Neither scene could possibly be described as silence!
Psalm 6:5 further explains that the dead do not experience conscious memory: “For in death there is no remembrance of You: in the grave who shall give You thanks?” Could anyone seriously suggest that the dead, suffering in hell, could experience the normal range of human memories, but not be aware of God—not be able to “remember” Him? Would God put people in “hell” and then leave them there to suffer, forever wondering how it was that they got there—who it was that put them there—because they have no “remembrance” of anything related to God?
Applying the same question to those who received salvation is even more ridiculous. Could people “roll around heaven all day” and be unaware that they were in the presence of God or of even who He was?
No! When people die, they are DEAD!
So far we have not explained everything about life after death, but we know that further life does not immediately occur at death! We have established that when a person dies, he is dead! But then what happens?
Remember to always let the Bible interpret the Bible. Keeping the truths that it contains simple allows the hollow ideas of men to fall like a house of cards.
Here is why the dead have no knowledge or remembrance of God.
Jesus said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which ALL that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation [Greek: judgment]” (John 5:28-29).
Christ understood that most would find this astonishing. That is why He told the disciples to “marvel not at this”—He understood that most people would marvel at the thought that everyone who has ever lived is now “in the grave,” awaiting the resurrection! You should not marvel at the words of Christ either. Accept them! He said that “all” are in the grave, not “some.”
There are no conscious thoughts and no remembrance of God after death because everyone who has ever died is now awaiting one of the resurrections Christ referred to. All people will be resurrected, either to eternal life or to judgment. This is what God’s Word says.
No wonder David said, “As for me, I will behold Your face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when i awake, with Your likeness” (Psa. 17:15). He understood that the resurrection was an awakening back to life.
Job also looked forward to the resurrection. Notice the verses surrounding his earlier-referenced question: “O that you would hide me in the grave, that you would keep me secret, until your wrath be past [the coming Day of the Lord, or Day of God’s Wrath], that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. You shall call, and I will answer You” (14:13-15).
Job did not ask that God would only hide his body in the grave. He asked God to “hide me…keep me…appoint me…remember me.” He also recognized that God would keep him “secret.” Ask yourself how this fits with being in heaven or hell. If so, God would be pretty poor at keeping secrets and the rest of the verse would make no sense.
Now look at Job’s question—“if a man die, shall he live again?” If Job was going to still be alive at death, how could he “live again”? Job knew that he would be “waiting…in the grave” for his resurrection at an “appointed time,” when he would be “changed.”
But what did it mean that he would be changed?
Paul also wrote of the “change” that awaits all true Christians. Carefully examine I Corinthians 15:51-52, 54: “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump…the dead shall be raised…and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then [not yet] shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, death is swallowed up in victory.” It is certainly an almost complete mystery to the world that there is coming an awakening and a change at the resurrection.
We must also ask, how can one go from “mortal” to “immortal” if he already has an immortal soul? This idea is also a mystery—but, unlike the mysteries of God, it is one of the “mysteries” devised by men that cannot be understood or solved, because it makes no sense.
Do you see the silly logic of men when they ignore plain scriptures?
Just as Job understood that he would be “changed,” and David understood that he would “awake,” Paul understood that Christians will be “changed”—will awaken from “sleep”—once the resurrection has come. At the resurrection, people will literally awaken from death.
Ask yourself: How can people be resurrected if they are already alive as immortal souls? Only the dead, like Christ from the tomb, need to be resurrected. That is the purpose of a resurrection. Do not be fooled by deceivers who say, “The resurrection only applies to the body, since the soul has remained alive”! You have already seen numerous scriptures disproving that fallacy.
Upon the most basic examination, the ideas of intelligent men are often exposed as outright foolishness. Men invented the popular concept of hell as a means of scaring people into following the false religions that they have created. The true God would never roast people for all eternity—not allowing them to burn up, to mercifully end their suffering. This is what a monster would do. But then, humanly-devised, fictional gods will “do” and “teach” whatever their creators have decided for them.
Billions have lived and died without ever knowing the name of Jesus Christ and without ever having had an opportunity for salvation. If the unsaved, upon death, go directly to hell, then over half the people who have ever lived are still alive there!
Since no human has ever returned from the dead to offer a firsthand report, we must either choose to believe the ideas of men or search the scriptures for what God reveals about this subject.
Remember that “all that are in the grave” will eventually be resurrected. Actually, the Bible teaches that God’s plan includes three separate resurrections. Revelation 20 describes each. We have already discussed the first resurrection. Verse 4 explains that the saints shall reign on earth with Christ for 1,000 years after Satan has been bound (vs. 1-2). We will further discuss the first resurrection later in the booklet, but verse 5 explains that the “rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.”
At the end of the 1,000 years will come the second resurrection. This will include the billions of people, from the time of Adam, who never had an opportunity to know the truth. The world has been cut off from God (Isa. 59:1-2). Now continue in Revelation 20: “And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged…according to their works” (vs. 11-12).
The book of Ezekiel contains a fascinating chapter describing, in vision, a valley of dry bones. Nearly every Sunday school child sings about the bones described in this vision, yet with no understanding. Take time to read the 37th chapter in its entirety. It depicts the millions who have been part of the physical nation of ancient and modern Israel (all 12 tribes, not just the Jews) being given the opportunity for the spiritual salvation that God never offered them in the Old Testament.
Verse 11 describes them as “without hope.” Ezekiel was instructed to speak to this vast pile of disconnected dry bones. Notice: “Thus says…God; Behold, O My people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel” (vs. 12). Here, millions are described as being resurrected from their “graves.” It is obvious that the resurrection that this is describing is physical, back to a flesh-and-blood existence.
Ezekiel continued to speak to the bones: “Thus says the Lord God unto these bones…I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live” (vs. 5-6). Verses 13-14 add, “And you shall know [not yet] that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up out of your graves. And shall put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land…”
When will Israel know what has happened? At the resurrection! Only then will Israel “know” that God has taken them from the grave. They are part of the billions who will come up in the second resurrection. This period is referred to as the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11), and it is the time when all human beings will be shown the truth. God will “put [His] Spirit in [them].” Most people will grow, overcome and qualify to receive salvation and join all those who preceded them in the first resurrection.
On a side note, I have counseled several people who were considering suicide. All who are tempted to take this easy way out, thinking that it will end all their suffering and sorrows, should consider the following: When people die, they do not know anything. There is no awareness of the passing of time. In effect, they will reawaken immediately—having no awareness of the passing of time—and find that they still have all of their old troubles, and have added to themselves the guilt of self-murder! Suicide, then, does not make things better. It makes them much worse!
There is one final, or third, resurrection. We referred to it when we read Malachi 4:1-3 and Obadiah 16. Revelation 20:13-15 describes those who are resurrected and shown what they missed out on in God’s kingdom, before being cast into a lake of fire (vs. 15). II Peter 3:10-12 describes the time when the wicked are burned up and become “ashes under the soles of the feet of the righteous.”
I Corinthians 15 has been called the “Resurrection Chapter.” We have already quoted it, but let’s further examine this chapter. Though it speaks primarily about the first resurrection, it is a summary of God’s three-resurrection plan.
Verse 26 states, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” At funerals, worldly ministers often depict death as “an old friend” one meets at the end of “life’s highway.” Haven’t you often heard this or a similar phrase? The Bible calls death an ENEMY!—there is nothing “friendly” about enemies!
Verses 22-23 state, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive [through a resurrection]. But every man in his own order…” Note two points. First, every person will have a chance for salvation. Second, each person’s opportunity will come “in his own order.” We have seen that all parts of God’s plan are not fulfilled in one resurrection.
Verse 23 continues into 24: “Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His Coming. Then comes the end…” Christ was the beginning—“the firstfruits”—of the first resurrection, which will include all saints. But, “then comes the end” references the rest of God’s wonderful Master Plan, which will continue as the kingdom of God is established on earth at Christ’s Return.
That time lies just ahead.
Like a newscaster far ahead of his time, Christ came announcing a complete change in the way the world would one day be governed. With this change would come unprecedented world peace, happiness and prosperity.
Everywhere Christ went, He spoke of the kingdom of God. It was central to most of His parables. When He commissioned His twelve apostles and sent them to preach, His only instruction was to preach about the kingdom (Luke 9:1-2). When He later sent out His seventy disciples (Luke 10:1), He also commanded them to preach the kingdom of God (vs. 9). Paul preached this same “kingdom of God” message everywhere he went (Acts 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31).
Wherever He went, Jesus announced, “Repent you, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). But just what is the true gospel? The truth of the gospel has remained hidden to the vast majority of professing Christians. Ever since the first century there has been a conspiracy to deceive would-be Christians about the meaning of the gospel. Shocking as it is, this statement is true.
Most believe that the gospel is about the person of Jesus. Certainly, Jesus is an important subject, but He is not the gospel. The Bible shows that Jesus Christ is preached in conjunction with the gospel.
Some proclaim a “gospel of salvation” or “gospel of grace.” Others believe a “gospel of miracles” or a “social gospel” or a “gospel of foods” or of “healing” or “faith.” There are also those who merely think of “gospel music” when they hear “gospel.” These are all man-made ideas and not what the Bible says!
Notice Mark’s account again! “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God” (1:14). That is the gospel Jesus preached. In this context, He had said, “Repent you, and believe the gospel.” What gospel? The “kingdom of god.” Verse one references this when it says, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Christ’s gospel was about the kingdom of god—not something else! One must believe that gospel to be saved—not a counterfeit or substitute.
The truth of this subject is so vital that God inspired Paul to powerfully warn all who would pervert the gospel: “I marvel that you are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that you have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:6-9).
This is a strong statement! In the next chapter (2:5), Paul went on to stress the hope “that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” So since there is the true gospel, all others must be false! This scripture also reveals that Paul never taught a different or additional gospel, as some allege.
Christ’s disciples asked Him what the sign of His Coming and the end of the age would be (Matt. 24:3). He warned of deception from the many who would come “in His Name,” saying “Christ was Christ” (vs. 5). He explained that an emphasis would be made on His person instead of the message He brought (Read our booklet The White Horse – “Many Shall Come in My Name…”). But, just nine verses later, He prophesied, “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (vs. 14).
We are now in the time of the end and The Restored Church of God is preaching this gospel. Remember, if God’s kingdom had been preached through the centuries, from Christ until the present, proclaiming it today could not be a sign that the world has reached the end of the age. But it had not been preached! Impostors and false leaders suppressed the true gospel until the 20th century. Starting in 1934, Herbert W. Armstrong began the fulfillment of this prophecy. It continues today.
The terms kingdom and kingdom of God are found scores of times throughout the New Testament. Yet, it is absolutely astonishing how nearly everyone has lost the knowledge of what it is! The whole world lies in ignorance about the meaning of the kingdom of God.
The word “gospel” is an old English word meaning “god spell” or good news. The word “kingdom” is also an old English term, simply meaning government. In other words, Christ preached “the good news of the government of God.” The coming of world peace, happiness and abundance will certainly be good news for a world that has not known these things for 6,000 years.
Prior to Jesus’ birth, an angel appeared to His mother, Mary. These verses describe this encounter and what she was told: “…the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto…Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, you that are highly favored…You shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:26-33).
In John 18:36-37, Jesus stated, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He was standing before Pilate on trial for His life, and Pilate asked Him, “Are you a king then?” Christ responded, “You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world.” Christ was born to be a king!
Here is what was prophesied in Isaiah about Christ: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever” (Isa. 9:6-7). When Christ establishes God’s government on earth, it will bring permanent peace to every nation!
The Bible teaches that God’s kingdom rules over the people and nations of the earth. The nations are no more part of the kingdom than the average citizen of any country is part of the government that rules over him. One must enter the kingdom to be in it. As distinct from those who are governed by it, we must ask, who is actually in the kingdom?
Recall that Paul stated, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I show you a mystery…” (I Cor. 15:50-51). Certainly, as previously mentioned, this is a mystery to almost everyone—that flesh-and-blood human beings cannot enter the kingdom of God—that it is only at the resurrection that all true Christians are changed (born again) from flesh to spirit. We will see that it is at this time—and only at this time—that begotten Christians are “born again.” If we are to just believe the plain truth of the Bible, the kingdom of God cannot include flesh-and-blood people!
Many counterfeits have supplanted the proper understanding of what the kingdom of God is. (Read our booklet What Is the Kingdom of God? to understand this most central subject in all the Bible.)
An account in John 3 is commonly misunderstood by people who believe that they can be “born again” in this life (while they are still flesh and blood) and, therefore, “see” the kingdom of God in this life (vs. 3).
In this account, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, approached Christ and acknowledged in verse 2, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God.” He plainly admitted he knew who Christ was and who (God) had sent Him to earth. Notice that Nicodemus spoke for more than himself when he stated, “we know.” He was referring to himself and the other Pharisees who recognized who and what Jesus Christ was. These leaders could not deny the power of God evident in the miracles Jesus was performing.
The religious leaders, the Pharisees, well understood that He was a “teacher come from God” with the truth. Yet, they still called Him a blasphemer, drunkard, heretic, seditionist, bastard, ignorant, demon-possessed, false prophet, friend of publicans and sinners, etc.—and crucified Him!
Christ told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (vs. 3). He was explaining that only by the process of being born again can one actually “see” the kingdom. So, there is a limitation on who can see it. Anyone can see physical things. This is not true of the kingdom of God. Grasp these critical points that Christ made.
In verse 5, Christ says that unless one is “born of water and of the Spirit,” he “cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Yes, the kingdom is something that can be “entered into”—but verse 6 explains Christ’s “born of water and of the Spirit” phrase. It states, “That which is born of the flesh IS flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit IS spirit.” Flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of God—but spirit can! Because Christ wanted to allow no room for misunderstanding, He likened spirit to wind.
Wind, like spirit, is invisible. It cannot be seen. Christ told Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it lists [does], and you hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it comes, and whither it goes: so is every one that is born of the spirit” (vs. 8). Those born of spirit will be like wind—they will be invisible!
But when does this change from physical to spirit composition occur?
I Corinthians 15:49 states, “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall [in the future—at the resurrection] also bear the image of the heavenly.” Verse 53 states, “For this corruptible [flesh is certainly corruptible] must put on incorruption [those born of God are spirit], and this mortal must put on immortality.” It is at this point that flesh is changed into spirit.
Genesis 2:7 states, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.” Even converted human beings are still composed of flesh—of the dust of the ground. God will change their flesh to spirit at the first resurrection. All those who enter the kingdom of God must be made of—composed of—spirit!
Let’s examine this further. Matthew 22:30 states, “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God.” Hebrews 1:7 shows that angels are made of spirit. This is important to understand about our composition in the resurrection. But do not misunderstand and think that Christ was saying that the resurrected saints would actually be angels. He merely meant that they would be “as” the angels, in that neither angels nor saints marry.
Your human existence is literally a matter of life or death. Jesus said, “…I am come that they might have LIFE, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Yet, Paul wrote, “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23) and “the wages of sin is DEATH” (Rom. 6:23). We have seen that human beings do not have immortal souls. Remember, they are souls (Gen. 2:7).
Man is not naturally headed toward eternal life. He is headed toward death! Human beings live approximately 70-80 years (and in some parts of the world much less). A few manage to live longer than this, but eventually all die (Heb. 9:27). Yet this was never God’s original purpose. His supreme purpose is for all people to have eternal life (II Pet. 3:9; I Tim. 2:4).
God intends that all people ultimately receive His Holy Spirit. He wants it to eventually enter all minds. Notice what Paul wrote: “The [Holy] Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit [spirit in man], that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ…that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:16-17). Two spirits are described here. God’s Spirit works “with” the human spirit (not an immortal soul) to bring people to salvation as “joint-heirs with Christ.” (Read our booklet What Science Will Never Discover About Your Mind, to understand more about the difference between the spirit in man and the Spirit of God.)
Romans 8:6 states, “For to be carnally [physically] minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is LIFE and PEACE.” Anyone who has received the Spirit of God ultimately has life inherent within him. This means he has the potential of becoming an “inheritor” with Christ. This is absolutely remarkable understanding—unknown to all but the scattered few on earth today!
Most people have been deluded into believing that they are Christians merely because they have “accepted Jesus” or “made a decision for Christ” or “given their heart to the Lord”—or some other similar profession of belief. They have been deceived into believing that if they join a church or pronounce themselves “born again,” this makes them Christians. How utterly false and contrary to the plain words of the Bible!
Then what is the Bible definition of a Christian? Here is what Paul wrote: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). A Christian is one LED BY the Spirit of God!
Receiving God’s Spirit occurs in the following way. Upon repentance and baptism, one is placed into the Body of Christ, which is the Church (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18). Hence, the scripture says, “By one Spirit [the Holy Spirit] are we all baptized into one body” (I Cor. 12:13).
The Bible states that the entire world is now awaiting the first resurrection. It is then that the Sons of God will be revealed. Carefully notice: “For the earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waits for the manifestation of the sons of God…Because the creature [creation] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now” (Rom. 8:19, 21-22). This verse shows that the creation awaits the “delivery” of the “Sons of God.” It is “groaning” and “travailing” (laboring) toward this delivery—this birth—of the begotten Sons of God, born again at the resurrection and Christ’s Return.
In Genesis 1:26, God said that He made human beings in His “image” and “likeness.” This verse means what it says. God created you to become “like” Him in every way. Through His Spirit entering the mind of each of His newly converted children, a new spirit life is begotten. A tiny new spirit-begotten embryo comes into existence. Just as little children grow up to look like their physical parents, so also do the children of God slowly take on the spiritual likeness of God (their Parent), in “divine” nature (II Pet. 1:4) and holy, righteous character.
Both the Old and New Testaments make this point absolutely plain! Has anyone ever pointed out the following scriptures to you? While many have a vague notion that Christians are “sons of God,” few realize: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2). We will have the very likeness of Jesus Christ. Remember that Romans 8:16 said that we are “children” of God with Christ.
David also understood this 1,000 years earlier, recording, “As for me, I will behold Your face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Your likeness” (Psa. 17:15). (This verse debunks the popular “beatific vision” delusion that people cannot actually see God’s face in the afterlife.) David understood that he would see the face of God. So did John. Both realized that, at the resurrection—when we “awake”—we would be exactly like God, in form and character. So then, God is reproducing Himself in those who have His Spirit. He is creating children that will look and be just like Himself!
Several scriptures reveal what Christ looks like now. His face shines like the sun, His feet glow like burnished brass and His eyes literally blaze like flames of fire (Matt. 17:2; Rev. 1:14-16; 19:12-13).
Further, Paul revealed our awesome human potential when he wrote, “For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).
What a glorious future to look forward to!
The Spirit of God in us will allow us to awake in the resurrection. Notice Romans 8:11: “But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies BY His Spirit that dwells in you” (also I Cor. 15 and I Thes. 4:13-18). After fulfilling His task of overcoming sin and becoming mankind’s Savior, Christ was raised to return to His position with the Father.
Now, understand this point! It is the same Spirit, dwelling in us from the moment of conversion that will resurrect us (all those begotten of God) to be with Him in His kingdom.
Like the newly begotten fetus grows in its mother’s womb toward birth as a baby, the Christian must also grow before he can leave the womb. Peter wrote, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18). Christians are to grow in this lifetime. In order to be given divine authority and power, as joint-heirs with Christ, they must qualify, through the building of God’s holy, righteous character.
Jesus said, “I will build My Church” (Matt. 16:18). It is called “Jerusalem above”—“the mother of us all” (Gal. 4:26). Hebrews 12:22-23 makes this clear: “But you are come unto…the heavenly Jerusalem…the general assembly and church…which are written in heaven.” It does not say that the Church is in heaven, but rather that those of the Church are “written in heaven.” This is because the dead in Christ are now awaiting the first resurrection.
Like any good mother, the Church nurtures and feeds her children. She has been doing this for 2,000 years. Peter instructed the ministry to “feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight…willingly” (I Pet. 5:2). Paul made the Church’s role as Mother even clearer: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto…the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12-13).
Two additional verses demonstrate that God’s “children,” like any other children, are supposed to “grow up.” Notice that the Church is also responsible for protecting God’s flock from false doctrine: “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ” (vs. 14-15).
It is the ministry’s duty to teach the Church the truth and to warn of the dangers of being deceived by false doctrine. (Read our booklet Where Is God’s Church? and our book Where Is the True Church? – and Its Incredible History!, to learn how to identify Christ’s Church.)
So, the begotten child of God grows in the womb of its mother—the Church—like any other child grows during the nine-month gestation period. While in the womb of the Church, all begotten sons are fed the necessary spiritual nutrients in order to grow sufficiently to be born into the kingdom as incorruptible Spirit Beings.
Christians must develop and mature spiritually while in the womb. Human fetuses begin at microscopic size and grow to the time of birth. The newly begotten Christian grows in the same way. He starts out 99.9% spiritually immature and slowly progresses to spiritual maturity—and birth!
When speaking of Christ, Romans 1:3-4 states: “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
Most have heard that Jesus was the Son of God, but He was only “declared to be” the Son of God, in the fullest sense, “by the resurrection from the dead.” Of course, He was already the begotten Son of God prior to His birth into the kingdom at the time of His Resurrection.
This scripture shows that Christ was physically born of Mary, descending from David “according to the flesh,” and spiritually born a Son of God “according to the Spirit…by the resurrection of the dead.”
By returning to Romans 8, we can better understand why. Notice this about Christ’s birth: “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (vs. 29).
Christ is merely the first “born again” Son of God. “Many brethren” (all those with God’s Spirit for 6,000 years) will join Him at His Return. This absolutely astonishing understanding is known to only the few called today (John 6:44, 65).
Let’s consider an amazing series of verses. Paul quoted David, from Psalm 8:4-6, when he asked the all-important question: “What is man, that you are mindful of him?” (Heb. 2:7). Since God is eternal, and sits over the entire universe and has all power under His control, it is no wonder David asked this question.
The astounding answer is in the same verse: “You made him a little lower than the angels; You crowned him with glory and honor, and did set him over the works of Your Hands.” God intends to share rulership of His entire creation with His Sons. Again, Christ is merely the first of many Sons.
The birth of a firstborn son does not preclude the arrival of additional sons (or daughters) to the same family. I have two sons and am a firstborn son with a younger brother. My father was second born, having an elder brother.
Paul explains that God plans to give great power and authority to His Sons: “You have put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him” (vs. 8). This has not yet happened, but soon will—at the Return of Christ.
Now notice: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Verses 9 to 10 reveal the staggering potential planned for all Christians. The begotten child of God has been called to “glory” and to be one of “many sons.” Christ’s suffering and sacrifice allow Him to be the “Captain of their salvation”—and potentially yours.
What an incredible future for those whom Christ “calls…brethren.”
Finally, notice: “For both He that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (vs. 11).
This verse shows Christians are “sanctified” (set apart). How? Christ stated, “Sanctify them [begotten Christians] through Your truth: Your word is truth” (John 17:17). The cherished traditions and fables of men, about life after death or anything else, are worthless. A Christian is sanctified by the truth!
If Christ is “not ashamed to call them (us) brethren,” then we, God’s begotten sons, must not be ashamed to defend the very truth that sanctifies us. We must “grow up” unto Christ (Eph. 4:13) holding only to the true doctrines of God. We must qualify to one day stand beside Christ over “all things.”
Matthew 24:27 states that when Christ returns, His Coming will be like lightning shining from the east to the west. It will be an earth-shattering event no one could miss.
But will He come to rule the earth by Himself—or will there be others with Him? When He establishes His world-ruling government, will others be part of the ruling structure? If men’s governments require the efforts of many people assisting a supreme leader, could God’s government be different?
The prophet Daniel spoke of Christ coming in the “clouds of heaven” (7:13). Before His Return, God officially grants Him the authority to rule the world.
The next verse (14) states, “And there was GIVEN Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
Again, we ask, will Christ rule alone, or will others rule with Him? Exactly how does God intend to manage all of the peoples and nations on earth?
That is right! The ultimate calling of true Christians is to join with Christ to share rulership in the kingdom of God. Truly, Christ is “KING of kings and LORD of lords.” That can be you or anyone else who is willing to accept God’s terms for entry into the kingdom of God.
Verses 19 to 20 shed more light on what happens when the saints return with Christ. Their first responsibility is to replace what Daniel calls the “fourth beast” (the final world-ruling empire, which Christ will replace at His Return), which rules with the assistance of a “little horn.” This little horn is the religious kingdom that is the same as the woman who rides the beast of Revelation 17.
Notice: “I beheld, and the same horn [the Babylonish system of Rev. 17:5-6] made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (vs. 21-22).
Finally, verse 27 further confirms the marvelous potential lying ahead for the true saints of God: “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.”
What could be plainer? No wonder Christ stated, “And he that overcomes, and keeps My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of My Father” (Rev. 2:26-27). A few verses later, He added, “To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me in My throne…” (3:21).
The phrase “in My throne” is used because Christ understood that His throne, unlike the Father’s in heaven, is on earth. Luke 1:32 shows Christ will sit in Jerusalem on the Throne of David. Also see Revelation 5:10; 20:4; Matthew 5:5; Psalm 25:12-13 and 37:11. There is no doubt that when Christ returns, the saints rule with Him!
But it is the Christian’s responsibility today to qualify in order to be part of God’s coming kingdom. Will that include you?
Herbert W. Armstrong concluded his booklet LIFE AFTER DEATH? with the following summary, under the subhead “Ruling With Christ”:
“For that first thousand years, Jesus is to reign on the throne of His earthly ancestor David in Jerusalem (Isa. 9:6-7). And ‘he that overcomes, and keeps My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron…’ (Rev. 2:26-27). But how and from where shall we rule?
“Jesus said, again, ‘To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me in My throne [at Jerusalem], even as I also overcame, and am [now] set down with My Father in His throne’ (Rev. 3:21).
“When born of God, we shall be spirit, no longer human flesh and blood. We shall be given power!
“As Daniel revealed, the saints then shall take the kingdoms of earth’s nations and rule them for the first thousand years—establishing world peace and divine government under Christ.
“And after that? The passage in Hebrews 2 shows that then, again under Christ, we shall be given power to rule over the entire vast universe—literally all things. For that is the power that has been given to Christ and will be ours as joint inheritors with Him!
“Yes, there is a life after death for those obedient to God—a spirit life of incredible potential beyond our wildest dreams! Can we humans grasp the awesome portent of these astounding truths? Attaining immortal life should be our all-encompassing goal. For that is the gift and desire of our merciful Father and His Son Jesus Christ.”